April 24, 2009

EU operators intensify fight for French market share

As competition intensifies ahead of the liberalisation of the French gaming market next year, private European operators have been providing a much needed boost to the dwindling advertising revenues of French media groups in recent months. France’s Budget Minister, Eric Woerth, has warned however that any advertising of online gaming sites remains illegal until the new legislation is implemented as expected in early 2010.

Unibet has been one of the most proactive companies, announcing a partnership with French radio station Radio Monte Carlo earlier this week to sponsor a new programme called 'Les Paris RMC' beginning this weekend. The estimated €1 million contract will run during 2009 with an option to extend into 2010.

Unibet has also invested a further €1 million into the development of a reality TV programme on sports and poker, broadcast by French television network NT1, as well as a partnership with free daily newspaper Metro.

Meanwhile BetClic, owned by France's Mangas Gaming, is currently negotiating an alliance with Europe 1, one of the leading radio broadcasters in France. The company has already began its first advertising campaigns on the radio.

Both companies have also targeted the burgeoning football sponsorship arena, with Unibet due to announce a sponsorship deal with leading French football team Paris Saint-Germain, while BetClic is rumoured to have three clubs in its sights, Olympique de Marseille, Olympic Lyonnais and AS Saint-Étienne.

Additionally, bwin signed a joint venture agreement last year with French media group Editions Philippe Amaury, publisher of French daily newspapers L’Équipe and Le Parisien, and one of France's largest organisers of sporting events through its subsidiary Amaury Sport Organisation. Amaury and bwin intend to develop the French online gaming market under the new legislation.

In an interview with France’s Le Figaro, Isabelle Parize, Managing Director of Mangas Gaming, said that the company was aware of Mr. Woerth’s objections to the marketing activities currently underway.

“We have been waiting for months now,” said Ms. Parize. “The bill was presented to the Council of Ministers in March and we are effectively in a pre-liberalisation phase. We cannot sit waiting with our arms crossed while FDJ is accelerating its marketing activities, launching new games and entering into new partnerships.

“We simply demand equal treatment with the monopoly holders PMU and FDJ who have signed agreements with RTL, the leading French radio station, 20 Minutes, the largest free French daily, Canal+, and France 2. We are not doing anything illegal from a European legislative perspective.”

Both Unibet and the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA) also maintain that advertising in France by European operators is not illegal.

According to Article 48 of the French draft legislation on online gambling however, any promotion of gaming sites by non-authorised companies is illegal and could result in a fine of up to €30,000. As the law currently stands, only state-owned monopoly La Française de Jeux is allowed to promote online sports betting in France.

Last week French radio station RTL launched the first radio broadcast dedicated to sports betting called 'On Joue Le Match', sponsored by FDJ as part of an 18-month strategic partnership.

FDJ also recently launched a new TV show on channel France2 named Côte & Match after its sports betting product, which is intended to help FDJ acquire a larger share of the sports betting market ahead of its liberalisation.

April 21, 2009

UEFA hands FK Pobeda an eight-year ban

Macedonian FK Pobeda will have to wait eight years before taking to the field again, following developments that proved the club guilty of intentionally losing a match. As a result, the UEFA issued lifetime bans from European football to president Aleksandar Zabrcanec and ex-captain Nikolce Zdravevski, as reported by BBC. In addition, UEFA plans to request that the pair be banned from football activities worldwide, by asking FIFA to take the necessary measures.

The matter has been ongoing since 2004, when UEFA began investigating irregular betting patterns in a match against Pyunik. A UEFA disciplinary panel was put into place to deal with the results, revealing their decision after a hearing that lasted seven hours.

To arrive at a ruling, the panel confirmed that Zabrcanec and Zdravevski were guilty of match-fixing, leaving Pobeda at a 4-2 disadvantage over Pyunik. The findings likely came as no surprise to UEFA, with the pair initially suspected of “manipulating the outcome”.

UEFA president Michel Platini has been forthcoming about his feelings toward match-fixing, calling it the biggest problem in European football. While it may be easy to implement stricter regulations and practices, it can be very difficult to secure enough evidence to formally reprimand clubs.

