December 21, 2010

Ladbrokes confirms 888 takeover talks

Ladbrokes has confirmed it is in talks to acquire rival 888 in a deal which would value the operator at around £240m.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday that Ladbrokes had made an offer of 70p a share for the casino specialist and Dragonfish owner. 888 shares closed at 49p on Friday. Both companies this morning released a statement to the London Stock Exchange confirming they are in preliminary talks, but that “there can be no certainty that these discussions will ultimately lead to an offer.”

The deal currently on the table is for significantly less than when Ladbrokes first attempted to purchase 888 four years ago, in a deal which valued 888 at around £470m. The 2006 deal fell through due to uncertainty over the future of the US market caused by the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Newly installed Ladbrokes chief executive Richard Glynn recently launched “Project Galvanise” aimed at lifting the company’s performance and doubling the company’s share price within five years.

Ladbrokes head of PR Ciaran O’Brien was however keen to stress that the proposed acquisition was in its “early days,” and that “nothing was certain” at this early stage. He also stated that it was not part of Glynn’s ‘Project Galvanise’. 888 was not prepared to provide further comment to eGR on the deal at this stage in negotiations.

888 has been the subject of constant takeover speculation since it posted a profit warning in May this year, leading to a 13% drop in its share price, and its Q3 results remained stagnant. However, Q4 results were described as “buoyant”, keeping its profits in line with end-of-year expectations.

December 17, 2010

PartyGaming founder avoids jail

PartyGaming founder Anurag Dikshit has avoided a prison sentence, despite pleading guilty to internet gambling charges under the Federal Wire Act in 2008.

Dikshit had faced a possible maximum of two years in jail, but yesterday was instead sentenced to a year’s probation by a court in New York.

Dikshit was able to avoid jail under the terms of a plea deal agreed with federal prosecutors, who did not seek any jail time after he agreed to forfeit US$300m to US authorities for his role in PartyGaming’s US activities prior to passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in late 2006.

Presiding judge Jed Rakoff challenged prosecutors over the fact that neither of PartyGaming’s other two founders, Ruth Parasol DeLeon and Russell DeLeon, have been charged, despite both being US citizens, while Dikshit is an Indian without American nationality.

The PartyPoker software architect walked away from the company entirely in 2010, after selling two thirds of his 28% stake estimated £188 million in 2009, before selling the remaining shares in 2010. The money is reportedly being used to fund Dikshit’s charitable work in South Asia.

PartyGaming followed Dikshit in settling with US authorities for pre-UIGEA activities in April 2009, agreeing to pay US$105m. Sportingbet followed suit in September of this year, agreeing to pay US$33m (£21m) to US authorities after nearly three years of protracted negotiations with US authorities.

PartyGaming chief Jim Ryan revealed in August that a probity agreement with major shareholders De Leon and Parasol had been included in its merger agreement with Bwin, obligating them to liquidate their position if they could potentially prevent the operator “getting a licence or completing a suitability review” in the US.

December 16, 2010

Danish online gaming faces delay

Denmark has decided to steer away from the usual norm and offered a lowered tax rate to internet casinos operating within the country’s borders. Unfortunately this move has landed them in hot water with the European Commission.

In the meantime a formal investigation has been launched by the EC to investigate the tax rate set forth by the Danish government to internet gambling sites. In the event foreign based internet casinos do receive their licenses they will be eligible to pay the Danish government 25% tax as opposed to the current tax rate of 75% land-based casinos have to pay.

The EC investigates countries that attempts to control its Internet gambling market completely. Countries that are guilty of monopolizing their local casino industry normally impose exorbitant tax rates on internet casinos in order to protect the interests of their brick-and-mortar casinos. Denmark has decided to take a different route and as a result has caught a couple of members within European Union off guard.

The European Commission has notified Denmark that they have received numerous complaints from other European members stemming from their proposed low tax rate. It’s up to the European Union now to decide whether or not the low tax rate in Denmark will give internet casinos an edge. Should they find this to be the case, Denmark might face a hostile ruling after the enquiry is concluded.

Other members of the EU have been encouraged by the EC to share their views relating to this matter as well. Before making a pronouncement the EC will take opinions given into consideration. In 2009 the Danish government has decided to forego its gaming monopoly. The inception of this new tax rate will only be in January 2011, but it must be approved by the EC first before it can be implemented.

Numerous companies have invited foreign internet casinos at the behest of the European Commission. The majority of European countries consented to the EC’s demands, but the U.S still continues to ignore International trading agreements between EU members with their internet casino gaming laws.

Gambling nun accused of embezzling $1.2 million

A Catholic nun with a reputation for gambling trips to Atlantic City was accused of embezzling more than $1.2 million from a college where she oversaw the school's finances, officials said on Friday.

Sister Marie Thornton, former vice president of finance at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York, is charged with sending phoney invoices to the school to pay off personal credit card bills and expenses, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The thefts occurred between 1999 and 2009, when Thornton resigned from the Catholic college, court documents said. She entered a plea of not guilty to a federal embezzlement charge.

The college of some 5,000 students has come under fire from alumni and donors for never reporting the missing money to authorities and only mentioning the theft in its 2009 tax filing sent in February to the Internal Revenue Service.

Iona officials issued a statement saying the school has implemented new financial oversight controls and recovered most of the missing funds.

The school also disputed the amount stolen, but did not specify by how much. In the IRS filing, Iona said the theft amounted to $800,000.

The nun had a reputation for visiting casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to former Iona basketball coach Jeff Ruland.

December 10, 2010

New Jersey approves egaming bill

Senator Raymond Lesniak’s sponsored internet casino gambling and sports betting bills have been given the go-ahead by The New Jersey Assembly. Voters will have to vote for the implementation and legalization of internet gambling in the State on Monday the 13th of December. Hopefully the internet gambling bill would receive the thumbs up from state’s Republican Governor Chris Christie before this year is out.

Both bills will enable New Jersey citizens to wager on the internet, however, a previous revision to consent to international players to wager online has been put on hold for the time being, Lesniak informed the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee.

41 Votes is the requisite to carry forward these internet gambling bills, it’s then up to Governor Christie who has 45 days to decide whether or not either bill should be approved into law. A close source that has some inside information notified eGaming review that after these bills have been promulgated by the committee recently, “They will enter into discussions with the governor’s people and hopefully persuade them to implement internet gambling in the state. In all probability if internet gambling is regulated and taxed in New Jersey it could become the “Silicon Valley” of internet casino gambling in the U.S,” he said. “As it stands Atlantic City’s gaming industry has gone backwards and we need to do something to revive it to its former glory again.

“We are in high spirits and reasonably self-assured that the internet gambling bills will be voted favourably on Monday and that it would swiftly come into law,” he said.

Bill S-490 relating to internet gambling will authorize Atlantic City’s casinos to present internet casinos to residents from New Jersey. Previously mentioned by Lesniak it’s a potential cash cow that will generate US$35 million in tax revenue, these funds would then be utilised to develop the state’s deteriorating horse tracks.”

Bill ACR-167 proposes the constitutional amendment which will give the legislature the green light according to law permitting gambling at Atlantic City casinos as well as horse racetracks on sports events.

December 02, 2010

Italian cash games to launch from early 2011

The Italian cash poker and casino market could be open for business from early 2011 after an Italian Court rejected network provider Microgame’s challenge to the Italian government’s cash games decree.

According to sources close to the matter, the new version of the decree has been approved and will be published shortly on the Official Gazette, meaning the law will come into force with immediate effect.

Italy largest poker network, with between 25% and 30% market share, lodged the complaint in June on the basis that the cash games decree was different from the version previously submitted, as required under EU law, to the European Commission, effectively putting the launch of poker cash games and casino in Europe’s largest egaming market on hold.

Microgame claimed that additional certifications of gaming platforms and individual games introduced by Italian authorities into the decree would unfairly disadvantage the 120 small and medium-sized operators on its network by potentially imposing extra costs of up to €100,000 per operator. By comparison, the next largest Italian network in terms of the number of operators it supports, Playtech, has only four brands on its platform.

The Administrative Court of Lazio Region however ruled this week that the alleged differences between the version of the decree that Italian authorities planned to implement and that submitted to the EC had been solved by Italian regulator AAMS through the renotification in July of the draft decree to the European Commission.

November 29, 2010

Macau casino mogul bids $330,000 for 2 truffles

A Macau casino mogul bid $330,000 for a pair of white truffles, including one weighing about two pounds, matching the record price he paid at the same event three years ago for one of the giant fungi.

Billionaire Stanley Ho made the winning bid Saturday at a charity auction through representatives of his company, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau.

The pair included a huge truffle dug up in the central Tuscany region weighing about two pounds (900 grams) as well as one found in Molise weighing about 14 ounces (400 grams). The auction was staged at Ho's Grand Lisboa hotel in the former Portuguese colony of Macau, with bidders participating simultaneously in Rome and London through a satellite link.

In 2007, Ho paid $330,000 for a white truffle unearthed in Tuscany weighing about 3.3 pounds (1.497 kilograms).

Ho is best known for his casinos in Macau, a gambling enclave in southern China near Hong Kong.
Sixteen lots of white truffles from different areas of Italy went on the block, raising a total of $373,500 for various charities in Macau, Britain and Italy.

White truffles are the most expensive and highly prized of Italy's truffles, and among the most famous are those from Alba in the northern Piedmont region, where pigs or dogs are used to sniff them out during the September-December hunting season.

During the truffle season in Italy, restaurants offer pasta and other dishes containing the edible fungus at sky-high prices. Slivers of the delicacy, with its strong aroma, are prized for flavoring pasta sauces and rice dishes.

