October 26, 2011

Will Hill says staff dispute resolved, managers dismissed

William Hill plc says its has ended the disruption at its William Hill Online (WHO) operations centres in Israel, Bulgaria and the Philippines with seven senior WHO managers losing their jobs as a result of the walkouts last week.

The walkouts are believed to have been sparked by concerns that the British bookmaker planned to relocate support functions to its operational base in Gibraltar, a move which William Hill has denied. In response to the walkouts which negatively impacted the company’s share price, William Hill said that senior managers at its Tel Aviv support centre would face disciplinary action.

In a stock market announcement Tuesday, William Hill said that all seven managers have now left the business, with normal business activity resuming at all three locations. The company added that “William Hill Online remains committed to its operation in Tel Aviv”.

William Hill’s joint venture partner in WHO, Playtech, which was also involved in the discussions, said the resolution paves the way for WHO to continue to go from strength to strength.

The company’s chief executive, Mor Weizer, said: “Having been asked by William Hill's Chief Executive, Ralph Topping, to assist, I am very pleased that this issue is now behind William Hill Online. It is very positive for both shareholders that the business can now continue to move forward.”

The successful resolution of the disruption comes just in time for William Hill, which reports its third quarter results tomorrow.

October 21, 2011

Donald Trump: US should legalize Internet betting

Donald Trump sees money — lots of it — flowing away from him. That, he said, needs to change.

The real estate mogul and founder of an Atlantic City casino company says the United States should legalize Internet gambling. The company that bears his name, Trump Entertainment Resorts, is moving forward with plans to establish an online betting venture as soon as it's legal.

The company says it wants to get in on the ground floor of the Internet gambling business, and is close to selecting a joint venture partner to run an online gambling operation. The idea is to be well-placed and ready to go as soon as such activity is legalized in the United States.

"It should be approved here," Trump told The Associated Press on Thursday. "An awful lot of money is leaving the U.S. that should and could stay in this country."

Trump Entertainment, which includes Donald Trump and daughter, Ivanka, and the Avenue Capital hedge fund, would own 10 percent of the new venture.

Donald Trump said the key to success in the online gambling market is having the best brand.
"We think we have the hottest brand there is, the Trump brand, my personal brand," he said. "We think it's going to do phenomenally well."

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Trump Entertainment said it has "determined that such a joint venture represents the most advantageous way for the company to participate in opportunities in online gaming at minimal cost to the company."

No cost estimates were given, and Robert Griffin, the company's CEO, declined to comment Thursday. But in March, after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill passed by New Jersey lawmakers that would have allowed Internet betting solely within New Jersey's borders, Griffin said the money lost to offshore operators should benefit New Jersey.

The law would have made New Jersey the first state in the nation to allow Internet betting.
"Currently, millions of Americans engage in online gaming with illegal offshore operators, and do so with no oversight, no regulation or no consumer protections," Griffin said at the time. "It makes sense for the state of New Jersey to regulate this activity, enforce strict standards to ensure games are fair and safe, and in turn be able to collect tax revenue instead of having those dollars and the jobs they support leaving New Jersey and going illegally overseas."

Christie said he vetoed the law fearing it was unconstitutional and could lead to an explosion of betting parlors throughout the state. By law, gambling in New Jersey is restricted to Atlantic City.

But a New Jersey lawmaker is asserting that individual states have the legal right to offer in-state Internet gambling within their own borders.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, wrote in July to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asserting that New Jersey and all other states can legally offer online betting within their borders.

Lesniak said he will introduce legislation in November to address the main concerns expressed by Christie.

The filing said the company, Donald and Ivanka Trump, and Avenue Capital have signed an agreement authorizing the joint venture once it becomes legal, and that prohibits any of them from seeking other online gambling ventures through May 2012.

Atlantic City is in the midst of a nearly five-year revenue slump brought on by increasing competition from casinos in neighboring states, and worsened by the continuing unsteady economy.

October 18, 2011

Tel Aviv walkout prompts Will Hill disciplinary action

UK bookmaker William Hill said Tuesday that several senior managers at its online support centre in Tel Aviv, Israel, are to face disciplinary action following a mass walkout earlier this week by staff. The walkout was prompted by rumours that the company plans to relocate support operations to the UK or Gibraltar.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange this afternoon, William Hill confirmed that its chief marketing officer Eyal Sanoff had resigned from his role at the end of last month, while other senior managers are facing disciplinary action in relation to the disruption this week within the marketing business in Tel Aviv, as well as in the customer service and back office operations in Manila and Bulgaria.