While Pobeda represents the second club to be reprimanded by UEFA for match-fixing, Zabrcanec and Zdravevski are the first club officials to be held accountable.

April 17, 2009

888 ties with 192Business for global ID checks

888 has signed up ID verification specialist 192business to use its global ID check solutions as part of its player acquisition strategy.

The operator will use 192’s Check-ID solution to verify player identity data during the account-creation process and to counter ID fraud and underage gambling, and also help to detect and disrupt money laundering.

“Player verification enables us to go into new markets safely and responsibly” explained Ruth Tanami, director of responsible gaming at 888. “It not only minimises paper-based player identity checking that impairs the customer experience, but maintains our commitment to being a socially responsible operator by preventing underage players accessing our gaming sites,” she added.

Eran Gonen, senior vice president at 888, called the new player verification technology from 192business a “critical tool for 888” for its expansion into new markets.

David Pope, director at 192business, said: “It’s great that we can help leading operators implement faster and safer player acquisition processes.“

192’s ID and authentication solutions are also used by other leading operators in online gaming sector, including PKR and PartyGaming.

April 11, 2009

Palermo announce Betshop sponsor deal

Palermo finally found a shirt sponsor, with nine matches left until the end of the championship, BetShop, a betting company, signed a new agreement with Palermo.

The new shirt sponsor will be used for the first time against Torino.

The agreement will bind Palermo and Betshop for the next two seasons, or until the end of the Serie A 2010/2011. It was not specified if the sponsoring will be active only for the Serie A or also the Coppa Italia and any European competitions.

The official announcement:

"The Betshop Team is pleased to announce to have signed a sponsorship agreement with one of the most prestigious clubs in the Italian league: Palermo Calcio. Both share a passion for sports and teamwork, key features on which we build this important new partnership. The agreement is valid until the end of the 2010/2011 season and will allow a number of marketing initiatives that will involve all our customers.

"This new association is a start of a future full of exciting changes and initiatives will meet all your expectations!"

April 10, 2009

PartyGaming: post settlement, boss gets share option

PartyGaming boss Jim Ryan has been awarded company shares worth more than £280,000, six months after he was issued company shares worth almost £1.5m.

The shares have been issued under PartyGaming’s Share Option Plan incentive plan, or ESOP, under which Ryan, PartyGaming’s chief executive, has been awarded an annual option over 125,000 shares.

Each option is exercisable at 227p a share, meaning that Ryan’s latest award is worth £283,750. His first award, made in October last year, was over 645,100 shares, worth roughly £1.5m on the same valuation, putting his share options under the ESOP so far at more than £1.7m.

The news follows just 24 hours after Party announced it was to settle with US authorities over its online gaming activities prior to the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 (see story).

Under the settlement, Party will pay the US authorities US$105m in return for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York ensuring the company will not be prosecuted for providing internet gambling services prior to UIGEA.

Speaking to eGaming Review yesterday, a company spokesman said that the “commercial logic” of the deal meant Party could now push on with merger and acquisition activity, and the company has already held talks with various banks regarding obtaining capital.

In the City, the settlement meant Party shares rose 4%, or 11p, to 227p at close of business yesterday after earlier highs, despite Party announcing first quarter key performance indicators that day that were all down. Poker revenues were down US$28m to US$53.6m compared with US$80.7m in 2008. Casino revenue was down US$1.6m to US$40.9m on 2008’s US$42.3m, while bingo revenues were down US$200,000 to US$1m during the period, compared with US$1.2m last year.

Under the ESOP scheme, Party’s group finance director, Martin Weigold, has also been awarded an annual option over 337,500 shares, worth £766,000.

The award is his third, after one in May 2007 over 88,360 shares worth more than £200,000 on current valuation, and one in March 2008 over 171,402 shares worth over £389,000. His total so far stands at roughly £1.36m.

The ESOP options vest subject to the growth in the company's clean earnings per share equalling or exceeding 15% per annum in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

April 09, 2009

Betfred sponsors World Snooker Championship

Betfred, the independent UK bookmaker, has announced that it is to become the main sponsor of the World Snooker Championship for the next four years. Previously sponsored by online gaming operator 888.com, snooker's most prestigious tournament will now be known as the Betfred.com World Snooker Championship.