November 25, 2010

Mangas rebrands as BetClic Everest Group

Mangas Gaming has renamed itself the BetClic Everest Group.

Nicolas Beraud said the new identity of the group reflected the strength of Mangas’ two flagship brands, sports betting operator BetClic and top three French poker room Everest Poker.

“At a time when markets are regulating in Europe we wanted to, alongside our shareholders, move to the next chapter [of development]. The two brands [BetClic and Everest] are the two most referenced by our customers and will form the new identity of the group, a sign that the customer is at the heart of our future strategy development,” said Beraud.

BetClic, Everest, BetAtHome and Expekt owner Mangas, now BetClic Everest, is a 50/50 joint venture between Monaco casino and luxury hotel owner Societe des Bains de Mer and former Endemol France chief executive Stephane Courbit’s Lov Group.

November 24, 2010

Sportingbet profit rises, confident about rest of year

Online sports betting and gaming group Sportingbet Plc Wednesday reported an increase in profit for the first quarter, and said trading since the start of the second quarter has remained robust with margins in line with historic average. The Board also remains confident with regard to the remainder of the financial year.

The UK-based gamer, which last week said its merger talks with Swedish rival Unibet Group were called off, today reported first quarter pre-tax profit of GBP 8.5 million, up from GBP 6.5 million in the prior year.

Profit attributable to owners of the parent was GBP 7.9 million or 1.5 pence per share, higher than GBP 6.1 million or 1.2 pence per share in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted earnings increased to 1.7 pence per share from last year's 1.3 pence per share.

Net gaming revenue or NGR rose 5% to GBP 51.1 million from GBP 48.6 milion in the same quarter a year earlier, as amounts wagered increased 11% year over year to GBP 513.9 million.

Amounts wagered on sports betting grew by 12% to GBP 499.6 million, earning NGR of GBP 36.8 million, up 11% for the quarter. Casino and gaming contributed a further GBP 10.8 million, and poker GBP 3.5 million, to both amounts wagered and NGR.

November 22, 2010

Bwin claims victory for online gambling in Germany

Germany has been resisting online gambling or a long time, but is now finally coming to grips with the fact that internet wagering is here to stay.

Bwin the online betting firm from Austria which is listed on the Austrian stock exchange has been locking horns with the German government in a legal battle that has gone on for far too long, six years in fact.

Most of Bwin’s revenue comes from poker and sports betting and Bwin has over 20 million registered customers in more than 25 core markets with centres located in Vienna Stockholm and Gibraltar.

In September 2004 the monopoly holder West German Lottery Company Westlotto took out an injunction against Bwin to prevent itfrom any further offerings of it’s products. In 2006 the Regional Court of Cologne ruled against Bwin, which was then upheld a year later, and on November 18th 2010 the court overturned the judgement after an appeal.

Co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger, commented on the victory by stating comment “We welcome the judgement by the German Federal Supreme Court, and are glad that we will have to spend less of our time in courtrooms in the future. Now we can concentrate on developing modern regulations for online gaming in Germany.” He added, “It is high time, and in the interests of all those involved, to prepare the way for the modern regulation of online gaming in Germany. We are optimistic that Germany will follow the example of other European states like Italy and France.”
The decision to overturn the prohibition of online gambling marks the beginning of the end for Germany’s monopoly on gambling, and also may open the restrictive market up to other online gambling firms in the country. Germany has been following the USA in it’s prohibition of the online gambling industry and it appears that tough stance may soon soften.

November 18, 2010

Paddy’s invests in Ireland despite downturn

Paddy Power has announced it will create 375 new online jobs in the stricken Irish economy as the bookmaker continued its momentum from the first half of 2010, with stakes from its core sportsbook growing 34% year-on-year from 1 July to 15 November 2010.

Amounts staked on gaming and by B2B channels, via the operator’s deal with former French horse racing monopoly Pari-Mutuel Urbain (PMU) to provide fixed-odds risk management and pricing tools, were up 33% year-on-year during the period.

The jobs expansion in its international online business headquartered in Tallaght, West Dublin, will increase Paddy Power’s Irish employee base to 2,210. It will also add 130 online jobs in Australia, where it owns Sportsbet and IAS, as part of a total of 1,440 jobs to be created across its online, retail and telephone businesses by December 2013.

Ireland’s minister for Enterprise Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD said: “Paddy Power’s rapid international expansion has direct revenue benefits for the Irish Exchequer and, as overseas markets deregulate, growth prospects are strong for the firm’s online business.”

Jack Massey, finance director at Paddy Power said that Irish economic conditions had become “more challenging” during the period but that its international business in the UK and particularly in Australia had “offset” its figures in Ireland. Amounts staked in Australia rose 6% year-on-year from 1 July to 15 November, with online stakes growing 22%, with gross win from online up by 70%. Net revenues in the last three months in the UK were up 17%, but up only 9% in the Irish Republic due to an 8% drop in gambling.

“The economic conditions in Ireland reflect the reality of the situation. In January the government set its stall out saying it would take €7.5bn out of the budget deficit, this then grew to €15bn in the summer and now people are speculating whether or not the government has the capacity to make that change. Fortunately we have a strong international business that can offset these difficulties.”

Massey said that Paddy Power’s online gross win in Australia was approximately AUS$50m for the second half of last year, and that if growth patterns continued at their current pace gross win would increase to around AUS$75m.

Summing up 2010 Massey called 2010 a “very significant year” for Paddy Power. “We have benefited from a number of good sports results, while there has been a strong momentum in our international activities. This now accounts for two-thirds of our operating profit. Five years ago it was 20%. We have steadily shifted a lot of emphasis towards online and this will continue,” he said.

“We have entered France on a B2B basis with PMU and are looking at other regulating markets, but have yet to make an official statement on where could go next. We have the option to do this either by acquisition, organic growth or via a B2B partnership.”

Asked which markets had the most potential, Massey said the US in “scale terms”, while “closer to home Greece and Denmark are also regulating and are “attractive”.

“At the moment we are driving growth in the businesses we have, but we are always looking n to grow in scale, technology and in mobile, for example, where we have been emphasising our credentials recently,” Massey added.

He called yesterday’s decision by Australia’s Federal Court to overturn its original decision over Racing New South Wales's right to impose a fee of 1.5% of turnover under racefields legislation introduced in September 2008 “disappointing”. The Federal Court on Tuesday ordered Paddy Power-owned Sportsbet to pay, according to Massey, “a seven figure sum” in costs after overturning the decision that the fee was protectionist towards the TAB.

November 16, 2010

Moneybookers to rebrand as Skrill – hopes to become a verb

Moneybookers, the European PayPal alternative or “eWallet provider”, has announced that it is rebranding to Skrill.

The new name, which will take over as the consumer-facing brand by the end of 2011, is said to better capture the “ease and functionality of the company’s online payment suite”. Of course, the word skrill (short for skrilla) is already a commonly used slang word for money or “dough”, according to the infamous Urban Dictionary, which definitely makes more sense.

But there’s more.

Moneybookers Limited, which has been around for just under a decade, became the first e-money issuer to obtain an electronic money licence from the regulatory body the FSA and today claims over 15 million account holders and 70,000 merchants globally. While this year, Moneybookers was voted the UK’s fastest growing private-equity funded company by Deloitte and The Sunday Times. It’s apparently this “rapid growth” that has led Moneybookers to change its name.

Furthermore, Martin Ott, co-CEO of the new Skrill Holdings, appears to suggest that the company now wants to become a verb, something that Google and others have been determined to clamp down on for fear of risking their trademark.

“In the same way people ‘Google’ something or ‘Skype’ their friends, they can soon ‘Skrill’ their friends and family money and will use Skrill to pay whenever they shop online”, says Ott.

November 13, 2010

Mangas receives Gibraltar licence

BetClic, Everest Gaming, Bet-at-home and Expekt owner Mangas Gaming has obtained a Gibraltar egaming licence and will be moving around 50 staff to the jurisdiction.

Mangas Gaming chief executive Nicolas Beraud (pictured) said the addition of a Gibraltar licence to its existing licences in Malta, France and Italy would support the operator’s continued expansion across Europe.

”We believe Gibraltar is the premium gaming jurisdiction in Europe and with our continued European expansion, we believe that Mangas Gaming will be perfectly placed moving forwards.” said Beraud.

The operator, which recently rose to fourth position in eGR’s 2010 Power 50 ranking of the most influential operators in egaming, from seventh last year, will employ approximately 50 staff in the British overseas territory.

November 12, 2010

Bodog continues European recruitment drive

Online gaming and betting operator Bodog Europe has appointed Betfair’s Kemley Sellars to the company’s newly created role of PPC (pay per click) manager.

Sellars is the latest recruit to Bodog Europe ranks where he will take a up the reins as PPC manager, a similar role he held at Betfair where he guided them through their first large scale PPC campaign in 2009.

Sellars has extensive knowledge of the PPC arena and has previously served as an analyst at both Latitude and iCrossing whose clients include Chelsea FC, Ann Summers and JackPotJoy.

“The sheer energy of the Bodog brand makes it a very attractive place to work and unlike other companies you have the ability to put your own stamp on things,” said Sellars. “ The role is newly created so I am looking forward to starting on this blank sheet of paper.”

Patrik Selin, CEO of Bodog Europe, added: “The recruitment drive is still at full pace but we are starting to get our ducks in a row now so we can really start to make an impression on the market on focus on the business from a customer facing perspective.”

