February 25, 2011

Codere launches legal action against bwin & Real Madrid

Codere is a leading Spanish multinational company in the private gaming sector in Europe and Latin America. The firm managed over 54,000 slot machines, 139 bingo halls, 275 betting locations, 3 racetracks and 7 casinos in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay in 2010.

Codere is scheduled to file legal proceedings at the Madrid Commercial Court against online gaming operator bwin and La Liga football club Real Madrid. The suit alleges bwin and Real Madrid were advertising illegally in the Spanish jurisdiction. Codere has brought up the issue because it contends that bwin and the Real Madrid football team engaged in an aggressive and illegal advertising for games of chance stating,“has not been previously authorized by the responsible Authority or made subject to any statutory condition, neither is it protected by European Union cross-border laws”.

Spain’s Unfair Competition Law has been allegedly broken by the actions of bwin and the La Liga Football club Real Madrid and they do not have a permit to operate in Spain, according lawyers for the Codere Group. The prepared statement read, “Authorized gambling operators in Spain are not permitted to advertise or may only do so subject to stringent restrictions and after obtaining authorization from the Authority,” continuing, “Neither are authorized operators able to operate games through the Internet, although they have the necessary technology and expertise to do so, since these games are prohibited in Spain and in some cases may be activities liable for prosecution in the context of criminal law.”

The complaint demands the immediate cessation of advertising campaigns and the termination of the sponsorship agreement between Real Madrid and bwin. bwin is one of a number of European online gaming operators who sponsor Spanish football and does have a licence to provide retail sports betting in Madrid under its w1nners brand.

Codere will also, it said, launch other legal suits to resolve what it calls unfair business practices in Spain.

February 17, 2011

FIFA investigates possible match fixing after seven goals - all penalties - are scored in two friendly internationals

The credibility of friendly international matches and FIFA’s ability to adequately regulate them is facing a fresh challenge after serious suspicions of match fixing were raised over two games held on Wednesday last week in Turkey.

FIFA confirmed on Tuesday that it was examining whether there were suspicious betting patterns surrounding Bolivia’s 2-1 defeat of Latvia and the 2-2 draw between Estonia and Bulgaria.
The games were played consecutively on neutral territory at the Mardan Stadium in Antalya. All seven goals were penalties, an outcome described by one bookmaking source as “freakishly unlikely”. One of the penalties was ordered to be retaken after the first kick was missed.
FIFA is examining whether the games were manipulated to enable gamblers to profit on the market for total goals in each game.

Both matches are understood to have been handled by the same team of Hungarian officials, who, according to the authorities in Budapest, were qualified only to officiate in the third tier of domestic football. The referee, identified as Kolos Lengyl, and his assistants, have been suspended by the Hungarian football federation pending the outcome of the inquiry.

FIFA confirmed that it was investigating the matches after being alerted by “various sources”, and claimed that its Early Warning System, which monitors betting patterns with legitimate bookmakers, had informed the investigation. UEFA and FIFA were alerted to concerns over the games as early as Jan 29.

The lack of oversight of the arrangements for the game, and the confusion over the match officials, raise questions over the credibility of friendly internationals at a time when they are increasingly unpopular with major European clubs and leagues.

Estonian FA spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht said on Tuesday that the federation president, Aivar Pohlack, wrote to UEFA and FIFA raising his concerns about the arrangements for their game. Pohlack was particularly concerned about the lack of clarity over the identity of the officials.
Despite this the matches still went ahead and the identity of the referee remained uncertain until three days after the game when the Hungarian FA confirmed it believed Lengyl was in charge.

The Estonian, Latvian and Bolivian federations have expressed their concerns over the handling of the matches, and insist that their teams were not involved in anything untoward. Uiboleht said the federation’s concerns were not shared with the players at any stage.

The Bulgarian FA was unavailable for comment, though manager Lothar MatthaĆ¼s said after the game: “I do not want to watch any more matches like the one against Estonia. It is very hard to motivate the players in such a gloomy atmosphere when they play in front of just 100 spectators.”

“All the arrangements for the matches were of a good level apart from the suspicious penalties,” Janis Mezeckis, the secretary general of the Latvian FA.