According to media reports, nearly 200 staff at the company’s online support centre in Tel Aviv left their desks earlier this week, amidst concerns that William Hill was contemplating moving all of its operations to its base in the UK or Gibraltar.

William Hill Online said that senior management, thought to include COO Jim Mullen, were currently on the ground in Tel Aviv working through these issues and confirmed that the office in Tel Aviv would be closed from tomorrow through to early next week, as normal, through the Jewish holiday period.

“The vast majority of employees of the marketing team in Tel Aviv have good working relationships with the business and with colleagues across William Hill Online,” the company said in a statement. “William Hill Online is committed to its sales and marketing operation in Tel Aviv and contrary to media reports has no intention of relocating this operation.

“William Hill Online can confirm that this situation is not directly affecting the availability of any consumer facing websites at present within the Group. There will be a further update as necessary.”

October 14, 2011

Eastern Russia to get first casino

A Casino & Leisure developer has won permission to build Primorye region’s first legal casino. The First Eastern Gaming Company is finalizing the design for an entertainment complex, which will include the casino.

The region is one of Russia’s four legal gambling zones, which were established by federal law in 2009.

The law that brought about the new scheme was signed in 2006, but many people expected that it would never be enforced. The law limits all gambling to Azov City, the Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea, the Altai region of Siberia and the Primorsky region of Russia’s Far East.

The development is close enough to China to have some impact on Macau and even Singapore should the developers be able to impact those markets.

How large, what exact facilities and what are the target client’s is still unknown from “First Eastern” developers, but The iGaming Post will bring you more on this story soon.

October 12, 2011

Sportingbet targets Danish market with new acquisitions

Sportingbet has made a move into the soon-to-be liberalised Danish online gaming market following the acquisition of Danish bookmakers Danbook Limited and Scandic Bookmakers Limited for a combined £8.5m.

Sportingbet said that its wholly owned subsidiaries, Sportingbet Holdings Limited (SHL) and Interactive Sports (C.I.) Limited (ISCI), have each entered into a conditional binding agreement to acquire the entire issued share capital of Danbook and Scandic respectively.

Danbook and Scandic are both focused on the Danish market, where they offer customers a full range of fixed odds sports betting, casino, poker and games. The aggregate maximum consideration payable for both Danbook and Scandic is £8.5m.

Denmark has passed regulatory legislation that comes into force on January 1st 2012, with the first licenses due to be issued on December 15th.

Sportingbet said that it views this regulatory framework as representing a “commercially viable opportunity”, and has already applied for a licence in the country. The company believes that a combination of Danbook and Scandic, together with its existing Danish business and the recently acquired Centrebet, will transform Sportingbet into one of the largest players in the Danish market.

“These acquisitions emphasise Sportingbet's commitment to generating revenue from regulated markets,” said Andrew McIver, Sportingbet chief executive. “We have already demonstrated our ability to deliver strong growth in licensed territories such as Australia and we are excited by the opportunity that Denmark represents.”

The deal is expected to close in early 2012 following the satisfaction of conditions including the successful award of new Danish gambling licences to both Danbook and Scandic, and the launch of websites compliant with the new Danish regulations.

The maximum aggregate consideration payable across both transactions comprises £4m of cash and £0.5m of Sportingbet shares payable immediately on closing, with a further £4m of cash to be paid across both transactions following the successful migration of the businesses of Danbook and Scandic onto the Sportingbet platform.

Sportingbet added that a number of key individuals within Danbook and Scandic will be retained to provide services to Sportingbet and the enlarged group.

October 11, 2011

Ladbrokes terminates Sportingbet talks

Shares in Sportingbet plc have slumped more than 20 per cent in London this afternoon after the company confirmed that highly preliminary discussions regarding a potential acquisition of the company by Ladbrokes have been terminated.

The Boards of Sportingbet and Ladbrokes agreed to end discussions as the parties were unable to agree either a suitable structure or one that delivered sufficient value to shareholders in a meaningful timeframe.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange on Monday, Ladbrokes CEO Richard Glynn said that the termination of the talks reflected the company’s attempts to accelerate growth but “without exposure to non mitigatable regulatory liability.”