November 09, 2010

Interwetten inaugurates business-to-business division

Online sportsbook operator Interwetten Group has announced the launch of a business-to-business division that is set to market its own ‘white-label’ sportsbetting solution to customers around the world.

The Austrian firm stated that the formation of its new Sportsbook Software AG subsidiary has been in the works since the start of the year and revealed that its emergence in order to market its own software developed in-house will not affect players at its online platform.

As part of a restructure, Interwetten also announced that Chief Financial Officer Rita Landauer has been promoted to serve as Chief Executive Officer for both Sportsbook Software AG and its parent firm. It stated that the 35-year-old has occupied a management position at Interwetten since 2006 and has also held senior roles with Ankerbrot AG and Denzel AG and. She is set to take over from Wolfgang Fabian, the founder of Interwetten, after he decided to step back from day-to-day operations.

“Over the last twelve months, we have worked together to create the structure for this step and prepare the systematic handover,” said Fabian.

“I firmly believe that the company is well-positioned and ideally equipped for many further years of success under the leadership of Rita Landauer. I wish her all the best in her new role.”

Bwin and PartyGaming merger 'on track'

Leading online betting and gaming provider Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG and Gibraltar-based operator PartyGaming have released a joint statement regarding their ongoing merger and have confirmed that the process is ‘on track’.

The two firms announced at the end of July that they would be merging to create the world’s largest listed online gambling company and realise annualised synergies of around €55 million.
However, they stated late last week that they had ‘become aware of some speculation in the market’ regarding the slow speed of the merger and revealed that they expect the process to be completed by the first quarter of 2011.

The proposed agreement would see the assets and liabilities of Bwin transferred to PartyGaming to create a European joint stock company incorporated in Gibraltar. Jim Ryan, Chief Executive Officer for PartyGaming, is set to serve alongside Norbert Teufelberger, Co-Chief Executive Officer for Bwin, as Co-Chief Executive Officers for the new business with Bwin shareholders receiving 12.23 new PartyGaming shares for each share that they hold in the Austrian firm.

Hail Caesar! Harrah’s re-brands ahead of IPO

US gaming giant Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. has set the price range for its initial public offering on Nasdaq, in the process dropping the Harrah’s brand as its corporate name.

Harrah’s is set to list 31.25m shares on the Nasdaq Global Select Market at an estimated price range of $15.00 to $17.00 per share, bringing in estimated proceeds of between $469m and $531m which the company said will be used for general corporate purposes and to fund a near-term pipeline of growth projects.

The company’s shares will be listed under the stock symbol CZR, reflecting the new corporate name Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Caesars is Harrah’s flagship brand which it acquired in 2005 and the corporate name change is designed to leverage the strength of that brand which is seen as more prestigious, particularly in international markets where the company hopes to achieve a substantial part of its future growth.

Harrah’s has identified a number of opportunities which could help drive future growth including the liberalisations and legalisation of casino gambling both abroad and at home, and the continuing legalisation of online gambling.

The company is already present online in the UK under the Caesars and WSOP brands and also in the US with a free-play WSOP poker site.

November 06, 2010

AsianLogic to buy 12Bet

AsianLogic has agreed terms to acquire fellow Asian operator 12Bet for an undisclosed sum.

AsianLogic chief executive Kan Tang said the addition of 12Bet’s sportsbook strength would complement AsianLogic’s existing casino P2P brands.

“We can now offer our customers a comprehensive ‘best-of-breed’ suite of gaming products. The respective management teams have known each other for many years, so it’s also a great fit going forward operationally especially as we both use the same sportsbook and casino platform providers,” said Tang.

The underlying structures of AsianLogic and 12Bet, both licensed in the Phillippines but with European licences in Alderney and the Isle of Man respectively, will be integrated under a newly formed but as yet unnamed holding company.

Asian Poker Tour owner AsianLogic completed its delisting from London’s AIM exchange last July in response to low trading volumes in its shares since listing on the market in late 2007. It had previously declared its intention to focus on its higher margin Asian deposit business following the sale of its wholesale business.

12Bet, which today signed a deal to sponsor snooker’s UK Championship alongside its one-year sponsorship of snooker’s World Open, was granted a licence in September by the Isle of Man Supervision Commission in September. It also sponsors Sevilla FC in Spain and operates betting partnerships with English Premier League football teams Newcastle, WBA and Birmingham City.

Rory Anderson, chief executive for Europe for 12Bet added: “AsianLogic is very strong in the online casino and poker environment as well as controlling land-based brands such as the Asian Poker Tour, and being able to better offer these products to sportsbook customers should enhance revenues across the board.”

October 30, 2010

Nordic Gaming Group to offer pool betting via Kambi

Unibet’s B2B sportsbook business Kambi Sports Solutions has signed a two-year agreement to provide the company’s online pool betting products to Nordicbet, Triobet and Tobet – the gaming sites operated by Nordic Gaming Group.

Kambi will provide Supertoto and Superscore pool betting products to all three gaming sites, who will join Paf, Expekt and Unibet in creating a joint pools offering.

“We are proud that NordicBet, one of the premium brands in the Nordics has chosen Kambi´s pool betting product,” said Kristian Nylén, newly appointed CEO of Kambi Sports Solutions. “The agreement is an important stepping stone to consolidate our position as the market leader in pool betting for international gaming operators.”

Supertoto is offered through a number of weekly coupons where the objective is to predict the correct outcomes in selected matches. The main weekend coupon, Supertoto14, consists of 14 matches from the top European leagues. Supertoto14 pays out on 11 or more correctly predicted matches.

Superscore consists of 2-4 matches where the objective is to predict the correct scores in the selected matches.

“We regard Supertoto and Superscore as excellent complements to our existing product portfolio, which we think our customers will appreciate,” said Kari Luukkonen, head of sportsbook for Nordic Gaming Group.

October 27, 2010

France: Ladbrokes out, Unibet in

Ladbrokes will not launch in France and has pulled out of its proposed sports betting joint venture with Canal+ after it decided tax conditions made the market economically unviable.

The decision coincides with Unibet being awarded sports betting, poker and horseracing licences by French regulator ARJEL, reported La Tribune on Friday. The operator said it hoped to go live by late 2010 or early 2011.

Commenting on Ladbrokes’ decision Gary McIlraith, Ladbrokes managing director of digital channels, international and strategy said: “Together with our partners we have concluded that the French market is now taxed at such a prohibitive level that it does not represent an attractive investment. We will continue to monitor the French marketplace but for the time being will not progress with the launch plans.”

A Ladbrokes spokesman added that the recent confirmation by French authorities that operators would also be required to pay VAT had been the final straw. “Online gambling services in France are already subject to turnover-based taxes and payments to sport and it was recently confirmed that they would also be subject to VAT charges. Initial market size figures from ARJEL have also been below expectations,” he said.

Ladbrokes’ French withdrawal comes only two weeks after French regulator ARJEL released its initial data on the performance of the legal market in its first four months since it launched in June. This showed it was just a quarter the size of the offshore market prior to regulation, despite ARJEL’s figures now including contributions from former monopolies PMU and FDJ.

Chief executives of new market entrants including Nicolas Beraud of BetClic owner Mangas Gaming, Alex Dreyfus of Chiligaming and Emmanuel de Rohan Chabot of ZETurf last week used the platform of France’s first ever egaming conference, Monaco’s iGaming Exchanges, to call for tax rates, betting duties, the registration process and payback conditions to be revised. According to Beraud, the French system was failing to bring the illegal market onshore and in its publicly stated aim of protecting the consumer.

Ladbrokes joins Sportingbet and Paddy Power as high-profile operators which decided against entering the market on a B2C basis, with Sportingbet also opting to cancel its B2B agreements with newspapers Le Monde and L’Express.

Unibet’s announcement in May that it was to enter the French licensing process led to 25% of its share price being wiped out the following week, with investors worried about only a marginal contribution from a key market due to high tax rates and the absence of Unibet’s core casino product. In August, chief executive Henrik Tjarnstrom was then forced to defend the prospect of zero revenues from France in the third-quarter of 2010 due to this decision.

PokerStars teams up with FOXSports

FOX and are delighted to announce a new collaboration between and, which will see the world’s largest free tutorial poker room deliver a complete poker section and game on the FOX Sports website. This will create a unique FOX Sports Poker destination, where people who love poker will be able to access the best online free-play poker, community and content in one place.

The poker portal and game application – hosted on – will provide a free-play poker client as well as news, tournament results, poker strategy and rules. North America Regional Marketing Director, Joe Versaci, said: “ is one of the most popular online destinations in the world, with thriving sports, gaming and poker arenas that host the best live and editorial content on thousands of sporting and gaming events every week. This tie-in will see and combine the best live and editorial content with the web’s best online poker games.”

Jim Bernard, Vice President of Gaming at FOX Sports Interactive, said: “FOX Sports is thrilled to team up with Poker enthusiasts are some of the most fanatical and engaged sports fans on the web today. We look forward to delivering the poker experience to our 26 million users.”

October 25, 2010

Betchecker to highlight bigger wins at Betfair

Betfair, the world’s biggest betting community, has today launched Betchecker – a site that compares Betfair against other online betting operators and tracks which company returns the biggest winnings across a number of football betting markets.

The new site contains a number of interactive widgets and allows punters to compare and contrast returns on bets placed with a number of different betting firms.

A graphical widget allows visitors to choose which firms they scrutinise, and shows who returned the biggest wins across, for example, 100 Premier League markets during a given week. You can compare Betfair with up to four other companies simultaneously.

Another widget allows users to retrospectively work out how much they would have won on one particular bet if you’d placed it on Betfair, or with another online betting operator.