Bolivia led 2-0 after being awarded penalties either side of half-time before the referee gave Latvia their spot kick in the second half. “One of the penalties was 400 per cent a penalty but the other two were probably 50-50 penalties. It is hard to comment on the referees but sometimes you see even a good referee gives a team a penalty if he knows he has made a mistake with a penalty for the other side,” Mezeckis said.

Uiboleht said there were concerns over the spot kicks in the Estonia-Bulgaria match too, but said it was impossible to be sure without access to betting records.

“It raises suspicions because of the number of penalties but the only way of identifying whether a match has been fixed is by looking at the betting records. We have received reports from our partners and passed them to FIFA.”

Estonia’s penalties came in the 20th and 80th minutes, with Bulgaria’s awarded in the 40th and 83rd. All four teams were approached independently by a company calling itself Footy Media International. It claimed to have offices in London and Tokyo, but as negotiations continued a related company, Footy Sports International, thought to be based in Thailand, took the lead.
Footy Media International is understood to have a website but it went down when news of the controversy emerged, and there is no company with that name registered with Companies House in the UK. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by the company.

FIFA regulations require friendly internationals to be arranged by approved match agents.
The Estonian FA is understood to have been offered a five-figure euro fee for taking part in the match, described as normal for a fixture at that level. It is thought the game was televised only in Bulgaria, with the broadcast rights residing with Footy Sports Media.

A second series of matches scheduled for next month at the same venue was cancelled this week after the Bolivian FA said it was no longer willing to take part.

February 15, 2011

Gambling problems on the increase in Britain

Nearly three-quarters of Britons engaged in gambling last year, a survey has concluded.

The survey of 7,756 people done for the Gambling Commission found the amount of betting has increased to levels last seen in the late 1990s.

The proportion of what the regulator calls "problem gamblers" has also increased.

The report estimates that 451,000 people have issues with betting, a rise on previous surveys in 2007 and 1999.

The analysis, entitled The British Gambling Prevalence Survey, was drawn up by experts at the National Centre for Social Research.

It found the number of people gambling in the UK is on the rise.

Nearly three-quarters of adults - 73% - gambled in the previous year, a rise from the 63% who were betting at the time of the last report in 2007.

The vast majority of people told the survey authors they did it "because it's fun" and because there was a "chance of winning big money".

People in Great Britain are gambling in a wide range of ways, they discovered, but the analysts found that only a relatively small proportion of gaming was happening online.

The most popular way of having a flutter continues to be the National Lottery, with nearly 60% of UK adults buying a ticket last year.

By contrast, the report found football pools have dropped massively in popularity over the last decade, from 9% of the population predicting score and no-score draws in 1999 to just 4% in 2010.

The statisticians used two different and complex systems for measuring if a gambler had a "problem".

But they looked for a variety of behaviours ranging from "chasing losses" - making more bets in a desperate attempt to win back money already lost - ranging up to robbery to fund a gambling habit.

Gambling Commission chairman Brian Pomeroy said that a "small but probably growing" proportion of the British population has serious problems with gambling.

He said it reinforced the commission's determination to regulate gambling to "minimise the risk to those individuals and to ensure that the majority of people can continue to gamble safely".

But the Salvation Army, which has lobbied against the gambling industry in recent years, called for government action to halt its expansion.

There were now too many problem gamblers in the country said a spokesman, and British society was in danger of being "de-sensitised to the problems that gambling can bring."

Bwin turns your PC desktop into a football info centre

In time for the start of some national leagues and the UEFA Champions League round of 16, bwin, the world's leading publicly listed online gaming provider, has released the bwin League Information Widget, which football fans can download free of charge. The widget gives users an overview of the 23 major national leagues in ten different languages also during the Champions League Season.

The widget provides up-to-date information on current rankings, detailed statistics and results of previous rounds, games and seasons, and the latest information on upcoming matches. Users can switch between 'Table' and 'Matches' views in order to obtain the information they require about a previously selected league. In the schedule view, users can select 'Match day' to view the results of matches already played as well as upcoming matches in the future. The 'Bets' button takes the user directly to a betting overview of selected matches on www.bwin.com

FIFA opens match-fixing probe

FIFA is investigating claims that four national teams were brought to Turkey for exhibition games last week suspected of being fixed as part of a betting scam.

