December 17, 2009

Betfair and Ladbrokes lose legal first round against Dutch government

The Advocate General (AG) of Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ),has provided his opinion in the cases concerning Betfair and Ladbrokes against the Dutch Government before the ECJ in what represents an early stage victory for the monopolies but that poses a threat to the legality of De Lotto’s automatic appointment as The Netherlands sole egaming supplier.

The AG’s opinion is not legally binding, but is typically seen as being an indication of the tone of the ECJ’s later, binding decision.

AG Bot concluded that article 49 of the EC Treaty must be interpreted to mean that “the principle of equal treatment and the transparency requirement that flows from it also applies to the gambling sector in the context of a single license regime,” implicitly challenging De Lotto’s right to act as The Netherlands’ sole legal supplier of online gaming, online sports bets and the national lottery without having to compete in a tender process against EU-licensed lottery providers.

However Bot did not challenge the legality of a state enforced monopoly per se.

Ladbrokes’ managing director of remote betting and gaming John O'Reilly said: " We continue to believe that the ECJ should uphold principles of free and fair competition across borders as there is no logic in the fact that the Dutch monopoly could freely compete against us in the UK but we are prevented from accepting bets from any Dutch resident that finds us on the Internet.”

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of lobby group the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), which represents operators Bet-at-home, Bwin, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, PartyGaming and Unibet, said: “This is a key question for the Court given that the exclusive licence has repeatedly been handed out to De Lotto without any form of tender.”

Chris Bryant, a partner at the Brussels office of law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said: “This is round one to the monopolies.”

April Carr, an associate in the EU competition and regulatory team at law firm Olswang said: "This will be disappointing for those online operators who thought they could rely on EU law to liberalise the gaming markets. If the opinion is followed by the European Courts then there is reduced scope for them opening markets."

The case continues and a judgement is expected next year.

December 16, 2009

UEFA suspend Bulgarian referee Anton Genov in match-fixing probe

UEFA have suspended Bulgarian referee Anton Genov, pending an investigation into his alleged involvement in helping to fix an international match as part of an apparent betting coup.

The governing body of European football stated there were obvious irregular betting patterns during a friendly match between Macedonia and Canada back in November.

Genov awarded four penalties, two to each side, during Macedonia's 3-0 win.

"After interviewing the referee in question, UEFA has decided not to appoint Anton Genov to any European matches until further notice," UEFA spokesman Rob Faulkner said in a statement.

Betting agencies were alerted by the number of bets being placed on combinations of at least three goals being scored and the number of penalties awarded.

December 14, 2009

Merger on cards for PartyGaming and Bwin

Less than a month ago, at the eGaming Review Awards 2009, the online gambling industry’s annual prize-giving, Bwin Interactive Entertainment, the Austrian company, beat off competition from PartyGaming to pick up the award for Operator of the Year. However, by the time next year’s awards come around, the rivalry may have ended if talks over a £2 billion-plus merger are successful.

The companies, both quoted, are expected to face pressure from the Takeover Panel this morning to clarify their position after speculation, first reported in The Times on Thursday, that they are holding formal talks over a merger.

PartyGaming, based in Gibraltar but listed in London, took a small step into sports betting three years ago with the €102 million (£91.6 million) purchase of Gamebookers, but in recent months it has been declaring its determination to seek a bigger target in order to become a leading sportsbook operator and complement its traditional strengths in online poker, casino and, more recently, bingo.

The prospects for a deal have been enhanced by the settlement agreed with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in April that has effectively closed the book on the possibility that PartyGaming could face prosecution over its activities in America before it withdrew in 2006 when President Bush introduced a formal ban on internet gambling.

The group paid $105 million (£65 million) to settle the case with the DoJ, and since then has already made two acquisitions. In July, it announced the takeover of Cashcade, the owner of Foxy Bingo, for up to £96 million, and then last month it completed the acquisition of the majority of WPT Enterprises, the owner of the World Poker Tour, for a minimum of $15.3 million.

Bwin, too, has outlined plans to participate in industry consolidation. In 2007 it held abortive talks with Sportingbet, its London-listed sports betting rival. Then in September this year, the Vienna-listed group announced the acquisition of Gioco Digitale, the Italian poker room, in a cash-and-shares deal worth €115 million.

Like PartyGaming, Bwin has suffered regulatory problems in recent years, although in its case the country in which it has fallen foul of the law is France, rather than America. At the end of 2006, the group’s joint chief executives were arrested and then bailed after signing a football sponsorship deal with AS Monaco. In recent months, France has relaxed its protectionist gaming laws and Bwin is hoping to be a beneficiary.

Jim Ryan, PartyGaming chief executive, is hoping that the Obama Administration will be receptive to similar moves to remove the ban in America. In the wake of the DoJ settlement, he declared: “We’re hopeful that, in the fullness of time, the new Administration will take steps to regulate it.”

US Congress made it illegal to make payments to online gambling sites in October 2006, prompting quoted operators, including PartyGaming, 888 and Sportingbet, to close their US operations and start negotiations with the DoJ and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

In its heyday PartyGaming was the world’s biggest online poker company and in the blue-chip FTSE 100. Its colourful founders pocketed billions of pounds in its controversial 2005 flotation and subsequent share sales, but its shares collapsed after the US ban.

One of its biggest issues today is vying with rivals, including PokerStars and Full Tilt, which continue to defy the law and still take bets from American punters. The greater “liquidity” those companies attract from US players also makes them more attractive to European players.

A source close to the talks cautioned that they were still at a “very early stage”, although he admitted the companies knew each other “extremely well”. He said that precise terms, including the make-up of a combined board, had yet to be agreed, although Mr Ryan is tipped to take the chief executive’s role in an enlarged group.

PartyGaming has a market value of about £1 billion, while Bwin is valued at about £1.2 billion. The rumour last night was of a “merger of equals” although analysts said that PartyGaming had the capacity to fund an outright acquisition in cash and shares.

A deal could give PartyGaming a strong hand as it seeks to go one better and pick up the top prize at next year’s EGR Awards.

December 11, 2009

Bodog centre moves east to London

Bodog founder Calvin Ayre is to buy a residence in London ahead of a move to split his time between the UK capital and his present home in Antigua.

Ayre said that he has instructed an agent to find him a home in London and that he favours the Fitzrovia area north east of the centre “near Charlotte Street and all those restaurants. I like it there.”

The move follows the launch of the Bodog-licenced poker network in September, which is based in Canadian tribal gambling centre Kahnawake but has a business development team operating from London, where the billionaire Bodog founder will now spend roughly half his time.

“The UK is the most gaming friendly jurisdiction on the planet. You can stand in the middle of the street and shout ‘I run an online gambling company!’ and the only reaction will be ‘so what? Please stop shouting.’ The UK has completely opened up to the global network, and London has the infrastructure to support it.”

Ayre also recently revealed that Bodog is seeking licence deals with operators for Bodog-brand launches in Latin American markets, expanding the license model that already includes the poker network; the Bodog Asia brand launched in May with Haydock Sports; Bodog’s US-facing brand licensed to Mohawk Morris Gaming Group in September 2007; and Bodog Europe, which launched in March this year and operates Bodog’s UK and Canada-facing sites.

32Red live with GBE iBroker sportsbook

Online casino 32Red has launched its 32RedBet sportsbook, becoming the third white-label licensee to go live with Global Betting Exchange’s iBroker sportsbook solution.

32Red chief executive Ed Ware said: “iBroker offered us a number of compelling reasons over its competition such as, but not limited to, its ability to hedge into the Betdaq betting exchange, its simplicity to integrate into our existing platforms, competitive pricing and cost-effectiveness. It allows us to operate on a zero-risk basis, if needed.”

Brian O’Sullivan, chief executive of Global Betting Exchange (GBE), also the operator of the Betdaq betting exchange, added: “We are delighted with the launch today of 32Redbet. We have worked closely with Ed Ware and his team over the past few months to deliver a unique low-cost, no-risk sportsbook built on GBE's iBroker platform. 32Red is one of the most respected names in online gaming and I am confident Ed and his team will make a great success of this new product.”

Ware said he hoped the sportsbook would increase the stickiness of the 32Red offering. “It minimises the danger of existing 32Red players using competitor betting services and then remaining with that competitor for all their betting and gaming needs. Next year’s World Cup was also at the front of our mind here. We also believe that offering sports betting will increase the return on investment of existing promotions and potentially allow us to target other niche market areas.”

3D poker room PKR went live with the GBE-powered sportsbook solution in September of this year, followed in November by AsianLogic.

Ladbrokes launches iPhone sports betting app

UK bookmaker Ladbrokes has launched a new sports betting application for the Apple iPhone, developed by mobile technology specialist Mfuse, through which the company's complete sports betting service will now be available to the estimated 1.5 million iPhone users in the UK.

The new web app offers a complete betting service over the iPhone’s large touch screen, with Ladbrokes customers able to benefit from a comprehensive range of betting markets including access to an extensive range of in-play betting.

Benefits of the new service include the ability to check the latest odds, including updates in real time, full account management, bet in-play and all the latest results.

Ladbrokes already offers a wide range of casino games and slots on iPhones, recently launching Mega Moolah, the biggest progressive online slot to its mobile service.

"Mobile betting and gaming will be a key driver of growth in the sector in the next few years – the Ladbrokes iPhone application is another step forward in making mobile betting and gaming easier to access," said John O’Reilly, Ladbrokes Managing Director, Remote Gaming.

According to Ladbrokes, the company has already seen over 25,000 active customers on its existing mobile services this year, an increase of more than 50% compared to last year. Turnover on its mobile services is predicted to be up by 60% over the full year.