Betfair’s Global Head of Content Jeremy Sulzmann said: “Our new Betchecker site is a simple proposition, comparing winnings on Betfair against those of our competitors.

“It will visualise how by being part of the world’s biggest betting community customers can get better value and bigger wins.

“Some people might be surprised with just how much more they could have won on Betfair.”

The site’s historical prices are captured just before an event starts, with competitors’ prices made available to Betfair through third party odds comparison sites.

Betchecker always deducts the maximum 5% commission to make the comparison as fair as possible, even though the actual commission on bets could be less. As an exchange Betfair takes a commission on the net winnings of a customer in a given market of between 2-5%. If a bet is void or it loses nothing is paid.

October 23, 2010

Final draft of Jersey egaming law submitted this week

The final draft of Jersey's egaming legislation has been submitted to government officials this week and is expected to be implemented by February 2011 in a bid to make the Channel Island an attractive jurisdiction for online gambling companies.

Graham White, chairman of the Jersey Gambling Commission, told eGR that it has been approached by several European operators looking to acquire a second or third licence, although he refused to name which ones.

The new legislation is aimed at improving interconnectivity between jurisdictions, and is most likely to attract European companies looking for an additional licence. "I hope we will be able to compete on favourable, or more favourable, terms than any other egaming jurisdiction," White said.

Once the draft law has been checked by government officials and submitted to the state government and assembly, it will then be reviewed by a scrutiny panel. If it is passed by the scrutiny panel, it will be implemented by February at the latest.

Following the deployment of the egaming law, there is a possibility that the Channel Islands state lottery will gain an online offering in 2011. However, White commented that while this is a consideration, it is a complex one as there is debate as to who actually governs it. The Channel Islands lottery is the only commercial lottery allowed in the jurisdiction and was originally just for Jersey but was then extended to include Guernsey.

October 22, 2010

Moneybookers will be sold and rebranded as Skrill

A prominent online payment processor Moneybookers will raise about £200 million by floating on the London Stock Exchange in the next few months. The move comes after its Middle Eastern owner Investcorp last year tried to sell Moneybookers.

The majority stake is owned by the Bahrain-based investment group which acquired the company in 2007 for €105m. According to reports Investcorp hired JPMorgan to manage the sale and was understood to be looking for as much as €400m for the UK-based group but failed to attract a buyer.

The reports also say that as part of the floatation the shareholders, which also include the founders of the company, are considering the rebranding of the group into Skrill, a slang word for money.

October 12, 2010

EC: Romanian draft egaming law is uncompliant

The European Commission (EC) has expressed doubts about the compatibility of draft Romanian egaming legislation with EU law, which means that Romania cannot implement the legislation in its current form.
According to the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), which campaigns for a single European egaming market, a number of provisions in the draft were unlikely to comply with EU law, including: “[T]he discriminatory prohibition of marketing and advertising activities for EU-licensed companies which are not authorised in Romania”; the requirement for EU licensed online betting companies to be established and have their servers in Romania; and “the unjustified exclusion of online pool betting while all other forms of online gambling would be allowed.”

Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of EGBA, said: “EGBA notes that Romania is the third country in the last 12 months to receive a detailed opinion from the European Commission and will have as in the case of Denmark and Poland to re-notify and adjust its draft legislation.

“While we support Romania’s legitimate wish to regulate its online gaming market, it is important from a consumer protection perspective that national gambling policies are consistent. As confirmed by the ECJ in its recent rulings, there are less restrictive means than forced establishment to monitor and control the online gaming and betting market.”

The Romanian draft legislation was notified to the European Commission and member states on 2 July. The opinion will extend the standstill period until 3 November. Romania will then have to amend the legislation according to the EC’s response.

October 06, 2010

Real-time betting boosts Sportingbet

The growing popularity of placing wagers on sporting events as they occur helped drive revenues up by 27 per cent this year at online gaming group Sportingbet.

In-play, or “real-time” betting, expanded to account for 61 per cent of revenue from sports-related wagers in Europe, said the Channel Islands-based company, which derives most of its income from sports betting.

The World Cup boosted the amounts of money customers wagered – which rose by a quarter across the group in the year to August 31 – and Sportingbet’s margins, thanks to several favoured teams losing matches. August and September saw continued healthy trading.

“Net gaming revenue for the first two months [was] up 17 per cent on the same period last year,” said Andrew McIver, chief executive. “Whilst the economic outlook remains challenging, our spread of activities across different economic cycles of Europe, Australia and South America gives us confidence for a year of further success.”

In non-sport products, poker revenues fell from £18.8m last year to £17.4m – a decline that reflects market trends.

Pre-tax profits for the year were £6.9m, down from £22.3m in 2009, after the group agreed to pay a one-off $33m (£22m) settlement to US authorities for having illegally provided online gambling to US-based customers.

That settlement has cleared the decks for potential M&A activity. “Management has built credibility following the exit from the US in 2006 [when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed], settled with the Department of Justice, moved to the main market and also started paying dividends,” wrote analysts from Liberum capital in a note on Wednesday. “We see M&A as the key upside in the shares.”

Many industry-watchers have been predicting a spate of consolidation since Sportingbet rivals PartyGaming and Bwin agreed to merge this summer.

Before exceptional items, a share option charge and amortisation, Sportingbet’s operating profits for the year beat expectations, rising £4.3m to £35.4m on revenues that were £44m higher, at £207.5m. Diluted earnings per share fell to 0.7p from 2.4p a year earlier.

The group said it would pay a final dividend of 1p, bringing the year’s total to 1.5p, compared with 1p a year earlier.

Shares in Sportingbet rose almost 2 per cent in early trading to 80.55p

October 05, 2010

Bodog signs LA Galaxy ad deal

Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy, one of the most successful football teams in the United States and home of US national team star Landon Donovan and former England captain David Beckham, has signed an advertising agreement with gaming operator Bodog’s free-play brand,

Under the terms of the agreement, Bodog will receive prominent ad placement at LA Galaxy’s 27,000 seat stadium, The Home Depot Centre, including all LED field boards, corner section banners, in-stadium TVs, and ad spots on the stadium’s scoreboard. offers players free-to-play online poker games and fantasy sports contests with weekly cash prizes.

“Both the LA Galaxy and Bodog brands are recognised around the globe, making this partnership not only mutually beneficial, but a perfect synergy between brands across the United States and beyond,” said Ed Pownall, Global PR Director of

“The fantasy sports industry has grown exponentially in recent years and is showing no signs of stopping, and soccer, with its many dimensions, offers itself perfectly to fantasy sports games.”

October 03, 2010

Betsson challenges Danish "black period"

Betsson is to delay its decision on whether to apply for a licence in Denmark until uncertainty has been removed over the Danish government’s proposed “black period”, requiring applicant operators to cease all activity in the market until approved.

Betsson AB chief executive Pontus Lindwall: “Betsson opposes strongly the proposed 'black period' and we have notified the [European] Commission that in our view such a rule is against EU law.”

The “black period” was inserted in the Danish draft law by the Danish parliament last June, ostensibly to protect the market share of monopoly incumbent Danske Spil against unregulated private operators. The draft law also contains provisions for IP and payments blocking against unlicensed operators.

Although the issuing of licences in Denmark has been delayed until 11 October, when the European Commission (EC) standstill period for review of the draft law ends, the Danish government could conceivably implement the “black period” from this date, should the EC not raise questions over this section of the bill. Operators which have so far confirmed their intention to apply for licences include Ladbrokes, Bet24 and Centrebet.

Lindwall added: “Further, we believe that the tax is in the high end of the spectra and with such a high tax rate it will be crucial to “protect” the market from unlicensed operators, which Betsson believes is technically very complex if not impossible.”

Thomas Petersen, chief operating officer of Bet24, which will be applying for a licence “even though the 20% and yearly fees are higher than we had hoped for”, also cited sanctions against non-licensees as a “crucial factor.”

Peterson said: “On this issue the Danish Gaming Authority still awaits the EU Commission. Though it is not beneficial for the Danish consumers, operators without a licence must be effectively blocked from the Danish market or else we will have to re-evaluate our position.”

Richardt Funch, Ladbrokes Nordic country manager for Denmark, pointed out that if the Danish government went ahead and introduced IP blocking and the black period, Danish punters could conceivably be left with no casino and no poker, “as Danske Spill don’t offer this.”

Lindwall at Betsson also said he saw “no reason” to keep certain products, including lottery, horse race bets, bingo, scratchcards and keno, within the sole remit of Danske Spil, as proposed under the law currently under review by the EC.

“Usually the Ministry of Finance argues about player protection, but I guess in this case they may as well admit straight out that they keep certain games local due to financial reasons. Which again is against EU law,” said Lindwall.

September 30, 2010

Malaga's new owner ends William Hill sponsorhip deal

Spanish football club Malaga, William Hill plc has agreed to end their shirt sponsorship deal after the new club owner raised objections on religious grounds.

The new owner of Malaga is Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani (43), a member of the Qatari royal family who acquired the Spanish club in June for Euro 10.5 million.

On 27 August 2009, Málaga CF announced that they had signed a three year sponsorship agreement with gambling company William Hill, where the William Hill brand would be displayed on the front of the Málaga CF shirts

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani raised religious concerns about a gambling company being involved with the club, claiming that this went against the tenets of his Islamic religion, and by mutual consent both club and gambling company have agreed to end the sponsorship.