Officials from Latvia and Bolivia, Estonia and Bulgaria are working with FIFA regarding the double-header in Antalya last Wednesday that was arranged by the company Footy Sport International.

Curiously, the games produced seven goals that were all scored from penalty kicks, including one that was ordered retaken after the initial spot kick was missed.

The Estonian federation said Monday it had suspicions two weeks earlier. The Latvian governing body still does not know the identity of the match officials despite confronting them before kickoff and repeatedly asking the company for information.

FIFA has asked all four federations for their versions of events to help.

It's not the first time an exhibition arranged by a company has drawn suspicion. Last September, a fake Togo team lost 3-0 to Bahrain in a game arranged by a match agent with Singapore connections.

Neither national team filed a complaint, so FIFA didn't formally investigate suspicions that the host Bahrainis were duped into playing a game they were certain to easily win. The Togo federation banned one of its coaches for his role in the affair.

In an apparently similar case, a team posing as Zimbabwe's first choice admitted throwing matches on its tour of Thailand and Malaysia in December 2009. Players said they received instructions at halftime to ensure the correct results were achieved for the types of wagers that had been staked.

Michel Platini, the former French star now president of the Union of European Football Associations, has called match-fixing the biggest danger facing the game.

In Turkey, the scoring was dictated entirely by referees' decisions, as Latvia beat Bolivia 2-1 and Estonia and Bulgaria played out a 2-2 tie.

Latvian Football Federation spokesman Martins Hartmanis said the identities of the referees for its game remain still unknown despite numerous written and verbal requests to the company.

Hartmanis claimed to have insisted on FIFA-designated referees for the match, but two weeks before the game received the names of three referees -- supposedly from the Czech Republic -- who weren't on FIFA's list of international officials.

Before the game, organizers said the referees were from Hungary, but when Latvian officials approached the referees, they claimed to be from Croatia.

"This turned about to be a bit confusing, but it was 15 minutes before kickoff and our general manager didn't want to stop the referees from preparing for the game," Hartmanis said.

Estonian Football Association spokesman Mihkel Uiboleht said suspicions about possible match-fixing arose two weeks before the games. He declined to give details.

"But these are suspicions that we considered worthy of passing on to necessary authorities," he said.

The Bolivian federation said it sent a message to FIFA President Sepp Blatter asking for "an exhaustive investigation."

"We have also filed a complaint with the company that contracted the matches," federation director Alberto Lozada said.

Bolivia also has canceled a scheduled return visit to Turkey next month for matches against Finland and Bulgaria.

FIFA declined comment Monday. Soccer's governing body is likely to examine whether any official from Footy Sport International, reportedly based in Thailand, had the required FIFA authority to organize a match between European and South American teams.

Under FIFA rules, national teams are free to choose their opponents for exhibitions and play in neutral countries, but only FIFA-licensed match agents can stage games between teams from different continents.

February 12, 2011

Jackpotjoy.com to sponsor Deal or No Deal TV game show

Gamesys’ Jackpotjoy.com has signed a one-year deal to sponsor Endemol’s hit TV game show Deal or No Deal, shown in the UK on Channel 4.

Launching next week on February 15th, the partnership is part of Jackpotjoy.com’s ongoing strategy to engage with its target audience of women aged between 25 to 44 years old, and offer new and entertaining ways for its members to win money.

The year-long sponsorship was brokered by MAXUS Global and includes all transmissions on Channel 4 and More4, 4OD and VOD on the Virgin platform.

The creative features specially created puppets of Barbara Windsor as the 'Queen of Bingo' and Jack and Joy from the TV ad campaign popping out of the legendary red Deal or No Deal boxes.

In addition to the sponsorship, Jackpotjoy.com has also created an innovative Ad Break Bingo game which gives new and existing members the chance to win £250,000 every day.

“Our sponsorship of Deal or No Deal is 'advertainment' at its best,” said Adele Lawton, head of Jackpotjoy.com. “Jackpotjoy.com always aims to entertain people and we hope that the ability to play bingo whilst watching bumpers should bring much more fun to the format.”

