June 30, 2010

Androsch refutes Bwin/Party comments

Bwin’s biggest shareholder has issued a disclaimer of earlier comments he made to the Austrian press that the merger talks between Bwin and PartyGaming had collapsed.
Hannes Androsch, chairman of the supervisory board, was reported in Austrian monthly magazine Trend as saying: “It is true, that talks with the English company ultimately did not lead to the desired outcome.”

Bwin then issued a statement saying that Androsch had been “wrongly quoted” and that “he would like to clarify his statement as follows: ‘It is true, that up until now, talks have not lead to any specific outcome.’"

Speculation around a Bwin and PartyGaming merger first surfaced in December of last year, when both refused to confirm stories published in the Times and Sunday Times that merger talks between the two were ongoing.

Trend also reported that Bwin was now seeking a joint venture partner in the US, and was considering the sale of a minority stake of up to 11% to a San Francisco-based company.
Bwin's co-chief executive, Norbert Teufelberger, was also reported as telling the Austrian publication: "Bwin wants to tackle the task of entering the United States with a competent and local partner. We are holding talks to do this,"

The Austrian operator confirmed Teufelberger’s statement regarding the company’s intentions with regard to the US was correct, adding the statement from Androsch that: “We are acting from a position of strength and are under no time pressure."

June 23, 2010

California poker hearing set for 29 June

The hearing for California’s proposed intrastate online poker legislation has been set for Tuesday 29 June.

With Senate Bill 1485 given special order of business status, the California Senate Governmental Organization Committee, chaired by Senator Rod Wright, will hear the proposal authorising the creation of an intrastate poker system for state residents from 3:30pm.

The Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations (TASIN) yesterday however came out against the measures in their current form, including intrastate gambling proponents the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, which also signed TASIN's letter to Wright, the state legislature, tribal governments and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Morongo spokesman Patrick Dorinson told the Desert Sun they could not support the bill in its present form, as the bill went beyond poker and would not prevent offshore companies from bidding for up to three five-year contracts to run online poker sites for state residents. “It would take money out of the state. We said this should be a game for Californians, run by Californians,” said Dorinson.

TASIN's letter argued that Wright's legislation would irrevocably alter the gaming landscape in California and undermine the basis upon which state and tribal government decisions, including financial commitments, have been made.

June 22, 2010

Romanian bookies: all bets are off!

Thousands of bookies in Romania have suspended activity to protest a government draft law imposing a 25% tax on all gambling gains. The move is the second in a double blow to Romanian football lovers -- the national team didn't qualify for the World Cup.

Out of the country's 1,455 registered bookmakers, 1,400 are participating in the protest. They hope public pressure will force the government to drop the tax.

If the measure is passed, it could add more than 3m euros to state revenues in the next six months. The bookmakers, though, argue that thousands of jobs in the sector will be lost and people will switch to online gambling or illegal betting.

The blogosphere has joined the debate. "It seems normal to me to pay more. Just as everybody shows solidarity, willy-nilly, during the economic crisis, gambling earnings should be submitted to the same rules," says Partizanu on Gabriel Dima's blog.

"It's a big hoax here! The bookmakers used to do things in such a way that most of the earnings were under [150 euros] so that they avoided taxation. The state realised that in the meantime. So it is normal the bookmakers are now at a pinch because they stand to lose the dough," Sorin says on the forum of the Evenimentul Zilei daily.

"Another Romanian weirdness! The online bookmakers are seated abroad and thus the Romanian state loses its tax source because gamblers will resort to the online betting, as I will also do," Gusti added on the same forum.

With the bookies closed, the internet is the only option. "This morning, after I left the dentist, I went in the neighbourhood to place a bet. But as I opened the door, surprise, a sign said 'closed' and mentioned something about their strike. I didn't get angry, didn't kick the door, just went home and placed my bets while sitting in an armchair," says Florin M, who runs a betting blog -- Jurnal de Pariu (The Betting Diary).

