January 20, 2010

Eurosportbet in doubt as management toppled

Eurosportbet's future has been thrown into doubt with news that parent company Bouygues has taken over the management of SPS Betting, the online gaming firm operating the site, which was launched in May and is the betting arm of the Eurosport TV network.

Eurosportbet, which obtained an Alderney licence in June 2009, was set up by the former chief executive of French commercial TV giant TF1, Patrick Le Lay, to compete with major European operators such as Bwin, Unibet and Betclic.

It has been gearing up for a French launch in preparation of the upcoming regulation there later this year.

However according to reports in France’s Le Monde newspaper and iGaming France, Bouygues, one of the biggest industrial groups in France, had taken over the management of SPS as a result of major disagreements between bosses at the company.

Disagreements between Le Lay and Nonce Paolini, his successor at TF1, which is part of the Bouygues conglomerate, are understood to have been behind the move.

In December last year, Paolini asked TF1 majority shareholder Martin Bouygues to remove Le Lay from the channel’s board, a request that was complied with despite Le Lay having only joined the board in June.

TF1 then agreed to buy out investment fund Serendipity’s stake in new 2009 Power 50 entrant SPS Betting, one of the SPS backers and which is headed up by Le Lay, “as a consolation prize”, according to sources at the TV channel.

Although Eurosportbet’s turnover is not significant because it only operates in the UK, it has around 70 employees, with 15 traders based in Paris.

Le Monde speculated that TF1 might in fact be in discussions with potential partners with a view to selling the business, or could simply close it down.

However, Le Lay recently revealed that Serendipity backers Artemis and Bouygues had found the idea of setting up an online betting company “bizarre”. Both Artemis and Bouygues refused to consider taking over existing operators as they believed them to be illegal in the eyes of the French authorities.

SPS Betting were unavailable for comment at the time of writing.

In other news, Bouygues is close to an agreement to get SPS to join Francaise des Jeux and Barriere in launching an online poker site for the French market, according to Le Monde.

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