September 24, 2010

William Hill turns up the heat on Betfair

UK bookmaker William Hill has given its support to the Horserace Betting Levy Board’s calls to tax certain users of betting exchanges as though they were bookmakers, claiming that exchanges such as Betfair cost the British horseracing industry £30m annually. But the company wants to see the authorities go further and launch a wider review into exchanges and how they are regulated and taxed.

According to William Hill, the UK government failed to realise the implications for tax yield when it legitimised betting exchanges, saying that had the government anticipated the volume of betting transactions that now flow through exchanges, it would not have been so keen to allow market entry.

In its response to the HBLB consultation, William Hill said that it agrees with the argument that people who conduct business on betting exchanges should be subject to levy. According to the company, if only 10 per cent of exchange users were business users, the overall tax and levy loss could be as much as £75m and £30m per annum respectively.

William Hill believes that the current economic climate, and even offshore migration by British bookmakers, are less of a factor in causing tax and levy leakage compared to the failure to collect tax and levy from business users of exchanges.

The company singles out Betfair in its consultation response, accusing it of conducting a well orchestrated public and government relations programme “which has sought to oversimplify, to its advantage, the complexities of how betting exchanges operate within the wider UK and global betting market”. William Hill suggests that politicians, officials and customers alike have been duped by clever advertising and positioning into seeing the company [Betfair] as a technology success story facilitating betting between ordinary punters.

“Whilst exchanges may be a technology success story, that has certainly been at the expense of racing who no longer receive levy from a significant proportion of the commercial betting market as required by the current levy legislation.”

“William Hill, which is the largest betting shop operator in the UK and therefore the largest payer of levy is confident that the HBLB’s consultation will concur with our belief that those who have decided to operate a business via betting exchanges are not appropriately levied, taxed or regulated in the same way as traditional bookmakers,” said William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping. “While this disparity exists an unfair competitive advantage remains which distorts the market, resulting in a falling tax yield and dwindling financial support for racing.’’

Betfair’s view is that the HBLB’s efforts to change the way exchange customers are treated is discriminatory, unjust and legally indefensible.

Betfair’s chief legal and regulatory affairs officer Martin Cruddace told Gaming Intelligence: “On Monday, we submitted a detailed and comprehensive response to the betting exchanges consultation exercise.

“The consultation paper covers ground which has been exhaustively examined by a number of public authorities over the past 8 years, including the Government through the DCMS, last year. Each review has correctly concluded that exchanges should be taxed and subject to the Levy no differently to any other bookmaker and that exchange customers, by simple virtue of betting on an exchange, should not be treated as bookmakers for either duty/tax, regulatory or Levy purposes. No reason exists now to change that view,” says Cruddace.

“The terms in which the consultation paper has been framed suggest that the Board is acting in a biased manner against betting exchanges. It is a Consultation that has a number of flaws that are incapable of being remedied. For example; it has been launched without any evidence provided to justify its existence; it targets exchange customers only, which is discriminatory; and when you consider that a full time team at the Treasury looked at the matter for 20 months, it is hard to see what a process of under 12 weeks hopes to achieve.

“It is our unequivocal view that any conclusion by the Levy Board that advocates change in the way that either exchanges or their customers are levied as a result of this Consultation, would inevitably be unjust and legally indefensible.”

“We will let our arguments speak for themselves in our submission,” concluded Cruddace.

The question for betting exchange operators and particularly Betfair is whether the issue can be dealt with objectively.

Betfair announced on Tuesday that it intends to list on the London Stock Exchange, a business decision which the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) felt inclined to comment on in its war of words with the operator.

“Today’s announcement is no real surprise to the markets. What will be of great interest is that it comes a day after the close of a major consultation process by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, that strikes at the heart of Betfair’s model, at a time when the figure of an underpayment to Racing of £30m has been stated by a leading betting industry figure, and during which the future relationship between exchange betting and Racing is under close scrutiny by the relevant authorities,” said BHA chairman Paul Roy following Betfair’s announcement.

“The markets will understand that we are in the midst of a new process which will decide the basis on which all parts of the betting industry, including Betfair, will contribute to the Levy. It is clear the contribution is going to have to be on a significantly different basis to what has gone before. We are ready for serious dialogue with the betting industry, which includes exchanges, through the Levy Board. We await the betting industry’s position. A failure to resolve issues by agreement will see it referred to Government and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at the end of October.

“British Racing is the sport upon which Betfair was founded, and from which it continues to generate a substantial proportion of its business. There are many in British Racing who for a great many reasons would not have allowed exchange betting, had it been our choice as opposed to the Government’s. The history of the last few years has proved those sceptics to have been right. This was compounded significantly by the failure of a system based on database rights which was intended to replace the Levy. Under that system, Betfair would have had to enter into commercial arrangements with Racing, as well as any betting operators wanting to offer bets on the sport.

“There remain a number of fundamental questions around the business of exchange betting. We are confident that these will be resolved as part of the wider issue of the relationship between racing and betting. The new Government has signalled its policy commitment to ensuring a value transfer form betting to Racing as it sets policy to catch up with changes in technology and the way people bet.

“We would entirely agree that Betfair has been “disruptive” and “fundamentally changed the sports betting market”. Whether intended or not, it has certainly disrupted British Racing’s finances, and has created severe consequences. It has indeed, for its customers, “eliminated the need for a traditional bookmaker”, and markets itself as “cutting out the middle man”. At the same time Betfair has argued it should be treated as a traditional bookmaker for the purposes of its contribution to our sport. Betfair cannot have it both ways,” says Roy.

“Our response to the Levy Board consultation states that it seems certain that some customers of Betfair and other exchanges that carry on the business of receiving or negotiating bets, and that should therefore be paying Levy. This is entirely consistent with Betfair processing more transactions per day last year than all European stock exchanges combined, with some of their clients making many thousands of transactions and data requests on a daily basis.

“Any international racing jurisdiction considering permitting Betfair to operate in their territory has to give very careful consideration to the impact on their sport, and learn from the British experience,” warns Roy. “ In fact, we understand that they are offering far better terms to other Racing authorities, and we call on Betfair to now engage with us constructively and end the uncertainty.”

September 23, 2010

World Series of Poker Europe main event begins today

The fifth and final event of the fourth annual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) – the celebrated £10,350 buy-in championship main event – kicks off later today in London as more than three hundred poker players and aficionados from across the world are expected to battle it out over the next six days to win the celebrated gold bracelet and a top prize of some £750,000.

The £10,350 buy-in no limit hold’em main event will begin at 12:00 BST today at the Casino at the Empire in London, with play on the final table taking place on Tuesday. A top prize of some £750,000 is expected to be awarded to the winner, from a total prize pool of more than £3m.

Past winners of the WSOPE main event include inaugural winner Annette Obrestad who made history as the youngest ever gold bracelet winner at the age of 18; U.S pro John Juanda who won after the longest finale in the 41-year history of the WSOP - 19 hours and 10 minutes; while last year’s event was won by another U.S pro Barry Shulman.

For the first time, a same-day internet stream with hole cards will be featured for the final two days of the WSOPE next Monday and Tuesday. Coverage will showcase the 27 players who start on Monday, with action continuing until nine players remain at the final table. Viewing of the final table will begin Tuesday at noon and continue until the event champion is crowned., ESPN’s 24/7 sports broadband network, will stream the event in the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Brazil.

The coverage will show players’ hole cards with a five-hour delay, also a first. As has been standard with WSOPE coverage, the event will also be carried on television globally, with broadcasts scheduled during the upcoming winter.

“ESPN is committed to delivering the best poker content to fans, and ESPN3 is the ideal format to showcase this great event as it happens,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions for ESPN.

September 16, 2010

UK online gambling growing faster than Facebook

Online gambling grew faster in the UK last year than social networking sites such as Facebook, according to data released this week by market research company Nielsen.

An additional 3.2 million people visited online gambling sites last year, a 40% increase over the previous year, compared to the extra 2.2 million who accessed social networking sites such as Facebook.

UK lottery giant Camelot also topped Nielsen’s chart of the fastest-growing companies online, increasing unique visitors by 4.4m to 9.4m between July 2009 and July 2010, representing an 88% year-on-year increase. Nielsen credited its display ad campaign for National Lottery EuroMillions.

PartyGaming came in 8th on the list, increasing its customer base for PartyPoker and PartyCasino by 1.2m, or 186%, to 1.9m. yielded an extra 870,000 visitors last year, increasing its audience by 174%.

Nielsen said nearly half of all online gamblers earned more than £30,000 per annum from their day jobs.

While middle-aged men drove the spike in numbers, according to Nielsen, women represented 46% of online gamblers.

Neil Beston of Nielsen said: "While the phenomenal growth in gambling sites over the last two years has been driven by men and women of all ages, it appears to be powered particularly by middle-aged men, the well-educated and high-earning households."

French casino association launches 200%Poker brand

Spiral Solutions France has announced the launch of 200%Poker, the online gaming brand of France’s La Societe Francaise des Jeux sur Internet (SFJI), a leading association of forty French independent land-based casinos.

The new 200%Poker brand will be officially unveiled at a launch event and press conference in Paris today, and will signal a new interactive era for France’s La Societe Francaise des Jeux sur Internet.

SFJI is an association of forty French independent land-based casinos which collectively host more than forty million customers each year. Led by Luc Le Borgne, directeur general of Vikings-Casinos, the group will own and manage the 200%Poker brand, enabling the group to extend its land-based casino businesses online and achieve new revenue streams.

“Our customers are keen to experience the thrill of online poker. 200% Poker extends the trust and loyalty of our group's brand into the online world,” said Luc Le Borgne. “With world-class platform and the private service we get from Spiral Solutions France, we're confident that 200% Poker will be a great success."