“In August of last year we laid out a very clear organic strategy and investment programme for the reinvigoration of Ladbrokes,” said Glynn. “We were also clear on the intention to explore opportunities which enabled us to accelerate our progress that enhanced shareholder value and without exposure to non mitigatable regulatory liability.

“The potential benefits and risks associated with a combination with Sportingbet were clear to us from the outset and have been well covered by the market. Having completed our analysis we have been unable to agree a structure which delivers increased shareholder value within an acceptable regulatory environment. We have therefore agreed to end our discussions.

“Throughout this process we have remained fully focused on the execution of our organic strategy and continue to make good progress in its implementation, which remains on track. We are confident this plan will deliver significant value to our shareholders and we will continue to take a disciplined approach over potential opportunities to accelerate it."

In a statement, Sportingbet confirmed that it is currently not in discussions with any other party regarding a potential offer for the company.

“As stated in the company's final results announcement last week, the Board of Sportingbet remains focussed on its overall strategy of providing a first class sports betting product and of increasing its exposure to regulated markets,” said Andrew McIver, Sportingbet’s group chief executive. “The Board remains highly confident of Sportingbet's prospects as an independent company.”

The company said that discussions are progressing with GVC Holdings plc regarding a possible disposal of its Turkish language website, with a further update on to be provided when appropriate.

Bookmakers fear 'nightmare' scenario of Wales World Cup win

For Saturdays semi-final, William Hill was offering the miserly odds of 4/5 on Wales winning and 11/10 on France.

Ladbrokes were yesterday offering 11/8 odds on a Wales versus New Zealand final and 9/2 on Wales versus Australia.

Ladbrokes Alex Donohue said: Were cheering on Australia in a big way for the tournament. New Zealand would be an acceptable result but a Wales win would leave us in despair.

Sky Bet was offering 4/6 odds for Wales and 6/5 for France to prevail on Saturday, a distinct shift from 24 hours earlier when France were at evens and Wales the narrow 5/6 favourites.

Bookmaker Stan James said the semi final lineups have led to a shake-up in Rugby World Cup betting with StanJames.com.

The big Rugby World Cup betting story so far is that New Zealand can be backed now at a bigger price than they were available pre-tournament, he said.

New Zealand were on offer at 1/2 with StanJames.com before the Rugby World Cup began, with New Zealand having looked the proverbial good thing, but despite them having reached the Rugby World Cup semi-finals the wheels have at times looked like they might be coming off their train.

New Zealand can now be backed at odds of 8/13 to win the Rugby World Cup.

He added: Wales have been a revelation in this Rugby World Cup, and are now 11/2 chances to win the Rugby World Cup outright having been a massive 80/1 at one stage during the summer.

Here at Stanjames.com we make Wales slight favourites to beat France (13/2 to win the Rugby World Cup) in their semi-final clash on Saturday.

October 10, 2011

CMC Markets upgrades trading platform

Spread betting firm CMC Markets has upgraded its new Next Gen trading platform, moving to a totally customised package allowing customers to create their perfect trading platform.

As part of the company's ongoing commitment to offer the best trading technology, CMC has been working with its customers to give them the developments they want. Customer feedback from CMC's Traders Club events and customer service department has allowed CMC to develop its platform offering in line with its customers' needs and requirement.

Customers can now trade on a fully customised screen allowing them to save enhanced charts, use technical pattern and candlestick highlighting functions and develop their own bespoke drawing tools and technical indicators.

In addition, the iPhone and iPad charting software has also received a significant upgrade with the introduction of more technical tools, drawing tools, and increased data points.

“A key part of our strategy has been to invest heavily in bringing our customers the best technology on the market,” said Peter Cruddas, founder of CMC Markets. “We recognise that our clients have individual needs and the developments to our Next Gen platform are giving our customers exactly what they've asked us for. The move to a totally customised package allows customers to create their perfect trading platform.”

October 06, 2011

Full Tilt Poker equity stakes?

A rescue effort of Full Tilt Poker has been proposed by the family-owned French investment company. According to a source close to the issue, the alleged rescue plan could involve equity stakes to some of the troubled website’s thousands of customers.