February 11, 2011

888 to launch 3D slot at darts premiere

A new 3D slots game will be launched by 888 to coincide with the first Premier League darts event today, as the company looks to leverage its sponsorship of the 15-week league across several areas of its business.

The Magical Forest game will initially be released on the 888 Games platform, before subsequently moving onto the Gibraltar-based company’s casino, while promotions involving the casino, poker and sports betting arms of the company will accompany the launch of the televised darts league at London’s 02 Arena.

And 12,000 pairs of 3D glasses will be handed to viewers at the venue tonight, before the matches involving reigning PDC world champion Adrian Lewis and former champions Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.

888 Sports will be the official betting partner of the league, while a new element to the competition – a team game to accompany the individual league – will see two teams sponsored by 888 Casino and 888 Poker respectively.

The company originally sponsored the league, as well as the PDC World Championships, in its inaugural season in 2005, but has taken six years to return to the fold after pursuing other ventures (such as the sponsorship of Sevilla FC and the World Snooker Championship) in the meantime.

Itai Pazner, senior vice president of 888, believes the sport has spent the last few years building up an image which is more in tune with his company’s audience, and this has had a role to play in encouraging 888 to take up the sponsorship.

He said: “By staying in contact with [promotions company] Matchroom Sport in the last few years, we have realised that darts has become more mainstream and is changing its image to become a real entertainment event with high production values. Also it’s growing in other markets outside the UK, such as in Australia and parts of Europe.

“One of the benefits of darts league is it moves around the UK and has a high viewership from across the country, both on TV and at venues. It is the biggest-attended indoor sporting event in the UK so it gives us the opportunity for regional marketing.”

And the new ‘team’ aspect of the competition is one way in which 888 has been able to take advantage of the marketing opportunities offered by the Premier League.

“There was a lot of press interest especially with the team challenge – part of the appeal is that even if your player doesn’t win his team can do.”

Further promotions will follow the Magical Forest release on a weekly basis, with poker freerolls involving Premier League darts players planned to coincide with future events.

February 10, 2011

Ongame likely to be sold

The Ongame Network is likely to amount to "surplus assets” once Bwin and PartyGaming have combined platforms following their merger at the end of the current quarter and will either be sold in full or offered to strategic partners to take a stake, a Bwin spokesman has confirmed.

He confirmed that Ongame was included in the assets referred to in the merger prospectus as “no longer needed”, and potentially up for sale to "generate revenue which can subsquently be reinvested".

“There will be surplus assets once platforms are unified, and this may be poker. Bwin and Party have strong platforms, and in order to avoid duplication, not all platforms will be needed” , he said.

“Ongame may be repackaged, offered to a potential buyer. Partnerships are also thinkable, where they would take an interest. But no deadlines for this have been decided.”

The spokesman also emphasised that the companies were “not in a hurry” to offload the network, and would perhaps prefer to await US regulation in order realise the highest possible price and therefore maximise value for shareholders through the merger.

“We believe that the trend to regulation in the US is still there. Even though Congress is not dominated by Democrats any more, this does not make it different from our perspective.

“We understand that that the American gaming industry wants online poker regulated, as they want access to that revenue stream. Regulatory developments in the US would raise interest in these assets. But we haven’t yet established any firm deadline, and will look at all options.”

Bwin acquired the Ongame network for €474m in December 2005, but was subsequently forced to write down the value of its acquisition following its pull-out from the US in October 2006.

February 08, 2011

Spanish cabinet approves draft gaming law

The Spanish cabinet has today approved a draft law to regulate all forms of remote gaming, including mobile.

The bill will now go before the country’s Congress on Tuesday, before passing to the Senate and being notified to the European Commission, laying the foundations for a potential legislative framework to be put in place by the end of 2011.

The tax model approved by the Spanish Council of Ministers is however not yet known. Industry associations such as the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) have been lobbying against a turnover tax for sports betting, arguing this would result in an uncompetitive offering to Spanish consumers. The governing Socialist Workers Party is believed to be in favour of a tax on turnover rather than gross profit.

Santiago Asensi, a gaming lawyer with Asensi Abogados in Madrid, said the priorities of the ruling party had potential to hinder the progress of the bill in a format desired by online operators.

