February 27, 2012

Texas rules out online gambling?

Online gambling could soon be making its way into the homes of many, avid gamers across Texas. However, the state still has a long way to go before it is whole heartedly welcomed. Long gone are the days when gambling hid in the shadows of alleys and underground locations. Moving forward with the times of legislation, the activity is now dazzling the bright lights of many casinos’.

“Gambling is going to undergo a fundamental change as large as when it moved from alleys, backrooms and secret underground locations to legal storefront casinos,” said Ken Adams, a consultant with Las Vegas-based CDC Consulting. “Gambling has moved out of the shadows and into the bright lights.

“Now it is poised to migrate once again, this time from the multimillion- and sometimes billion-dollar casinos … to the apartments, offices and single-family houses of the nation.”

Opposition towards online gambling still stands strong, so it may be a while before the state leads the way. The main argument for opposing gambling…it has the potential to financially ruin those who cannot afford it.

Even some supporters of building traditional Las Vegas-style casinos in Texas say online gambling may not be the way to go. They argue that allowing casinos to open in the state would give a far bigger boost to jobs and the economy. “The bottom line is — however the Justice Department treats online gambling — Texans are already voting with their feet and wallets,” said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

“Texans spend billions of dollars every year … driving to Oklahoma, Louisiana or Las Vegas. They spend money at Native American casinos here in Texas and spend millions on state-sanctioned lottery tickets. “I do not think the right approach for Texas from a revenue-generating standpoint is to have these small, piecemeal changes.”

He added that in order to spur economic growth, it may be viable to stick to a limited amount of gaming retreats. “The way for Texas to actually spur economic development and generate billions in revenue is to allow for a limited number of destination casinos,” Ellis said.

FBI wants online gambling

Two former heads of the country’s national security have publically announced that they favour national legalised and regulated online gambling. Former Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Director Louis Freeh and Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge expressed their thoughts in a letter to the Washington Examiner.

The letter reads: “We all know that Internet gambling takes place in a borderless enterprise outside an already ambiguous policy arena that affects millions of Americans. Americans across the country can gamble on various games on the Internet such as cards, sports and games of chance.”

“It is obvious these enlightened individuals see the benefits of a licensed jurisdiction beyond just the tax revenue advantage. As law enforcement officers both gentlemen are in agreement that a regulated environment is better than one that can not provide a safe place for Americans to play for money over the internet. The letter continued, “Individual states simply do not possess the necessary law enforcement tools to effectively police gambling in a borderless Internet.”

Judging by what they are expressing, gambling state by state would just end up in a messy web of over-regulation.

William Hill decides Playtech's fate?

William Hill is proud to boast a 6% rise in annual revenue, which leads the firm in deciding whether it will pursue its online joint venture with Playtech this year. The iconic betting operator is also looking to expand outside of the U.K to increase its presence.

According to an article in The Telegraph, Ralph Topping, CEO of William Hill has already put together a team to move forward with negotiations with Playtech. He said there may be an agreement by the end of summer. The article refers to the rocky relationship between the two companies following the walk out in Israel, Bulgaria and Manila and states that this could be behind them now.

Ralph Topping William Hill’s Chief Executive Officer feels things in his domain are getting even better. Topping says the average bet placed in the William Hill’s 2,370 betting shops is just £3 to 4. “I think you are seeing the working man saying that some of his pleasures are just not going to be foregone. He’s not spending on a new car and might be cutting back on holidays but he needs a bit of brightness in his life.” A company statement read, “Opportunities are opening up for William Hill to take its expertise into new territories.”

Looking ahead into possible regulated markets looks like it could be the next move. Topping told investors that the company is “convinced we should be expanding” into newly regulated territories. “Ideally, it would be a multi-channel operation, but online is also attractive to us.”

The firm currently derives 92% of its revenues from the operation in the United Kingdom and expects to expand its offerings in that jurisdiction. The company will create as many as 200 new jobs for U.K. residents with its plan to open 30 to 40 more betting shops in the year 2012.

Topping optimistically said expansion is in the cards for the company. The strategic plan is to invest in new venues and jurisdictions.

