June 25, 2009

PartyPoker stars pro team

PartyPoker has signed a sponsorship deal with UK player Ian Frazer to become an ambassador and sponsored player for the leading online poker room.

Ian is the first cog in a new strategy from PartyPoker.com, which has previously stayed out of the player sponsorship market with the exception of main site ambassador Mike Sexton.

PartyPoker will now be sponsoring players as it seeks to create a grassroots team. The emphasis is on VIPs, player loyalty and historic links to PartyPoker. More members of the team will be announced in the near future and more details on the team concept will follow as the team is shaped.

Ian ‘The Raiser’ Frazer is a very successful 50-year-old building contractor from London with live tournament winnings of over $1.3 million.

The link to his success and Party is strong as he started playing online at the site in 2004 and has finished on the final table of five offline Party tournaments. He is a valued member of VIP club - the Palladium Lounge. His biggest live successes are scooping $500,000 by taking down the UK Open in 2005 and winning the first prize of $125,000 at the PartyPoker.com European Open II in 2006. Ian has cashed three times in six handed events at the WSOP and is known and feared as a specialist in that format.

Ian will be hosting his own invite only private tournaments on PartyPoker.com and only last Sunday won a package online for the Asian Poker Tour Macau event where he will join a large group of online qualifiers. He will be representing PartyPoker.com at a number of events at the WSOP in Las Vegas.

Ian said: “I am delighted to have got a deal with PartyPoker.com – it allows me to focus more on my poker than my everyday job. I have been involved with Party since the early Poker Den days so it is a deal that makes sense and is based on a strong relationship over a number of years. I left Party for a while as I felt the software got dated and the VIP service dropped from the original top level but since the October re-launch, the software is second to none and I’ve seen a massive amount of extra value given back through the new VIP system which puts Party back at the top. I’m looking forward to finding out who will join me.”

Warren Lush Partypoker Press officer told Tourneyblog “The sponsored player and grassroots team initiative will continue to grow with all VIPs reviewed for suitability. We have seen growth in VIPs coming back to Party since our launch of the new software and continued huge strides in the VIP programme which culminated in the launch of the new PartyPoints Store this week.”

“We are looking for players that have shown themselves to have star quality in their play but who are also fun, humorous and possess a strong character and willingness to co-operate. Our extensive international television distribution gives players the chance of brilliant exposure.”

June 22, 2009

Party's Cashcade buy could be as soon as next week

Foxy Bingo parent company Cashcade’s acquisition by PartyGaming is likely to go through “sooner rather than later”, according to sources close to the deal.

“The acquisition could be driven through as early as next week. Although takeovers can be complex and there are many supplier and technology issues such as player migration to finalise in this particular deal,” one source said.

PartyGaming stated that it would be able to access capital once it had settled with the US authorities over its business activities in the US prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) in 2006, and that the Cashcade buy out would be one of series of consolidatory moves in the sector.

The value of the buyout will be between £70m and £100m. Payment is likely to be in cash, with Cashcade shareholder Independent News and Media looking to raise funds to repay outstanding debts for its 20% stake.

Cashcade is heavily focused on the highly competitive UK market, but Party will use Cashcade’s marketing expertise and technology on a white label basis and provide online bingo solutions to clients including Cirsa and Intralot. Such a move would also enable Cashcade to diversify its player base and prevent over reliance on the UK market.

The deal is a blow to 888, as Cashcade is one of its key licensees on 888’s Globalcom platform. 888 had previously denied being in “advanced talks” with the Foxy Bingo owner (more).

The deal also represents another challenge to the UK’s leading bingo site, Gala Bingo, as Party is likely to ramp up its marketing to increase the firm’s UK market share.

June 18, 2009

Wimbledon on high alert over suspected match-fixing rings

Between six and 12 players due to compete in the men's singles at Wimbledon are on a "watch list" of individuals under scrutiny by the game's authorities because of past involvement in matches where suspicious betting happened and match-fixing was suspected. The revelation comes from an investigation by The Independent into corruption in tennis, and into the methods that the authorities, including the world men's governing body, the ATP, are using to stamp it out.

The Independent understands the full "watch list" includes Russians, Argentines, Italians, Spaniards and players of other nationalities, including men from inside the top 50 as well as those at the lower reaches of the game.

A senior source said: "We have interests in the activities of certain players and there are players whose matches we follow closely. It would be ludicrous to think, with so much money involved in betting, that there is no malpractice. A few of [the players being watched] aren't the ones you'd necessarily suspect while others who've had unjustified rumours trotted out about them are not of concern."

The investigation has discovered that the ATP knows the identities of a group of big-time gamblers, in Russia in particular and also in Italy, who have wagered on "suspicious" games. Details of the only time a match-fixing allegation has been aired in court have also surfaced and are revealed today, along with information on how the ATP failed to provide records that might have helped the prosecution.

