February 26, 2010

Illegal casino broken up in Málaga

There were 110 players at the site on an industrial estate when the police raided last Friday

Málaga National Police last week raided a hidden casino in the city and found 110 players to be active, each one of them having paid 35 € for access. Most of the players were aged between 25 and 40 and many had travelled from across the province.

Police say news of the venue was generally spread by word of mouth, but also on social networking sites on the Internet.

Their raid took place on Friday night February 19, but news of it was released on Wednesday. It came after three months of investigations.

Illegal gambling is a crime under the Spanish Penal Code and the two organisers on this occasion face a fine of between 30,000 and 300,000 €.

February 24, 2010

Falling attendances in US casinos due to online gambling

A recent report by market research firm Mintel has revealed that less than a third of adults visited a casino in the United States last year, down from 35% in 2001, with 12% of adults having visited an illegal online gambling site during the same period.

Mintel reported that only 30% of adults had visited a casino in the past year, despite the continued glamorisation of Las Vegas and gambling. Of those who did visit a casino in the last 12 months, 27% were Indian reservation casinos, followed by 24% in Las Vegas and 12% in Atlantic City.

“This shift has been gradual, which suggests that this is not a result of the recession,” said Billy Hulkower, Mintel senior analyst. “Casinos may be losing audience to the increasingly compelling entertainment offerings in the home; such as HDTV, high-end video game systems and the Internet, including Internet gambling.”

Adults aged 25-34 years old were most likely to visit a casino in the past year (56% of respondents). On average, adults who visited a casino won or lost more than $330, with men ($501) appearing to bet larger amounts than women ($140).

“Men take more risks in their gambling behaviour and will remain the key customer base for casino operators,” Hulkower added.

Three in four adults (76%) set a budget for their casino visits, and most have reasonable expectations about the outcome. More than half (55%) expect to lose when they gamble, but are just doing it for fun. In addition the report says that 20% of gamblers claim that they usually win more often than lose.

Despite the illegality of online gambling in the U.S, 12% of adults have visited an online casino or gambling site in the past 12 months. Mintel’s research shows men are significantly more likely to play poker or other gambling games online, visiting online gambling sites five times in the past year, compared to once for women.

Virgin Games to re-focus as 'total gaming' site with 200-title PC download deal

Virgin Games is to expand into the non-gambling PC games market in a radical move to recreate the brand as a “total gaming” destination that will also allow the company to market the brand in jurisdictions where online gambling is prohibited.

A deal with technology company Game Domain International (GDI) will give Virgin Games access to more than 200 game titles from 70 game developers available for download, with titles including Rome: Total War, Fifa Football Manager, Warhammer: Mark of Chaos and Tomb Raider: Legend.

Virgin Games chief executive Simon Burridge: “We want Virgin Games to be somewhere you go to play games of any description, be that casino, poker, bingo or Rome: Total War. If Virgin Games is going to be about anything, it has to be about entertainment and being a place you can go to have fun.”

The system, called A World of My Own (AWOMO), aims to deliver online game content much faster than rival download services by allowing users to play the games before they are fully downloaded; and will offer pay-per-download or regular subscription payment options.

“This will open up a huge long tail of people who are gamers but are not prepared to invest heavily in gaming, and will open up PC games to a rental market that has never been done before. If this takes off it could do for the gaming industry what iTunes did for buying music: no-one buys music from shops anymore, they go online to iTunes.”

Burridge added that the new games will allow Virgin Games to market non-gambling versions of its sites in markets where its gambling products are prohibited under online gambling rules.

“This will open up parts of the world where we have previously been excluded, including English-speaking markets such as South Africa or the United States where the Virgin brand is strong,” he said. That will also allow the brand greater strength in those markets should they regulate online gambling, he said, “but that is a benefit rather than a main strategic goal”.

AWOMO is currently in beta testing, and the two companies expect to launch the full product in the third quarter of this year. However the launch is dependent on the success of a funding round that GDI is presently engaged in, which Burridge predicted will take place this quarter.

Burridge added that that because Virgin Games, which recently concluded a two and half year platform-building process has development skills in-house, the only cost of the new venture will be in marketing it. “Building the platform has raised our overhead costs but increased our revenue share, so now we have to add on customers,” he said.

February 23, 2010

Visa still usable for online gambling in the US

Playing at online casinos in the US is not illegal, though the government would like you to think that that’s the case. Despite the fact that online gambling is legal, the national government still goes to great lengths to try and keep people from enjoying it.

The fact is, there are no American gambling laws that explicitly state that gambling is illegal. The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 is the law that the government refers to when attempting to discourage gamblers, but according to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of appeals the Wire Act only refers to sports betting on an Interstate basis.

The government’s only real attempt to control online gambling in the U.S. was introduced as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This act has up to this point failed to go into force but it has still managed to spook a few companies.

According to the UIGEA, banks can be penalized for helping players make deposits and withdrawals to accounts associated with online gambling. MasterCard has recently made an attempt to pull away from the online gambling sector as a result. Read more about MasterCard’s new moves here.

When MasterCard made a move to turn its back on the online gambling industry, many gamblers and affiliate companies assumed that Visa was going to do the same, or even had to some extent. This is not true, and far from the case.

In the world of online gambling, it’s not uncommon for a transaction to take a while. Timing and whether or not a transaction is successful often depends on payment processors. Hundreds of articles can now be found on the internet saying that Visa has gone the way of MasterCard and has stopped processing gambling payments.

On Visa’s website it’s explicitly stated that the company has no problem with internet gambling, but where a player resides may influence their transaction. Text on the site reads as follows: “Internet gambling may be illegal where you live,” implying that a transaction may not be processed. Luckily for U.S. residents, Internet Gambling in the United States isn’t illegal.

Not only can players make deposits with Visa, the company boasts that payments can be made to Visa cards and gives gambling winnings as an example. On top of that, when referring to their Mobil Commerce program they state that “Ticket services, mobile gambling, vending machine payments, road charges and service subscriptions are just a few of the applications.”

Readers should not believe the hundreds of articles that can be currently found saying that Visa too, has turned its back on the gambling industry. Most of the articles concerning this subject are based on predictions and flawed judgement. If a player feels uncertain about making a payment through Visa, there’s a plethora of other banking methods available on the internet and ready to take it’s place.


February 22, 2010

ITV.com adds gambling site with William Hill

British commercial television broadcaster ITV has announced a new broadcast and online partnership for 2010 with UK bookmaker William Hill, under which viewers of sport on ITV and online at ITV.com will be able to benefit from exclusive sports betting offers, including in-play betting through a bespoke promotional site.

The on-air creative campaign, which launched during the FA Cup fifth round last weekend, was negotiated by ITV Commercial directly with William Hill and will drive consumers to the promotional site, ITV.com/WilliamHill.

ITV is currently in the middle of a four-year deal to show live FA Cup games, having taken over the rights from the BBC and BSkyB in 2007. Under the deal, ITV is allowed to show live coverage of sixteen FA Cup games per season including first pick live matches from each of the 1st to 6th rounds of the competition, plus one semi-final exclusively live, as well as highlights of all ties.

“We’re delighted to be working in partnership with ITV and bringing our sports betting product, particularly in-play betting, to a wider audience,” said Henry Birch, Chief Executive of William Hill Online.

Steve Chambers, Key Account Director of ITV Commercial added: “As the home of free-to-air live football in the UK ITV is a natural brand fit with William Hill. We are really excited about partnering with the UK’s top online bookmaker.”

The agreement follows last year's four-month sponsorship by William Hill Bingo of ITV daytime show 'The Real Deal'.

Eight arrested over match-fixing allegations in Turkey

A Diyarbakır court arrested eight people Monday on accusations of illegal betting and match-fixing, releasing 28 others pending trial.