The sponsorship deal arrives just in time for the start of the live televised event, which kicks off on Saturday April 18th and finishes two weeks later on Monday May 4th at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Featuring a host of snooker's top professional players including the likes of defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, seven-time winner Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Steve Davis, Shaun Murphy, and Ali Carter, the tournament is one of the highlights of the sporting calendar.

Last year the tournament received 127 hours of coverage from BBC Sport, with 24.5 million adults watching at least five minutes of consecutive action. It also received extensive coverage around the world with a reach of over 60 million individuals on Eurosport and a peak audience of over 10 million on CCTV5 in China alone.

Announcing the deal, Betfred Founder and Chairman, Fred Done, said: "It's always been an ambition of mine to sponsor a World Championship and this is a competition with so much history. When it comes to snooker this is the pinnacle of the sport and I look forward to watching the world's greatest 32 players."

Sir Rodney Walker, World Snooker Chairman, said: "We are extremely pleased to have entered into a long-term partnership with Betfred.com, which is a fantastic company for our sport to be associated with and again they have demonstrated their support to the benefit of all fans.

"The fact we have been able to secure a four-year agreement within the current economic climate is testament to the popularity of snooker in the UK and internationally. We look forward to working together with Betfred.com to build and develop the sport further over the coming years."

The World Snooker Association has been searching for a new sponsor since August of last year when 888 announced it was pulling the plug on its five year sponsorship deal two years early. The company cited the difficult economic climate for its decision to withdraw.

Lottomatica Dogan quit Turkish lottery bid

Italy’s Lottomatica S.p.A has this morning announced the termination of its joint venture with Turkey’s Dogan Sirketler Grubu Holding A.S. The two companies had entered into a memorandum of understanding on February 16th 2009 forming the JV in order to participate in the tender for the privatisation of the Turkish national lottery.

In a stock market announcement Thursday, Dogan confirmed termination of the JV, saying that it had decided not to bid in the tender due to current market conditions.

The Dogan Lottomatica consortium was approved by Turkey’s privatisation administration earlier this year having met the preliminary requirements for participation in the tender, which will grant the winner a 10-year license to operate the state-owned national lottery Milli Piyango.

Other participants in the tender include Intralot, Turkcell, Austrian Lotteries and OPAP.

The privatisation process for the national lottery, which generates sales in excess of US$1 billion annually, is expected to commence in August.

April 08, 2009

5 players charged with breaches of The FA's rules on betting in football

The majority of these charges relate to bets placed on an end-of-season match between Accrington Stanley and Bury played on 3 May 2008. Betting companies in the North-West had reported unusual betting patterns in the lead-up to the match with higher than usual amounts being staked in particular areas of the country.

Four of those charged – Jay Harris, David Mannix, Robert Williams and Peter Cavanagh – were registered with Accrington Stanley at the time of the game while Andrew Mangan was registered with Bury. Both Harris and Cavanagh played in the game.

All five are alleged to have placed bets on Bury to win this match. Mannix is alleged to have placed stakes to the value of approximately £4,000; Mangan £3,500; Harris £2,000; Williams £1,000; and Cavanagh on a £5 accumulator.

In addition, Harris, now registered with Chester City, has been charged in relation to betting on a game involving his new club and another two League Two fixtures. Cavanagh has also been charged with further breaches in relation to his betting on another Accrington Stanley match in which he played and on a number of other League Two matches.

All five have until 23 April to respond to the charges.

Leighton McGivern, also registered with Accrington Stanley FC at the time of the game, was charged in March 2009 in relation to his failure to provide The FA with information requested during the course of the investigation. He has denied the charge.

FA rules prohibit participants from betting on the result or progress of any match or competition in which the participant is participating or has any direct or indirect influence.

April 07, 2009

PartyGaming set for M&A push as it settles with DOJ

PartyGaming has settled with the US authorities over its online gaming activities prior to the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) on 13 October 2006.