SFJI received an online poker licence from French regulator ARJEL in July to cover its 200%poker brand –,,,, – and has launched on the French poker network jointly operated by 888 and Microgaming.

“France's online poker gaming market is set to experience massive growth, representing a tremendous opportunity for gaming and casino brands like SFJI,” said Christophe Santa Maria, president of Spiral Solutions France. “We're perfectly placed to help any organisation launch an online poker offering in France. Our experience and expertise was crucial in securing the ARJEL licence and launching 200% Poker. It is without doubt one of the most exciting players in the French market.”

Matti Zinder, managing partner and CEO of Spiral Solutions, added: “Gaining entry into newly regulated markets is not without its challenges. Our clients in France and in other newly regulated markets such as Italy, Denmark and others can capitalise on Spiral Solutions' bespoke, private and professional interactive gaming solutions that enhance their brand and maximise their revenues.”

Spiral Solutions France is a joint venture between Spiral Solutions and Santa Maria Group.

September 15, 2010

Illinois Lottery terminates SG contract following Intralot

Following a protest by rival Intralot, the Illinois Gaming Board has informed Scientific Games Corporation that it has terminated the six-year contract awarded to the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Scientific Games International, to provide a central communication system to manage every licensed video gaming terminal in the state.

Intralot had protested that its bid for the contract, said to be worth an estimated $90m, was substantially lower than the winning bid by Scientific Games after obtaining information on its rival’s bid by filing a Freedom of Information Act request last month.

As a result the Illinois Gaming Board admitted that it made miscalculations in evaluating the price portion of the contract proposals, due in part to the fact that the bid instructions resulted in both the board and applicants making assumptions that were not uniform.

Based upon these factors, the Illinois Gaming Board has now terminated Scientific Games' contract and remains committed to promptly rebidding the contract.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Illinois Gaming Board; however we are confident going into the expedited rebid process,” said Michael Chambrello, president and CEO of Scientific Games. “We continue to believe that we offer the highest quality, service and value to the State.

“Furthermore, as we were in the initial stages of the implementation process, we are best positioned to promptly implement this important initiative and begin generating funds for the crucial capital construction that this program is to fund.”

With the Illinois Lottery also set to announce the winning bidder for the lottery’s ten-year private management contract this week, Intralot could yet be issuing a second formal protest against the lottery after being eliminated early from the bidding process. Just two bidders remain in the hunt for the ten-year lucrative contract – Camelot and Northstar Lottery Group.

Basketball Australia signs partnership with Centrebet

Australian online sports betting operator Centrebet has entered into a partnership agreement with Basketball Australia to serve as the official betting partner of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Centrebet is already associated with a number of Australian sports leagues including the NRL and AFL and this latest partnership, the financial details of which have not been disclosed, will see Centrebet partner with the NBL for the next two years.

Basketball Australia (BA) chief executive Larry Sengstock said the new partnership was further evidence that the NBL was continuing to enjoy a massive upswing in its commercial attractiveness.

“Centrebet are one of Australia’s leading sports betting providers and they have recognised that the NBL is making major strides commercially,” said Sengstock. “They have a history of being ahead of the curve and in 1996 were the first licensed bookmaker in the Southern Hemisphere to offer online sports betting. Clearly they see that the NBL is poised to move its business to a whole new level.

“As a sport we’ve undergone a massive structural transformation in the past two years in order to put ourselves in a position to reap commercial rewards, and we are now starting to see the tangible benefits of that hard work.”

Sengstock said that with Basketball now generating millions of dollars in betting revenue, this new partnership with Centrebet will enable the sport to reap the benefits of that expenditure by channelling some of that money back into Basketball.

Centrebet’s head of marketing and gaming, Luke Brill, added: “Centrebet are delighted to be the Official Sports Betting Partner of the NBL. This partnership includes full integration with all the broadcast media and branding throughout the competition. The opportunity to be part of the future of the NBL is very exciting for us at Centrebet and we truly buy into the vision for the sport.”

September 14, 2010

Chinese former FA officials hauled in over betting scandal

China said Sunday it had formally launched investigations of three more former football officials including the ex-head of the Chinese Football Association in a widening gambling and match-fixing probe.

Authorities were investigating former CFA chief Xie Yalong, the national team's ex-manager Wei Shaohui, and Li Dongsheng, the former director of Chinese soccer's referee committee, the police ministry said in a statement.

State media had previously reported the three men had been taken into custody for questioning, but there had been no official confirmation.

China's professional leagues have been plagued with allegations of gambling, match-fixing and crooked referees for years.

That, coupled with the national side's poor performances, have long made the "beautiful game" a source of disappointment for diehard fans.

The ministry statement gave no details on any specific allegations against the men.

Early this year, the scandal exploded when Xie's successor Nan Yong and two of his top lieutenants at the CFA were arrested on bribe-taking and match-fixing charges. Scores of officials and referees have been detained.

State press reports had said Xie was taken earlier this month to the northeastern city of Shenyang, where the investigation is based, to be interrogated on his ties with Nan and his top aides.

The trials of Nan, former CFA vice head Yang Yimin and one-time head of CFA refereeing Zhang Jianqiang could be imminent as prosecutors have already handed over investigation documents to the courts, state media have reported.

Numerous reports had said Xie was unlikely to be implicated in the scandal.
A CFA spokesman could not be reached for comment by AFP.

Xie, a football outsider, served as CFA head from 2005-2009, when Nan oversaw the national team and professional league.

Xie had been tasked with cleaning up the professional league and bringing the national side back to prominence – tasks that largely went unfulfilled. He was replaced in 2009 by Nan, to the applause of the sporting press.

Nan served as CFA head for less than a year before he was arrested, reportedly for crimes that began early in his tenure at the association.

September 11, 2010

ECJ rules against Austrian gaming laws

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Austrian legislation requiring gaming operators to locate their seat in the country is not compliant with EU law.

In a judgement published yesterday, the ECJ found that “the obligation on persons holding concessions to operate gaming establishments to have their seat in Austria constitutes a restriction on freedom of establishment.”

Casinos Austria AG is currently the only company with permission from the Austrian Government to organise and operate gaming in the country, with 12 concessions granted and renewed without a public tender process.

The court said in its ruling that the absence of a competitive process allowing operators from other EU countries to apply for a casino license in the country “is contrary to the principle of equal treatment” and “constitutes indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality prohibited by EU law.”

Further, held the court, while restriction of operators located in other countries could be justified on the basis of “preventing those activities from being carried out for criminal or fraudulent purposes...the categorical exclusion of operators whose seat is in another Member State is disproportionate, as it goes beyond what is necessary to combat crime.”

The court was ruling on the questions raised by German national Ernst Engelmann on the compatibility of Austrian legislation on games of chance with freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services. This followed Engelmann appealing the decision of the Linz regional court of unlawfully organising games of chance after he operated two gaming establishments in Austria without having applied for a concession.

The ECJ judgement went on to say that in the absence of any transparency around the tender procedure, Austria’s grant of a concession to a local operator “constitutes difference in treatment to the detriment of operators located in other Member States, who have no real possibility of manifesting their interest in obtaining the concession in question.”

The court stated in its ruling that Austria had the choice of “various less restrictive measures” to monitor the activities and accounts of egaming operators located in other Member States.

Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association said: “Today’s ruling against the Austrian gambling laws confirms clearly that Member States cannot require EU licensed online operators to be physically present on their territory. In the Digital age there are obviously other and more efficient means available to monitor the activities of the operators.”

September 08, 2010

EU court strikes down German gambling monopoly

A German state monopoly on most forms of gambling is "unjustifiable" and must be ended at once because it is neither consistent nor systematically applied, the European Union`s top court said in a shock judgement Wednesday.

Under German rules, only the country's 16 federal states (Laender) or companies run by them can offer most gambling services, especially lotteries. Their monopoly has in the past brought billions of euros into state coffers and social, cultural and sporting projects.

A number of private betting firms challenged the German rule, arguing that it was inconsistent because the Laender kept a monopoly on most forms of gambling - but did not hold a monopoly on other forms, such as slot machines and casinos.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) had been expected to throw out the challenge, as it has already ruled that gambling monopolies in a number of other EU states are legal because they are aimed at limiting the social impact of gambling.

But in a surprise move, the ECJ ruled that "the German rules do not limit games of chance in a consistent and systematic manner," and that therefore "the monopoly ceases to be justifiable."
The ruling confirms a similar judgement made by Germany's constitutional court in 2006.

Germany will have to end the monopoly immediately, since "national rules concerning that monopoly, held to be contrary to the fundamental freedoms of the Union, cannot continue to apply during the time necessary to bring it into conformity with Union law."

In the short term, the ruling is a victory for a number of internet-based betting companies registered in states such as Britain, Gibraltar and Malta which had challenged operating bans in German Laender imposed because of the monopoly rule.

German courts will still have to rule whether they can now carry out operations in Germany, but the authorities will not be able to cite the monopoly as a reason for blocking them.

"This is a landmark ruling which will have a decisive impact on the much-needed reform in Germany ... It signals the end of the German online gaming ban and will bring legal security to EU online gaming operators and German consumers alike," said Sigrid Ligne, head of the European Gaming and Betting Association, in a statement.

However, the longer-term implications remain unclear. The Laender make billions of euros a year from their monopolies, and an estimated 3 billion euros (3.9 billion dollars) annually are transferred to sporting, charity and cultural events.

If the monopoly is scrapped and not replaced in a modified form, state officials say that that funding could be greatly reduced.