The 36 people were among 77 taken into custody Friday in an operation led by the Diyarbakır prosecutor’s office. Houses and offices were raid in 13 cities, including Istanbul, Antalya, Muğla and Gaziantep.

Those in custody were accused of organizing illegal online betting on football matches and manipulating some lower division games to maximize profits. The accused include nine professional footballers and a coach.

The court also decided to freeze the assets of 25 people allegedly involved in the organization.

In a written statement, Diyarbakır police said the operations were conducted with the knowledge and cooperation of the Turkish Football Federation, or TFF.

Ömer Bedük, a legal adviser for the TFF, visited Diyarbakır police headquarters on the weekend and said, “I wanted to congratulate and thank police officials on behalf of TFF President Mahmut Özgener.”

He said: “The TFF has been a firm supporter of actions against illegal gambling and match-fixing. We will share our knowledge and legal documents with the prosecutor’s office to speed up the trial process. Match-fixing is a cancer for Turkish football and must be stopped immediately.”

Mehmet Aslan, legal advisor to Spor-Toto, the owner of Turkey’s official betting game, İddaa, urged citizens to gamble legally. “The money that should stay in Turkey goes abroad through illegal gambling. The total amount of illegal gambling in Turkey is estimated at over $1 billion.”

Aslan also said Spor-Toto would apply to become an intervening party in the case.

Norway cracks down on online gambling

An upcoming change to Norwegian gambling laws designed to crack down on illegal internet gambling will come into effect in a few months. The new law is called the Payment Act. It has already been approved by lawmakers, but won’t be enforced until June 01. In a nutshell, the new law attempts to crack down on illegal online gambling by punishing local financial institutions that process transactions between Norwegian accounts and unlicensed internet gaming sites.

Punishment will come when a bank or other financial provider assists in money transfers to and from certain online gambling sites in Norway. The ban will only affect locally-operated banks and payment processors since Norwegian laws do not apply across borders. The Payment Act is aimed primarily at unlicensed internet gambling sites that are hosted in other countries, but the new law will also help crack down on local sites that are operating illegally.

In many respects, this new law is similar to the UIGEA in the United States, which also aims to tackle the problem of unauthorized internet gambling by blocking financial transactions. Coincidentally, the UIGEA is scheduled to become active on the same day as Norway’s Payment Act.

Stephen Ketteley of Norway’s Berwin Leighton Paisner law firm is not sure how effective the ban will be. “Various other payments bans have struggled,” says Ketteley, “because the financial services sector simply refuses to accommodate the authorities' requirement to curb private gambling activity.”

Gambling operators are not concerned either. Betsson chief executive Pontus Lindwall says, “Although it’s not 100% clear what will be hit and when, I think it’s only a minor part of payments that will be hit. There will still be ways for clients to pay.”

Internet gambling in Norway will persevere, especially since the new law only targets financial institutions, not players.

February 19, 2010

Parliament egaming summit sees Unibet square off against Finnish monopolies

Finland's regulators and monopolies held a public meeting this week to debate new online gambling rules that have strengthened the hand of Finland’s state monopolies by allowing them to offer online poker, casino games and bingo, with Unibet the only operator invited to defend liberalisation.

At a summit at the Finnish Parliament’s Visitor's Centre in Helsinki moderated by Jyrki Kasvi, chairman of the Finnish parliament’s Information Society Group and a member of the Green Party, authorities and state operators sought to explain a new licence system. This will allow Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY) and Finnish state lottery Veikkaus Oy to start offering online poker and casino games and online bingo respectively. The Lotteries Act Project could also include a ban on all gambling marketing in Finland.

Together with Fintoto, which offers horseracing betting, RAY and Veikkaus Oy are the only legal online operators in mainland Finland, but have been allowed to offer the new products in order to compete with private operators.

The meeting was also attended by Christophe Dhaisne, head of Western Europe at Unibet, which this week launched a business to business arm and revealed it is to provide a sportsbook solution to Ålands Penningautomatförening, or Paf, Finland’s only other legal operator, which is based on the country’s semi-autonomous Åland islands.

Speaking for RAY, spokeswoman Tuula Lehto said that the purpose of the company’s new online products is to provide a "national, reliable and responsible alternative for Finnish players". Dhaisne, by contrast, argued the merits of a liberalised market over the current monopoly system, which has survived a number of legal challenges on the basis that it better protects citizens from problem gambling.

Dhaisne said: “We believe that Finland’s actions are contradicting Article 49... the group that is pushing the new law has not even considered alternatives to the current regime, even though that is what is happening in Italy, France, Denmark Estonia… why that is, we don’t know.”

Unibet was the only private operator in attendance.

The Ministry of the Interior’s director of legislative affairs, Kimmo Hakonen, the minister leading the Lotteries Act Project responsible for the new rules, defended the monopoly status quo, arguing that it only clarifies earlier Finnish gambling legislation which is “equipment neutral," meaning that it applies as much to online gambling as land-based.

Also appearing were Mia-Veera Koivisto, project coordinator of problem gambling group A-Clinic Foundation; Paf product development manager Sonja Kangas; and the Åland Islands minister responsible for gaming issues, Roger Eriksson.

Norway online gambling payments ban signed into law

A ban on the processing of any unauthorised online gambling transactions in Norway has been passed into law.

Norway’s Payment Act, which orders the clampdown, has received royal assent, meaning that is therefore now fully adopted legislation.

The Act establishes that processing payments for remote gambling where the gambling is being conducted without a Norwegian licence will amount to “accessory involvement” in unlawful gambling.

This offence will apply to any financial services provider assisting in the transfer of payments from players in Norway, and will come into effect on 1 June – the same day that the US Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) will come into effect, which always prohibits financial services providers from processing gambling transactions, and has recently led to crackdown on US egaming payments by US credit card giants Mastercard and Visa.

However Stephen Ketteley, a partner in the gaming law practice at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, played down the significance of the law.

Ketteley said: “Whilst this development, which has been a long time coming, will cause banks, processors and the like to re-assess any activities that could be caught by the ban, it will be interesting to see if it will have an appreciable effect on operators' Norwegian businesses.

“Various other payments bans have struggled, either because operators have already established their view on taking related business - and a payments ban won't change that - or because the financial services sector simply refuse to accommodate the authorities' requirement to curb private gambling activity.”

Ketteley’s view echoes that of operators including Sweden’s Betsson, which has a large Norwegian customer base but whose chief executive Pontus Lindwall, recently said that Betsson does not expect the Norwegian payments ban to affect its business

February 18, 2010

MasterCard turns back on US online gambling

Internet gambling in the United States is not, technically speaking, illegal, and players don’t face penalties for gambling online. Instead, current gambling law in the US targets banks and other financial providers that help US players to fund their online accounts. Under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, banks can face penalties for helping players to make deposits and withdrawals to online accounts associated with internet gambling.

The UIGEA, however, is not actually in force. It was meant to come into action months ago, but its implementation was delayed. Despite this fact, banks are already taking action to prevent future legal trouble. MasterCard, and to a lesser extent Visa, have in recent weeks began to pull away from the online gambling world in what appears to be a precautionary move.

One problem MasterCard and its rivals are facing is that online gambling firms have a habit of re-coding financial information so it looks as if the transactions that are being processed have nothing to do with internet gambling. MasterCard has been hard at work investigating these situations, and are cracking down on such activities.

While there is a good chance that American gambling laws will soon change and that online gambling in the US will become fully legal, it seems that major banks don’t want to take any chances. As a result of MasterCard’s apprehension, many online gambling sites that accept US players, including Doyles Room, Absolute Poker, and Bodog, have been forced to stop accepting MasterCard as a viable payment method for US players.

In the meantime, a British company called UC Group Ltd. has announced the launch of SecureTrading Inc., a new electronic payment processing system that will be based in the New York area. It is being set up to service internet casinos and online poker sites in the United States.

