July 29, 2010

PartyGaming to merge with bwin

PartyGaming and bwin Interactive Entertainment plan to merge, creating the world's largest listed online gaming business.

The enlarged group will be owned approximately 48.36% by PartyGaming and and 51.64% by bwin shareholders and will be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Irrevocable undertakings in support of the proposed merger have been received from shareholders holding 28.5% of PartyGaming and 14.4% of Austrian-listed bwin.

Jim Ryan, CEO of PartyGaming, said, 'This is a transformational opportunity for both our companies to create the world's largest listed online gaming business.

'With market-leading positions in poker, sports betting, casino and games (in particular bingo), the enlarged group will have a winning formula to exploit the growing online gaming market, supported by a strong balance sheet, significant cashflow generation and a highly experienced management team.'

Norbert Teufelberger, co-chief executive of bwin, said, 'This merger of equals makes great strategic, operational and financial sense.

'We will be in pole position to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities that will flow from the continued evolution and expansion of the global online gaming industry.'

Ryan and Teufelberger will jointly head the merged group.

The merger is expected to be significantly earnings enhancing for both companies pre-amortisation. Annualised synergies are estimated at 55m.

Pro forma 2009 net gaming revenue was 682m with EBITDA of 196m before synergies.

The proposed merger will be effected by merging bwin into PartyGaming, which will continue to be domiciled in Gibraltar.

bwin shareholders will receive 12.23 new PartyGaming Shares for each bwin Share. The merger is classified as a reverse takeover for PartyGaming under UKLA rules.

Abandoned betting accounts may be used to fund UK sports

The UK government is to compile a report into how much money is left abandoned in betting accounts, with a view to the proceeds being used to improve public sports facilities and clubs.

The review stems from a pledge in the Coalition Agreement to look into the best use of abandoned betting accounts. Work will be done to determine how a betting account can be classed as 'dormant', and to clarify legal ramifications surrounding the potential uses of the money.

John Penrose, UK minister for Tourism and Heritage, who has asked MP Don Foster to compile the report, said. “Every day thousands of people bet on the outcome of sporting events. Therefore it seems a natural fit that funds from abandoned betting accounts should be used to benefit grassroots sports projects.”

Foster added: “I’ll be meeting representatives from all parts of the industry to gain views and suggestions on how this can work. It would be great to see some local sporting facilities and initiatives getting some extra funding in these difficult financial times.”

Foster will present his findings, along with a possible proposal of new legislation, by the end of the year, with a formal consultation process to follow.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the UK government department tasked with oversight for the UK gambling industry, said customers would still be able to reclaim their money at any time, as long as they were able to prove their right to it.

July 28, 2010

Dinamo Zagreb under investigation for match fixing

Croatian Minister of the Interior Tomislav Karamarko on Monday confirmed that the Croatian police were continuing cooperation with their German colleagues in an investigation into the rigging of First Croatian Football Division matches, declining to comment on media reports that Zoran Mamic, sports director of the soccer club Dinamo Zagreb, was under investigation.

"The operation Offside is still in progress and it would not be good to give any comments or prejudge anything. We are cooperating with our German colleagues in the case," Karamarko told reporters.

The media have reported that German prosecutors suspect Mamic of fixing the national cup's first final match between Dinamo and Hajduk last year. The Sportske Novosti paper on Sunday reported that German prosecutors have evidence that Mamic, referees and the-so called betting mob had fixed last year's first final cup match in which Dinamo beat Hajduk 3:0. The report was carried on Monday by almost all domestic media.

Ante Sapina, a Croatian living in Germany, has been linked with this case. Sapina has been involved in several scandals regarding match fixing and he reportedly earned 1.4 million euros on the Dinamo-Hajduk match. The German state prosecutor's office in Bochum, which is investigating match-fixing scandals, today would not either confirm or deny reports in the Croatian media, and the Croatian anti-corruption agency USKOK would not comment either.

Dinamo issued a statement today condemning in the strongest terms illegal betting and match fixing, describing media reports implicating Mamic as dangerous and destructive.

Based on data provided by the German police, the Croatian police last year launched an operation called Offside, arresting 22 sport workers and footballers for fixing matches for personal gain. Three of the alleged organisers of the scam remain in custody.