“The gaming industry and the opposition People’s Party have been clamouring hard against turnover tax, and gaming groups from all areas of Spain have been pushing hard for a gross profits tax to be implemented .

“The socialists have so far been keen to implement a turnover tax, but there is a chance that they will eventually respond to the pressure. We will only know their response when we hear the official confirmation from the government.”

The European Commission’s forthcoming decision on Danish proposals to tax the online industry at a different rate to the land-based industry also had potential to slow the passage of legislation, according to Asensi.

The European Commission is, however, not expected to receive the draft bill until June or July, at which point the statutory standstill period set aside for review of the proposed legislation will commence. The usual three months is expected to apply in the Spanish case.

It is uncertain whether the system used in the autonomous region of Madrid – where licenses may be issued as soon as operators meet a predetermined set of requirements – will be applied on a national level. Madrid issued authorisations to existing land-based casinos and bingo halls in 2007 for offering online betting, casino and bingo.

February 07, 2011

Interpol deny investigation into Newcastle - Arsenal game

A French television station reported at the weekend that German authorities had alerted senior Interpol officials after spotting suspicious betting patterns during Saturday’s game, which ended in a draw after Arsenal led 4-0 at half-time.

An Interpol spokeswoman told the Telegraph this morning that it does not conduct independent investigations and has not received any information or request for assistance in relation to the allegations.

“Interpol is not aware of any request for assistance and any investigation would be conducted by national authorities. Interpol’s general secretariat has not been asked to provide any assistance in relation to this matter,” said the spokeswoman.

The Premier League has not been notified of any investigation into the game at St James’s Park.

February 02, 2011

NJ legalises betting exchanges

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie yesterday signed bills to legalise exchange wagering and single-pool wagering, as part of a package aimed at propping up the Garden State’s ailing racing industries.

Christie said in a statement after applying his signature to Senate bills S-2229 and A-2926: “These measures represent the next steps in following through on my administration's commitment to securing a strong, independent, self-sufficient horse-racing industry in New Jersey. We are providing new tools to help the industry implement new strategies, generate additional revenue and capitalise on interest in horse racing around the state.”

S229 would allow the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to contract with a betting exchange operator to provide this form of wagering in the state.

The bill’s passage into law will have been welcomed by European-based betting exchanges Betfair and Global Betting Exchange-owned Betdaq. The formerentered the US in January 2009 with the US$50m purchase of horse racing TV and wagering network TVG. California last year passed a similar bill allowing for exchange wagering by 2012.

Christie now has 20 days left to decide whether or not to sign Senator Raymond Lesniak’s S490 egaming bill to allow Atlantic City’s casinos to offer online versions of their games. In addition to making New Jersey the first US state to license and regulate egaming, the bill would also redirect a portion of tax revenues raised towards New Jersey’s ailing horse racing industry.

February 01, 2011

Parlay to launch integrated social bingo application

Online bingo platform provider Parlay Entertainment Inc. and Wonder Interactive have joined forces to integrate features of the WonderBingo Facebook application with the Alderney Parlay Game Services network.

WonderBingo was launched on Facebook in late 2010 and currently enjoys over 67,000 active monthly users. The Facebook app delivers social networking content and features, virtual currencies and community assets, and has already been integrated into the Parlay Game Services North America network.

Parlay said that following the success achieved on Facebook, they took the step to create an innovative online bingo offering by combining the community features and assets used within the Facebook app with Parlay’s bingo technologies. Those features include community rankings, friending, updates and profiles, and free-play bingo for cash prizes.

“We are very pleased with the success of WonderBingo and we look forward to the launch of this truly unique gaming product for Internet bingo,” said Jacob Fuller, President of Wonder Interactive. “We acknowledge that the success of our WonderBingo product on Facebook clearly demonstrates the demand for social content. We expect excellent reception of these same features within an Internet bingo gaming environment and believe that the social hooks within the game will keep our players faithful to WonderBingo.”

“WonderBingo is just another example of how Parlay continues to drive innovation within the online bingo industry,” added Perry Malone, CTO and co-founder of Parlay. “Although many others have followed and have done well in their own right as online bingo has grown, Parlay continues to show thought leadership as it drives new opportunities in this rapidly evolving gaming sector.”