Party will pay the US authorities US$105m in instalments up to 30 September 2012 in return for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (USAO) ensuring the company and any of its subsidiaries will not be prosecuted for providing internet gambling services prior to UIGEA.

The company also agreed to a statement of facts as part of the settlement, in which it admitted offering real-money poker and casino gaming to US customers prior to UIGEA, which was contrary to certain US laws. PartyGaming will continue not accepting US bets and if requested, “the USAO will bring the co-operation and remedial actions of PartyGaming to the attention of other licensing and regulatory authorities”.

A spokesperson for the company said the settlement drew a line under the matter. While the amount agreed with US authorities as part of the financial settlement was at the top end of the range of what it expected to pay, the “commercial logic” of the deal meant Party could now push on with merger and acquisition activity.

The company has already held talks with various banks regarding obtaining access to capital and the response had been positive, the spokesperson said.

The agreement announced this morning has no bearing on how the US authorities view the legal position of Party’s other founders, Russ De Leon, Ruth Parasol and Vikrant Bhargava and follows on from the individual settlement agreed by PartyGaming founder Anurag Dikshit in December, which saw him pay US$300m to the US Department of Justice in New York. In the City, Party’s shares were up 32p or 14% to 250p at the time of writing, Sportingbet shares were up 11% to 46p while 888 shares were up 10% to 98.

Party announced its first quarter key performance indicators this morning. Poker revenues were down US$28m to US$53.6m, compared with US$80.7m in 2008. Casino revenue was down US$1.6m to US$40.9m on 2008’s US$42.3m and bingo revenues were stagnant, at US$1m during the period, compared with US$1.2m achieved last year.

April 03, 2009

How Betfair beat the bookies

It was a mundane midweek day's racing at Southwell in January 2002. Family Business, ridden by champion jockey Tony McCoy, was odds-on favourite for the Feast of St Raymond Novices' Chase.

When the horse unseated McCoy at the 10th fence, most punters gave up hope. They then watched, amazed, as one by one the remaining four runners - all of whom had limited steeplechase experience - capitulated, unseating their riders or refusing fences. By the fourth-last fence, no one was left to finish, and the race was about to be declared void. McCoy, who had caught and remounted Family Business, could hear the news over the PA. Having guided him back to the 10th, the pair jumped their way to an unlikely, not to say expensive, victory.

It was a story to bring a smile to the most weathered of punters. And nobody was smiling as hard as the two backers on the Betfair betting exchange, who had each put £2 on the horse after he fell. His "in-running" odds at the time were 999-1. That £2 bet had just returned £2,000.

Twenty years ago, the betting ring still held on to some Runyonesque charm. The bookmakers kept their money in leather satchels, known as hods, hanging from their joints - a metal sheet onto which the odds were written - and stood on wooden stools. Tic-tac men signalled prices and bets from one end of the ring to the other. Inheritance of the pitches was strictly hereditary - would-be bookies had to wait for families to die out to have the chance to price the odds.

It was old-fashioned, for sure, but vibrant. The term "a licence to print money" still applied to on-course bookmaking, certainly on the big days and the bank holidays. And on quiet days, the big bookmakers were able to manipulate the course markets, in particular by shortening the odds on the favourites by placing bets just before the race started. Thus the off-course firms were happy, the on-course firms were happy and the punters, it seemed, had plenty of ready cash to lose.

Then there were the racecourse characters, the minor celebrities who rubbed shoulders with minor villains: the Dodger, Johnny Lights, Jimmy the Wig, Peter the Builder and Tony the Hat. Tick-Up Stan stood outside selling marked racecards. Johnny Raf had been in the Royal Air Force and supplemented his income with a little shoplifting, as did Bob the Dog. Some names were geographically accurate, such as Windsor Ted, but Bristol John was from Birmingham, Manchester Mark was from London, and Geordie Alan came from the north-east but was not a Geordie. There was also a young taxi driver from north London called Paul, known as Paul the Cabbie.

Today, thanks to Betfair, Paul, now 45, no longer tours the streets in his taxi. The betting exchange has changed his life. "I had a passion for gambling from a young age, even at school," says Paul, who prefers not to use his surname. He would have winning runs, yet had to go back behind the wheel to build another betting bank when things went wrong. "But Betfair transformed my life," he says. "The better prices on offer and the fact that I could lay as well as back meant I went from a losing punter, or one struggling to make it pay, to a winning one."