However, the court's ruling stressed that a more consistent and systematic monopoly could be legal, if it were proven to be designed to limit the social impact of betting.

"With a view to channelling the desire to gamble and the operation of games into a controlled circuit, member states are free to establish public monopolies," a court statement pointed out.

Moreover, "the fact that some games of chance are subject to a public monopoly whilst others are subject to a system of authorisations ... cannot, in itself, call into question the consistency of the German system, as those games have different characteristics," the statement said.

Germany fell foul of the court's judges because public monopoly holders carry out "intensive advertising campaigns with a view to maximising profits from lotteries" and private casino operators are allowed to "encourage participation in those games.

"In such circumstances, the preventive objective of that monopoly can no longer be pursued," the court ruled.

It therefore falls to the Laender to decide whether they want to redraw their monopoly rules in a way which would fit the court's description.

"We will leave it up to the state and federal governments to take the measures necessary for the continued existence of the German model," said the head of Bavaria's lottery, Erwin Horak.

The ECJ ruling leaves it to member states to decide whether to license commercial betting or keep it in their own hands, he said.

September 07, 2010

Snai in takeover battle

Italian online sports betting leader Snai is the subject of a tussle between two private equity-backed gaming operators aiming to take over the indebted gaming group.

Snai, currently struggling with €250m of net debt, confirmed to the Financial Times on Friday that it was the subject of a takeover approach from rival Sisal, owned by UK private equity groups Permira and Apax Partners.

Italian private equity houses Clessidra and Investindustrial are also seeking to merge Snai with fellow land-based and online operator Cogetech, owned by Investindustrial, revealed the newspaper.

Snai was close to being bought last year by a consortium consisting of the UK’s Bridgepoint and France’s Axa Private Equity, but the investment groups are suing for damages after the Italian company rejected their bid and decided instead to refinance via a bond issue.

Snai, which also has over 900 shops and 2,500 smaller gambling stalls, or corners, boasted a market share of 34.3% of Italy's online sports betting market in the first quarter of 2010, according to gambling data provider Trust Partners.

Rival Sisal, which had a 10.2% market share in the first quarter, is also in talks to obtain sports book and poker room Betting 2000, according to reports earlier this year.

August 31, 2010

888 cuts costs as World Cup hits online poker

888 Holdings, the online gambling company, has announced the launch of a cost-cutting programme to help arrest a slump in pre-tax profits that has forced the online gambling company to forgo an interim dividend payment.

Gig Levy, chief executive, blamed the decline on weakness in the online poker market, currency exchange movements and the distraction of the soccer World Cup on regular poker and casino activity.

Revenues of $130m for the six months to June 30, although 10.5 per cent higher than the same period last year, were lower than expected, the company said.

Bingo overtook poker, generating $23.5m in revenues, while poker fell from $26.2m to $19.6m. Casino revenues rose from $55.9m to $59.3m.

The search for business forced spending on marketing to rise from $35m in the first half of 2009 to $48m. The upshot was a 39 per cent drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to £12.6m.

Pre-tax profit, including $2.2m of restructuring costs and share benefit charges of $1.9m, fell 56 per cent to $4.3m. Earnings per share dropped from 2.3 cents in the 2009 period to 0.8 cents.

The cost-cutting programme will reduce overheads by $5m-$6m in the second half, said 888, without specifying where the economies would be made. Mr Levy said the dividend was being scrapped “in order to continue investing for future growth, and to support potential acquisitions”.

With rivals PartyGaming and Bwin announcing a merger in July, 888 is seen as vulnerable to consolidation in the online gambling sector.

Mr Levy said: “We look at consolidation as one of the possible routes to realising our full value and feel that longer term this is the direction the industry will take. We have always stated that we will look into all relevant deals and expect the recent merger news to accelerate such discussions in the industry.”

Mr Levy added that early signs of second-half trading suggested a return to historical patterns, with daily revenues falling due to seasonality. Innovations in its business-to-customer products, including a 3D casino offering, is helping to stimulate a rise in first-time depositors, compared with the previous quarter.

“Trading in August has been significantly stronger than in July, with a double-digit daily revenue increase especially in casino and poker,” 888 said. Poker revenues in August were up more than 15 per cent.

888 welcomed movements of varying degrees in regulating online gambling in France, Italy and the US, although it said they would take time and investment to come to fruition.

UEFA approves resolution against match-fixing

UEFA reports that at its meeting in Monaco the Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) agreed to increase the fight against match-fixing in European football and approved a resolution to that effect.

The PFSC includes elected representatives from the European Club Association (ECA), the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), FIFPro Division Europe and UEFA. This makes it a good representation of clubs, leagues, players and the governing body of European football. The PFSC advises the UEFA Executive Committee based on its discussions on matters regarding professional football.

The PFSC has acknowledged that it:

• recognises and understands the gravity of the match-fixing threat,
• welcomes the steps undertaken by UEFA, FIFA and other football bodies so far to fight match-fixing,
• believes that fighting match-fixing needs education, prevention and deterrents,
• invites UEFA to intensify and extend its education programme in co-operation with associations, clubs, leagues and players' unions on both European and national level,
• urges the political authorities to engage with UEFA and national football bodies to adopt legislation, which must be enforced by the law enforcement authorities, to protect the integrity of football competitions and recognise the rights and responsibilities of competition organisers on betting activities, and
• demands a policy of zero tolerance towards all those involved in match-fixing.

Pierluigi Collina, UEFA's Chief Refereeing Officer, gave the PFSC an update on steps being taken to improve refereeing. He also discussed players' agents, UEFA club competitions and reviewed the changes made in 2009-2010. He analysed the matter of social dialogue and sees it as an area of progress.

August 29, 2010

Bulgaria promises prison for unlicensed internet gambling operators

A draft proposal for changes to Bulgarian gambling laws provides a regime for the legalization, licensing and regulation of online gambling in the country, but at a price. The proposal, which lawmakers hope to have put into place by the end of the year, promises that any person operating an online gambling site operating in the country without a license can face up to five years in jail and fines between 20,000 to 50,000 leva (€10,000 to €25,000).

It would seem the simple way to avoid imprisonment would be to simply apply for a license, but the requirements are strict. Any gambling operator wishing to obtain a gambling license in Bulgaria must invest at least €500,000 in its online gambling site in Bulgaria in order to be eligible. The group must also have a physical presence in the country in the form of “payment shops” where players can go to make deposits and cash out their winnings. The justification for this is that in Bulgaria cash is still the primary payment method, so the lawmakers who drafted the bill felt it necessary to include this requirement.

The proposed law also includes a clause that will require Bulgarian ISPs to filter the internet, blocking unlicensed gambling sites. Local ISPs are already complaining about the requirement, stating the same arguments being made across Europe where similar internet filters are being implemented. Trying to censor the internet in this way, they argue, is not only technically difficult, it is also very ineffective. Players who want to find a way around the filters will have little trouble doing so.

Current gambling law in country is not very clear, and these changes are being made in hopes of solidifying the government’s tough stance on internet gambling in Bulgaria.

August 28, 2010

Greeks reveal gaming proposals ahead of parliamentary debate

The Greek government has published draft legislation for an opening up of the country’s slots and VLT market, and for the partial liberalisation of the country’s online gaming market.

A first glimpse of the legislation has been posted on the Greek government website and details specific proposals for opening up Greece’s markets for sports betting and for poker.

The regulative framework produced by the Finance Ministry aims to ensure that most of the €5bn worth of illegal gambling estimated in a recent Reuters report will be added to the present €9bn annual spend generated by OPAP, and produce substantial tax revenues for the hard-pressed treasury.

In the introduction to the proposals the authors admit that “Greece has been ordered by a decision of the ECJ because of its ban on gaming machines to pay a daily fine of €32.000 i.e. € 11.5m a year” and “absence of any market regulation of online gambling within Greek territory progressively resulted in the regime being de facto illegal.”

The report suggests that the government has no choice but to open up its slots and VLT market following the ECJ decision from October 26, 2006 that states that “by inserting ... a prohibition on the installation and operation of all electrical, electromechanical and electronic games, including technical recreational games and all computer games, on all public or private premises apart from casinos, the Hellenic Republic has failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 28 EC, 43 EC and 49 EC and Article 8 of Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament.”

The document, which will be open for consultation until midnight on September 12 gives, in Chapter IV Article 11, details of the online products to be made available to Greek gamblers.

Initially sports betting and poker would be offered online, via mobile or interactive TV.

According to the proposals betting on horse racing and casino type games may be subject to future consultation.

The framework also includes mechanisms for blocking of access to overseas gaming sites and for preventing Greek customers having financial transactions with overseas operators.

Operators would be required to have servers inside the country and use websites. Licences would be available for a period of five years.

However the document suggests a number of options are to be debated on how the licences would be allocated. In section 4 of Article 11, three possibilities for granting of online licences are mooted.

The first possibility would involve a competitive market with an unlimited number of licences available. The selection would be made based on the operator satisfying specific requirements set out by the government rather than via a tender. This would be similar to the model introduced in France and in Italy.

The second option would involve a public tender for a limited number of online licences, again with operators being required to satisfy specific requirements while licences would be allocated to the highest bidder. In previous comments from government representatives there has been suggestion that there would be five licences available.

The final option would involve OPAP maintaining its current monopoly status in some online gaming spheres until 2019, with again a limited number of additional licences available for operators, but in this case they could act as subcontractors and pay royalties to OPAP.

The Greek media is reporting that OPAP is already negotiating with online systems provider Intralot to develop online casinos and possibly poker rooms for Greek players in advance of legalisation coming into force during 2011.