February 21, 2012

Paddy Power faces investigation over 'transgendered ladies' ad

The advertising regulator is to investigate a TV ad by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power that asks viewers to spot the "transgendered ladies" among a crowd of racing fans at the Cheltenham festival.

The Advertising Standards Authority received 360 complaints that the campaign is offensive towards transgender people.

Paddy Power and broadcaster BSkyB were accused of inciting transphobia with the campaign, which promised to make the festival's Ladies' Day "even more exciting by adding some beautiful transgendered ladies: Spot the stallions from the mares".

The ad goes on to show a series of shots of well-dressed racegoers with a voiceover guessing which are men and which are women.

The campaign, which broadcast on Sky Sports at the weekend, immediately drew criticism from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

LGBT Lib Dems Northern Ireland said Paddy Power has brought "shame on itself" and that the marketing tactic was in poor taste at a time when the UK government is trying to wipe out all forms of prejudice in sport.

"To use the subject of transgender in such a degrading and mocking way is a clear-cut case of transphobia," said the organisation on its website.

"What is worse is that the advert appeared during Sky Sports' very popular Soccer Saturday not just once but three times. So while we have the UK government running a campaign to wipe out transphobia in sport we have the nation's number one sports channel showing such an advert."

Paddy Power is no stranger to controversy, having recently featured Imogen Thomas in an ad campaign in a bid to capitalise on the publicity surrounding Ryan Giggs's affair.

In 2010 the bookmaker aired what was to become the most complained-about ad of the year featuring blind footballers kicking a cat.

The CheltenhamFestival.net website said the campaign was "tongue in cheek" but admitted that some people have found it "in poor taste".

Invited to add their comments, visitors to the site branded it "a disgrace" and "simply horrendous". "I have never seen such an insensitive hate ad," wrote Alex Kennedy.

Stephen Glenn wrote: "We have a government that is working to get homophobia and transphobia out of sport. Yet we have a betting company linking this gross advert to the name of the Cheltenham Festival. I don't think the staff for Cheltenham should be asking us what we think of this but should have condemned it outright themselves."

A spokesman for Paddy Power said that the ad campaign has generated "plenty of public response" which it says has been "healthily mixed".

"Several members of the UK transgender community are cast in the ad, and it was also cleared by Clearcast [which pre-vets TV ads] before airing," said Paddy Power. " This ad is simply a bit of mild-mannered fun in the runup to the Cheltenham festival."

Betfred agree to payout on Barney Curley coup

Betfred have paid out on the 'Barney Curley coup', ending a 21-month dispute that followed a £4 million paper profit landed by five relatives and friends of the Newmarket trainer in May 2010.

Those involved linked four horses in combination bets. Three of the horses, Agapanthus, Savaronola and Sommersturm, were trained by Curley, who had also once trained the fourth horse, Jeu De Roseau, subsequently trained by Chris Grant. The odds on all four tumbled as the coup unfolded, with three horses winning and Sommersturm losing.

UK bookmakers, including Betfred's betting shop division, and some Gibraltar-based online operators, including Ladbrokes and Stan James, paid out but Betfred.com withheld the £823,000 claimed from them, while 888sport withheld a further £29,000, pending an investigation by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority (predecessor of the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner).

In a dramatic conclusion, a joint statement issued by the interested parties on Monday announced that Gibraltar’s Gambling Commissioner had “decided to pursue the matter no further”, prompting Betfred’s Gibraltar-based online operation to pay out and the claimants to discontinue their legal action against the Gambling Commissioner. 888sport, although not a party to the settlement, has alsoagreed to pay the bets.

The settlement prohibits the parties from divulging further details or commenting on the agreement, but represents a victory for Curley and the claimants and a blow to the reputation of Gibraltar’s Gambling Commissioner.

Despite a declaration by the BHA that no rules of racing had been breached, and a ruling favourable to the claimants by the Independent Betting Arbitration Service in respect of a related dispute involving Sportingbet, the GRA instructed operators to withhold payment until its own investigation was completed, an instruction withdrawn in February 2011. Betfred decided to wait until the investigation had been concluded.