Betfair launched on Oaks Day in June 2000, with a mere 36 people striking bets on the fillies' Classic at Epsom. Since then it has grown into the most influential betting platform in the British market. One of its innovations was to give punters the chance to bet after a race has started, right up to the end of the event. Sure, other bookmakers had experimented with in-running betting, but none could offer, as Betfair could, the chance to bet immediately at the click of a mouse.

Betfair now provides worldwide markets for almost every sport imaginable. But it was on British horse racing that it cut its teeth, and in the process revolutionised the way people go about their business, and pleasure. Instead of going to betting shops or the on-course bookmaker, Betfair's customers conduct virtually all their business online, betting with people they do not know with the exchange acting as intermediary.

The beauty of the idea was that people could now also bet against something happening - and set their own odds. Betfair makes its money by taking a commission ranging from 2-5% from the winning customers after each event.

Betfair's broad appeal was crucial to its success. Winning punters had become frustrated with traditional bookmakers, finding it ever harder to have their bets accepted. Losers - the large majority - found that Betfair, with lower margins against the punter than traditional bookmakers, made it possible for them to lose their money more slowly, or even turn a loss into a profit. Punters could turn bookmaker and set their own odds. And in-running betting was taken to a far more sophisticated level.

To people discovering Betfair for the first time, it seemed that the exchange was all about the punters. The punters set the markets. The exchange's commission meant that Betfair did not care who won and who lost. It was the near-perfect betting platform.

Betfair was born in 1998, when Andrew "Bert" Black met Ed Wray at a party and expounded his idea of a person-to-person betting website. Both men had backgrounds in the City - Black had managed a hedge fund and Wray had been on the trading floor for JP Morgan. It was a time of boom and bonuses, so when they decided to try the idea, raising the capital wasn't a problem.

The key to Betfair's success was to be the first in the business. As punters flocked to lay their own odds, some bookmaking firms, including the biggest of them all, Ladbrokes, toyed with their own exchanges, but Betfair was already too big to take on. In a market where liquidity - the amount of money in the market - is the biggest attraction to potential backers and layers, Betfair had it and the others did not. Soon its prices were forcing the old-fashioned bookmakers to cut margins (and, by extension, profits).

Black, now 45, has always been a punter. If someone else had begun Betfair, he would be betting with them. As it is, he is co-founder of a company that last year had a revenue of nearly £240m and a profit of £30m. Betfair has 1,350 employees and what chief executive officer David Yu describes as "more transactions than all the European stock markets put together". It has branches worldwide (but not in the United States, where internet gambling is illegal). Black himself owns a string of racehorses.

Betfair has changed the racecourse for ever, even though it has, as yet, no pitches or presence at racecourses beyond advertising, sponsorship and hospitality, and no presence on the high streets, where Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral continue to dominate.

When I first started going racing regularly, in the mid-80s, bookmakers obtained their initial prices - known as the "tissue" - from odds compilers. The big firms had their own tissue men but the racecourse bookies tended to rely on private individuals. Now, Betfair supplies the "tissue", with players offering backs and lays on the site the night before.

And it has created a new kind of gambling careerist. "Now my skill is being able to predict the fluctuation of the markets," says Paul, "and that is down to my history as a punter. I can work out what the punters are going to back, what horses are going to shorten, and what are going to lengthen in price; which jockeys and trainers they follow and which ones they reject. Most of my bets lately have been on market moves."

This method is called "arbing", after the stock-market term "arbitrage". Many punters began operating in similar ways to those in the stock market, "buying" a horse at a high price (backing) and "selling" it back at a lower price (laying). Yet, gradually, the difference between the Betfair prices and the betting-ring prices, allowing people to "arb", has been eroded, with just about every on-course bookmaker taking notice of what happens on what they call "the machine".