Svenska Spel ups minimum gambling age & support funding

Sweden's Svenska Spel is looking to raise the bar on responsible gambling by increasing the national minimum age for lottery ticket sales in Sweden to 18 years, as well as increasing its investment in problem gambling support.

Coming into effect in 2010, the new age limit for lottery tickets means that all of Svenska Spel's products across all sales channels will have a minimum age limit of at least eighteen years old.

"Corporate social responsibility is an important cornerstone of Svenska Spel’s business," said Meta Persdotter, CEO of Svenska Spel. "Our ambition is to minimise underage gambling wherever it may occur. To do so we must also be clear and consistent in our view of gaming and age limits, particularly towards our business partners and customers."

Svenska Spel currently has a minimum age limit of 18 years for Oddset games as well as and Vegas gaming machines, while players at Casino Cosmopol must be a minimum of 20 years old.

The company said that the minimum age limit would make both handling and age verification in retail outlets much easier.

"For some time, we have conducted a dialogue with representatives of the service and convenience goods trade, and this decision is in line with the industry’s own demands for a uniform age limit and that the handling of games and lotteries follow the rules that apply for other goods with age limits," said Håkan Sjöstrand, Business Area Manager at Svenska Spel.

Sjöstrand said that the decision would also offer possibilities for additional associations to sell lottery tickets, with the company investing more resources on the development of subscription and Internet partner services, as well as the sale of game and lottery tickets.

"Associations and clubs that can handle the age check of games and lotteries in accordance with current rules can continue to sell our products," confirmed Sjöstrand.

Svenska Spel currently has approximately 6,800 representatives selling Svenska Spel’s lottery tickets, as well as cooperation agreements with approximately 3,000 associations in Sweden selling Triss lottery tickets, amongst others.

"This decision is positive for two reasons – on one hand, shop employees need not think about different age limits for different products, and on the other, it signals a shared view that all gambling can potentially lead to problems and that there should therefore also be an age limit on lottery tickets," said Bengt Hedlund, President of the trade association, Svensk Servicehandel & Fast Food.

The company has also pledged to invest SEK3 million in order to ensure the continuation of support for problem gamblers.

The investment will mean that two programs in the country, a 24 hour gambling helpline and an internet based self help program, will continue to support problem gamblers in 2010.

The company said however that as a gaming operator, it was not its task to directly finance the treatment of people with gambling problems and urged the government to make a clear distinction between the preventative measures which fall under the remit of gaming operators and the treatment of problem gamblers by the authorities.

"It feels good to be able to save two well functioning projects under a transition period until the authorities have decided who should fund them," said Margareta Winberg, Chair of Svenska Spel.

"Today it is not our task to finance the treatment of people with gambling problems, but on the other hand, we must prioritise the consideration of social protection."

Ms. Winberg said there was need for a clear demarcation between what is preventive measures and what is care and treatment of gambling addiction, and where the responsibility lies between different authorities versus Svenska Spel as a gambling company.

December 02, 2009

Spain to probe players suspected of betting on matches

Spanish authorities will open an investigation into players suspected of betting on the outcome of matches, the country's football federation (RFEF) said on their website ( on Tuesday.

This month German police uncovered what European football's governing body UEFA described as the biggest match-fixing scandal on the continent.

"UEFA, through an international investigation into European football, alerted the RFEF of the existence of infractions committed by sportsmen who had betted on the outcome of matches they were playing in, and others," the RFEF said.

Initial enquiries have led to the federation alerting the state prosecutor as some of the activities could be classed as criminal offences.

Two weeks ago, German police said they had dismantled a gang with more than 200 suspected members operating in nine European leagues.

Police in Germany, Britain, Austria and Switzerland staged simultaneous raids arresting 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland.

The gang is suspected of having paid off referees, players and officials to win at least 10 million euros (9.1 million pounds), with officials speculating this to be the tip of the iceberg only.

Bwin crowned EGR Operator of the Year 2009

Bwin has won Operator Of The Year at the EGR Awards 2009, the top trophy at the online gaming sectors' industry awards.

The Austrian gaming and betting giant beat off strong competition from rivals including Bet365, PartyGaming and Betfair to land the industry’s top prize, which was presented at London's Old Billingsgate Market last night on the first night of EGR Live, eGaming Review's two-day conference and exhibition for operators.

Collecting the award, Bwin UK country manager Nic Wenn said: ”It's great that Bwin has won this award after ten years. I think Bwin have carried on doing wht Bwin have been doing, leading the way in opening new territories in Europe and leading the technological advance in our industry."

Bwin was shortlisted on the strength of its scale and reach. The company also topped eGaming Review’s Power 50 leading operators for the second year running in 2009 and acquired the leading Italian poker site Gioco Digitale to make it one of the front runners in Italian gaming space.

Judges praised the company for its ‘consistency, leadership, scale, the strength of the brand, for promoting responsible gaming, and for showing continued, consisted leadership.’

UK online bookmaker Bet365 was shortlisted thanks to its huge turnover and for being one the major players in online betting.

Betclick has been one of the major industry growth stories of recent years. The company and its parent group Mangas Gaming has become one of the major players in egaming in just under four years and has major plans.

Betfair, which won UK Sports Betting Operator of the Year, made the list for having changed the face of betting in the past 10 years and has also recorded stellar growth in 2008-09 and has made a move in the US market.

PartyGaming has signed major B2B deals this year and has serious intentions of returning to the highly lucrative US market should it ever regulate.

William Hill Online has effected a major turnaround this year thanks to the Playtech and Orbis deals signed at the tail end of 2008. The company is sure to be a strong contender at future awards events.

Ukrainian ref linked with fixing probe - UEFA declines to comment

Europe's ruling football body UEFA on Tuesday did not want to confirm a report that Ukrainian referee Oleg Oriekhov has been suspended in connection with a match-fixing scheme on the continent. German Der Spiegel news magzine said on its website on Monday that UEFA suspended Oriekhov and that he was at the UEFA headquarters in Switzerland for a hearing over allegedly having contact with a prominent suspect in the case.

"UEFA cannot confirm and does not wish to make any further comment on this, while the investigation is still going on," said a statement to the German Press Agency dpa. Spiegel Online said that Oriekhov admitted to UEFA anti-corruption officials that he was in contact with the man who arrested among others two weeks ago.

The man in question is allegedly a senior figure in the betting ring for the prosecution in Bochum, Germany, which is leading the investigation.

Spiegel Online also said that Oriekhov dismissed claims he manipulated a Europa League match in early November. The 42-year-old officiated the 3-1 victory of Swiss club Basel against Bulgaria's CSKA Sofia on November 5 in group E.

The UEFA said last week it was probing six Europa League and One Champions league qualifiers in July and August involving five clubs from four countries: KF Tirana (Albania) KS Vilaznia (both Albania), FC Dinaburg (Latvia), NK IB Llubljana (Slovenia) and Budapest club Honved (Hungary).

The UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino also said that UEFA was probing the possible involvement of three referees and another person connected to UEFA in the match fixing scheme.

Bochum prosecutors said two weeks ago that they are probing some 200 matches in nine domestic leagues. Seventeen arrests have been carried out, 15 alone in Germany, including a Croatian man who was convicted in a German 2005 fixing affair around referee Robert Hoyzer.

Prosecutors say that Germany-based betting rings are suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and other officials to fix matches. They are said to have won more than 10 million euros through these schemes.

Lawyers later said that players were intimidated and that cooks in hotels and team doctors were given sedatives to knock players out. The betting ring allegedly also has a link to Asia and other sports like basketball and tennis may also be affected.

Players in lower German football leagues have been suspended, including SC Verl captain Patrick Neumann, who according to his lawyer has gone into hiding fearing repercussions from the betting ring.

"Patrick panicked and became afraid. He can identify the men who made contact with him. This time not only bribes were used, but intimidation and violence as well," lawyer Lutz Klose told the Koelner Stadtanzeiger paper.

December 01, 2009

FIFA warns on illegal betting

FIFA has warned South Africans not to get involved in illegal betting syndicates, mostly from Asia, that are expected to descend on the country en masse in the run-up to the World Cup.

FIFA says the multibillion-dollar industry is controlled by organised criminals who engage in loan-sharking and use intimidation and violence to collect debts.

And while illegal betting is not as big in South Africa as it is in Europe and the Far East, SA Football Association boss Kirsten Nematandani has warned local referees and premier league teams to be vigilant.

He said Safa was already investigating several claims of match-fixing in the PSL and had sent all premier league referees for lie-detector tests. A report was due soon, he said.

"I can't say much more about the claims but there are a number of allegations being investigated. We have to stay vigilant and continue to watch out for signs of match-fixing."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter will hold an extraordinary general meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday. An ongoing investigation into match-fixing in Europe will be discussed.

Blatter said at the opening of the Soccerex business conference in Johannesburg on Monday that the economic crisis had resulted in some resorting to match-fixing.

"There is cheating, violence, doping, illegal betting and many other problems in the game," said Blatter.

FIFA had asked Early Warning System (EWS) in Switzerland to keep Asian crime syndicates and other gambling mafias around the world from fixing matches, he said.

EWS started monitoring the preliminary competition of the World Cup in 2007 and is now monitoring all FIFA competitions.

EWS spokesman Wolfgang Feldner said Africa's sports betting share on the world sports betting market was about one percent.

"Based on the estimation that the world-wide turnover for sports betting is over $300 billion (R2 219 billion) a year, we know there is an important share in illegal betting in this amount, particularly in the Asian market," he said.