Dante looks beyond the protest. "Let's get serious now! Don't let yourselves be deceived! [Bookies] are not fighting for us, but for themselves, because they are aware that because of the taxes people will migrate online and that scares them the most."

"I wonder what the logic behind this draft law is," Ronin asks on the same blog. "If the gambling business is going well, then money goes to the state budget. If they up the taxes, the bookmakers decrease their income and so happens to the contributions to the crippled budget," he argues.

"If a better gets less money than he invested, after paying 25% to the state, will he bet again? No, he won't, because he will have no financial motivation."

June 19, 2010

Everest Gaming sues Harrah's Entertainment Inc. again

In the gambling world there are little fish and big fish and every size in between and that goes for not only the players but the casino operators too. A not so small online poker operation has accused the really big Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. of infringing on it's trademark.

A dispute between Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.’s World Series of Poker and Everest Poker, has been stepped up a notch with Everest actually filing another law suit against Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

Ultra Internet Media S.A. the parent company of Everest Poker brought legal teams in back in April, bringing Harrah's into the federal court in Las Vegas, claiming Harrah’s breached a sponsorship agreement. Everest complained in that lawsuit that during broadcasts of the poker tournament in France by ESPN affiliate television network RTL9, the Everest Poker image was electronically replaced with the “virtual signage” of competitor Full Tilt Poker’s logo.
Harrah’s denied it violated the sponsorship deal and filed its own suit against Everest, charging breach of contract as well as other claims.

In the latest legal action by Everest Gaming Ltd., who claims ownership of the Everest Poker trademarks, contended that Harrah’s subsidiary Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment Inc. continues to use Everest trademarks during the 2010 World Series of Poker. The lawsuit maintains that, "The felt on the poker tables being used for the 2010 World Series of Poker features at least one of Everest’s Everest Poker logo trademarks," and "The Everest Poker trademarks also are on display at the Rio as large banners or wall posters, on the ‘inner rung’ of certain tables used for the 2010 World Series of Poker and on television monitors in the casino displaying the schedule of events." Everest Gaming, says in the litigation that, "the defendants are refusing to remove the trademarks in an effort to try to force payment by Everest for defendant’s use of such marks, and in order to bolster the legitimacy of the World Series of Poker in the minds of tournament participants, fans and the viewing public." Thus far Harrah's has not responded to the latest legal assault.

June 18, 2010

German football fans resort to foreign-based sports betting services

The World Cup is currently the top source of online sports betting, and many football fans and gamblers across Germany are placing their bets with private online companies registered outside the country. Since 2008, when Germany's State Treaty on Gambling was approved to reduce gambling addiction, online gambling through private providers has been prohibited and advertising of gambling services banned. Along a broad spectrum of regulatory policies in Europe, Germany falls into the category of an extremely restrictive regulatory model.

A new study shows the negative effects of the restrictive reform. Among them are sharp revenue declines, more use of gambling offers from abroad, and high fiscal slumps for the German state - totalling EUR2.4bn since 2005.

Altogether, the gross gaming revenue in Germany for 2009 amounted to EUR10.3bn, including both the regulated market (services that are permitted) and unregulated segments (private services, either having an unclear legal status or being forbidden). In 2009, the share of the unregulated market was one-fifth. If current trends persist, the share will reach almost a third in 2015.

Significant market shares are captured by foreign providers. At 94 percent, the foreign market share is by far the largest in the betting segment. Of EUR7.8bn in revenue, only about EUR240m went to regulated providers such as Oddset/DLTB football sweepstakes.

Massive revenue declines for state-run gambling providers can be observed. Wager revenue for the regulated lotto market fell by about EUR1.8bn from 2005 to 2009. Wager revenue for the sports betting service Oddset experienced the strongest decline, with a decrease of 60%, since 2005.

Senior Consultant Dr. Michael Schmid says, "Today, we find an extremely controversial political discussion. The upcoming renewal of Germany's State Treaty on Gambling in 2011 provides an opportunity to correct the law's undesirable effects, especially in the rapidly-expanding online gambling segment."