Much of Paul's business is done in-running and, as with Family Business, there can be huge fluctuations in price. Paul the Cabbie started out in the era of chalk and wooden stools, but the Tick-up Stans and Johnny Rafs have been replaced by a new generation of traders, most of whom have arrived since Betfair began.

With in-running has come the growth of exchange shops, a more sophisticated form of betting shop, where serious punters pay from £25 to £40 per day for a seat to play the markets, making use of fast pictures direct from the track. People congregate to bet and trade, generally not for recreation, but as a living.

The Cabbie prefers to go to the track, where he can enjoy the biggest in-running edge of all, watching the races live with a telephone link to a colleague on Betfair. But the value is harder to find, he claims. "You are swimming with the sharks now," he says. "Since the advent of exchange shops, much of the value has gone out of the market. But I still believe in-running has not peaked, whereas the pre-race markets have."

This is where the growth of other sports markets comes in. Some long-term professional punters have switched from racing. One of them, Dave Gilbert, now plays on golf and football because "I found that horse racing had become too big to cope with, too many horses, too many races."

Paul agrees: "I think the sports market will continue to grow, whereas the horse market will drop. There were telephone numbers traded on football's European Championship, Wimbledon and the Open golf [in 2008]. People have more opinions on sports than racing. I have been having more sports bets this year than in the previous six. People can bet in pubs, on the mobile, live at the event. It is so convenient, so people are playing on the sports market and not the horses."

For 50 years after the war, the on-course market stood still, until new rules meant that pitches could be bought and sold and computer technology meant that bookies' clerks pressed buttons rather than recorded bets in ledgers by pencil. In Betfair's world, things move faster than ever. It is now possible to attach computer programs to Betfair, run by internet robots, or "bots". People can programme their bot to play a market or to predict the momentum of a market.

Like the bookies, punters who want to stay ahead of the game are constantly having to change their tactics. "When Betfair first started," says Paul the Cabbie, "there were about 20 arbing teams at the track; now there are only two of us left." Gradually, the market for arbing became saturated, so many of the arbers turned to in-running. There is the two-furlong man on his ladder, the furlong man and the man on the line. All different teams, all using different tactics. Not all backing horses to win, but some laying. These are the new racecourse characters: Jimmy the Wig has been replaced by the Betfair Commando, who wears army fatigues; the Dodger by the Undertaker (looks miserable but makes money). Like Paul, Julian Gouder, a large-staking punter from the north-east and one of Britain's biggest players on Betfair's race-day markets, thinks that horse racing markets are close to stagnation. "Where will it all end?" he asks. "I think that the very few opinion-based punters out there will struggle on, trying to make it pay, while the throngs of traders will continue to skim a wage every week and racing will gradually lose its market share to other sports."

For racing in the UK, that is an unpalatable future, for, unlike in other countries, it depends upon the levy contributions of bookmakers and exchanges - originally punters' money - to keep afloat. But the immediate future for Betfair seems buoyant. The company announced in December that it is to sponsor the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, one of the most prestigious races in the calendar, at Ascot in July. Not only is it backing the race but, as part of the five-year deal, Ascot will be opening Betfair lounges on the course, "where new and existing customers can experience the thrill of horse racing".

The on-course bookmakers, who have paid considerable sums for their pitches, will not be happy, but there is not much they can do to stop the Betfair behemoth. To visit Kempton Park on a Monday afternoon, or Folkestone on a Tuesday, is to watch the British betting ring in what may be its last throes. Six or seven bookmakers try to drum up business from sparse crowds. I counted fewer than 100 on the viewing steps at a recent Kempton meeting. There were more people there but they were either keeping warm in the Coral betting shop under the stand, in the owners' and trainers' bar, or the glass-fronted restaurant. There were a handful of in-running players, with phone earpieces connecting to their colleagues on "the machine".

Meanwhile, the proper punters were at home, watching on Racing UK with their computer browsers switched to Betfair. To be an on-course bookmaker these days is not in any sense to have a licence to print money. Even on the biggest days at the biggest tracks, it can be hard to make it pay. The expenses amount to around £400 per day. One course bookmaker of my acquaintance, Racing Raymond of Leicester, told me after working in the cheapest enclosure at Newbury's recent Hennessy Gold Cup meeting - a very busy Saturday - that "it was useless. I went home after three races because I was taking about £70 a race." That is taking, not profit.