The top-level source said one challenge in fighting corruption is "sifting self-perpetuating gossip from hard evidence of corruption". Another is stopping the use of "inside information" where "a privileged few profit for financial gain".

Then there is the challenge of catching "the small minority" whom the authorities believe are actively corrupt. The source said: "It's stupid to say there aren't some players tempted by what they're being offered to fix matches."

Ahead of Wimbledon, which begins on Monday, these revelations add weight to the growing fears within the sport and the gambling industry that major tennis tournaments are being targeted – successfully in some cases – by match-fixers. A wide range of gambling industry sources say there have been "ongoing concerns" about tennis.

An investigation is underway into Monday's first-round match between Spain's Oscar Hernandez and Austria's Daniel Koellerer at the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, after "unusual" bets on Hernandez, who won. The Independent can reveal a 29-year-old male Russian spectator was arrested yesterday at that tournament for gambling on a laptop courtside, which is forbidden.

The Independent has also learnt that a match in Kitzbühel, Austria, last month, was flagged up to the ATP as "of concern". There was also irregular betting on at least one match at the Monte Carlo Masters in April. France's Jean-René Lisnard's first-round win, 6-2, 6-2, over Belgium's Christophe Rochus led to non-payment of bets by some bookies.

That match was referred to the Gambling Commission (the industry watchdog), as well as to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), tennis's in-house crime-stopping team.

The head of the TIU is Jeff Rees, a respected detective who served in the Metropolitan Police for 32 years and who earned his reputation as a leading sports integrity expert working in cricket's anti-corruption unit. It was Rees and his fellow integrity expert, Ben Gunn, who authored tennis's Environmental Review of Integrity in Professional Tennis, published in May last year, which recommended the formation of the TIU.

The Independent put its findings to the man at the top of men's tennis, Adam Helfant, the ATP's executive chairman and president. In response, the ATP released a statement: "Since January 2008 the ATP, Grand Slams, ITF and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour have had a Tennis Integrity Unit led by Jeff Rees. All related matters are dealt with by his unit and we don't intend to comment on any allegations or media stories."

The Independent put a series of questions to Rees about tennis integrity and TIU's work to which he declined to comment.

Those questions included asking what has happened to investigations into 45 matches that Rees's Review said, almost 14 months ago, had caused "specific concerns from a betting perspective". The Independent has been told by an impeccable source: "The findings might never be made public."

The May 2008 Review said tennis's authorities knew about suspicious betting activity by 27 Betfair account holders in two countries. The Independent can reveal today those countries were Russia and Italy, and that three Russia-based account holders in particular placed enormous sums on the infamous match between Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and Argentina's Martin Vassallo Arguello in Sopot, Poland, in August 2007.

Betfair alone took more than $7m in bets (£3.4m) on that match, or 10 times normal levels. Davydenko was No 5 in the world and should have been hot favourite against Arguello, then No 87.

But Davydenko was the underdog on Betfair, and despite that, one Russian Betfair customer, "Djults", wagered $540,942 on Arguello before the match, and then more when Davydenko was one set ahead.

A second customer, "Sgenia", bet $368,036 on Arguello to win, even when he was a set down. The gamblers were behaving as if certain that Arguello, even while losing, would win.

A third customer, "Ruster", had held a Betfair account since 2005 and had averaged $800 per bet until that match. Then he bet $253,833 at odds as short as 1-11 on Arguello. Davydenko subsequently retired, injured, in the third set, making Arguello the winner. Betfair took the unprecedented step of voiding the market.

Both players have always denied any wrongdoing. Contrary to popular belief, nobody was ever charged with any misdemeanour. An ATP investigation, which failed to gain access to some phone records, concluded last September with a carefully worded statement that said: "The ATP has now exhausted all avenues of enquiry open to it."

June 17, 2009

Ladybrokes in the pink

Rather than seeing red, visitors to Royal Ascot on Thursday will be in the pink, according to Ladbrokes, who have undergone a makeover and changed their name to Ladybrokes to celebrate Ladies' Day - The firm has even changed its logo to pink from the traditional red!

Britain's biggest bookies has also launched a 'Ladybrokes' website, which offers the fairer sex fashion and racing tips! - Posh chocs, created by master chocaltiers Hotel Chocolat, a free £10 bet, competitions to win spa treatments, pink mobile phones and a wealth of racing information to rival any tipster is the order of the day on www.Ladybrokes.com!

And the bookmaker has re-dressed a local off course store where women will be able to pop in for a free pamper and punt on specially made pink betting slips.

A qualified beautician will be on hand to offer a relaxing massage and manicure. Savvy ladies who place a wager, in store, or register online will receive a free £4.00 box of branded Ladybrokes chocolates!

Samantha Alleyne, spokesperson for Ladybrokes said: "It's a bit of fun and is a brilliant chance to get up to speed racing and fashion wise, which I am sure will be appreciated by women."