January 27, 2011

Greece to auction up to 50 online betting licences

Opening up gaming will be a major step for the debt-ridden country, which hopes to get hundreds of millions of euros in extra revenues. The move will also put it back in line with EU regulations and allow it to stop paying hefty fines to Brussels.

“The bill is expected to be voted within the first quarter of the year,” the official, who has direct knowledge of the government plans, said on condition of anonymity. “Our aim is to tender the licences by the end of the year.”

Greece aims at proceeds of at least 700 million euros ($949 million) from new gaming licences and royalties this year as part of the EU/IMF bailout plan that saved it from bankruptcy last year. It has earmarked another 625 million euros for 2012.

The country had struggled to crack down on unlicenced gambling, estimated at about 4 billion euros a year, since it imposed a blanket ban on gaming machines in 2002.

Betting monopoly Opap and slot machines in casinos were excluded from the ban.

The official did not say what the duration of the new betting licences or the payout would be. Referring to the VLTs, the source added that there would be a limit on wagers.

Greece’s finance ministry was not immediately available for comment.

January 25, 2011

Mandalay puts Tournament.com up for sale

Costa Bingo and Casino Choice owner Mandalay Media Group has put its Tournament.com domain up for sale after deciding not to re-enter the skill gaming arena.

Mandalay owners Richard Skelhorn and Alex Holt launched pay-to-enter first person shooter tournaments on the Tournament.com and Tournament.co.uk domains in 2007, under licence from games provider Valve, operating their CounterStrike and Half-Life games, but decided to close the site the following year due to financial pressures.

In a statement today, Skelhorn and Holt said: “We still believe there is a market for pay-to-enter video game tournaments, however due to the investment required in infrastructure and content licensing it is something that we have decided not to re-approach.

“We believe that unless a content owner like EA approach it themselves and therefore remove the licence fee element we will not see a third party operator again on the scale Tournament.com achieved. We are ready to sell the domain now along with the .co.uk and move on.”

The Tournament.com founders said they believed the domain would interest a wide range of businesses, including poker sites and games publishers.

“The word 'tournament' is very descriptive and generates over five million Google searches per month. It could be developed into a very powerful brand in the right hands,” said Skelhorn and Holt.

Mandalay said it would be reviewing sensible offers received via the contact form on the Tournament.com website.

January 15, 2011

Police arrest former Weather Lottery CEO

The former CEO of The Weather Lottery (TWL), Keith Milhench, together with another former employee, Amie Pickersgill-Smith, have been jointly charged by Nottinghamshire Police with seven counts of fraud and four charges of theft totalling £80,000 against the company.

The charges relate to the alleged misappropriation of jackpot payments to lottery winners between April 2008 and April 2010, when both Milhench and Pickersgill-Smith worked for TWL.

The matter was referred to Nottinghamshire Police following an investigation by the UK Gambling Commission. Nottinghamshire Police have confirmed that no one else connected with TWL is suspected of any wrongdoing and that they are satisfied that the alleged victims have been identified.

Milhench was CEO of TWL until September of last year when he resigned from the role, citing “ill health” and an inability to carry on with his duties. Milhench formed Lottery Service Providers Ltd in 2000, which performed all of the administrative duties for TWL, serving as its managing director. He was later appointed CEO of TWL in April 2006.

In TWL’s most recent financial results, the company stated that Milhench was a director of CBI Holdings Limited, parent company of Cantbuyit Limited. During the course of last year, TWL made payments of £5,950 on behalf of Cantbuyit and at the end of the year was owed £9,450 from the company. The amount has been provided for as “irrecoverable” as at July 31st 2010, although the company said it will pursue repayment.

TWL also stated that Milhench received loans of £17,940 from the company, all of which were outstanding at the year end. Milhench received 4,800,000 share options in TWL during the last financial year, worth £48,000.

Both Milhench and Pickersgill-Smith will appear before Nottingham magistrates on January 24th.

TWL confirmed that its Gambling Commission license to operate as an External Lottery Manager, held by Prize Provision Services Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the company, remains in place having been renewed last October.

January 11, 2011

Béraud appointed president of BetClic Everest

Nicolas Béraud, the founder of BetClic, has been named the new president of the BetClic Everest Group.

He replaces Stéphane Courbit, founder and former chairman of the group which changed its name from Mangas Gaming in November. Courbit has stepped down after more than two years in the role.

Béraud set up BetClic in 2005, selling the bookmaker to Courbit’s Mangas group in 2008, and had been CEO of the group since March last year. In his new role, he will be tasked with overseeing the management of the four companies under BetClic Everest’s control: Everest Gaming, BetClic, Bet-at-Home and Expekt.

In addition to serving as CEO of the BetClic Everest Group, Béraud was interim CEO of Expekt following the departure of Per Widerström in December 2009.

He is not the only member of the group to move into a new role. Former vice-chairwoman Isabelle Parize is now the new chief of the group’s skill games site SkillStar.com, while Jean-Laurent Nabet has been named as the new chairman of the group’s holding company, which is split evenly between Stéphane Courbit’s Lov Group and high-end hotel owners Societe des Bains de Mer.

Courbit’s influence within BetClic Everest will not be entirely eliminated. Lov Group still controls 50% of the group’s holding company, whose new chairman Nabet has worked alongside the 45-year-old entrepreneur since joining Lov Group in 2008.

BetClic Everest rose three places to fourth in eGR’s 2010 Power 50, but moves to regulate European markets – and the French market in particular – have grated with the group’s management.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro last November, former Endemol France chairman Courbit claimed French authorities were responsible for imposing the “worst online gambling laws in Europe.”

At the time he complained that “we are overtaxed, the scope of authorised gambling is too limited and the rate of return to players is too low.”

NJ legislature votes to legalise egaming

The New Jersey Assembly this evening voted overwhelmingly in favour of Senator Raymond Lesniak’s bill to allow egaming in the US state.

In a vote taken at 6:44PM Eastern Time, Lesniak’s S490 bill to allow Atlantic City casinos to offer online versions of their games to state residents received 63 votes in favour, 11 against, and three abstentions, comfortably ahead of the 41 votes required for passage.

Having passed both the New Jersey Senate and the Assembly, this evening’s vote leaves New Jersey just one step away from becoming the first US state to get a law legalising and regulating egaming on the statute books.

The bill now passes to Governor Chris Christie, becoming law upon his signature or after 45 days if no action is taken during this time. Christie has however yet to publicly declare his position on Lesniak's bill.

President and CEO of New Jersey-based games supplier High 5 Games, Anthony Singer, said: "This is an historic day for New Jersey. With the state legislature’s decision to legalise internet gaming, New Jersey now becomes the center of the US iGaming industry.

“We are optimistic that Governor Chris Christie will sign this important piece of legislation into law to revive the state’s gaming industry. This law will allow our state’s gaming industry to thrive, creating more jobs and much needed tax revenue for the people of New Jersey."