According to the Wall Street Journal publication, Benham Dayanim, lawyer for the Groupe Bernard Tapie, said that “the Tapies may address Full Tilt’s liabilities by offering equity in a revived company to poker players owed the most money.” The WSJ report also implied that the Groupe Bernard Tapie is seeking investment from the current owners of Full Tilt. However, this move would mean they would be left with no management role in any new company.

After the whole fiasco of watching Full Tilt Poker fall apart, any kind of rescue efforts will not be smooth. There are plenty of hurdles that the Groupe Bernard Tapie must clear before any potential takeover can proceed. The biggest hurdle is notably an agreement from the US Department of Justice and a new operating licence after the Alderney Gambling Control Commission’s recent revocation.

The company said in a statement posted Thursday on the website pokerstrategy.com that the Alderney decision to revoke Full Tilt’s license “makes it more difficult to execute the sale of the company and hence repay its players” but that it “remains committed to repaying its players in full and continues in active negotiations.”

Full Tilt has player liabilities of over $300m.

The company has expressed their hope with bringing the situation out of the abyss, according to the source close to FTP.

Motherwell FC footballer arrested following betting probe

A footballer for Scottish Premier League side Motherwell FC has been arrested at his home by Merseyside Police following allegations of betting irregularities in a match last December.

Stewart Regan, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, confirmed that the Scottish FA had received notification from the UK Gambling Commission that midfielder Steve Jennings had been arrested.

“This follows extensive enquiries in relation to alleged betting irregularities at a Scottish Premier League match between Motherwell and Hearts on December 14, 2010,” said Regan in a statement this morning. “While the investigation involves several other individuals out with Scotland, it is important to stress that the evidence gathered throughout this thorough period of investigation has involved only one Scottish match.

“Motherwell FC are aware of the situation and will issue a response in due course. The Scottish FA will make no further comment at this stage.”

During the match against Hearts at Fir Park, Jennings was sent off near the end of the game for dissent against the referee after his side were refused a penalty. Bookmaker Blue Square reported several large bets that day on a Motherwell player being sent off during the game.

Jennings is one of nine men arrested by Mersey Police across Merseyside and Glasgow in a joint operation with the Gambling Commission for conspiracy to defraud.

Meanwhile in Australia, National Rugby League player Ryan Tandy has been found guilty of match-fixing in relation to a match involving the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs last August.

The 30-year old former Canterbury player escaped a jail sentence but has been handed a AUD$4,000 fine and a 12 month good behaviour bond by magistrate Janet Wahlquist. He is like to be banned for life from the game however, after the NRL reaffirmed that it will impose life bans on any persons convicted of match-fixing.

The NRL said that there are a number of other legal matters still to be heard in connection with the investigation and that given the time of the season and the imminent nature of those hearings, the NRL will reserve imposing any penalties on any person found guilty of fixing any part of a match until such time as those matters are resolved.

“Clearly there remain some complex legal arguments to be heard and the rights of individuals through that process must be respected,” said NRL chief executive, David Gallop. “The outcome for anyone found guilty of interfering with a match for any improper purpose could not be more apparent.

“From the outset, the NRL has involved independent investigators and sought the assistance of the NSW Police in dealing with betting irregularities around the first scoring option in this match and we remain convinced that was and remains best course of action.

“We welcome the assistance of the authorities in treating these matters seriously and look forward to the conclusion of all proceedings. We also welcome Federal and State Governments’ recognition of the importance of giving sports the legislative support and regulatory assistance in dealing with sports betting issues. We look forward to seeing these policies finalised across all states.”

Bodog creates new role to keep at forefront of industry

Online gaming and betting operator Bodog Europe has appointed Novomatic’s Harald Kaiblinger to the newly created role of research and development director.

Bodog said that Kaiblinger joins the company with the specific aim of unearthing the newest and best products, as well as platforms that can keep the business at the forefront of the industry.

Kaiblinger joins Bodog from gaming giant Novomatic, where he held a similar role.

“Bodog is a brand that never likes to sit still and this is what attracted me,” said Kaiblinger, following his appointment. “In igaming it is crucial to keep moving and to never rest on your laurels. There is always a new product or a new platform that can change the landscape of a business or even the whole industry and you need to move fast to capitalise on these opportunities. Bodog Europe has created this role so we can do just that.”