July 22, 2010

Everest joins BetClic as Lyon sponsor

Everest Poker has joined BetClic as shirt sponsor of top-tier French football team Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon).

The Everest Poker logo will appear on the away kit of the French Ligue 1 team, while that of Mangas Gaming-owned BetClic will continue to appear on the strip at home games.

Sandrine Mangia-Park, director of Everest Poker France, said: “By becoming a sponsor of Olympique Lyonnais, we want to associate the sport values of the poker community with those of Lyon's football team: playing the game responsibly and respecting their partners”

The sponsorship represents Everest’s first move into football sponsorship since it was bought by Mangas Gaming last December, as the brand looks to take advantage of the relaxation of advertising restrictions on egaming operators following the re-regulation of the French poker market last month.

Other Mangas Gaming owned operators BetClic, BetAtHome and Expekt have pursued a slew of football sponsorships across Europe in recent years. BetClic also sponsors French champions Marseille, Juventus and no less than 13 Portuguese teams

Bettorlogic’s in-play betting boosts bookmakers

Bettorlogic, the form analyst company backed by Andrew Black and Nigel Payne, said this week that the company’s new in-play betting stimulation product, Livelogic, has increased sportsbook click-through rates during World Cup matches by over 300 per cent.

Livelogic generated around 40 ‘bet prompts’ per match, every five minutes or when a goal was scored, identifying patterns based on what was happening in the match at the time.

The output featured prominently within the homepages of leading bookmakers including the likes of Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Stan James, Victor Chandler, as well as media group Talksport, with live prices and links to a range of relevant in-play markets.

According to the company, an average click-through rate (CTR) of 1.9 per cent is achieved when using a non-Bettorlogic in-play bet prompt control, while analysis revealed an average Livelogic CTR of 7.7 per cent, with a high of 10.06 per cent during the France v Mexico match.

“This has added to the already sizeable body of research confirming that Livelogic is very effective at encouraging customers to bet in-play,” said Mike Falconer, CEO of Bettorlogic. “We think it's a major innovation in sector and applying these kind of performance increments across 44 football leagues makes it a very powerful proposition indeed.”

July 19, 2010

William Hill in talks with Malaga FC over sponsorship deal

William Hill is currently in talks with Malaga Football Club, following reports that the operator’s sponsorship deal with the club is to be terminated.

New club owner Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani of Qatar was reported by Bloomberg last week as planning to replace William Hill’s shirt sponsorship of Malaga CF, as gambling is against the laws of Islam.

William Hill spokesperson Kate Miller however today refused to confirm reports that the Sheikh planned to replace the bookmaker with another sponsor. “We are aware that there is a new owner of Malaga football club and we are currently in talks. We are still the main sponsor of Malaga FC,” she told EGRMagazine.com.

William Hill’s statement followed Abdullah Ghubn, a business associate of the Sheikh, telling Bloomberg: “We don’t want to turn everything upside down and cancel contracts but let’s put it this way: I’m a smoker but I don’t smoke in my home because these are the rules and I want to protect my family.”

William Hill’s contract with the Spanish La Liga club runs until 2012, potentially raising legal issues if the Sheikh moved to sever the deal prematurely.

Sheikh Abdullah purchased the club in June for €10.5m, which included the club’s €36m debt.

July 14, 2010

888 gets French licence

888 has received a licence from French regulator ARJEL for its joint poker network with Microgaming targeting the French market.

Also licensed by ARJEL was the first operator scheduled to launch on 888 and Microgaming’s new network, La Société Française des Jeux sur Internet (SFJI).

SFJI was established in May of this year by 40 independent land-based casinos in France to launch a poker offering, most likely under the 200pourcentpoker brand.

SFJI is also the first deal for Spiral Solutions France, Spin3 parent company Spiral Solutions’ B2B partnership with land-based casino supplier Santa-Maria Group targeting the French poker market.

888 joins Bwin, PartyGaming, PokerStars, Bwin, BetClic and Everest as major operators now licensed in the re-regulated French market.