"We cannot make statements or estimations about the illegal sports-betting market in South Africa in particular, but are monitoring the world-wide market," he said.

Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said in a 2008 report on illegal betting and organised crime that 430 people had been arrested and 272 underground gambling dens - handling $650m in illegal bets - had been shut down.

He said gambling on soccer matches might seem as harmless as placing a small bet on your favourite team but these illegal operations were often controlled by organised criminals who frequently engaged in loan-sharking and used intimidation and violence to collect debts.

"If that doesn't work, they force their desperate, indebted victims into drug smuggling, and the family members of victims into prostitution," said Noble.

"One must remember that organised crime never loses money in gambling operations - one way or another, they make a profit."

From 2003 to 2005, police in Hong Kong had seized more than $10m in cash and betting slips related to illegal soccer gambling.

Noble said that while it was difficult to determine the exact amount of money involved in the match-fixing, European football governing body UEFA had claimed that an overseas syndicate had made $5-million on one championship match alone in July 2007.

November 27, 2009

UEFA adds more games to match-fixing investigation

Following an emergency meeting at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said Wednesday that a further seven European club competitions are now under investigation for suspected match-fixing involving teams from Albania, Austria, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia and Turkey.

Infantino said UEFA was launching its own investigation into three referees and one other individual connected to UEFA in relation to the match-fixing allegations, but dismissed widespread media reports that any administrative staff at UEFA were under suspicion.

The latest matches to fall under investigation include the Champions League second round qualifier between KF Tirana of Albania and Stabæk IF of Norway, as well as two Europa League third round qualifiers and four second round qualifiers involving Fenerbahçe SK, Budapest Honvéd FC, NK IB Ljubljana, FC Metalurh Donetsk, SK Rapid Wien, KS Vllaznia, Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC and FC Dinaburg.

"UEFA wishes to stress that it has been co-operating fully with the German police and authorities on the case and indeed, following a request from the German police for information on a number of matches, UEFA was able to assist thanks to its Betting Fraud Detection System that has been monitoring all UEFA competitions and European national league first and second-division matches for irregular betting patterns since July 2009,” said UEFA General Secretary, Gianni Infantino.

"UEFA will file criminal complaints, together with the relevant national associations, as soon as possible against clubs, officials and/or players in those countries concerned. We have full trust in our national associations to deal with the cases related to their national competitions and will continue to provide them with our full co-operation and assistance," he said.

Infantino admitted that the organisation was ill equipped to tackle the problem of organised crime and was dependent on the work being carried out by public authorities in a number of countries, but said that by working together as a team, they could “eradicate this cancer altogether and kick it out of football”.

He also called on any players or officials with knowledge of the incidents to come forward and speak to either UEFA, the national associations or football leagues.

November 25, 2009

UEFA names and shames in fixing probe

UEFA have confirmed they are continuing investigations into seven European fixtures suspected in a massive match-fixing operation.

The case was first brought to light by the authorities in Germany, but UEFA has now opened its own investigation.

Following meetings on Wednesday with nine national football associations, Europe's governing body has named five clubs as being those under scrutiny.

The clubs are KF Tirana and KS Vllaznia of Albania, FC Dinaburg of Latvia, NK IB Ljubljana of Slovenia, and Budapest Honved of Hungary.

Seven matches, one a Champions League qualifier and the other six Europa League qualifiers, all played between July 16 and August 6, are under investigation.

In a lengthy statement, UEFA added it was also looking into the roles of three referees and one other official in the case.

Sportingbet France launch in doubt

Sportingbet has shelved its plan to launch in France due to continued uncertainty about market conditions in that soon-to-be regulated market.

The operator, which today announced first quarter net gaming revenue up 26%, last month announced its intention to launch in France when regulation allows.

Chief executive Andrew McIver said the plan to apply for a French licence had been postponed pending the outcome of French parliamentary debate to determine the shape of gaming regulation: “We are now not sure what we’re not sure what we’re going to do. The situation has changed so many times that we still can’t be sure what the best course for us to take is.

“I suspect that to offer an off-shore model into France could be seen as aggressive by the French authorities and it could end up as a case of warfare. And that could become difficult, as Petter Nylander found out in Holland.”

McIver was referring to the arrest of Unibet chief executive Petter Nylander’s arrest in the Netherlands under a French warrant in 2007.

Draft laws to regulate the French market have experienced major changes in recent months, such as the inclusion of an amendment to force operators to shut down the accounts of their French players when the bill regulating online gaming is voted through early next year.

The amendment poses a major threat for operators with a large market share in the country such as Betclick, Bwin and Unibet, who will only be able to open new French player accounts once they are licensed five to six months later. It has been seen by some operators as a protectionist move allowing French monopolies Francais Des Jeux (FDJ) and Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) to boost their online customer bases at the expense rivals.

However McIver added that the French market accounts for only 3% of Sportingbet’s net gaming revenue, “so we could even benefit from a moratorium” [in the same way the French monopolies will].

Despite the challenges, several egaming companies have already announced their intention to launch in France, including Game Account, Playtech, mobile specialist Probability and Eurosport gaming operator SPS Betting.

Other operators have instead opted for business-to-business (B2B) ties, including Paddy Power, which signed a landmark deal with PMU this month, and Partygaming, which is seeking French B2B ties.

UEFA, football leaders open match-fixing summit

Football officials from nine countries have begun an emergency meeting with UEFA about Europe's biggest match-fixing investigation.

The European football body invited national association leaders from Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland and Turkey to Wednesday's summit.

"We hope to get information from UEFA," Turkish FA general secretary Ahmet Guvener told The Associated Press.

Guvener's colleagues, Wolfgang Niersbach from Germany and Jean-Marie Philips from Belgium, declined to talk with media before the meeting, which was led by UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino and scheduled to last five hours.

German-based gangs are suspected to have manipulated 200 matches this year as part of organized betting scams.

Most are national league games, along with three Champions League qualifying matches and 12 from the second-tier Europa League under suspicion. A qualifying match for the Under-21 European Championship is also on the list.

Betting syndicates are suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and other officials to fix games and the suspected leaders are believed to have made at least euro10 million ($15 million).

The probe is being led by the prosecutor's office in Bochum, which is Germany's leading authority on corruption and fraud.

German police arrested 15 people last week including Ante Sapina, a Croatian national who was convicted in Germany's match-fixing scandal in 2005 that involved referee Robert Hoyzer.

Another man was arrested in Croatia on Tuesday. Two players have been questioned in Switzerland and suspended by their clubs.

UEFA has been sharing information with German authorities and was preparing to give more details to its nine member associations Wednesday.

UEFA routinely monitors Europe's 53 football nations for evidence of suspicious betting patterns in matches from the top two divisions and domestic cup competitions.

It said earlier this season that 40 suspected matches from the last four seasons of play in the Champions League and UEFA Cup -- the predecessor for the Europa League -- were being studied.

UEFA president Michel Platini said in his annual Congress speech in March that match-fixing and illegal betting were the greatest problems facing European football.

November 24, 2009

Florida online gambling report

The 12-page report, prepared by Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) think tank, is likely to inflame all sides of the debate and is to be presented to the Florida Senate by the end of the month.

The study suggests three options for the future of online poker in the state – wait for Congress to legalise online poker at federal level; explicitly prohibit online poker; or authorise and regulate it - and seeks to tread a neutral path between the three.

On the first, that of maintaining the status quo, OPPAGA notes that while ‘this option would not require any state action, [it] also would not establish additional consumer protections for Florida residents who play Internet poker’ and that ‘at this time, the possibility for passage of federal legislation is questionable.’

On the second, a move to make online poker explicitly illegal, the study notes that ‘a law to prohibit Internet gambling could be difficult to enforce, as anyone with the appropriate equipment and Internet connections can play online poker in the privacy of his or her own home.’

However to the likely chagrin of online poker’s advocates, the study continues that ‘a Florida law outlawing internet poker help limit the negative social consequences of Internet gambling,’ continuing that un-named ‘opponents of gambling expansion argue that prevalence of gambling addiction is three to four times higher with Internet gambling than with non-Internet gambling.’

On the topic of legalising online poker, however, the report appears to have rejected recent data submitted to OPPAGA by poker lobby group Poker Voters of America (PVA) indicating that legal online poker could raise the cash-strapped state US$90m a year in tax revenue, noting that ‘expanding authorised gambling in the state to include Internet gambling could generate revenue [but] at this time no objective estimates exist to assess potential state revenues.’

Providing background on present laws governing internet poker, the report also concludes ‘in the United States, the Department of Justice interprets federal statutes to prohibit all forms of Internet gambling; however the department’s interpretation relies upon some federal laws that predate the Internet. Florida law does not specifically address Internet poker or other forms of gambling.”

Regarding online poker’s present legal status in Florida specifically, it concludes that ‘while Florida law does not expressly prohibit Internet Gambling… according to [Attorney General] opinion, the Wire Act provisions, in combination with state law, prohibit an individual from placing a bet or wager by wire communication or via the Internet.’

Ladbrokes close Aintree Call Centre

Betting giant Ladbrokes has confirmed the loss of 263 jobs with the closure of its Aintree call centre in Liverpool.

The company blamed the move on foreign-based competitors being able to undercut its operation due to favourable tax demands.

The company said: “UK-based telephone betting operators like Ladbrokes are being severely impacted by competition from offshore operators that enjoy significant tax advantages.

“Ladbrokes’ telephone betting service pays 15% tax on its gross profits and a further 10% on profits from UK horseracing, as well as VAT and corporation tax. Offshore operators typically pay no or very low taxes and no horseracing levy.”