Nylander hails mobile at Unibet 2009 year-end

Unibet's active mobile users more than doubled during the fourth quarter of 2009, rising 136% to 5,372, from 2,281 in the previous quarter, chief executive Petter Nylander revealed today, hailing the mobile channel for having finally delivered on its promise.

Nylander credited the growing penetration of smart phones for the increase in mobile take-up, and said: “We really saw a breakthrough during the second half of 2009 after we re-launched our iPhone version during Q3 this year. The customers enjoyed it and used it at numbers we can speak about. We think the mobile channel for ourselves and the industry will become a channel with some prominence for the future.”

Unibet’s mobile product is provided by Swedish mobile specialist Mobenga.

Nylander was speaking at the company’s year-end results presentation in Stockholm, where the company revealed an above-historical gross win margin of 11.9% from pre-game betting, combined with strong growth in active customers, which helped the company achieve a 21% year-on-year increase in gross winnings revenue to £42.1m, from £34.9m for the comparable period a year earlier.

The fourth quarter gross win margin of 11.9% from the traditional sportsbook compared to around 6% in the third quarter of 2009, when European-facing sportsbooks including Unibet were hit hard by an unfavourable run of football results, with just four of the first 66 English Premier League matches ending in draws, compared with a five-year season average of 25%.

The Swedish operator’s record quarterly revenue performance helped full-year gross winnings revenue for 2009 reach £138.3m; 12% up on the £123.4m achieved in 2008, despite there being no major sporting events in 2009.

Unibet chief financial officer Henrik Tjarnstrom said: “Sportsbetting margins need to be looked at over at least over a 12-month cycle. That is what we said when we communicated the Q3 results in November, and we reiterate that now.”

The company’s bottom line was also able to benefit from the “competitive tension between several banks” to undertake its November 2009 refinancing of the bond to purchase bingo operator Maria, said Tjarnstrom, with full-year pre-taxprofit growing 161% to £28.9m, from £8.8m in 2008.

Full-year earnings before interest, tax, debt and amortisation (EBITDA) however fell 10% year-on-year to £41.9m, from £46.3m in 2008, which the company said showed the “investment in marketing ahead of the sporting year coming up.”

Nylander said Unibet also hoped to benefit from the opening of the French market during 2010, given the operator’s strong positioning and the relative underdevelopment of the online portion of its gaming market, representing around 5% of the overall sector compared to Scandinavia and the UK, “where we think the online side of the overall gambling market is maybe 25%-30%.”

February 17, 2010

Terry v Bridge odds: 2/1 to shake hands

John Terry and Wayne Bridge are set to face each other in two potentially explosive clashes over eight days if Manchester City win their FA Cup replay with Stoke next week and Sky Bet are offering some Terry v Bridge special markets on the encounters between the former Chelsea teammates.

Wayne Bridge is expected to snub John Terry's handshake when the two come face to face at Stamford Bridge a week on Saturday and they are 2/1 to shake hands at the end of a match this season. 5/1 is on offer for the former pals to swap shirts.

The pair have not spoken since the allegations of Terry’s affair with Bridge’s ex-girlfriend Vanessa Perroncel came to light and Sky Bet offer 3/1 that either player is booked for fouling the other during their Premier League tie on February 27 or potential FA Cup quarter-final clash (or resulting replay).

Sky Bet's football betting spokeswoman Helen Jacob said: "Bridge has maintained a dignified silence over the affair but shaking hands with Terry could be too much to ask.”

The England defenders will also meet-up ahead of the friendly with Egypt on March 3, although Bridge is said to be considering retiring from international football. Sky Bet go 5/2 that he announces his retirement this week.

Bridge is a strong contender to be included in Capello's World Cup squad as back-up for the injured Ashley Cole and is 6/1 to start at left-back against the USA on June 12.

Terry v Bridge Specials

Shake hands after the game 2/1
Booked for a foul against each other 3/1
Swap shirts after a game this season 5/1
Don't swap shirts after a game this season 1/10
Wayne Bridge to announce England Retirement by Feb 19th 5/2

February 15, 2010

Snooker player Stephen Lee arrested over match-fixing allegations

Snooker player Stephen Lee has been bailed following an investigation into suspicious betting patterns.

West Midlands Police confirmed the player, from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, and ranked number 25 in the world, was arrested on Thursday. A spokesman said: "A 35-year-old man from Wiltshire was arrested on Thursday 11 February on suspicion of cheating."

Mr Lee's agents On Q Promotions said he denied any involvement in cheating or betting irregularities.

West Midlands Police said the arrest followed a joint operation with the Gambling Commission over concerns about betting patterns and Mr Lee was released on bail on Friday afternoon.

His management said he was not expecting to be charged. A statement from On Q Promotions, Mr Lee's management company, said:

"Stephen Lee was taken to a West Midlands Police station for questioning on Thursday, February 11. Stephen co-operated fully with the police inquiry and was released without charge. He does not expect any charge to be made and denies any involvement with cheating or betting irregularities. Stephen is now concentrating on practising hard to achieve qualification for the World Championship and to fulfil all of his exhibition commitments."

The father-of-four was once ranked fifth in the world.

World Snooker, the commercial arm of governing body the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), said it was awaiting further developments.

"We are aware of the recent news articles concerning match fixing and are awaiting further reports," a statement said.

"In instances where the Gambling Commission commences an investigation into a match, the WPBSA works together with the commission to assist in its inquiries and the WPBSA will hold its own investigation open pending the conclusion. However, neither the commission nor the WPBSA will release information surrounding a betting matter while an investigation in ongoing."

Playtech to target FDJ, Italy bingo after Virtue Fusion buy

will position itself to supply a bingo solution to French monopoly Francaise Des Jeux (FDJ) if online bingo is legalised in France as expected after that market liberalises this summer.

Chief executive Mor Weizer said: “Bingo will play a key role in regulated markets and I think that what happened in Italy [where bingo was the second egaming vertical to be regulated] will happen elsewhere. I get that sense from France. FDJ has indicated that it will supply bingo if and when it is allowed. When it does, Playtech will position itself.”

The aim, which would see Playtech compete with Nyx Interactive, which signed a deal to supply FDJ with bingo in May 2009, follows Playtech’s acquisition of UK bingo business Virtue Fusion today.

It is part of Playtech’s wider strategy of focusing on regulated markets, which will also see the company position itself to capitalise on its new strength in bingo via ties with operators facing Italy, which is currently Europe’s biggest online gambling market. Bingo was regulated in Italy at the end of 2009, although a court then ruled that the decrees covering the vertical were illegal. The decision is being appealed currently.

Weizer said that the Virtue Fusion deal also fits with the company’s new ‘B2G’ or ‘business to government’ strategy of providing online products for state lotteries following the formation of Playtech’s Sciplay joint venture with US lottery supplier Scientific Games, which boasts 120 customers worldwide including UK National Lottery operator Camelot and the Chinese State Government. “It complements our B2G approach given that it will be the first product to be regulated,” Weizer said.

The deal with Virtue Fusion will swell Playtech’s existing bingo network, which has an average liquidity of 1000 players simultaneously, to an average of roughly 7,000. However Weizer denied that the decision to acquire the business implied that Playtech has concluded that it would be unable to reach that point organically.

“We could have done it organically, but time to market is expensive. Also, this was not just about investment: [the deal] also gives us access to some of the biggest bingo operators out there,” he said.

These include Bet365, Crown Bingo, Ladbrokes, Mecca, Paddy Power, Sky, Virgin and Playtech joint venture partner William Hill, which renewed its tie with Virtue Fusion last month. Weizer said that acquiring Virtue Fusion “strengthens our position with William Hill and our relationship” but highlighted the value of the purchase regarding new licensees too.