New Bollywood-themed bingo site shows Indians still gambling online

epresentatives of the JackpotJoy bingo network recently introduced the site BollyBingo.com, an extravagant attempt to appeal to citizens of India both living in the U.K. and on The Subcontinent. After years of scandal and government attempts to control Internet gambling in India, the market just keeps growing.

BollyBingo seeks to target Indians through the film genre, posting trailers and soundtrack clips from the latest Bombay productions – already reportedly to great success with Indian customers living all over the world now playing on the site.

Even after wide-ranging scandals in the national cricket league which were related to illegal gambling rings in the late 1990s/early 2000s, gambling law in India hasn’t budged an inch since the independent formation of the country in 1948.

Controversy even erupted again recently when claims of illegal betting arose during the IPL Twenty20 tournament in April, resulting in the suspension of the league’s president. At that time, the Times of India ran a poll which showed that 74% of respondents favoured online gambling becoming a regulated industry.

Currently, in the whole of India only two states allowed land-based gaming and, under India’s vague laws, online gambling is thought to be against the law but no penalties are provided and no legal moves have ever been made by state authorities against private parties for gambling online.

India’s online gambling market is estimated to be worth over $1 billion per year, all of which goes to foreign-owned website operators. (s)

July 13, 2010

Betfair becomes sponsor of British Athletes Commission

The British Athletes Commission (BAC), an independent organisation representing the interest of athletes in Great Britain, has signed a three-year agreement with online betting exchange Betfair in order to educate and raise awareness about betting related issues in the sport.

The agreement establishes Betfair as the BAC’s first ever official sponsor, and follows a consultation process of elite sport by the BAC. The BAC said that it became apparent that not enough was being done to educate athletes on the potential risks posed by an increase in betting on Olympic and Paralympic sport. The BAC approached Betfair, who agreed to assist practically in addressing the problem.

The two organisations will seek to educate and raise awareness among elite athletes in all Olympic, Paralympic and world class disciplines about betting related issues and the role they can play in preventing corruption in their sports. Betfair will assist the BAC in producing educational materials as well as presenting at its annual conference.

“The BAC is delighted to announce Betfair as its first sponsor, their support will be vital in ensuring athletes receive a key strand in their ongoing education, as Olympic and Paralympic sport becomes ever more professional,” said Pete Gardner, Chief Executive of the BAC.

The BAC acts as the unified voice of all Olympic, Paralympic and world class funded athletes in Great Britain. Before becoming a separate group, the commission was part of the British Olympic Association as the British Olympic Association Athletes Commission.

“At a time when the IOC has just agreed on a series of recommendations for Olympic sport, I am delighted that the BAC will be working with Betfair to educate British athletes across all Olympic, Paralympic and World Class sports in how they can prevent corruption and protect the integrity of sport,” said Karen Pickering, BAC Chair.

David Yu, Chief Executive of Betfair added: “We are delighted to be working with the BAC, a vital step in our on-going efforts to safeguard the integrity of sport. We have seen that there are very few integrity issues when betting on sport is entirely transparent and when sportsmen and women understand the rules in place and penalties for breaking them.

“This partnership gives us a unique opportunity to work together in educating athletes about this issue in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.”

July 12, 2010

Betfair's US prospects boosted as NJ Assembly approves exchanges

Betfair's goal of launching in the US has inched closer after the US state of New Jersey’s General Assembly unanimously approved the exchange betting model used by companies such as Betfair and Betdaq.

The approval means by the General Assembly, the junior house in the state's two-house legislature, means the measure to approve exchange betting will now appear before the Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation committee of the Senate, the senior house; although both the Senate and Assembly in the north eastern state have now disbanded for the summer recess.

Betfair has sought to position itself in the US ahead of any future move to legalise online sports betting there, sponsoring numerous racing events, acquiring US TV horseracing and online betting business TVG Network for $50m in January 2009, investing in fan community business Watercooler in October 2009 and signing a deal the same month with America’s Breeders’ Cup to allow Betfair customers to bet directly into US tote pools.

July 09, 2010

FIFA issue match-fixing statement

The announcement comes in response to the BBC's revelation that FIFA had received warnings, before the start of the competition, that the Super Eagles could be "vulnerable" to potential attempts to sway results.