Ladbrokes spokesman Ciaran O’Brien added: “We have today begun a three-month consultation with our employees on the proposed closure.

“The proposals include plans to redeploy or relocate employees to minimise redundancies.

“Telephone betting is a very competitive market and one that is becoming increasingly difficult for UK-based operators who face significantly higher levels of tax than those operating from offshore jurisdictions.”

Ladbrokes core telephone business was loss-making at the half-year stage this year, recording a 41% decline in revenues.

UEFA and DFB take action against match-fixing

The DFB, German Football Association, have launched a comprehensive investigation into matching fixing cases in the country, as UEFA is involved in a Europe-wide investigation.

In Germany, there are 32 matches in question, all of which were played by second division and lower league clubs. Germany is only one out of nine countries under scrutiny, which include Croatia, Belgium, Switzerland, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Austria and Bosnia. The State Prosecutors of Bochum are studying the cases in Germany.

Approximately 200 people are suspected to be involved, and police have made several arrests of individuals who are believed to be the leaders of the illegal operation. These principals are believed to have made GBP 9 million as a result of bribery acts between betters and coaches, players, officials and referees.

UEFA released a statement on its website confirming that the governing body is involved in the match fixing investigations, particularly within Germany. Overall there are 40 suspected matches have been identified via UEFA’s Betting Fraud Detection System, including 12 UEFA Europa League matches and three UEFA Champions League matches.

Specific matches involved will be revealed at a later date.

November 20, 2009

Seventeen arrested in match-fixing probe

German prosecutors investigating match-fixing in soccer said Friday that 15 people in Germany and two in Switzerland have been arrested and about 200 games in Europe affected in what a UEFA representative called the biggest match-fixing scandal in Europe.

Police said more than 50 raids have been conducted in Switzerland, Germany and Britain, and that documents, cash and valuables have been seized.

Authorities believe they have arrested the leaders of the gang suspected of manipulating games to make money on betting. No identities were released, although they said about 200 people are suspected of being involved.

The investigation began in January and has been supported by UEFA, Europe's governing body of soccer. UEFA representative Peter Limacher said he believed it was the biggest match-fixing scandal to ever hit Europe.

Games in nine European countries are believed to have been manipulated, although none in England, Spain, Italy or France. The suspected games in Germany were played in the second-division or lower. Other countries involved are Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia and Austria.

Among the games believed to have been manipulated are three Champions League games and 12 Europa League games, all this year. Prosecutors didn't specify whether those were qualifying games or group-round matches.

UEFA has previously said it is looking into 40 suspected matches in the Champions League and UEFA Cup -- the predecessor for the Europa League -- from the last four seasons, mostly involving eastern European clubs in the early qualifying rounds.

Authorities in Germany and elsewhere are working together with UEFA in the probe targeting an international gang.

Bwin and 888 bosses dismiss takeover talks

Bwin and 888 chief executives have dismissed press speculation over an imminent takeover of 888 by the Austrian operator.

Commenting on rumours emerging from the German investment community and widely reported in the UK and German-speaking press that Bwin is in the process of raising cash to carry out the acquisition, co-chief executive Norbert Teufelberger: “We have contacts with everybody [in the industry] and common goals in that we want to operate in regulated markets. So yes, we talk to many operators and consolidation is always an option, but in this instance there has been no call to raise funds from existing shareholders with a view to acquiring 888.”

888 chief executive Gigi Levy also dismissed the speculation: “We have known Bwin for a long time but there is no truth in these rumours.”

Bwin announced strong third quarter results on Wednesday with earnings before interest, debt and amortisation up 75% to €16.8m on the same period last year. The gaming and betting giant also carried out the acquisition of Italy’s leading poker site Gioco Digitale during the period. However, Teufelberger denied this represented an implicit indictment of the achievements of Bwin’s Italian poker activities.

“We are the only international operator with a significant presence in Italy and with the further opening up of the products we will be able to offer, we want to be a strong player there from the word go, and acquiring Gioco Digitale enables us to do that. When we look at it at the end of next year, I believe we will view it as being good value for money.”

German prosecutors arrest multiple soccer bribery suspects

German police have arrested an undisclosed number of people suspected of fixing matches in major European soccer leagues.

The arrests, in Germany and abroad, came as part of an investigation into match-fixing supported by UEFA, according to a statement by the prosecutor's office in Bochum.

A Berlin newspaper reported that a Croatian man convicted as the mastermind of a German match-fixing scandal in 2005 was among those arrested Thursday. The Berliner Morgenpost's online edition said Ante Sapina and his brother were among five people arrested in Berlin and that 15 arrest warrants in 10 countrties had been issued.

The investigation has been under way since the beginning of the year and targeted an international gang suspected of wide-ranging match-fixing.

The gang is suspected of bribing players, coaches, referees and officials in "high-ranking European leagues" to manipulate games in order to make money on betting, the statement said Thursday.

It said raids were conducted in Germany and Europe on Thursday and a large number of arrests were made. A news conference is scheduled for Friday in Bochum.

UEFA said it was aware of Thursday's arrests, adding that it had been "working closely with German authorities through its betting fraud detection system for monitoring irregular betting patterns."

The Morgenpost reported that games in the Turkish top division were suspected of being manipulated and that the probe by Bochum investigators targeted 200 people. Top players in Turkey are among the suspects, the newspaper said.

Quoting Berlin security sources, the newspaper said the gang apparently operated from Germany and its boss apparently lived in Berlin.

Ante Sapina was convicted of fraud in 2005 and sentenced to 35 months in prison for fixing or attempting to fix 23 games by paying German referee Robert Hoyzer to rig matches Sapina and his brothers bet on. Ante Sapina's brothers Milan and Filip were given suspended sentences.

Hoyzer was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 29 months in prison after admitting he had manipulated games mostly in German lower divisions on behalf of the three brothers, who made millions by betting on the games.

UEFA said two months ago it was investigating 40 cases of suspected match-fixing in the Champions League and UEFA Cup, mostly involving eastern European clubs. The matches under investigation were early qualifying games that took place over the last four seasons.

UEFA has beefed up its efforts to protect against illegal betting and match-fixing. President Michel Platini has described those issues as the greatest problem facing European soccer.
The detection system monitors all top two divisions across Europe and domestic cup games.

November 19, 2009

Sports betting sees Bwin profit surge 75% at Q3

Bwin's profit is up 75% on the previous year, the company’s third quarter results have revealed.

The business recorded a 75% year-on-year (YoY) increase in third-quarter EBITDA to €16.8m, from €9.6m for equivalent period last year, on the back of a strong sports betting and gaming performance in the traditionally slower third quarter.

Bwin, which topped the Power 50 ranking of the globe’s leading egaming companies this year, saw gross gaming revenues up 5.3% YoY to €101m, from €95.9m, underpinned by a 3.4% rise in sports betting gross revenues to €52.7m, from €51m.

Poker revenues grew just 1.3% to €23.1m, while casino experienced a healthier rise of 7% to €18.1m, and the company’s smaller games division experneced a boom of 36.5% to €7.0m.

Net gaming revenues (NGR) for the quarter, however, remained broadly stable at €83.3m, from €83.7m last year, which the company said reflected the cost of new acquisition and retention measures associated with the launch of its new P5 poker platform and increased betting duties due to the growth of online gaming in Italy.

Betting turnover from betting, poker, casino and games in the third quarter was up 8.2% to €790.9m, from €730.8m last year, in the main accounted for by an 8.3% rise in sports betting turnover to €742.6m, from the €685.9m recorded for the same period last year.

The Austrian operator concluded that “the growing popularity of live betting is also resulting in a shift in the proportion of turnover away from conventional sports betting (pre-match) to live betting,” revealing that live betting’s share of the gross gaming revenues from sports betting rose to 57% for the last quarter, from 55% last year.

However, bonus-led reactivation measures after the soccer summer break saw the operator only report moderate growth of 1.1% in NGR from sports betting to €44.9m for the third quarter of 2009, from €44.4.

The company added that Bwin’s acquisition of Gioco Digitale, Italy’s largest poker provider, in September left Bwin “optimally positioned to take full advantage of the booming Italian online gaming market, which is governed by modern, proactive regulations.”

Trading in the fourth quarter had also started strongly, with gross gaming revenues during the first six weeks, excluding Gioco Digitale, of €1.45m, nearly a third more than the €1.1m recorded in the last quarter. Including Gioco Digitale, this figure rose to €1.63m, 48% above the figure achieved at this point in the last quarter.

Poker NGR also fell 10.7% to €17.7m, from €19.8m, due to expenses for bonuses in the third quarter resulting from the changeover to its new P5 poker platform.

Casino NGR for the quarter also fell 2.7% to €14.4m from €14.8m, which the company put down to a planned reduction in marketing activities.

Games NGR however achieved two-digit growth, growing 35.7% €6.3m from €4.7m last year, driven by the development of mini-games and by the launch of the backgammon platform on the Greek Betoto label at the tail end of July.

Active customers grew 18.7% to 1.1 million, from 892,000, with new active customer numbers growing 39.1% to 258,000, from 185,000.

November 18, 2009

Leading online poker site UltimateBet finds a new home at

Tuesday signified a landmark day in the online poker industry, as Ultimate Bet, a USA-facing site on the CEREUS Poker Network, rebranded itself The two-letter acronym has been the site’s nickname since its launch 10 years ago.

“Raise, Stack, Own” becomes the new mantra of, which retains the gold color theme of the old Ultimate Bet, but adds a baby blue hue as well. “Celebrity Apprentice” runner-up Annie Duke, 11-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, and PokerRoad CEO Joe Sebok become the front men of the new site, which can be accessed by visiting or A software update went live this morning and players’ user names and passwords will remain the same as they were prior to the transition.