In a letter dated May 27, 2011, Phill Brear, the GRA’s head of gambling regulation, criticised the BHA’s stance, asserted that the claimants’ behaviour was “fraudulent” and accused Curley and the claimants of orchestrating “a complex and longstanding deceit”.

Five days later, citing Brear’s letter, Betfred voided the bets under a rule stating “Any person or group of persons acting in an attempt to defraud Betfred.com will have their bets voided”.

The claimants responded by applying to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar for a judicial review of the actions and decisions of the GRA, alleging, in part, that Brear was not impartial and had pre-judged the case.

The episode generated unwelcome publicity for Betfred and soured relations between the GRA and BHA. Paul Struthers, at that time the BHA spokesman, stated: “It is not for the GRA to tellus that we are wrong in our interpretation of the rules. This highlights our concerns in relation to offshore betting operators being outside British gambling legislation.”

Given the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner’s forcefully stated views on the coup, which Brear described as a “fraudulent enterprise”, the settlement represents a reversal for Gibraltar’s regulatory body.

February 17, 2012

Moldova launches first national lottery with Amaya

Residents of Moldova will be able to participate in a new SMS lottery beginning Sunday following the official launch this week of the nation’s first national lottery.

The national lottery’s new SMS game, known locally as “Milioane Pentru Moldova”, is the result of a 20-year exclusive agreement between the Republic of Moldova and Canadian technology firm Amaya Gaming Group, signed in September 2011.

Under the terms of the agreement, Amaya’s gaming platform will power all of the Eastern European state’s gaming operations which will ultimately include lottery, video lottery terminals (VLTs), sports betting and online gaming.

“We are very pleased to deploy the first of several gaming solutions we expect to implement in Moldova,” said David Baazov, president and chief executive of Amaya Gaming Group. “Our unique SMS technology is proving to be a very effective means of acquiring lottery customers, as it recognises the fact that mobile devices are becoming more and more ingrained into the daily lives of people worldwide.”

Amaya says the agreement with Moldova has the potential to generate recurring revenues in excess of CAD$20.0m annually, with the roll-out of additional gaming solutions planned over the course of this year.

“The National Lottery of Moldova aims to provide for all lottery players equal opportunity to win and also to bring benefits to the state budget, which will be directed towards education, health, sports, and culture areas,” said Victor Barbăneagră, deputy minister of finance of the Republic of Moldova. “We want to follow the good examples from other experienced countries in this field and promote transparency and fair play.”

February 07, 2012

All seems in order for Iowa to set the Internet poker process in action

We’re a little bemused about all the fuss over a proposal for online poker in Iowa.

After all, our state long ago decided people should be allowed to gamble legally, and gaming is easily accessible across the state.

Those proposing online poker have promised safeguards, including preventing underage people from taking part.

Plus, it’s estimated that Internet poker could generate $13 million to $60 million in yearly activity, which could produce an estimated $3 million to $13 million in state revenue annually — revenue that some experts say is now going across state borders. It also was going to major illegal offshore poker operations until last year’s federal crackdown on those operations.

Critics say Internet poker will be the gateway to other forms of online gambling in a state that has shown a lack of restraint regarding gambling expansion.

But gambling has proven wildly popular in Iowa — it’s even a tourist attraction — and has helped pay the state’s bills.

As for lack of restraint on gambling, we reflect back to the TouchPlay controversy when the machines that seemed to be everywhere were switched off by the state in 2006. Officials, prodded by concerned citizens, believed things were getting out of hand because of the easy access and did something about it.

In the case of online poker, we’re satisfied that the state Racing and Gaming Commission would have things well in control, allowing the new form of gaming on the platform of casinos operating in Iowa.

The state would regulate a poker hub operator or operators, and would contract with the state-licensed casinos to operate affiliated online sites within a “closed loop” for registered players ages 21 and older.

Again, Iowans want online poker and it will capture revenue our state needs.

If it can be regulated so people can be sure of an honest game and that underage people are prohibited from playing, we see no reason not to deal the online poker hand.

Better the money go to the state for worthwhile services and projects than elsewhere.