The governing body have not denied being given such information, but stated that their own subsequent investigations have shown no evidence of any wrong-doing.

"FIFA and the Early Warning System (EWS) have a network of informants from which we receive information," read the statement

"Of course, as you may understand, we will not disclose the identity of the informants. What we can say is that at least until today no information provided by the informants to FIFA in relation to any potential match-fixing activities during the 2010 FIFA World Cup have proved to have any substance.

"Furthermore, we can also say that there is no indication whatsoever until today of any match-fixing situations during any of the matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup."

July 02, 2010

Football player murdered in Södertälje shooting

Eddie Moussa, a player with Swedish second division football club Assyriska was one of the two men shot dead in a gambling club in Södertälje near Stockholm on Wednesday night, according to a statement on the club's webpage.

The Superettan club was due to play an away match against Ängelholms FF this evening but the match has been cancelled, according to a statement on the Swedish Football Association homepage.

Police are continuing their search for three men seen leaving the premises by moped shortly after the shooting which, according to a report in the Aftonbladet daily, could have been an criminal underworld hit.

"It occurred in the Ronna shopping precinct, in Café Oasen," said Johan Sjöholm at Södertälje police to news agency TT on Thursday morning.

The premises where the men were shot is a known gambling club.

"With regards to gambling clubs problems emerge from time to time. It can't be ruled out that the shooting concerns gambling debts," said Björn Engström at Stockholm police.

Police received a call over the shooting at around 2.20am on Thursday morning. Police officers from across the county have been called in to assist the search for the three men.

According to witnesses three men came into the premises and began shooting, according to Mari Olofsson at Stockholm county police.

Police believe the perpetrators left the scene by moped, but witness testimony is unclear on this point. The moped was later found in the area, after having been set alight.

"We are going through all the information now, we shall then decide which direction to take the investigation. The victims have to be identified and relatives informed," Engström said.

The condition of the third victim, who is being cared for at Södertälje hospital, is reported by the police to be stable.

Eddie Moussa is a Swedish and Dominican citizen of Lebanese-Assyrian extraction. He played his debut for Assyriska FF, a club which played one season in Sweden's Allsvenskan top-flight after winning promotion in 2004.

The club, which was founded only in 1974, has a large following in Södertälje and is considered by many to be a substitute national team for the Assyrian people.

July 01, 2010

Fuji Xerox cuts sumo sponsorship amid betting scandal

Fuji Xerox became at least the fifth company to pull its sponsorship of Japan’s sumo wrestlers as the sport’s governing authority battles to stem the fallout of a betting scandal.

Japan’s biggest maker of color copiers yesterday canceled prizes for winning wrestlers worth 540,000 yen ($6,100) for a tournament scheduled to begin July 11 in Nagoya, central Japan. It follows decisions by Nagatanien Co., Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Co., IHI Corp. and Natori Co. not to sponsor the event.

Japan’s sumo association this week suspended Chairman Musashigawa and 13 wrestlers after some members admitted to illegal gambling on baseball matches. Organizers are protecting $96 million in tournament sales and guarding against damage to a sport already hurt by allegations of assault, trainee abuse and drug use.

“The association is paying for its failure to take adequate measures to address various incidents in the past,” Sports Minister Tatsuo Kawabata told reporters in Tokyo June 29. “The fate of sumo, with a long history, hinges on efforts by the association from now on.”
Kawabata said he was concerned about links between the sport and organized crime, including allegations that stablemasters gave front-row tournament tickets to gangsters.

An investigative panel commissioned by the association has recommended that at least two members be expelled for their involvement in gambling.

The association should replace Chairman Musashigawa with someone able to remove the influence of “socially threatening groups,” panel member Shigeru Ito told reporters on June 27.

Fuji Xerox, a unit of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., has provided 9 prizes at each tournament held this year. Each prize is worth 60,000 yen, with the majority of the funds going to the winning wrestlers. Sponsors can provide multiple prizes per bout, and their names are displayed on banners carried around the ring and read out before matches.

Fujifilm, which owns a 75 percent stake in Fuji Xerox, declined 1.7 percent to 2,545 yen at the 3 p.m. close on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. IHI dropped 2.1 percent to 140 yen. The benchmark Topix index fell 1.6 percent.