UB and its sister site, Absolute Poker, are both owned by Tokwiro, whose CEO, Paul Leggett, commented in a press release, “The launch of represents a turning point for our company. We have assembled a great group of professionals who are passionate about poker to build the UB brand. Our goal is to create products and services that poker players really want. We are trying to listen very carefully to both our players and the poker community to help us achieve this goal.”

New lobby filters made their debut on Tuesday as part of the software update to Omaha tables can now be filtered, making finding a game even simpler. In addition, the new update added color-coded icons to the tournament and ring game lobbies. In the former, special designations are given for Turbo, Ultra Turbo, Rebuy, Deep Stack, Bounty, Six-Max, Four-Max, and Heads-Up formats. In cash games, color-coded icons exist for Turbo, Jackpot, 7-2, Deep Stack, 50 Minimum Big Blind, and Ante tables on the virtual felts of At the bottom of the lobby, a horizontal legend reminds users of what the new icons signify.

The lobby takes on a sleek yellow feel and the total update when we ran Ultimate Bet’s Mac version was 8,600 KB, which took about two minutes to download. The upper left corner of the lobby features the sleek black and yellow logo with the player and table counts given right underneath it written in white block lettering. The Mac version, which was rolled out in September along with an Instant Play option, still is limited to a maximum of four open tables. The Instant Play version requires the latest version of Java to be installed on the Mac or Windows device.

The new cash game filters include the maximum number of players, table stack sizes, and table type. In addition, you can specify the number of players per flop and the number of players per table to ensure that only desired tables come up in the search. A total of 30 new tournaments featuring $1 million in guaranteed prize money have been introduced as part of a gradual overhaul, quickly establishing the USA-friendly CEREUS Network as one of the top around.

Hellmuth, who has long served as the face of the popular online poker site, talked about the movement from Ultimate Bet to “In the ten years since I have been involved with the UB brand, I have never been prouder to represent the company as much as I am right now. We have great people captaining the ship, we have a great vibe, and some serious swagger. I look forward to the day when we are the largest poker site on the planet.”

According to, which keeps tabs on online poker room traffic, the CEREUS Network is the sixth largest worldwide with a seven-day running average of 2,750 real money ring game players, about one-tenth of the traffic of PokerStars, the largest site in the industry. made waves in late October by changing its raise logic and launching synchronized breaks in its larger tournaments at 55 minutes past each hour, in line with the precedents set by PokerStars and Full Tilt.

Interwetten pulls out of online poker

In an effort to concentrate its focus on offering a more attractive range of sports betting, casino and skill games products, Austria's Interwetten has pulled out of the online poker market, delivering its last hand of poker yesterday morning.

In a short statement posted on its site Tuesday, Interwetten said that any players still in possession of poker chips would receive the equivalent value in real money as a credit in their account by midnight Thursday. The company's poker offering had been part of the Ongame network.

The company said that following the closure it would now focus efforts on offering customers an even more attractive range of sports betting, casino and skill games.

Interwetten has already began the process of increasing its brand exposure in Europe, signing a deal last week to become the main sponsor of the Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team, providing the company with a presence on the starting grid for the 2010 MotoGP racing calendar, the premier class of grand prix motorcycle racing.

The company said that the agreement would increase its brand exposure in markets popular with the MotoGP such as Spain, Greece, Germany and Switzerland.

November 17, 2009

Spielo and Gamenet partner up for Italian VLT launch

Following rival Intralot into the newly established Italian video lottery terminals (VLTs) market, Lottomatica subsidiary Spielo Manufacturing ULC has signed a multi-year agreement to provide video lottery gaming solutions to Italy's Gamenet S.p.A, earning the company approximately €40 to €45 million over the contract term.

Under the agreement, Spielo will provide a new server-based gaming central system, retailer terminals, several thousand VLTs, as well as game content and services to Gamenet, the third largest public gaming machines network concessionaire in Italy.

"We look forward to entering this extremely competitive VLT market, which is about to become the largest of its kind in Europe," said Victor Duarte, President and CEO of Spielo. "Through our partnership, Gamenet will benefit from server-based technology and the Dynamic Game Management features of Spielo’s INTELLIGEN central system and value-added modules, as well as the i-LINK terminal and value-added prodiGi Vu and WinWave Vu terminals.

"With the help of our sister company, Atronic, we’re also pleased to provide the top-performing games from our combined game library."

Representing more than 700 gaming machine distributors and operators, Gamenet’s network links more than 56,000 slot machines distributed in over 20,000 public venues. The company is expected to retain its market position in Italy’s new VLT gaming market which is poised to become the largest VLT market in Europe.

"Through this VLT investment and agreement with Spielo, Gamenet will expand its gaming portfolio beyond the current slot machines, betting, poker including Texas Hold’em, and skill games, strengthening its position as a leader in the Italian gaming market," said Ezio Filippone, Gamenet CEO.

November 13, 2009

Wisła and Lech could lose their sponsors

KKS Lech Poznan and Wisla Krakow and may lose their strategic sponsors! This is due to happen if a new law in Poland is passed to force gambling out of the country. The announcement of the very possible law was made on Tuesday, by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The bill is to be ready by mid-November. One of its objectives is to ban online betting in Poland on the Internet. As a result, people would not be able to organize bets or take part in them. Betting services will also not be able to advertise their firms.
Taxes will drastically increase to issue state services to effectively control and enforce the new law on such betting companies and the people using them. This law is said to be Poland's gambling revolution.

Wisla Krakow and Lech Poznan are therefore facing a serious problem, because their sponsors are both important strategic players in the gambling market, respectively Bet-at-home and BetClic. The two top tier clubs signed contract agreements with the bookmakers this year. In February, the White Star has signed a two-year contract with Bet-at-home while in June the Kolejorz inked a three-year deal with BetClic.

"I can say that this is one of the best sponsorship contracts in the history of Polish football," boasted the Chief of Marketing of Lech, Michal Lipczyński.

"If this law passes it would be catastrophic and a step backwards in terms of the club's finances. All Polish clubs have left now is our sponsoring, and even that is being taken away."

One thing is for certain, if the law comes into force, Lech will have to find another big and well known sponsor as BetClic - a task that will not come easy considering the club's current poor league form.

"We will be forced to withdraw from supporting Lech Poznan." announced Tomasz Wlodarczyk of BetClic.

If Lech do part ways with BetClic, it would also mean Lech's big transfer budget for the winter transfer window would disappear, along with any friendlies scheduled with other BetClic sponsored club. The two other clubs sponsored are Olympique Lyon and Olympique de Marseille, with the latter scheduled to play the Polish outfit in a friendly match next year.

Around Europe, some the world's largest clubs are sponsored by internet bookmakers. Bwin has under his tutelage even giants Real Madrid and AC Milan. In Zurich, during the UEFA Champions League the Spaniards were forced to play without Bwin's logo on the club shirt, because of anti-gambling laws in Switzerland. Similarly the same in Belgium, where Lech Poznan played against Club Brugge in UEFA Europa League action. However, the Polish team unlike Real Madrid were able to play with their bookmaker sponsor logo, but as a result the company had to accept to take all the responsibility themselves.

It should also be mentioned, that the Second Division of Poland is also sponsored by a bookmaking company - Unibet. If the league losses it's sponsor, then it is very possible many of the clubs may fall into serious financial trouble.

New Paddy Power B2B arm signs landmark deal with France's PMU

Paddy Power has made a major play for the French market, signing a five-year deal with French duopoly operator Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the largest single operator in Europe, via a new Paddy Power business-to-business (B2B) division.

PMU is one of France’s two giant state-backed gaming and betting providers, together with Française des Jeux . PMU has around 10,000 retail outlets in France and recorded a turnover of €9.3bn in 2008. PMU and FDJ both joined the Power 50 list of leading operators this year ahead of the opening of the French market to foreign competitors in early 2010.

The deal, which will see Paddy Power provide PMU with fixed-odds risk management and pricing tools, is expected to add between €3m and €5m to Paddy Power’s revenues by 2012, as well as increasing the likelihood of similar ties between the Irish bookmaker’s new B2B arm and other European monopolies.

PMU was considering offering fixed odds sports bets in an exclusive story in May, with industry sources suggesting it was set to sign a direct licensing agreement with UK sports betting software specialist Orbis. Although Paddy Power is on the Orbis sports platform, PMU has decided to outsource the risk management and pricing functions to a third party.

Paddy Power chief executive Patrick Kennedy said: "This deal with PMU is the ideal start for our new business-to-business operation. We continue to look for other quality opportunities in international markets, capitalising on our investment in people, expertise and particularly in our proprietary pricing and risk management technology.”

Managing Director Breon Corcoran added that Paddy Power expected to expand further through outsourcing deals and partnerships with local partners as a number of regulatory markets open up over the next three to five years.

PMU chief executive and chairman Philippe Germond today said: "This partnership is going to enable PMU to offer sporting bets online under its own brand and retain direct management of its client database. Paddy Power will provide us with its expertise in sports betting. Through this partnership PMU is given the means to be ready for the opening of the online betting market in France next year."

Paddy Power's traders will set PMU odds, set risk parameters for each event, bet type and customer and manage PMU’s online promotions from Dublin. Paddy Power, which also expanded into the Australian market in May, said the PMU deal would create 50 jobs at its Dublin headquarters by June 2010, with 200 additional jobs expected in the subsequent three years.