United States falls behind Canada in online gambling

Quebec, home of the Kahnwawake Gaming Commission, licensor of many forms of online gambling, has recently been given the go ahead to enact online gambling. By September of 2010, citizens of Quebec will be legally entitled to enjoy online gambling.

Canada had been one of the nations that had adhered to online gambling laws more judiciously, but Loto-Quebec had been working toward opening online gambling options to the residents. Loto-Quebec already offers online sports betting, but online casino gambling is set to open to the residents.

The Bodog brand of online casino hails from Canada, though has only recently become open to players within the nation.

Despite the government legalizing expanded online gambling, some Quebecois have already been crying out against the decision. Under the pretext that online gambling could lead to damage against pathological gamblers, these opponents have been up in arms. Proponents, however, attest that online gambling is already operating, and players who wish to do so will do so regardless of the law.

Loto-Quebec has stated that the licensed online gambling sites, different from USA online gambling sites, will be easier to monitor and limit to those who have a problem - whether they choose to admit or otherwise. Weekly wager limits, self exclusion, and strict adherence to age restrictions are all to be monitored.

Though some of the more open minded legislators in the United States have been pushing for the legalization of online gambling, only moderate success has been shown so far. Over the next few weeks, it is likely that the issue will be once again brought to light.

February 12, 2010

Gambling monopoly in Greece to be broken by European Commission

There are a few nations that realized the overall benefits that can be reaped for the immense gambling industry, both on and off line. Greece is one such nation and has been trying to protect its carefully constructed gambling industry from foreign sources for a while now.

Greek gambling law is pretty basic and approves gambling in many forms, but only in casinos. There are about 20 casinos in Greece, most of which are located on some of the islands which serve as popular tourist destinations. In a nutshell, the gambling industry in Greece is intended more for visitors as a source of revenue from outside the country.

Lotteries and sportsbetting in Greece are strictly controlled by the company OPAP, one-third of which is owned by the government. They have an outstanding monopoly that has been running solid since 1958 but they have yet to offer an online sportsbook in Greece.

Generally, internet gambling in Greece is not very popular. Players must rely on foreign sites to play online, but the Greek government would rather not see this happening. It’s in their interest to protect the monopoly that’s currently in existence so that they can maximize their profits.

The European Commission has noticed that Greece has been protecting this monopoly in a subtle manner. They repeatedly reject bids for a license on behalf of companies like StanleyBet who would like to break onto the market. As a result, the EC may start to enforce EU internal market rules in Greece.

February 11, 2010

France courts have no jurisdiction, say Bwin, Sportingbet, Unibet

acting for Bwin, Sportingbet and Unibet, three of the four defendants in a law suit brought in the French courts by a group of French casinos for alleged unfair competition, have called into question the right of the French legal system to judge them.

As reported earlier, casino groups Barrière, Joagroupe, Tranchant and Casinos de France trade union allege that the four operators offering casino games contravenes current gaming legislation and of new egaming laws set to come into effect in June, and are pursuing a symbolic payment of €1 damages, plus €30,000 to cover their legal costs, and will ask for the publication of the court’s judgement in the main French daily newspapers.

However Olivier Gutkes, acting for Bwin, said the use of the French language as one of the 22 languages available on the Bwin site “did not give the French judge the competence” to judge the complaint brought against his client, which operates from Gibraltar.

Martine Karsenty-Ricard, acting for Sportingbet, made the same argument, saying that as the operator’s servers were not based in France, the company could not be prosecuted in France.

Unibet’s lawyer, Dominique Santacru said the casino groups’ additional allegations of the four operators having deprived the French State of tax revenues and of not ’upholding the principles of player protection and fighting against problem gambling, fraud and money laundering’ are matters of public order, and the casino groups could not substitute themselves for the French State.

Santacru added that the plaintives could not claim a loss of financial income since they were not able to evaluate the exact amount of said loss.

In response, Thibault de Montbrial, representing the casino groups, admitted he was unable to establish the amount of the financial loss suffered by his clients since “no one knows the turnover of online casinos (taking bets) in France”. However, he insisted that offline casinos were “tributary of a public service”, as the French state awards the operating licences under strict conditions.

The legal tussle between egaming operators and the French land-based casino groups could help defining a national legal framework, such as was the case in the Santa Casa verdict published by the European court of Justice in September last year.

None of the defendants were willing to comment while the case was ongoing.

February 10, 2010

888, Bwin, Sportingbet, Unibet face French legal action

888, Bwin, Sportingbet and Unibet are being sued for “illegal competition” in the French courts for offering casino games such as slots, blackjack or roulette to French internet users.

The casino groups Barrière, which launching an online poker product with monopoly Francaise Des Jeux; Joagroupe, Tranchant and the Casinos de France trade union allege that offering the games is in contravention of current gaming legislation and of the egaming regulation set to come into effect in June, which prohibits licensed operators from offering online casino games to French players.

They also accuse the online operators of 'deliberately violating French legislation on games of chance' by not adhering to the strict parameters for operating casinos in the country, and of “depriving the State of substantial tax revenues, and not upholding the principles of player protection and fighting against problem gambling, fraud and money laundering”.

The casino groups are asking for a symbolic payment of €1m in damages, plus €30,000 to cover their legal costs, and will ask for the publication of the court’s judgement in the main French daily newspapers.

In other French egaming news, tax on fixed odds betting in France could be as much as half a percentage point higher than expected, if proposed amendments to draft gaming laws are approved by French politicians this month, while tax on horse racing could fall by the same amount and a ban on pre-pay cards be dropped.

Finland gets fussy about online poker adverts

Finland has a government-endorsed national gambling monopoly. All legal gambling in the country falls under the control of either RAY (Slot Machine Association), Veikkaus (mainly lotteries and sports betting), or Fintoto (totalisator). Any gambling services in Finland which are not operated by one of these three groups are operating without a state license, and are illegal.

Advertising any gambling company other than these three state entities is also a violation of Finland’s Lottery Act. In recent weeks, the South Karelia District Court in Lappeenranta has been dealing with a case that revolves around unlawful gambling advertisements. The offender is the company that produces the Finnish newspaper Metropoli, which ran adverts for a foreign-based online poker sites in Finland.

The case sets a new precedence for the control of foreign operators, who have become more and more forceful with targeting Finnish players in recent months. This has frustrated the government to no end, since Finnish gambling laws cannot be upheld across international borders – this means that players are free to utilize foreign-hosted gambling sites, and that the Finnish government cannot do much about it. Now, there is at least some legal recourse the government can take against companies that try to challenge the Finnish gambling monopoly through local advertising.

Finland’s gambling monopoly is contentious. While the three state gambling groups pour a large percentage of their annual EUR 2.5 billion profits back into Finnish society, the fact that the government is actively trying to prevent foreign internet gambling sites from reaching Finnish players is often seen as a breach of EU trade laws.

The source of the problem appears to be the lack of legally licensed online gambling sites in Finland. The government seems to understand this, as they just gave RAY permission to launch actual online casino games as well as internet bingo and keno – the first of their kind in Finland. These new services are expected to launch in August 2010.

Poker claims another sporting celebrity

Poker has become one of the most played card games in the world and has seen a high number of celebrities taking to both the live and the virtual tables in their bid for excitement and profit.

The latest to have fallen for the love of the game is seven times Wimbledon tennis champion Pete Sampras.

The tennis professional managed to raise his earnings while playing on the tennis courts, acquiring a huge $43 million during his time as a tennis professional. This amount of money would have set anyone up for life, but Sampras is looking to add a little more excitement into his spare time.

The tennis star revealed his love for the game while attending a VIP dinner that was hosted at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

According to San Jose news sources, the ex professional tennis star has already been playing poker in a tournament stage, saying that they can reveal that the player has been entering poker tournaments that present a buy in fee of $30,000.