“We judged there is a social impact” from the involvement of wrestlers and stablemasters in gambling, Fuji Xerox spokesman Masaaki Bando said today.

IHI’s boilermaker unit also decided to cancel its 12 prizes at the Nagoya tournament, spokesman Keiichi Sakamoto said by phone today.

The sumo association has no comment to make on the withdrawal of sponsors, a spokeswoman, who declined to provide her name, said yesterday.

Asahi Broadcasting Aomori Co. this week canceled a plan to hold a one-day sumo tournament in August because of the controversy.

Public broadcaster NHK, which has aired every major tournament since 1953, has said it may cancel coverage of the Nagoya event unless the association takes “sufficient” measures to address the gambling issue.

The sumo association forecasts annual sales of about 8.53 billion yen this year from six tournaments, according to a report on its website.

Morinaga & Co. may also cancel its award, which is given in a tournament in September, spokeswoman Kaoru Nakamura said today.

McDonald’s Holdings Co. Japan isn’t considering canceling its sponsorship, said spokesman Kazuyuki Hagiwara today. The burger chain installed a custom-made seat to support the weight of wrestlers at its restaurant near Tokyo’s sumo stadium after it started sponsoring the sport last year.

Dragonfish signs deal with MTV

Dragonfish, the B2B division of 888, has signed a deal with MTV Networks UK & Ireland to provide a bingo product.

The launch of the bingo offering, which will initially be a skin on the Dragonfish network, will be MTV Networks’ first step into online gaming.

The new brand, Up Your Bingo, will receive exposure across the existing MTV and VIVA network, both through the television channels and online. The offering will go live this month to include instant liquidity, customised design, hosting capabilities, and a network management service.

Philip Bourchier O’Ferrall, senior vice president, Digital Media, MTV Networks International, UK & Ireland, said: “At a time when the market for online games and virtual worlds is continuing to grow, collaborations such as this one provide responsible and enjoyable gaming opportunities for our audience.”

Acting managing director of Dragonfish and 888 chief executive Gigi Levy, said: [W]e wish to form partnerships with market leaders from other business sectors seeking to monetise their assets. MTV Networks is an internationally renowned brand, and we are proud to launch their first entry into online gaming."

It follows Dragonfish’s extension of its deals with Costa Bingo and PartyGaming-owned Cashcade, the operator of Foxy Bingo.

Japan sumo gambling scandal highlights yakuza links

Japan's police chief has vowed to smash the murky links between sumo and yakuza organised crime after a widening scandal over illegal gambling led to the arrest of a former wrestler.

The biggest scandal to tarnish Japan's ancient national sport in years has led big-name sponsors to pull out millions and put in doubt whether national broadcaster NHK will show the summer tournament next month.

Governing body the Japan Sumo Association has said 29 unnamed wrestlers had admitted to illegal gambling, although media reported that 36 others also had bet on cards, baseball, golf and other pursuits.

As investigators seek to untangle the links between the big boys of sumo and the bad boys of the Japanese mafia, police on Thursday arrested a former wrestler, Mitsutomo Furuichi, 38, on extortion charges.

Furuichi, who reportedly told police that he is a former gangster, allegedly demanded hush money from a sumo wrestler who had been involved in widespread gambling on baseball matches and other sports.

"He is suspected of blackmailing the victim... and received 3.5 million yen (39,000 dollars) in cash," a police spokesman told AFP.

Media reported the victim of the extortion attempt was wrestler Kotomitsuki -- ranked second only to the yokozuna, or grand champion.

"We have to clean yakuza crime links out of the sumo world," said National Police Agency chief Takaharu Ando after the latest news to tarnish the sport that has been at the heart of Japanese culture for 2,000 years.

Those links became apparent last month when sumo officials were disciplined after it emerged that they had given ring-side seats at a sumo tournament to top bosses of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest crime group.

Because NHK broadcasts of tournaments are shown in Japan's prisons, the ring-side seats allowed crime bosses to send a silent message of support to their members doing time behind bars, commentators said.