BetClic CEO: French authorities to toughen up on gambling law

With new French gambling laws now firmly in place and punters presumably enjoying the freedom of betting on World Cup games and poker legally, all that remains to be seen is how France’s authorities might react to now-illegal operators within the country. At least one CEO guesses that crackdowns will be coming soon.

Speaking yesterday on a panel at an online gaming industry conference known as EGR Live, BetClic CEO Nicolas Beraud stated emphatically that he is “waiting for the first actions today” from French law enforcement – though no such action was reported as happening. Beraud went on to state that French authorities had been telling “us for two years that they will be very aggressive with illegal operators and they will pursue and block them very quickly.”

Beraud and other experts have said that the expected punishment would involve advertising bans on unlicensed sportsbooks, poker rooms and online casinos in France.

Beraud went on to cite Italy as an example of an attempted failure to simply firewall off the offending websites.

Echoing an industry view, Beraud said that the main reason online casino operators might try to do business in France despite the new regulations was because of exorbitant tax rates. British bookmakers William Hill and Betfair announced their departure from the French market, citing unfair taxation practices.

The sweeping changes to gambling laws in France were put into effect on June 11, opening the French market to government-licensed foreign-based online gambling sites.

Austria approves new gambling law

After more than two years of debate, the Austrian National Assembly approved new gaming legislation Wednesday, despite strong criticism by some lawmakers of its failure to adequately address the issue of player protection or to regulate online gaming.

National Assembly member Peter Pilz of the Green Party, the only party to vote against the legislation, said the new gaming law only serves the interests of gambling operators and fails to provide adequate player protection. The legislation was also criticised by the Freedom Party of Austria for failing to regulate online gambling.

June 17, 2010

Spain World Cup loss has bookies smiling

With Wednesday's upset of Spain in the 2010 World Cup versus Switzerland, the bookies both in the UK and online are preparing to celebrate.

Spain is certainly not out of the World Cup but they have proven vulnerable.

Switzerland took the 1-0 lead at the start of the second half with a Gelson Fernandes goal in the 52nd minute. Spain and Switzerland were the last two teams to play in the tournament.

Spain must be able to beat Honduras and Chile to move into the next round. No team has won the World Cup after losing the opening match.

Bookmakers in the UK acknowledged early that British players were betting more heavily on the European champions and favorites Spain over their own England team. Spain was getting the most betting action across the globe.

June 10, 2010

PartyGaming's Danske Spil agreement faces cancellation after Playtech complaint

The Danish Complaints Board for Public Procurement has ruled that PartyGaming’s landmark B2B agreement with Danish monopoly Danske Spil “must be annulled”, after it upheld Playtech’s complaint that the proper tender process was not adhered to.

Danske Spil today announced that the Complaints Board had reached that conclusion on the deal between a specially formed subsidiary of Danske Spil and PartyGaming on the basis that neither the subsidiary nor the country’s egaming legislation existed at the time, meaning it had bypassed specific tender rules.

Danske Spil chief executive HC Madsen stated that Danske Spil had not tried in any way to bypass the rules. “As it was supposed to be entered by a newly formed subsidiary, which was supposed to compete on a partially liberalised gambling marked, we assumed that we were not obliged to perform a tender process as such, but chose a quicker and more flexible tender-like process instead.“
A spokesperson for PartyGaming however termed the setback “a technical blip. It’s quite common with government tenders for the losing party to appeal, which is what happened. It’s the first government tender we have been through, so looking back at the event, we would say we are more wiser”.

But the spokesperson declined to comment on the possibility Playtech’s challenge could delay PartyGaming’s deal to offer casino and poker into the Danish market on a white-label basis.

“We are very experienced at getting these things done quickly. It’s only June, legislation is not due to come in until January. If this was awarded whenever, we can get this going very quickly.”