It seems that sports stars are continuing to look to poker to fill their time after retiring from the sports that they earned their livings playing, with the likes of football’s Teddy Sheringham and cricket’s Shane Warne making the move over to the popular game.

Sampras isn’t the first tennis star to try to make a living playing poker either, Boris Becker and Yevgeniy Kafelnikov saw to that, taking up the game a number of years back.

The poker playing sporting stars are still to make big news within the poker community but with more and more players looking to hit the poker felts, surely it has to be only a matter of time until we see them flooding the major live poker tournaments?

It seems that the growth of poker is calling to even the people who aren’t looking to make quick money too.

Bwin and PartyGaming confirm merger speculation

Its been a long process that has been leaked into the gambling community via a number of sources but Bwin and PartyGaming have finally moved to confirm that they are holding talks regarding a possible merger deal that will see Bwin operate within the PartyGaming Network.

The confirmation means that the rumors that have been in circulation for almost 6 months were correct and the two companies will look to play off each other as they look to make the PartyGaming empire larger with the addition of the Bwin gambling brand.

Although both parties are happy to confirm that the rumors are in fact true, they are still refusing to make any real comment to the public while they are still trying to hammer out a possible deal between the two big players within the gambling market.

PartyGaming are believed to be linked with a number of other high profile gambling brands too, with the likes of 888, SportingBet and UniBet all also to be believed to be interested in a merger deal.

Should the company be able to secure deals that would include all four companies, the size of the network would increase significantly due to the number of members and users that each of the linked brands already have within their base.

Bwin also brings to the table advanced marketing, with their branding displayed in sports such as the English Premier League, increasing their brand awareness across the world.

This news could be soon to be made bigger still should the UIGEA be lifted in 2010, opening up the opportunity for a number of countries to wager bets through online gambling. Should this happen then we can be pretty sure that we will see the rise of a third major brand within the online gambling industry.

February 09, 2010

French casinos seek licence ban on 'illegal’ operators

The Criminal Court in Paris yesterday heard arguments in a case brought by three leading French casino groups, Barrière, Tranchant and Joagroupe, who are seeking a two-year licensing ban on foreign online gaming operators who are currently active in the French market.

The French casino operators filed complaints against at least 14 online gaming operators last year, including the likes of bwin, Unibet and Sportingbet. They accuse them of violating French law by serving French citizens online from overseas jurisdictions.

Emboldened by last year’s European Court of Justice ruling in the bwin / Santa Casa case, which found that a State may prohibit a foreign operator from providing gambling services in certain circumstances, the French operators are confident that the court will rule in their favour.

The casino groups are seeking a symbolic €1 in damages from the online operators, as well as a two year ban on them obtaining a French licence.

The online operators are expected to argue that the French courts have no authority to prohibit an activity protected by European principles of freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services.

The court case is expected to conclude on Thursday February 11th.

188Bet seals first Rugby League sponsorship deal

Continuing to invest in UK sports, in-play sports betting specialist 188Bet.com has signed a one-year partnership deal to become the official betting partner of rugby league football club Wigan Warriors, under which 188BET’s logo will also be displayed on the club’s home and away shirt sleeves for the 2010 season.

As the club’s official betting partner for the 2010 season, 188Bet will also offer match day betting services to fans at the DW Stadium as well as an online betting service for Warriors supporters.

The deal with Wigan Warriors represents 188Bet’s first sponsorship agreement in rugby league and follows a twelve-month period that has seen the company establish itself in UK sport, in particular Premiership football.

Last year 188Bet signed two shirt sponsorship deals with Premier League football clubs, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, while the company is also the official betting partners to Aston Villa, Chelsea, Liverpool, and rugby union side London Wasps RFC.

Wigan Warriors signed a headline sponsorship deal with Rank’s online bingo business MeccaBingo.com last year, with the Bingo brand displayed on the front and back of the Warriors’ home and away shirts.

“188Bet are already establishing themselves as a big name in professional team sports,” said Wigan Warriors Chief Executive Mick Hogan. “We are delighted that they have now extended their support to Wigan Warriors for 2010. Having listened to their future plans regarding sports sponsorship we are excited to be in partnership with them for the forthcoming season.”

“Having already developed a strong relationship with Wigan Athletic FC the company was keen to also associate itself with Wigan Warriors,” added Andy Scott, CEO of 188Bet. “The Club is a likeminded and progressive organisation with similar ambitious plans for the future that will allow 188Bet to enter into a new sporting sector. Wigan Warriors has a strong brand profile in England and internationally and we see them as the ideal partner and look forward to developing the association further.”

Wigan Warriors is the most successful and illustrious British rugby league club in history, mainly due to the club's successes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During this period the club won the Challenge Cup eight seasons in a row and the League Championship seven seasons in a row.

One of the most well supported British rugby league clubs, Wigan Warriors play their home games at the 25,000 all-seater DW Stadium.

China plans online gambling crackdown

China’s Ministry of Public Security has just announced plans to crack down on the country’s internet gambling industry. The attack will be made on two fronts: on one side, unlicensed gambling sites will be perused; on the other, the Ministry will go after underground banks which help players fund their online accounts.

The operation will begin already this month and is expected to continue through August. The crackdown comes after lengthy discussions that included input from the Supreme Court, the Propaganda bureau, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

According to Chinese gambling laws, most forms of gambling are illegal, and have been for more than fifty years. Two exactions to the rule are both state-operated lotteries. Despite this ban, online casinos in China are prolific, while underground gambling dens fill the back streets of the country’s metropolitan areas.

The main targets of the crackdown operation will be illegal banks and unlicensed payment processors that have been created to help players fund their online gambling accounts. These underground money transfer services only work with locally-operated gambling sites. The government still needs to find a way to contend with foreign-operated sites that target Chinese players.

Other targets include unlicensed gambling operators. The Ministry of Public Safety released a statement about their plans, and it seems they will be ruthless, with mentions of arrests and “severe punishment” setting the tone.

It is important to note that the crackdown does not target players. Only gambling operators and institutions which assist them are being investigated and shut down. More importantly, while the Chinese government goes after local sites, they have no legal jurisdiction over sites hosted in other countries, so Chinese players will very likely continue to use them.

PartyGaming to launch Foxy in Sweden with Virtue Fusion

PartyGaming is to launch its Foxy Bingo brand in Sweden, and has chosen Virtue Fusion to supply its bingo software.

Foxy joined PartyGaming in July when Party acquired UK bingo company and Foxy-owner Cashcade for a push into bingo in Europe.

Virtue Fusion’s Alderney-based bingo network boasts an average of 30,000 players a day, driving more than €100m ($137m, £88m) in total stakes each month, while other clients include Bet365, Crown, Gala, Ladbrokes, Mecca/Blue Square, Paddy Power, William Hill, Sky and Virgin.

PartyGaming’s bingo overseas marketing and business development manager Michael Brady said: “Virtue Fusion Alderney’s fantastic liquidity, combined with the rich quality of their online bingo provision is the big attraction for us.”

The plan to launch FoxyBingo.Se marks the company’s second foray into Scandinavia in weeks, after PartyGaming signed an exclusive five-year business-to-business (B2B) deal with Danish state lottery Danske Spil in January, one of the largest betting and gaming organisations in Europe with DKK10,955m (£1.32bn) of turnover and a customer base of more than 500,000 registered online customers.

Its expertise in the region was also boosted recently with PartyGaming’s hire of Per Widerström, the Swedish former chief executive of Swedish operator Expekt, to a newly created role of chief operating officer (COO) last week, just a month after Widerstrom left Expekt after difference of strategic vision with new owners, the Mangas Group in December.

February 08, 2010

Kahnawake hits back at Québec’s online gambling plans

The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has responded to last week’s decision by the government of Québec to authorise state lottery operator Loto-Québec to offer online gambling to the province’s residents, saying that the government has chosen to continue its “implicit demonisation of Kahnawake” instead of participating as partners with the Mohawk jurisdiction.