The sumo association censured those who made the tickets available to the gangsters -- but the case highlighted connections between two of Japan's most macho and mystery-shrouded institutions.

Sumo, based on ancient Shinto rituals, puts its wrestlers through punishing workouts and an austere and strictly hierarchical lifestyle in the isolation of their 'sumo stables'.

Once populated by tough country boys, and increasingly by foreign-born wrestlers, it is a world of 3am roll calls and gruelling workouts where only the toughest fighters last to reach the top.

About 90 percent of stables have allowed beatings of trainees and punishments such as forcing salt or sand into their mouths, the sumo association has said.

Many Japanese were shocked by the 2007 case of a stable master who ordered the "hazing" of a 17-year-old wrestler who died after being beaten with a beer bottle and a baseball bat. The stable master was jailed.

While sumo is a tough and cloistered world of male athletes, the true bad boys of Japan have long been the yakuza, whose heavily tattooed gangsters have spawned numerous movies, manga comics and fanzines.

The yakuza, who trace their roots to samurai gone astray during the 17th-century Edo period, traditionally relied on gambling, prostitution, loan-sharking and protection rackets as their bread and butter.

In recent decades they have turned to money laundering, deposit fraud, cybercrime and extorting huge sums from blue-chip companies by threatening to show up at their shareholder meetings.

They have operated relatively openly, entertaining close ties with politicians, and police have tolerated their existence as long as they have stayed on their turf and kept down street crime.

Amazingly for outsiders, yakuza groups themselves are not illegal and openly operate from large corporate headquarters.

Japanese organised crime counts about 82,600 members, according to the National Police Agency -- nearly half of them with the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, dubbed the "Wal-Mart of crime syndicates".

Sumo and Japan’s porous gambling ban

One intriguing legal quirk behind Japan’s escalating sumo scandal: if the wrestlers had bet on soccer instead of baseball, they wouldn’t have broken the law.

In general, gambling, or “tobaku” has been banned under the criminal law enacted in 1882 after the Meiji restoration in order to nurture a work ethic. In a famous 1965 case, a Tokyo high court judge upheld betting limits, writing: “the main idea of having a law prohibiting gambling is to protect a healthy sense of economy among the people.”

But exceptions have cropped up over the years.

Horse racing was legalized in the early 20th century to help produce faster and sturdier horses that were useful for wars.

Betting on racing by bicycles, motorcycles, and motorboats was allowed just after the war in order to allow impoverished citizens to dream about getting rich quick, “which they had no way to do on their own,” wrote Akihiko Sasaki, an economic professor of Kyushu Kyoritsu University, in a 1999 book on public gambling.

Officials also saw legally sanctioned gambling as a way to raise revenues — and betting on those sports still helps the central government, and many local governments, saddled with deficits. In this fiscal year ended this past March, Japanese governments reaped about 4.7 trillion yen ($52 billion) in revenues from public sports, and over one trillion yen ($11 billion) from public lotteries.

The sports lottery “toto” – named after the Italian soccer lottery “totocalcio”― to bet on Japanese professional soccer games was introduced in 2001. Revenues are spent on sports facilities and to train sports teachers.

Then there’s pachinko. Players can go to the ubiquitous Japanese pinball parlors and make money. But that’s not “gambling,” by the lights of the law, since the cash prize is not handed out to winners inside pachinko parlors. Instead, players get winning tokens inside the parlors, then redeem them for cash at a nearby booth outside operated by someone else.

Now, casino gambling may be coming to Japan, to lure more tourists and generate more government revenue. A group of 73 lawmakers across different parties is considering submitting a bill in parliament this fall to legalize casinos in Japan.

The Osaka governor visited casinos in South Korea and Singapore early this year as part of his campaign to build one in Osaka. The Chiba governor has proposed building a casino next to Narita International Airport.

That has drawn critics, still steeped in the Meiji-era antipathy toward gambling. “Everyone will stop working hard,” one blogger wrote in April after the group of lawmakers formed to promote legalizing casinos. “Is there any country that has prospered because of gambling?”

Anticipating such concerns, Katsuaki Ishii, a manager promoting the airport-area casino told JRT that the casino would only be open to foreigners so “it won’t affect Japanese.”