The deal has been well received by brokers. Analyst Paul Leyland at Collins Stewart wrote: “We see it as supporting our thesis that companies which combine conservative licensing and cutting edge commercial practices are best placed to benefit from regulating markets. It also reinforces our view that incumbents remain a force to be reckoned with.”

Davy Stockbrokers analyst David Jennings wrote: "This deal opens other doors for Paddy Power to do further business-to-business deals across Europe as regulate and tax models come to the fore," calling it a massive catalyst for the stock.

However Daniel Stewart analyst James Hollins warned that although the deal “should generate considerable revenue” and “the French market provides a considerable opportunity for operators entering the market… several key legal issues, in our opinion, could see the delay of any legislation beyond the mooted H1 2010 start point”.

Top celebrity online power-players

Gambling has been a part of society all our lives, because lets face it, a lot of what we do is a gamble, whether it involves money or not! Life is unpredictable, so you never know what the outcome’s going to be, just like gambling, but gambling has had a bad rep over the past few years, and all the positives get totally discarded. But the truth is, gambling is a fantastic past-time, that’s been part of our lives for many years, and it’s actually a lot of fun, and can be really sociable.

Some people think that gambling isn’t for them, because there are too many classic casino games out there, and not everybody’s into that nowadays. But the internet is ever changed and improving to adapt to today’s challenging and hard to please market, so there’s something out there for everyone…

Even celebrities! More and more celebrities are engaging in online gambling, be it a little flutter, or a full blown play for the jackpot! But they mainly do it for the thrill, because Gambling is never boring, it’s always un-predictable, and online, you can just pay for fun!

One of the most famous celebrity gamblers would have to be Ben Affleck. Ben Affleck is an absolute poker champion. Although he’s had bad press over his online gambling habits, he’s got the money and the skills to play, and play to win! He is a true Power-Player, and he knows his stuff, I wouldn’t want to face him in a game! Would you?

Another Power-Player would have to be the fabulous Hugh Hefner, because sometimes, the playboy mansion just isn’t good enough. Hugh Hefner has been known in the past to splash his cash on specialist celebrity poker rooms in Vegas, given by request, but few know on the quieter days, Hugh has been known to dabble in the online gaming scene… As well as this, he only owns his very own Online Gambling site himself!

Continuing on now to George Clooney. George Clooney is as well known in the gambling world as he is in the rest of it! And has invested a total of $3 billion on a resort in Las Vegas. As well as this he’s also the co-ownder of the casino-hotel-condominium complex – Las Ramblas. George is well known as an avid gambler, online and in the Casinos, and was in Rome, back when the were filimg Ocean’s 12, playing a game of late-night poker with co-stars Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

And now, batting for all the female gamblers out there, is Jennifer Tilly, veteran and semi-professional poker player. She began her gambling past-time through playing TV-Celebrity-Poker Porgrammes. She then dated none other than Phil Laak, who helped coach her! She’s well known in the gambling circuit, and was said to have used online gambling sites during her training to improve.

Toby McGuire, “Spiderman” superstar, is a very established poker champion. He won $186,000 at a $2,000 buy in tournament at the Hollywood Park Casino in 2004. He also went on to win the $2,000 Phil Hellmuth Invitational for $95,480! And he’s also known to hold high stakes poker parties at his home. Not only this, he has been known to cash in on online gambling sites before, and is quite obviously, an A-List Power-Player!

“Friends” star Matthew Perry is also rumoured to be a heavy poker player, and is known to be an avid fan of online gambling! As well as this, he has a special arrangement with the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas for a weekend where he spent a private VIP weekend gambling!

“Bourne” star Matt Damon has also, like Jennifer Tilly, had the amazing opportunity to be coached by a pro, and this pro is none other than Johnny Chan. He’s been seen regularly gambling with high profile celebrity friends such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Michael Douglas. He’s also rumoured to have been recently offered a $1 million endorsement offer for an online gambling giant, as he’s said to be quite a fan of the online scene.

And to finish up, another famous lady, showing the world that girls can gamble too! Shannon Elizabeth is famed for a sensational string of performances during her long run in the 2007 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. This American Pie beauty has scalped many big name bros, and has cashed in four times as the WSOP!

And these celebs are to name but a few! Because celebrities are known fans of the Gambling scene, and if they are, then why aren’t you? Help to discard the bad press gambling receives by gambling safely, and online, where Gambling has become just as sociable as Vegas!

November 12, 2009

Betfair and Ladbrokes take Dutch government to court

Betfair and Ladbrokes to take on the Dutch government tomorrow in two separate landmark legal battles at the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), over the right of offer egaming in the Netherlands.

For Betfair, the case follows a formal complaint made to the European Commission in May about a letter from the Dutch government to banks telling them to block payments from the British betting exchange’s Dutch customers, arguing that the letter was in breach of EU rules which allow companies authorised in one European Union member state to offer goods and services in any other.

If the case is successful, Betfair will also sue the Dutch government for damages that legal counsel Mark Warrington told “will certainly run into millions.”

For Ladbrokes, the ECJ hearing will decide the fate of end of the British bookmaker’s seven-year struggle against an injunction imposed by Dutch courts that prevents Ladbrokes from accepting bets from Dutch citizens on, which was referred to the ECJ in June.

Ladbrokes remote betting and gaming managing director John O’Reilly said: “Ladbrokes is a well regulated, licensed betting and gaming operator and under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union our services should be accessible in other Member States.

“The injunction against Ladbrokes is aimed at protecting the revenues of the Dutch state monopoly sports betting provider and there is no justification for it in European Community law. It does not make sense that a Dutch citizen can cross the border into Belgium to place a bet in a Ladbrokes shop, yet we are banned from accepting bets from Dutch citizens online.”

As reported on, however, in September the ECJ ruled against Bwin in favour of Portugal’s right to continue to favour state monopoly La Santa Casa da Misericordia (SCM), permitting states to protect state operators from competition if that decision is made to protect citizens from fraud or other crimes.

The decision led Ladbrokes to drop its five-year legal action against Norway’s state monopoly, although it also pledged to unite with other operators to fight other state monopolies across Europe.

The judgements in these two cases are not expected for 6-12 months.

Kool Shen gets Olympique Lyon shirt sponsorship

Olympique Lyonnais, BetClic and Universal Music have taken a groundbreaking initiative by deciding to promote the name of rapper KOOL SHEN through a sponsoring on the shirt of OL for the game Sunday against Marseille, one of the biggest games in Ligue 1.

The rapper, is a poker fan, and a supporter of PSG who has a relation with Betclic. For the promotion of his new album “Crisis of Conscience”, Released November 2, Universal Music and Betclick joined forces.

According to the club, it is the 1st time in Europe, an artist received a prestigious sponsorship for promoting his new album.

KOOL SHEN, co-frontman of NTM is happy to benefit from this initiative, "I am passionate about football, to find me on the jersey of the seven-time champion of France is a great honour.

In addition I am happy to be 1st artist who enjoys this kind of association. With BetClick, my album will be promoted in a unique area I like: football. "

The major partner of Olympique Lyonnais, BetClic also welcomes this unique combination and yours,

"This event with Kool Shen, Universal Music and Olympique Lyonnais illustrates our commitment to be an active partner, not just club leaders of French sport, but also and especially to their fans," said Nicolas Beraud, founder and president of BetClic.

Through this association, Olympique Lyonnais reconfirms its innovative approach to sponsorships, with a pending legislative change that will allow BetClick to appear on the jerseys of the OL, both in Champions League and League 1.

Online gaming is driving spend in sports. But will the legislators derail the gravy train?

This season already, the gambling operator has signed up as shirt sponsor of two Premier League clubs - Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers - in north-west England, while 11 out of 16 Portuguese league clubs have BetClic emblazoned on their shirt-fronts this season.

This multiple sponsorship trend reflects a more general proliferation of gaming sector marketing around sport, and football, in particular… Real Madrid, AC Milan (Bwin) and Lyon (BetClic) are the continent’s market leaders in the promotion of gaming online and the likes of the German Bundesliga (Bwin) and the Australian A-League (Bet365) are among the best bets for combined live action and betting online.

It’s clear that the online gaming sector is no longer about fantasy revenue forecasts and stellar predictions. The amounts gambled online already scale the billions, while the sector represents a multi-million dollar marketing boon for sporting clubs and organisations.

Most importantly in these hard times, it’s a sector that is continuing to grow. According to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC) global online gambling yield will increase by 25 per cent over on the next three years, with a significant proportion coming from global interest in football betting.

As Mike Falconer, chief executive of online gaming services firm, BettorLogic, reported in the SportBusiness International sister publication, iGaming Business, “Football has been almost singularly responsible for the steep progression of both Asian and newer [Southern and Eastern] European markets…and can account for 75 per cent - 80 per cent of bets taken in the major Asian countries.”

The sponsorship of the two clubs in England’s north-west is a case in point, leveraging both local loyalties and the fame of the Premier League globally, especially in the gambling operator’s main market, Asia.

“The Premier League is and has been heavily broadcast globally and is increasing in a number of markets with several pending deals which will take it through pay-per-view to free-to-air in a number of markets,” said 188Bet CEO Andy Scott.

“So, that is a very strong attraction. It gives us a presence in our current markets as well as visibility in new markets."

It’s not only shirt sponsorship that is upping the ante for the gambling sector involvement in sport. 188Bet has signed two ‘official partnership’ agreements with Aston Villa and Chelsea, while Betfair, the leading betting exchange brand, has signed up for three years with current Premier League champions Manchester United.