Kahnawake said that comments attributed to Québec Minister of Finance Raymond Bachand last week implied that the Loto-Québec initiative would negatively impact Kahnawake.

“Minister Bachand either does not understand how the online gaming industry works - or is simply using the opportunity to take a gratuitous swipe at Kahnawake for his own political reasons,” said the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake in a statement Friday.

Minister Bachand said last week that online gambling was a booming sector with Québec residents having access to some 2,000 gambling sites on the internet, with the government deciding to authorise Loto-Québec to offer online games of chance in order to combat the exponential growth in illegal online gambling.

“Loto-Québec is being given the responsibility of working to redirect this already existing but illegal gaming activity to a site that is secure, legal and trustworthy. I believe this to be an efficient way of fighting the underground economy,” said Bachand.

The Kahnawake Commission says however that by competing directly with established online gaming operators such as PokerStars, PartyGaming and Full Tilt Poker, it is difficult to understand how Loto-Québec’s “late and limited entry into the market will negatively affect, let alone ‘cannibalize’ these sites.”

Kahnawake said that Québec had failed to understand or deliberately ignored “the opportunities for synergy between Loto-Quebec and Kahnawake”, and questioned why Loto-Québec’s online gambling operation couldn’t be hosted from Mohawk Internet Technologies, a business created by the community’s band council.

Kahnawake goes further, suggesting that the Québec government could work with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to harmonise their regulations concerning online gaming, which would be consistent with the pledges that Québec made to Kahnawake in the “Statement of Understanding and Mutual Respect” in 1998 and again in 2009.

By deciding to legalise online gaming for its own purposes, Kahnawake claims that Québec had the perfect opportunity to participate as partners to advance the developing industry, but instead Québec has chosen to continue its “implicit demonisation of Kahnawake”.

Kahnawake said that unless Québec reconsidered its position, it would “colour the relations” that Kahnawake and Québec seek to maintain in other areas. The government of Quebec however does not recognise Kahnawake as a licensing jurisdiction, with the province's criminal code stating that only the provincial government is authorised to hand out gaming licences.

Loto-Québec said it intends to launch its online gaming site including poker during the third quarter of 2010, following the Québec Cabinet’s decision to formally sanction a change to the online gaming regulation last week.

Czech online gambling firms face foreign competition

While 2009 was a record year for online gambling sites in the Czech Republic, site operators are not pleased. Their numbers should have been much higher, they say, but because of outdated gambling laws and poor implementation of existing rules, foreign internet gambling sites are scooping up all the players.

Taxation is the biggest issue that is frustrating local operators. Online gambling sites based out of the Czech Republic must be licensed in order to operate legally. When they become officially registered with the state though this license, they also become subject to heavy taxation. Foreign gambling websites, however, are not subject to Czech tax laws, and are able to operate unhindered.

"It is an incredible situation," says Lubomír Ježek, a spokesman for the Czech Republic's highest-grossing betting agency Tipsport. "We have to pay all the fees and taxes on one hand, and, on the other, we have to compete with bookmakers who do not have any such obligations to pay taxes here."

Less tax means greater profits for foreign firms, which in turn allows them to create massive, influential advertising campaigns that target Czech players. This only serves to exacerbate the frustrations of local operators.

At this point, change can only come from the state, and everyone involved in the situation is acutely aware of this. But even the government is struggling, and no one is quite sure how to proceed with changes to Czech gambling laws.

"A new gaming bill has been on the table for a number of years, but with no success," said Finance Ministry spokesman Jakub Haas. "The new bill attempts to create common principles for all the types of gambling, so online gambling would not be otherwise disadvantaged."

Internet gambling operators in the Czech Republic currently pay 30% more taxes than any other business, and are also responsible for paying additional contributions for public purposes.

February 05, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV keeps American betting tradition alive

The 44th NFL Super Bowl will be held this weekend on Sunday the 7th and it will give US citizens a lot to reflect on. Since the Super Bowl was established people have been betting on it, and not a whole lot has changed since then.

One of the only differences between the Super Bowls of old and now is that, at this point, this epic clashing of teams is viewed from television sets the world over, instead of just in the United States.

According to American gambling laws, gambling on the Super Bowl is perfectly legal, provided that it happens in casino sportsbook operations. Las Vegas reportedly nets up to 100 times its usual bets on Super Bowl Sunday in comparison with any other days with football matches.

As previously mentioned, the Super Bowl is viewed around the globe these days, not just in the US. In order for everyone to bet, the internet is the most convenient and profitable location. Unfortunately, internet gambling in the United States can prove to be quite difficult.

There are plenty of online sportsbooks in the USA, but the government tries to make it difficult to place bets by regulating credit card traffic. US citizens can easily get around this by using some of the many recommended banking methods that are available online.

The online casinos that can be accessed from the US are actually based elsewhere, such as Britain, where such operations are permitted. Due to this, players from the United states can feel free to use them and have some fun.

Mastercard crackdown leaves US players unable to pay

US-facing operators have been hit by an overnight crackdown on online gambling payments by credit card giant Mastercard.

The US company is believed to have toughened its stance on the widespread practice of operators coding egaming transaction as other kinds of online commerce, which will all its US customers from using their cards to gamble online.

Rival US card giant Visa is rumoured to have taken a similar measure, although this could not be confirmed at the time of writing.

The action is a sign that banks and payment companies are preparing for implementation of America’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which bans the facilitation of online gambling by payment companies.

This was originally supposed to have been enforced from 1 December 2009, although the US treasury later approved a delay allowing companies until 1 June 2009 to comply.

The development will increase reliance on alternatives to credit card deposits such as those offered by EwalletXpress or Poker Echecks, which work similarly to traditional paper cheques but are issued electronically, allowing players to deposit and play from an electronic wallet.

Sites likely to have been hit by the Mastercard move include US sports betting giant Sportsbook.com, which today announced that it will leave the Cake Poker network to join Ireland's Merge Gaming network.

The action by Mastercard coincides with a federal appeals court ruling this week upholding a contempt order for refusing to comply with a grand-jury subpoena against two companies owned by Canadian Douglas Rennick, who is accused of processing more than $350m in payments for Internet gambling companies.

Uproar continues over PartyPoker play chips decision

The uproar over online poker site PartyPoker’s decision earlier this week to limit the maximum amount a person can have in their play money account continues to dominate discussion in the online poker community.

Earlier this week, PartyPoker took the step to cap earnings in the play money games to a maximum of 250,000 chips. When players woke up on Tuesday morning, many people who had built up millions of these chips through years of play found that their accounts had been reset. An earlier story on Poker News Daily this week stated that the PartyPoker wanted to “stop the transferring of chips from account-to-account outside of regular hands of poker,” according to the site's blog. In the same posting, PartyPoker was adamant about its decision, saying, “We will not reverse our decision.”

Seemingly behind the decision was the selling of play money chips outside of the playing arena on PartyPoker. As detailed in the story on Poker News Daily, some sites offered one billion chips for $400. This, in PartyPoker’s mind, made for inequities in the play money games.

In an e-mail that Poker News Daily obtained from a PartyPoker player, the site went into greater detail about its decision. “For the benefit of the vast majority of our play money players, we have taken the decision to restrict the maximum number of play chips any single player may earn to (250,000 chips) because a very small minority of poker players have been disrupting games by betting large amounts on any kind of hand,” the e-mail stated. “They may think it’s fun but it’s certainly not for other players who understand fair play and enjoy the fun and excitement of playing poker games for free.”

The e-mail continues with a statement that PartyPoker is looking to keep the games fair for all who participate on the play money tables: “We do not tolerate unfair play in any form, whether on our play money or our real money sites. This is for your benefit. This restriction does not affect Real Money accounts as their play money balance remains unchanged from one login to the next.”