There has already been discussion related to the introduction of slots and VLTs in the Greek market, with OPAP almost certainly to be allocated one of the licences available, although again there appears to have been no decision on how many licences would be up for grabs.

Any suggestion that OPAP would be allowed to maintain any form of monopoly going forward is certain to be the subject of a legal challenge.

In France both Stanleybet and Zeturf are awaiting developments from their legal actions against the monopoly status of Francaise des Jeux and the PMU with regard to retail betting.

More concrete plans for opening up the Greek market will now be awaited once the consultation period has been completed.

August 27, 2010

Tokwiro sells Absolute Poker & UB

he Cereus online poker network, formed by Absolute Poker and UltimateBet in 2008, has been sold to Antigua based Blanca Games for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition includes the Cereus network, operating software and the AbsolutePoker and UB brands.

Blanca Games is headed by Stuart Gordon, founder and operator of online bingo site bingomania.

Commenting on the acquisition, Gordon stated that security will continue to be a key area of focus for the network going forward. Both Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet have in the past been mired in cheating and security scandals.

“The acquisition of Cereus is a significant opportunity for us,” says Blanca Games CEO Stuart Gordon. “Cereus is a major platform of well-managed assets. Over the past few years, it has created new brands, like, that are extremely well-positioned in the most desirable demographic in our market: players in the 20s and 30s age brackets. From our perspective, we have acquired a large, sophisticated online gaming operation with state-of-the art capabilities, ranging from compliance to business intelligence to online marketing to customer service. We see a tremendous growth opportunity in this deal and beyond, as Blanca seeks additional acquisitions in the market.

“We intend to leverage the existing strengths of the Cereus Poker Network, particularly in the areas of security and customer service. Although we are impressed with many of the new security features on the Network today, security is and will remain our top priority.”

Cereus is the third largest US facing online poker network according to, behind PokerStars and Full Tilt, albeit with a fraction of their liquidity.

The network’s former owner, Tokwiro, is yet to comment on the sale, although a statement is expected to be released next week.

August 21, 2010

Betfair devises Dutch and Danish licence plans

Betfair is preparing to re-apply for a Dutch licence only two months after losing a five-year long court battle against the country’s monopoly De Lotto this summer.

Director of European public affairs Tim Phillips: “We are certainly planning to, but we are waiting for the impact of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling to filter down to the local courts before we get the opportunity. There is an ongoing review process taking place in the Netherlands and we are yet to see the results of that,”

Betfair and Ladbrokes’ long-running dispute against the Dutch authorities began in 2005 when they ruled that both operators should stop taking bets from Dutch citizens due to concerns about fraud. It ended in the authorities’ favour in June this year, when the European Court of Justice outlined that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted, even if operators are licensed in other EU countries.

At the time Betfair declared it would re-apply for a licence in the Netherlands “at the first opportunity”, after the court confirmed its long-stated view that sports betting licences in the EU should be allocated in a transparent and equal manner, to allow Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.

Betfair is also currently working with a French consultancy and will start talking to the French authorities in September to put its views across on the country’s high tax and protectionist regulations, Phillips said. Betfair has not applied for a licence with French regulator ARJEL as it considers the system to be unprofitable for foreign operators.

As it continues to ramp up its expansion in Europe, Phillips said the British betting exchange would apply for a licence in Denmark “as soon as we can” when the market opens at the beginning of 2011. He called Denmark a “good level playing field” compared to the French system and that the Scandinavian country is politically “much more open to new ideas”.

Phillips said Betfair has its product offering ready and is planning to enter the Danish market early next year once the market opens up.

Betfair is also in talks with the Greek government to discuss legislation there. This follows the chief of Greek monopoly OPAP revealing in June that such discussions were underway. “We will have to see if it works commercially, but we intend to apply [for a Greek licence]”, said Phillips. “Greece is more important size-wise than Denmark, but Denmark is good strategically because of the location and proper regulation”.

Betfair intends to apply for a licence in Spain later this year and in Germany, although Phillips said that the devolved governments in both countries could be obstacles. Part of the operator’s core strategy is emerging markets, currently in Europe and increasingly in the rest of the world: “South Africa, Asia and even Latin America”, he added.

August 19, 2010

PokerStars and Full Tilt are “operating illegally” says Bwin CEO

Online poker giants PokerStars And Full Tilt are both “operating illegally” in the US, according to Bwin CEOs Norbert Teufelberger and Manfred Bodner, in an interview given by them to

Bwin has the world’s third strongest poker offering behind PokerStars And Full Tilt, and believe the only reason they are not in pole position themselves was their decision to pull out of the US market in 2006.

Teufelberger believes that the two sites haven’t any particular advantages over other poker sites, and that without their virtual monopoly on US players they would have no chance of maintaining their colossal statures in the industry. As Teufelberger explains to EGRMagazine:
“It’s not because they have premier marketing skills or premier technology, what they have is hundreds of millions of dollars from what we see as an illegal market. We would expect that once the US regulates, these two companies will not have access to the market, and once that happens we’ll then see who the leader will be. They say they’re not operating illegally but I think they are.”

Teufelberger seems to believe strongly that before long the US will deregulate online poker and that PokerStars And Full Tilt will be firmly left out of any future licence considerations in the new market. In fact, he seems to think that the only question remaining would be whether they find themselves prosecuted or not for their so-called illegal activities.

He further dismissed any possibility of PokerStars or Full Tilt being bought out by investors, as nobody bought PartyPoker’s customer database when they pulled out of the US gaming market.
However, in business as in poker, few things are certain and Teufelberger did strike a more cautious note when he mentioned that if PokerStars And Full Tilt were granted licences, then it would have been “the biggest mistake Manfred and I ever made”.

August 11, 2010

Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to bring online gambling to Ontario in 2012

Ontario will start offering online gambling in 2012, with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. promising a secure environment that will protect young people and problem gamblers.

"OLG needs to be current and to keep in tune with the changing needs of our customers," OLG chair Paul Godfrey told a news conference on Tuesday.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the move was meant to ensure "the competitiveness of OLG going forward."

"We know that we're losing about $400 million per year to offshore websites," Duncan said.

Godfrey added: "If we're going to retain Ontarians' money in Ontario, we've got to start doing it now."

In the 2010 budget, documents showed that OLG revenue dropped by $83 million, mainly due to lower revenue from slot machines.

The returns from the online gambling expansion will be modest, Duncan admitted. Government officials have estimated Ontario will make about $100 million per year within five years of startup. Last year, the OLG generated $1.7 billion in revenue for the province.

Robert Murray, manager of the problem gambling project at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, said while online gamblers represent only a small portion -- about 2.1 per cent -- of total gamblers, the Internet is one of the fastest-growing methods of gambling.

Murray said he is concerned that more people will want to try online gambling if they know it is government-sanctioned.

"The trick is to balance the need to generate revenue with the social consequences that this expansion of gambling may result in," Murray told CTV News Channel Tuesday afternoon. "There's going to be a social impact here because people are going to have a variety of different ways of now accessing gambling…and this is going to bring gambling in your home."

Duncan said there will be safeguards to ensure responsible gambling.

"Although Ontario is following many other jurisdictions, we feel that by the time OLG launches its site, it will benefit from best practices and policies in use worldwide," he said.

British Columbia launched an online casino last month -- Quebec is expected to soon follow. The Atlantic Lottery Corp. offers five interactive games through its website, including Hold'em Poker.

The U.S. is expected to end its Internet gambling ban this fall.

Godfrey said Ontarians currently gambling online are doing so in unlicensed, unregulated environments.

Ontario's online gaming channel will be safe and secure, he said.

There will be strong age-verification procedures to keep underage gamblers from playing, Godfrey said.

"It will implement the gold standard in responsible gaming controls and tools," he said. "Best-in-class security will be utilized to ensure the safety and security of customers' accounts and personal information."

B.C.'s website is having problems. The financial information of some players was compromised, and the B.C. Lottery Corp. had to take offline and it remains unavailable at this time.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called OLG's move "a big mistake."

"If the government really wanted to show some leadership here, they would be working with the federal government to figure out how we can prevent online gambling in Canada and in Ontario," Horwath told reporters.

Godfrey said players won't be able to participate on the Ontario website anonymously.

"This provides a controlled gaming environment," he said. "It allows us to identify each player, allow for play limits and warning flags around extensive play."

If necessary, free treatment services will be made available, he said.

August 10, 2010

Women a growing force online

A new study from Comscore on the internet behaviour of women could be of interest to online gambling marketers.

The study showed that although women are still slightly in the minority among global Web users, they are closing the gap with men and, once connected, spend about two more hours online a month on average.

Women users aged 55 and over spend an average 214 minutes a month in online gaming, whilst male players aged between 15 and 24 – a key group – spend only an average of 92 minutes a month.

According to Comscore, females exceed males particularly in communications, devoting about one-third of their online time to social networking, instant messaging and e-mail messages compared with about one-quarter for men. Women 45 and older exhibited the greatest growth in social networking.

Women also outpace men in photo sharing and shopping, and in gaming, favouring casual puzzle, card and board games. Female gamers over 55 spend the most time online gaming of any demographic by far and are nearly as common as the most represented group, males 15 to 24.

Women are also being found in increasing numbers on gambling and sexually oriented websites, where they are almost as likely to be found on gambling sites as men, and over a third of women users visit sex-content websites.

“Unlike the earlier days of the Internet, women today exhibit many behaviours that are perhaps surprisingly similar to their male counterparts,” said Andrew Lipsman, senior director of industry analysis at Comscore.