The golden goose for the on-course layer is all but dead. For Betfair, it continues to lay. And when Ascot's Betfair lounges open this year, you get the feeling they will be the first of many.

Does Betfair help cheats prosper?

Betfair isn't universally loved. There have been criticisms that it is now easier for jockeys, owners and stable staff - who are not allowed to lay their own horses - to pass information and fix races. But unlike traditional bookmakers, Betfair will divulge information about clients' transactions to the horse racing authorities. More than a dozen jockeys in Britain have been banned for passing information, and their bans directly related to Betfair's audit trail.

One of those jockeys was Gary Carter, pictured, who rode Dodona at Lingfield Park in August 2003. Dodona had plenty of ability, although she had won only two of her 33 races, and was entitled to be favourite for the race.

I was at the track and backed Dodona, via telephone, on Betfair. The price went bigger, so I backed her again. When a price goes out, even on a favourite, it is not always a cause for concern.

I figured that some people were looking at Dodona's poor win record, and that was the reason for the drift.

During the race, I formed a different opinion. When Dodona moved into contention, it seemed Carter was not animated enough. She was beaten by a short-head, and would have won had she not received the winning jockey's whip in her face. A stewards' enquiry was called. When that upheld the placings, I put the race in the "unfortunate bet" file.

The authorities took another view. On the day of the enquiry, Carter stressed that Dodona had suffered no interference that affected her chance of winning. But at an appeal, he was adamant that the smack with the whip stopped Dodona winning. He would have known then that even if the result was overturned, it was too late to affect bets struck on the race.

Dodona was one of eight losing horses ridden by Carter that Christopher Coleman, a London tailor, had laid heavily on Betfair. On Dodona alone, he "won" £13,174, having "risked" £95,079. Examination of phone records showed close links between Carter and Coleman, and after a two-year investigation Carter was banned from racing - "warned off" - for passing information. Coleman's existing ban was extended indefinitely.

Pre-Betfair, an incident like this was less likely to happen - but more likely to go undetected. The suspicion remains that "insiders" are benefiting.

April 02, 2009

State Treaty Cause for Massive Job Cuts, Tipp24 Says

On Friday, Tipp24 A.G. slashed 139 out of 154 jobs -- leaving just 15 employees at its headquarters in Hamburg due to Germany's Interstate Gambling Treaty.
In addition to cutting much of its work force, the online lottery broker also scaled back its executive board. Petra von Strombeck and Marcus Geiß will both retire from the board on March 31, the company said in a statement.

The state treaty, which was enacted on Jan. 1, 2008, forbids Tipp24 from conducting any form of lottery brokerage online in Germany. The company has since moved operations for its www.tipp24.com Web site to London.

Jens Schumann, the company’s chairman, said that the majority of cut jobs likely will be replaced by new ones abroad.

"At the same time as the German state is spending billions to save German jobs, it is also destroying the jobs of a healthy, mid-size company with a law which contravenes E.U. legislation," Mr. Schumann said in the company statement.

"It seems more likely that the state treaty is designed to eliminate private companies under the pretext of preventing addiction," he added. "After all, controlling addiction would be much more effective via the Internet than at the lottery kiosk. We will therefore continue to take legal action against the new state treaty."

Jobs at Tipp24 Entertainment GmbH were not affected by the German state treaty, the company said.

April 01, 2009

Sportingbet sign sponsorship deal with Wolves

Sportingbet has signed on for a two-year, seven-figure sponsorship of the Wolverhampton Wanderers, or Wolves, Football Club.

Starting June 2009, the sponsorship will be the biggest in the Wolves’ 132-year history, according to Sportingbet.

Through the deal, the sports betting, casino gaming and poker company said it will become the club’s official betting partner as well as give it a major presence at Molineux Stadium.

"We share a common heritage of passion, skill and teamwork," said Andrew McIver, chief executive of Sportingbet, in a company statement. "I believe that this is the basis of a great partnership. Football is the bedrock of our business, and we look forward to working closely together."