October 30, 2010

Nordic Gaming Group to offer pool betting via Kambi

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2010

France: Ladbrokes out, Unibet in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PokerStars teams up with FOXSports

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

The PokerStars.net poker portal and game application – hosted on FOXSports.com – will provide a free-play poker client as well as news, tournament results, poker strategy and rules.

PokerStars.net North America Regional Marketing Director, Joe Versaci, said: “FOXSports.com is one of the most popular online destinations in the world, with thriving sports, gaming and poker arenas that host the best live and editorial content on thousands of sporting and gaming events every week. This tie-in will see FOXSports.com and PokerStars.net combine the best live and editorial content with the web’s best online poker games.”

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

October 25, 2010

Betchecker to highlight bigger wins at Betfair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 23, 2010

Final draft of Jersey egaming law submitted this week

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

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

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

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

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

October 22, 2010

Moneybookers will be sold and rebranded as Skrill

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

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

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

October 12, 2010

EC: Romanian draft egaming law is uncompliant

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

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

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

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

October 06, 2010

Real-time betting boosts Sportingbet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 05, 2010

Bodog signs LA Galaxy ad deal

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

Under the terms of the agreement, Bodog will receive prominent ad placement at LA Galaxy’s 27,000 seat stadium, The Home Depot Centre, including all LED field boards, corner section banners, in-stadium TVs, and ad spots on the stadium’s scoreboard.

Bodog.net offers players free-to-play online poker games and fantasy sports contests with weekly cash prizes.

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

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

October 03, 2010

Betsson challenges Danish "black period"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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