June 08, 2010

Croatian police conduct arrests for football match-fixing

The Croatian police have arrested more than a dozen people in alleged match-fixing and betting scams in a nationwide anti-corruption operation, a police spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"We have arrested a large number of individuals in several Croatian counties," Krunoslav Borovec told the state radio, adding that arrests were continuing.

Local media reported that around 20 people were arrested in operation "Offside". In the past year Croatia has stepped up its fight against corruption and organised crime — a key condition for its EU accession talks — and some top managers and former government officials have been indicted or are under investigation.

Last November, police in Germany, Britain, Austria and Switzerland cracked down on a match-fixing ring in what UEFA, football's governing body in Europe, called the biggest betting scandal in Europe.

Some 32 matches in Germany's lower divisions as well as dozens of first or second division matches in Turkey, Belgium, Bosnia, Hungary, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia were under investigation.

Croatian soccer officials said at the time that only one match in the Croatian first division had been included in investigation.

It was not immediately clear if the arrests are related to last year's Europe-wide scandal.

Bwin, BetClic, Everest among first French licensees

Bwin has achieved the distinction of being the only non-French operator among the first wave of online gaming licences handed out by French regulator ARJEL this morning.

The Austrian operator received licences to offer poker and sports betting into the French market both directly via its BES SAS French subsidary and in partnership with media conglomerate Amaury Group. Mangas Gaming-owned Everest Poker was the only other operator with significant business outside of France among the 11 operators directly licensed by the French regulatory authority this morning.

Other major egaming operators now in the French market on a B2B basis via partnerships with licensed operators include PartyGaming, via its poker JV with PMU, Paddy Power through providing fixed odds pricing and risk management to PMU, and Unibet, providing pools-based sports betting via France Pari, announced this morning. Software provider Orbis is also providing PMU with its sports betting platforms.

Alex Dreyfus, chief executive of ChiliGaming, awarded a sports betting licence for its joint venture with French telecoms and internet service provider group Iliad, told EGRMagazine.com that the pair had worked “18 months on this project to be one of the first to have a licence.”

Dreyfus however added that the “very tough” technology and compliance requirements of the ARJEL meant they would not be ready to go live ahead of the football World Cup, which starts this Friday.

The ChiliGaming chief executive also remarked on the fact that only one non-French operator, Bwin, was in the first round of approvals. “I think it was a first filter. But they are going to issue more licences at the end of the month,” he added.

The full list of licence approvals this morning was as follows:

BetClic (BetClic.fr): pari-mutuel horse race betting, poker, sports– fixed odds and pool betting.
Beturf (Groupe Paris Turf): pari-mutuel horse race betting.
BES SAS (Bwin’s French subsidiary: Bwin.fr): poker, sports – fixed odds and pool betting.
Bwin/Amaury Groupe (Sajoo.fr): poker, sports – fixed odds and pool betting.
EverestPoker (EverestPoker.fr): poker.
France Pari (France-Pari.fr): sports – pool betting.
La Française des Jeux (ParionsWeb.fr): sports – fixed odds and pool betting.
Iliad Gaming/ChiliGaming (Chilipari.fr): sports – fixed odds and pool betting
Pari Mutuel Urbain (Pmu.fr): poker, sports – fixed odds and pool betting.
SPS Betting (Eurosportbet.fr): poker, sports – fixed odds and pool betting.
Table 14 (Winamax.fr) : poker.

French online рoker gets dealt bad hand in France

A slight hitch has come for those operators looking to provide online poker sites in France: namely, a slight delay in the issuance of licenses to June 28th. Licenses for foreign providers of horse race wagering and sports betting are expected to be released on June 11th – just hours before the 2010 World Cup kicks off.

While the draft law regarding changes to French gambling laws to allow foreign operators the legality to accept French online gamers at horse betting, sportsbook and online casino websites was approved by the French Parliament on May 13, the government of Malta had subsequently filed a complaint with European authorities over certain legal provisions regarding Internet poker in the law.