Yet for clubs or organisations from jurisdictions in the United States or Europe where online gambling is banned or discouraged, such a close relationship between rights holder and gaming operator, may seem strange. And, it should be stressed that many European jurisdictions have yet to de-regulate the online gambling environment in the same way as the UK. But some European markets are catching up - and this is directly reflected in marketing activity. According to iGaming Business, the number of La Liga teams in Spain now sporting the logos of online operators are on a par with that of the UK in the early 2000s.

Similar growth is being witnessed in other EU countries such as Italy. In fact the biggest online gaming sponsorship deals in football are now in Spanish and Italian territories, where Austrian operator Bwin has set up landmark deals with Real Madrid and AC Milan. In the case of the Spanish giants, the sponsorship is thought to be worth around €45m over three years.

But changes to the law can’t come soon enough for Olympic Lyonnais. The French club was forced to start the new French football season without displaying the name of shirt sponsor BetClic, after the French football association rejected the club’s request to display the logo.
Then there is Portugal, once considered among the more accessible online gaming markets - and when BetClic signed up with 11 clubs in the top league for this season they gazumped Bwin which had title sponsored the entire national league from 2005-2008.

But in a move that will encourage other European governments to hold onto their gambling monopolies, the EU recently upheld the Portuguese government’s gambling restrictions as legal. The decision, which arose from a legal challenge brought by Bwin and the Portuguese League, could jeopardise the sponsorship contracts made by BetClic with the 11 Portuguese clubs.

Confusing? You bet. As is the situation Stateside, where the previous Bush administration passed a prohibitive anti-gaming law that has seen some online gaming operators jailed.
Although there are indicators that this legislation may change under the Democrats, any federally regulated online gambling system is likely to be fiercely protected and run by the major Nevada casinos.

Despite the unwanted attentions of government regulators, the online sector continues to grow its customer base - and now it has a new weapon in its marketing arsenal: live sports content. And the gaming sector’s relationship with sports rights is set to run and run. The depth of the relationship, however, will ultimately be determined by national legislators - and at this stage in the game, no one can predict with certainty how that particular story will pan out.

November 10, 2009

Affiliates hit back with Gambling Affiliates Union

An affiliate organisation has been formed that is prepared to take legal action against affiliate programmes that repeatedly fail to stick to deals agreed with affiliates over pay.

The Gambling Affiliates Union (GAU), formed just three days ago, already has more than 100 affiliate members despite not having received publicity except in discussions on the Gambling Portal Webmasters Assocation (GPWA) forum, and aims to have 1000 members within six months.

It is led by affiliates ‘Chalkie’, real name Paul White, an English affiliate focussed on the poker vertical and based in the UK's West Midlands, and ‘Mojo’, or Paula Bliss, an affiliate focussing on casino and based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on America's east coast.

White said: “I get extremely annoyed at times about how affiliates are treated and how they get walked over by some affiliate programmes. That is really the principle behind this: to make sure that affiliates get a fair deal from affiliate programmes. United, we have a stronger voice.”

White continued that the GAU was intended as an arbitration service and did not intend to organise boycotts of affiliate programmes, but that it is willing to take legal action against affiliate programmes that repeatedly fail to pay affiliates or enter into negotiation.

White said: “We’re not here to police affiliates and make demands that nobody works with certain programmes, because that would be counter-productive by making it hard to talk to the affiliate programmes. But we are willing to take legal action to protect members if absolutely necessary. If a contract contains a clause that says that allows people to change that contract at any time, then it can’t be seen as legally binding and stand up in court.”

The GAU plans to recruit 50-60% of all gambling affiliates, including the ‘super affiliates’ that White defines as “the 10% of affiliates that make 905 of industry money.” White predicted that it would have 1000 members within six months, and said it plans to have 5000 members within 12 months.

“Once we have enough members we will have a little bit of power that we can put into action,” he said, adding that the organisation has the support of GPWA founder Michael Corfman and the Association of Players Casinos and Webmasters (ACPW) founders known in the industry only as ‘J.Todd’ and ‘Anthony’.

“The GPWA, APCW and Affiliate Guard Dog all have their part of play, and our role is simply to help artbitrate between affiliates and programmes,” White said.

The GAU emerged from the ashes of the Affiliate Union, a similar organisation that was cancelled ahead of launch due to infighting between its founder members, who include White and Bliss, as well as David Nikkelson, or ‘Aussie Dave’, Robin Kendrick (‘GamTrack’) and an affiliate named Peter whose surname is unconfirmed (Greek 39).

It will not take sponsorship, but will be funded via a monthly membership fee of US$3 a month. However the first 100 members have not been charged subscription fees, and the GAU will not charge subscription fees for the up to six months in which it might take to become established.

Gaming Media Group makes Bulgaria play with acquisition, distribution deals

PokerHaeven and Poker Channel parent company Gaming Media Group (GMG) has acquired 49% of Bulgarian poker affiliate site, and also signed a distribution deal for the Poker Channel in that country.

The performance-related deal for, which according to GMG is the largest poker affiliate site in Bulgaria, values the business at between €1.5m and €1.9m, with an option to buy the remaining 51% at a later date.

GMG will fund the transaction using a combination of cash and services, including provision of infrastructure and marketing resources.

The affiliate business will be integrated with GMG’s existing online affiliate business, The managing director of the Poker Channel, Chris White, will manage the company’s new Bulgarian investment.

In conjunction with the deal, GMG announced that the Poker Channel had agreed terms with local cable operator Megalan to carry the Channel in its digital basic package, with other major operators in the pipeline for the first quarter of 2010.

GMG chief executive Crispin Nieboer said the acquisition a great first step in its strategy of expanding its online affiliate business by making acquisitions in high-growth markets. Nieboer said: “ has succeeded in building a valuable share of the online poker community in a territory that is experiencing significant growth. Through our TV exposure in Bulgaria, and by providing investment and infrastructure, we will help drive’s further growth in Bulgaria and adjacent territories.”

November 06, 2009

Steve Begleiter, former Bear Stearns exec - WSOP winner?

Former Bear Stearns executive Steven Begleiter is set to compete in the final table at the Main Event at the World Series of Poker starting on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Begleiter qualified for the final round in the July preliminaries - since 2008, the final table has been delayed until November - where he finished among the top nine out of 6,494 entrants and took home $1.26 million in prize money. This month, he'll play for the top payout of $7.2 million.

Until 2008, Begleiter was head of corporate strategy at Bear Stearns, where executives were known more for their regard for bridge than poker. When Bear was sold to J.P. Morgan, Begleiter helped transition the firm before moving to the private equity group Flexpoint Ford. Begleiter told The New York Times that despite the "populist nonsense going on right now," he's still "very proud" of his time at Bear.

Time reports that, Begleiter will be up against several very skilled professional poker players - including Phil Ivey, who many consider to be the game's top professional - but it appears he appreciates the challenge: "It's not about the money, really, I just like to compete," he said.

November 05, 2009

Liverpool signed a deal with 188Bet

Online gambling operator 188Bet has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with English Liverpool Football Club.

The specific terms of the contract have not been revealed, however, it will boost the club’s reputation among Asian markets, according to Ian Ayre, commercial director for Liverpool FC.

188Bet chief executive Andy Scott believes that the online betting industry has grow potential despite the economic downturn. He stated that ‘As a global company, being able to hook up with such a global product as Premier League football is perfect.’

This is the fifth deal the betting company has completed with English clubs, which include shirt sponsorships for the Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic Football Club.

Liverpool has also recently announced a GBP 80 million deal with Standard Charted Bank as the club’s main sponsor. Currently the club is struggling to hold a position in the Champions League.

November 03, 2009

Pocket Kings defeats Kentucky in UK court

Online casino operator Pocket Kings Limited has foiled the American state of Kentucky’s attempt to seize 141 virtual gambling domain names by winning an action in the UK’s High Court.

Pocket Kings owns popular site and initiated court proceedings in October of last year after registrar SafeNames Limited was ordered by the American state to turn over the domain.

The highest court in the UK ruled late last month that it would not recognise or enforce current or future orders to turn over the domains because the Kentucky action was not enforceable in English law due to its penal and governmental nature.

“English courts have no jurisdiction to entertain an action (I) for the enforcement either directly or indirectly of a penal, revenue or other public law of a foreign state or (2) founded upon an act of state,” read the judgement of Queen’s Counsel Michael Furness.

”So far as I am aware, there is no authority on the question whether the forfeiture of assets used in the commission of a crime under local law is to be regarded as penal for the purpose of this rule. Regardless of the categorisation of this type of forfeiture as a civil remedy under US law, it seems to me to be a provision distinctly penal in nature, requiring as it does the confiscation without compensation of an asset, on the ground that the owner, or at least the user of it, has been guilty of a criminal offence.

”I, therefore, conclude that the Kentucky proceedings are not enforceable in English law as being penal or governmental in nature. It is not, therefore, necessary for me to consider whether the Kentucky proceedings breached the principles of natural justice.'

As a result of this ruling, domains registered with SafeNames will not be turned over to Kentucky but those with US-based registrars may still be subject to seizure. This is dependent on the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is currently in the process of considering the matter with a ruling expected before the beginning of March.

Betfair to stream Breeders

The 'wagering agreement' should swell 'common pool' betting on the Cup races from around the world, and in particular from Europe.

Over $17m was pumped into US pools from abroad at last year's Cup meeting, but with Betfair promoting the pool option to its 2.5 million clients, the Cup organisation will hope for a substantial increase this year.

Greg Avioli, the president and chief execitive of the Breeders' Cup, said that the wagering agreement was 'a gateway to the future'.