The discussion of the move by PartyPoker has resulted in one of the most commented on stories in the history of Poker News Daily. Players related their experiences of how they had built up millions of chips, only to see them disappear in the move by PartyPoker. Several readers have angrily declared that they will no longer be PartyPoker customers.

Poker News Daily reader Troy stated in his comment, “It’s a shame, I really enjoyed the site. 30 Mil gone. So am I. Fortunately there are other sites. I will check back a few times over the next month to see if they re-think their policy otherwise I will never play there again.” Victoria, another Poker News Daily reader, wrote, “I cannot believe PP had done this without warning, it was a fun site. Now I am broke…(It) took me two years to build up my account. I was a loyal player here, not anymore. What a shame.”

Others involved in the Poker News Daily discussion stated that there could be legal action in the works. Reader Sweet Tee opened up this line of action in saying, “It’s a shame. We had to go to the U. S. Attorney General’s office and they recommended a law firm to file a class action suit again PartyPoker since (they) won’t listen. We will shut them down.” An e-mail sent to Sweet Tee was not returned.

According to Poker News Daily reader Frank Bruehl, the decision to strip play chip accounts down to 250,000 hasn’t affected those that have real money accounts on PartyPoker: “Why the real money accounts still got their play chips? (They) are able to build up more without getting reset to 250k?” A majority of the comments seemed to take PartyPoker to task for seemingly discriminating against U.S. players, who cannot play in the cash game tables on the site. Others detailed their enjoyment of the play money games for their camaraderie and physical inability to enter a live casino.

Poker News Daily has contacted PartyPoker regarding their policy change and were told by a spokesperson, “We have not had any real money players in the U. S. since October 2006, when the law changed. All play money players accounts have been capped. The reasons for the move were clearly stated and explained.” PartyPoker has also stated that this policy will not be reversed despite the backlash.

France weighs egaming tax changes

fixed odds betting in France when the online industry becomes legal this summer could be as much as half a percentage point higher than expected, if proposed amendments to draft gaming laws are approved by French politicians this month, while tax on horse racing could fall by the same proportion.

The levels of taxation for fixed odds sports betting for French-licensed operators will rise from 5.7% to 6.2% under the proposed changes, with horse racing tax dropping from 5.7% to 5.2% on players' stakes.

The amendments, which also include dropping a ban on egaming operators accepting pre-paid cards, will be debated in the French Senate on 23 and 24 February.

The tax rates proposed currently stand at 8.5% of gross gaming revenues for both fixed odds sports and horse racing bets, consisting of 7.5% of ordinary tax plus a further 1% ear-marked for sports funding. Yet while the new proposal would see them reduced, operators have always maintained that a tax on player stakes, rather than on gross gaming revenues, would prevent them from building viable businesses in France.

The changes are proposed by the president of France's Social Affairs Commission, Nicolas About, and its vice-president of the Commission for Culture, Education and Communication, Ambroise Dupont.

The higher rate of taxation for fixed odds sports bets is intended to ensure that funding for the French horse racing industry does not drop, Dupont has said, and that the pay-out ratio for pool betting punters can compete with the pay-out for fixed odds sports betting.

A further 0.3% tax on punters' stakes, capped at €4m, will also be levied on operators, with revenue raised directed towards funding the French Anti-Doping Agency.

Dupont said: "Even if the whole of the law had not been passed by the time of the football World Cup, there would be a grace period allowing operators to offer bets in France from that period. There will be a transition period to allow operators to offer bets in France in time for the football World Cup if the legislation is not ready in its entirety by June. The aim of such a measure is to ensure punters don't bet on illegal sites as is the case at the moment, and that licensed operators can start working in the best possible regulatory framework."

Changes to rates for fixed-odds betting will affect operators including the monopolies. Francaise Des Jeux appointed software company LVS to deliver a fixed-odds product this month that will see it compete against pools betting monopoly Pari Mutuel Urbain, which revealed it will offer fixed odds betting in May last year and signed a deal with Paddy Power’s Airton Risk Management arm to provide PMU with fixed-odds risk support in December.

February 04, 2010

FDJ and TF1 sign French TV deal ahead of June

Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) and TF1, France’s largest commercial TV channel, have signed an online gaming and sponsorship agreement ahead of the liberalisation of the French egaming market expected in June.

The three-year partnership will see FDJ, France's betting and lottery monopoly, sponsor a number of TV shows on TF1 and provide a dedicated egmaing space on the channel's website, TF1.fr, which has around 15 million unique visitors every month, according to a joint statement by both companies.

TF1 is part of the Bouygues conglomerate, which is also the parent company of Eurosport TV and SPS Betting, the egaming firm operating Eurosportsbet, and recorded a turnover of €2.26bn in 2009.

FDJ, meanwhile, had a turnover of €9.9bn in 2009 and is the second biggest lottery operator in the world behind Italy's Lottomatica.

The egaming site on TF1 will provide lottery and sports betting products to French punters and the channel's porgramming will include exclusive content related to betting and gaming sponsored by FDJ in time for the football World Cup in June.

The partnership will also give TF1 the opportunity to exploit some of FDJ's scratch card game formats, which represented around €3.8bn of the monopoly's turnover last year, with popular TF1 shows appearing on FDJ scratch cards.

Japan ranks #2 out of the top 10 countries with the most gambling machines

There’s an old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and the world of gambling seems to prove this true time and time again. This is especially the case in Japan, one of the world’s most gambling nations contrary the restrictive gambling laws.

Japanese gambling laws are quite prohibitive and only permit the following gambling methods: sports betting on horse racing, bicycle racing, motorbike racing and motorboat racing; the lottery, mahjong, pachinko and the new pachislo.

A poll was taken recently of the countries with the highest total number of gambling machines in the world. Out of the globe’s gambling Mecca’s, Japan came up in spot number 2! According to the survey there’s a gambling machine for every 26 people in Japan, a country with a massive population of over 127.4 million.

For a country with such restrictive gambling laws, the numbers seem somewhat contradictory, but it’s a fact – Japan is one of the world’s most gambling nations. Local governments regulate the industry and make a massive profit.

The newly introduced pachislo machines offer the Japanese a game very similar to the slots that gamblers play in America (which are illegal in Japan). The only differences between pachislo and traditional slots are the following: an LCD screen, a “skill stop” rather than an automatic stop, a spin knob instead of a handle, and predetermined payout for jackpots.

Because pachislo features a skill stop, it is considered a game of skill instead of chance, and is therefore legal. Outside of these machines and the other gambling methods permitted by law, the only other option available to citizens is internet gambling in Japan.

Online casinos in Japan are plentiful and offer lots of gambling opportunities to nationals. At online casinos the Japanese can enjoy a wide selection of games that are unavailable in their country. Because these sites are hosted in countries where online gambling is legal, the Japanese government has no jurisdiction over them.

Poland considers censoring internet

In the wake of recent chaos in Australia surrounding a government proposal to filter the internet, Poland is now considering the same. A bill has been drafted that would give the Polish government precise control over the internet, allowing it to deciding just how it may be used by Polish citizens. The government has been looking for ways to curb online gambling for several years, and they seem to have settled on this as the best possible solution.

Under the proposed law, access to several different categories of sites would be blocked, including websites offering certain types of pornographic materials, as well as all online gambling sites in Poland. A register of banned websites would be put together by a variety of agencies, but the management of the filters would fall to the Office of Electronic Communications. Once a new site is added to the filter list, internet service providers would be legally obliged to block the site within six hours.

Polish internet users are enraged, and are denouncing the proposal as blatant censorship. Groups are putting together petitions aimed at President Lech Kaczyński, urging him not to pass the bill. Even Facebook users are joining together in protest.