Patrik Selin, CEO of Bodog Europe, added: “Harald is a great addition to the team here in London and the role is one I believe to be vital in this industry where a new poker or mobile explosion can happen so quickly. We need to put ourselves at the front of those curves and Harald will help us in that pursuit.”

October 05, 2011

Greek gambling laws breach EU state aid rules, says RGA

The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), whose members include most of the leading gaming operators, has lodged a complaint with the European Commission challenging the compatibility of the Greek government’s new gambling law with EU State aid requirements.

The complaint focuses on the favourable tax treatment afforded to the land-based services of OPAP, the part state-owned gambling operator, in relation to private online gambling operators.

The Greek Parliament adopted new gambling legislation in August of this year, which regulates remote gambling.

The RGA said that it welcomed the fact that the legislation provides for the licensing of online operators, however it believes that the legislation has been geared towards delivering an unfair economic advantage to the existing monopoly operator OPAP.

October 03, 2011

William Hill signs exclusive betting partnership with ESPN

Bookmaker William Hill has signed a multi-platform deal to become the exclusive sponsor of ESPN’s televised UK coverage of three domestic football leagues in Europe, while also becoming the exclusive UK betting partner for ESPN’s forthcoming mobile app for football news and information site, ESPNsoccernet.

Under the agreement, William Hill will be the exclusive sponsor of ESPN’s televised UK coverage of Italy’s Serie A, the Russian Premier League and the Dutch Eredivisie as part of an integrated, multi-platform affiliation with European football.

William Hill will sponsor all of ESPN’s televised match coverage – live, delayed and highlights – of the three domestic football leagues, with pre- and end-break TV bumpers. The sponsorship also extends to ESPN’s various preview and review TV shows around the leagues.

“Our multi-platform coverage of Europe’s top football leagues is a popular part of the ESPN offering to fans and brands alike,” said Alan Fagan, director advertising sales, ESPN EMEA. “Our agreement with William Hill, one of the UK’s leading brands, reflects how we can deliver value to top-flight advertisers, connecting them with loyal and passionate UK football fans across multiple screens. ESPN has an unrivalled ability to serve advertisers with local precision and solutions in the UK, and in markets around the world.”

William Hill will also be the exclusive UK betting partner for ESPN’s forthcoming mobile app for football news and information site, ESPNsoccernet. As well as display advertising, William Hill will be integrated into the app with a ‘bet now’ button enabling users to place bets on football action as it happens.

“ESPN is one of the leading names in sports media and we’re really looking forward to working with them,” said Kristof Fahy, William Hill’s chief marketing officer. “This multi-platform deal will enable us to promote our brand and services to millions of sports fans across the UK, while our mobile betting partnership with ESPN looks like a real winner.”

Completing the multi-platform deal, William Hill will run display banners and rich-media ads online with ESPNsoccernet.

Paddy Power migrates online casino to Playtech platform

Extending the relationship between the two parties, Irish online gaming operator Paddy Power has migrated its online casino to Playtech’s platform following the signing of a new multi-year agreement.

Paddy Power has re-launched its Playtech-powered online casino product today, including a comprehensive games library comprising slots, table and card games and a wide range of branded content in both download and web-based formats.

In addition, Paddy Power will benefit from Playtech's advanced player management tools, including loyalty functionality which will create significant opportunities for Paddy Power to enhance player returns.

“We have built a strong relationship with Paddy Power over several years and are delighted to be able to further consolidate our service provision to one of the industry's leading players through this agreement to provide our leading casino technology,” said Playtech chief executive Mor Weizer.

Paddy Power's relationship with Playtech began in 2007 when it became a member of Playtech's iPoker network. More recently Paddy Power joined Playtech's Virtue Fusion bingo network. The company’s online casino was previously powered by IGT’s WagerWorks.

“We are excited to announce the launch of Paddy Power's new casino using Playtech's technology,” said Paddy Power’s head of gaming Christopher Coyne, and casino manager Denise Dunne in a joint statement. “We believe it will be best-in-class with an abundance of excellent games added to our market leading casino promotions for players.

“Playtech was chosen following a rigorous selection process from amongst the leading casino suppliers. The project teams have delivered a fantastic online casino which we believe will significantly enhance our online offering.”