'It is our belief that the future of horse racing is international common-pooling,' Avioli said. 'More than $100bn is wagered on racing around the world each year, but less than $20bn is bet through countries that common-pool.

'As more and more international horses participate in our championships, interest levels and wagering handle [turn-over] from around the world continue to increase, allowing us to maintain the highest possible purse levels for the event.'

Betfair will hope that the 'simulcasting' deal will attract the interest of new clients as well as its existing base.

Although Betfair is currently unable to accept accounts from America, due to US gambling laws, it will be well placed to capitalise should the legislation change as the firm owns TVG, a channel dedicated to US racing and betting.

November 02, 2009

32Red issues 2009 profit warning

Despite recording the company's highest ever quarterly revenue figure in the third quarter, 32Red plc said that profits for the full year 2009 will be significantly below market expectations, with player yields during the second half of the year unlikely to overcome the challenging trading conditions experienced in the first half.

In a trading update released Friday, 32Red said that third quarter revenues were the "highest ever experienced" by the company, up 11% on last year and an increase of 24% quarter-on-quarter, reflecting the continued growth of the company's online casino which saw revenues gain 10% against last year and 21% on the previous quarter.

The company said that player activity levels were also strong during the third quarter, with active casino players up 16% on the corresponding period last year, although the growth in active players was partially offset however by reduced player yields.

Despite the growth in revenues and active players however, 32Red said that it is unlikely that the company will see sufficient growth in player yields during the second half of 2009 to be able to overcome the effect of the challenging trading conditions experienced in the first half the year, when revenues dropped 11% to £5.8 million and profit fell 70% to £233,777.

As a result of these factors and an unusually high level of customer wins in October, the company's Board now believes that profit for the full year will be significantly below market expectations.

32Red said that it has considered a reduction in marketing spend in order to maintain its short-term profitability, but has concluded that this would not be in the best interests of the company.

The Board added that it remains confident that the significant ongoing investment in marketing and in new technology during the year positions the company well for 2010 and beyond.

FirePay Agrees $19.2 million DoJ Online Gaming Settlement

Canada's Optimal Group Inc, the company behind former payment processor FirePay, has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice over payments which it processed on behalf of online gambling operators in the U.S., agreeing to forfeit approximately $19.2 million in criminal proceeds under the terms of the settlement.

Brought by Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Joseph M Demarest Jr, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Optimal Group accepted a Statement of Facts regarding its business activities prior to the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act on October 13th 2006.

In the statement, Optimal Group confirmed that from 2004 until October 2006, the company operated an electronic wallet called Firepay, processing more than $2 billion worth of illegal gambling transactions for U.S customers.

According to the Statement of Facts, the Internet gambling websites were located outside of the U.S but the substantial majority of their customers were however based in the country, including in the Southern District of New York.

As acknowledged by Optimal, these Internet gambling merchants violated federal criminal law by offering gambling in the U.S, including 18 U.S.C. § 1084 (the Wire Act) and 18 U.S.C. § 1955 (the Illegal Gambling Business Act).

Optimal had previously announced in May 2007 that it had initiated discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and was in the process of responding to a voluntary request for information issued by that office.

The company subsequently received a copy of warrants of seizure against funds that were on deposit with two U.S. banks, which included $19.2 million on deposit to the credit of the company's affiliates.

Optimal and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have agreed that the $19.2 million previously seized, which is presented as restricted cash on the company’s consolidated balance sheets, shall be applied to satisfy the forfeiture obligation.

The agreement also provides that the DoJ will not criminally prosecute Optimal Group or any of its subsidiaries for any crimes related to the former processing of Internet gambling transactions originating from customers in the United States through and including 2006.

Optimal has since disposed of substantially all of its payment processing business and is today principally a toy and consumer electronics company.

Football bad breaks hit Unibet third quarter

Unibet has not excaped the run of unfavourable football results that has hit competitors, revealing a 22% year-on-year fall in third-quarter pre-tax profit to £3.5m, from £4.5m for the same period last year.

The first 66 Premier League matches saw just four draws, compared with a five-year season average of 25% of games being drawn, which also hit third-quarter profit at sportsbooks Ladbrokes and William Hill Online.

The dip contrast sharply with Unibet’s half-year results, when pre-tax profit rose to £16.6m on a half yearly basis, from £6.9m in 2008.

However a strong live betting performance helped the Swedish operator turn in a better top-line performance than WHO and Ladbrokes during the period.

Chief executive Petter Nylander cited the company’s in-play offering as a “driving force” behind Unibet achieving record sportsbook turnover and a 3% year-on-year rise in quarterly gross winnings revenue to £30.1m for the three months to the end of September 2009, from £29.3m for the same period last year.

Ladbrokes and William Hill Online recorded revenue falls over the same period, of 15% and 3% respectively.

Unibet’s active customers also rose 25% over the course of the quarter to stand at 330,000 compared to 264,000 at the end of June 2009, which Nylander said reflected the success of the company’s marketing initiatives.

The company added that the poor gross winnings margin resulting from the run of unfavourable football results in August and September had since recovered to exceed historical norms.

Nylander said: “During October, the gross winnings margin has been higher than the long-term average, highlighting the short-term volatility of sports betting margins and that it is important to look at margins over at least one-year periods.”

October 28, 2009

Offsidebet targets Spain bingo via Virtue Fusion network

Romanian operator Offsidebet has launched a Spain-facing bingo site using the Virtue Fusion Alderney network.

The new site will initially target the Spanish market, but Offsidebet also plans to offer bingo products to its core eastern European markets in future.

Offsidebet is headed by chief executive Matt Jellicoe, former marketing director for Sportingbet, and chief operating officer Leonid Ponktrantenko, who has previously worked at at Sportingbet and PartyGaming.

Its product suite already includes Playtech for poker and Net Entertainment for casino.

October 27, 2009

Lifting of Oz egaming ban set to spur further growth

The Australian market looks set for significant expansion after the government’s independent advisory body on gambling policy recommended lifting the country’s eight-year-old online gaming ban.

The Productivity Commission last week recommended the Australian government repeal the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) to allow operators to offer poker and casino products to Australian residents, subject to a strict regime of consumer protection.

The report reached its recommendation after concluding of the current ban under the IGA: “The long-run consequence of prohibition may be higher problem gambling risks and a loss of commercial opportunities and tax revenue in Australia.”

The IGA made it an offence to provide poker and casino to Australian residents, leading to an estimated total of AU$790m being spent on offshore sites last year.

Australian corporate bookmaker Centrebet’s deputy managing director, Michael McRitchie, said the proposed switch from unregulated online gaming to regulated gaming represented “a win-win” for stakeholders in the Australian market.

“The draft report demonstrates that prohibition doesn’t work, and isn’t working. Its proposals, if adopted, would increase customer protection and harm minimisation procedures, allowing the government to generate funding to assist with problem gaming,” McRitchie told

As well as allowing Australian wagering operators to increase revenues through cross-selling existing customer bases into gaming, the lifting of the IGA would also operators to increase in-running betting volumes, as the Act currently only allows in-play bets to be placed by telephone.

The Productivity Commission arrived at its draft conclusions after receiving detailed submissions from 264 organisations, including corporate bookmakers, sporting clubs, sports representative bodies and totaliser monopolies.

October 23, 2009

California poker bill introduced next year, promises new PVA chief

The viability of US intrastate poker systems may hinge on preventing offshore sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt from taking US bets, according to two leading data providers to the online poker industry.

California and Florida are currently looking at legislation to establish intrastate online poker systems and regulations as permitted by an exemp tion under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This explicitly declares that online intrastate wagers do not constitute “unlawful internet gambling” if expressly allowed by the laws of a state.

But according to Poker Players Research (PPR), which provides the poker industry with regular reports and analyses, with almost everyone who is playing online poker for money now doing so in online poker rooms with over a million registered money players, a US intrastate poker site or network would need to get close to this number before it could offer an equal choice of games and size of tournaments as the offshore sites.

“Any site in California [which according to PPR has around 1.5 million online money play ers, compared to New York’s one million and Florida’s 500,000] would need to get what seems to be an unrealistically high percent age of that state’s players to create a viable alternative to the established online poker rooms US players are currently using. This does not seem realistically achievable in a competitive environment,” said director Glenn Flackett.

“Unless the ability of players to play on the sites they currently choose is substantially changed, liquidity advantages of the existing rooms will outweigh any safer, more legiti mate benefits and few existing players will switch,” argued Flackett, who thinks that attracting new players will not only be difficult for intrastate sites, “they will not build liquidity levels that are high enough.”

However, Simon Holliday, director of gam bling data business H2 Gambling Capital, cites Swedish national monopoly Svenska Spel’s 2006 example of how a platform can be built on leisure-oriented players who are comfortable only playing on state-licensed sites. This was achieved in a country with a popu lation of 9.3 million, just over a quarter of California’s and half Florida’s, with nothing done regarding offshore sites.

That said, H2 has calculated its intrastate poker numbers assuming that offshore poker site activity is eradicated.

“Governments have never moved to regulate an industry without offering it some protection. Who would be willing to pay millions of dollars in licence fees and taxation while others were allowed to carry on tax-free?”, explained Holliday.

Thus H2’s baseline for the number of players needed for sustainable, regulated intrastate gambling in the US is lower than PPR’s, for example, citing the need for approximately 500,000 unique active players in Year 1 in California, rising to one million by Year 10, while for Florida, the corresponding numbers are 200,000, rising to 650,000.

But with the federal government having its own tax-raising aims for egaming, it remains to be seen just how supportive it will be in the longer term of individual states’ drive to monopolise the gaming revenues generated within their respective borders.