The Maltese government cited possible violation of the “freedom of goods and services” so critical to the European Commission in cases of government regulation of Internet gambling websites. A spokesperson for the French Regulatory Authority on Online Gambling (ARJEL) stated that the complaint was simply a formality, “a problem of European procedure” and that licenses for interested parties would be issued on June 11 as planned.

A maximum of 30 licenses may be issued under provisions of the new law and 20 gaming companies have applied, including names like Bwin, BetClic and Microgaming, all of which have applied for poker in addition to other licensing.

Some U.K.-based bookmakers such as William Hill and Betfair made announcements that they would be leaving the French market due to the unfairness of the new law. Betfair officially labeled the French regulations as “protectionist” and “not adequately (opening) the former monopoly's market to true competition from other operators.”

The online gambling law passed French Parliament with over 57% of the vote. At that time, issuance of licenses was targeted for some point before the World Cup – a goal the government will just barely make now, at least for sportsbook websites.

June 04, 2010

Betfair and Ladbrokes lose battle against Dutch monopoly

Betfair and Ladbrokes have failed to topple Dutch lottery and betting site De Lotto’s monopoly, following the decision published by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning.
The court’s ruling stated that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted, even if operators are licensed in other EU countries, until egaming laws are harmonised across the EU.

The judges said: “The mere fact that an operator such as the Ladbrokes companies lawfully offer services in that sector via the internet in another member state is not a sufficient assurance that national consumers will be protected."

Betfair however declared following the ruling that it will be applying 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, allowing Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.

The decision upholds the December opinion of Advocate General Yves Bot, and is the latest round in Ladbrokes’ and Betfair’s long-running battle with the Dutch authorities since 2005, when they ruled the operators stop taking bets from Dutch citizens, citing concerns with monitoring fraud.
Betfair also said in its statement today that the court’s reiteration of points from previous cases that online betting is more dangerous than traditional offline forms had been “made without foundation”.

Betfair’s director of European public affairs, Tim Phillips said: “Until we get a clear lead from the Commission, gambling consumers will continue to be told that their preferred leisure activity is the only one in Europe which doesn’t benefit from an open market. ECJ rulings are not addressing the simple fact that consumer choice between regulated products is being dictated to in a manner which no other industry has to accept.”

Philips however welcomed the European Commission’s announcement of a Green Paper on online gambling, which he hoped would provide “an opportunity to address these key issues.”
Today’s ruling acts as a guidance for the Dutch courts, which will need to reach a final decision on the case. Their decision is expected towards the end of this year.

June 01, 2010

California introduces long-awaited internet poker bill

California has introduced its long-awaited bill authorising the creation of an intrastate online poker system.

Senator Rod Wright, leader of the Senate Committee with oversight for gambling, introduced the amended version of SB 1485 late on Friday. The bill proposes the state's Department of Justice award up to three five-year contracts to California-based operators to run online poker websites for state residents.

The bill has been designated as an urgency measure, meaning it would go into effect immediately upon legislative passage and signature by the Governor. A non-urgency measure would not go into effect until 1 January 2011.

This urgency status of the bill reflects California’s pressing need for tax revenues to plug its huge and growing budget deficit, set to reach to US$19bn by the end of the current financial year.

Florida and New Jersey are the other cash-hungry US states currently considering intrastate egaming systems as authorised under the 2006 federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

The state and federal holiday on Monday means SB 1485 will appear before California legislators on Tuesday 1 June 2010, the day final UIGEA regulations compelling banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions to “prevent payments to businesses in connection with unlawful Internet gambling” come into force.

Wright’s bill differs significantly in its proposals to those in the bill for which California gaming tribe the Morongo sought a sponsor last year. This aimed to establish a single California poker site run by a consortium of tribes and card rooms, and stalled amid accusations from other tribes that the Morongo was looking to dominate online poker alongside the card clubs.