At the moment, online gambling in Poland is largely unregulated. There is a loose ban on foreign internet casinos, but it is not very strongly enforced – nor can it be, since foreign gambling websites sites are out of reach in terms of jurisdictional boundaries. Local casinos are pushing for the right to offer internet gambling in Poland, but have not made much headway in recent years. It seems Poland understands the potential that online gambling offers, and is trying to push away external competitors in an attempt to keep things local.

No response has come from the European Commission yet, but it is not hard to imagine that they will see this proposal as a breach of international trade laws. At this point, however, it is still too early to predict the outcome of this situation.

February 03, 2010

Betsson follows rivals into B2B space

Betsson has formed a business-to-business (B2B) division, the latest in a string of operators to do so.

The Swedish operator’s Betsson Business Solutions offshoot will offer both software solutions and support, and has appointed Jonas Konstantinov as managing director for the new company, who most recently served as an advisor at Scandinavian fashion website Nelly.com.

Before that Konstantinov has held roles as chief executive at Swedish digital television technology business Next Generation Broadcasting, as chief executive of Bulgarian TV broadcaster Diema Vision and as head of process at Scandinavian TV company Viasat Broadcasting.

Betsson follows rival operators into the B2B market including Bwin, which announced a new push on B2B via its OnGame Network this month; PartyGaming, which signed a B2B deal with Danish monopoly Danske Spil to supply online poker and casino this month in line with chief executive Jim Ryan’s view that B2B is a vital hedge against protectionism in newly regulated markets; Paddy Power, which launched B2B arm Airton Risk Management and signed a deal to supply France’s PMU with a sportsbook in November; and the 888 B2B arm Dragonfish, which launched in March 2009, which has won a string of B2B deals including with US casino giant Harrah’s in September.

Betsson president and chief executive Pontus Lindwall (pictured) said: “Betsson has proved to be at the forefront of online gaming. Now we would like to share our progress with partners to improve offerings and availability for the end users.”

Intralot enters Azerbaijan sports betting market

Greece’s Intralot has confirmed that it has received authorisation for Inteltek, the company’s Turkish joint venture with Turkcell, to offer fixed-odds and pari-mutuel sports betting games in Azerbaijan.

Inteltek will own 51% of the newly established company, named Azerinteltek, which will be based in Azerbaijan and will organise, operate, manage and develop fixed-odds and pari-mutuel sports betting games, including the provision of related services in the country.

Azerinteltek will operate sports betting on an exclusive basis at more than 1,000 points of sale countrywide for a period of 10 years.

“In the context of evaluating investment opportunities in various countries of the wider region, we decided to enter the promising market of Azerbaijan together with our respectable partner Turkcell, through our joint venture, Inteltek, which has created strong values and competences in the gaming sector and a clear expansion strategy outside Turkey,” said Constantinos Antonopoulos, CEO of Intralot Group.

“We are confident that we will manage to make sports betting an exciting experience for the people of Azerbaijan and create a successful operation, similar to the one we have established in Turkey.”

Situated in the Caucasus region of Eurasia at the crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Azerbaijan has a population of 9 million and a per capita GDP of US$9,900.

February 02, 2010

Gambling habits used as proof of man’s innocence in Canada

Canada is a geographically massive nation and it harbors many gamblers within its borders. The history of gambling has been all over the place, but rather liberal policies in Canadian gambling law are what may lead to an immigrant man’s freedom from questioning and imprisonment.

Terror suspect Mohamed Harkat, moved to Canada in October of 1995. Since then, he has been under surveillance and accused frequently to being a sleeper agent for al-Qaeda in Canada. Some of his behaviors, such as not turning in an alias to the authorities and meeting with well-known Bin Laden associates, lead government forces to believe that he is, in fact, a terrorist.

There are several factors to Mohamed Harkat’s life that his lawyers are attempting to use to prove the man’s innocence. He married and settled down with a Canadian and has contacted the police without reserve on three different occasions, drawing attention to himself that would not be favored in the event that he would be a sleeper agent.

Lawyers are also trying to use Harkat’s passion for gambling as a form of proof towards his innocence. Al-Qaeda is a group that is composed mostly of Islamic religious idealists of a rather extreme order, and such individuals would not participate freely in gambling, as it’s quite specifically against Islamic law to gamble.

Land-based and internet gambling in Canada are both legal at this point and enjoy a certain degree of popularity. Though the Canadian government doesn’t issue licenses for internet casino operation, the independent Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, located in Canada, is one of the largest online gambling centers in the world.

Harkat did not frequent online casinos in Canada, but visited the brick and mortar casinos within the country. He is currently on the fringe of being deported and will stand trial for up to 5 weeks as the government decides on his status.

February 01, 2010

Poland’s biggest ski resort fined for gambling ads

Zakopane, located in deep in the Tatra Mountains, is the largest ski resort in all of Poland. The country’s winter capital is facing heavy fines from the Customs Chamber for recently advertising a French online sportsbook called “Bet-at-home”.

During the recent FIS Ski Jumping World Cup events, which took place at Zakopane on the 22nd and 23rd of January, the “Bet-at-home” name and logo appeared on contestants’ outfits as well as on banners hung around the Wielka Krokiew ski jumping venue in Zakopane.

Recent changes to Polish gambling laws came into force on the first of January making this sort of advertising illegal. Zakopane now faces a fine as high as 1.2 million zloty (300,000 euro).

“If we pay the fine, not only won’t the World Cup bring any profit, but it will make losses,” said Lech Nadarkiewicz, the organizer of the World Cup events in Zakopane.

The Tatra Skiing Association is arguing that the advertising contract with the French gambling company was signed before the law changed, while Bet-at-home is arguing that Poland’s new gambling laws violate EU free trade standards.

The new gambling laws, it seems, are causing nothing but trouble. A few weeks ago, representatives of groups that operate online gambling sites in Poland filed a complaint with the European Comission, insisting that the Polish Economy Ministry violated EU procedure by changing their gambling laws without first passing them by Brussels for consideration. All laws related to the internet must be approved, and since part of Poland’s new gambling laws deal with online gambling, Poland may face fines from the EC.

Whatever the future of internet gambling in Poland, it is clear that the European Comission wants to be involved.

Operators in France escape player account shut downs

Operators in France such as Betclic, Bwin and Unibet will no longer be forced to shut down their player accounts before being granted a licence this year.

The measure to force operators wanting to be licensed in France to close their current French customers' accounts from the time the law is voted until the licences are awarded, which was passed in October 2009, has been revoked by the French Senate, Senator Franocis Trucy, the law's rapporteur for the Senate.

The Senate's finance commission began the final stage of examining the draft law last week with legislators working hard to ensure the text would be approved by the National Assembly in time for the regulation to be voted into law in April and licences granted by the football World Cup in June.

Trucy said: "The issue of the closure of French accounts is not in question [and] operators will be able to carry on working with French players between the law being passed and licences being handed out".

However penalties for sites that continue to operate in France once the regulation is in force will be increased, Trucy continued, and operators will instead have to transfer all their French customers to a .fr site once in possession of their licences.

"All those measures are solid arguments for the government to be able to sell the law to new entrants, who will be looking for assurances that the French regualted market will represent a viable commercial proposition,” he said.

There are likely to be further minor amendments, as "the Senate's finance commission will want to look at the conflicts of interest between different actors involved in the sports business and the regulatory environment," Trucy continued, which will include an amendment by finance commission president Jean Arthuis to set up a single specialist chamber or tribunal with the authority to enforce sanctions.

Trucy also expressed hopes that the French government will oppose a measure aimed at increasing tax on fixed odds sports bets in order to lower the high taxes set for horse racing pari mutuel bets.

France’s Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU) signed a sponsorship deal with Federation Francaise De Football, theFrench football federation, as the monopoly operator prepares for the liberalisation of the French market.