July 31, 2012

Mark Blandford sets up new investment company

Mark Blandford the well known founder of Sportingbet has set up a new venture capital company with some £100 million war chest named Burlywood Capital.

Neil Goulden, the former Gala Coral Group chief executive officer & Panmure Gordon investment banker Andrew Burnett are understood also to be involved in the private equity venture, that will be chaired by Sir David Michels who was the former Hilton Group executive.

The fund is looking to invest in a multiple range of businesses that includes online poker, social gaming and pay-to-play entertainment, the venutre will start the launch at the end of August with an initial £50 million, then raising to the full £100 million early in 2013.

Richard Ames Product Director at Ladbrokes leaves

Richard Ames product director at Ladbrokes has left the company it is reported, Britain’s second largest bookmaker, which is set to announce further costly delays to its beleaguered technology platform this week.

The company has already issued a profit warning about its technology division. But Thursday’s half-year results will show delays have eaten even further into the £15m of profits expected from digital- which are less than half the £31m achieved in the same period last year.

Richard Glynn, Ladbrokes’ chief executive, has overseen a series of management changes since joining the company in April 2010. Insiders say morale has fallen to an all-time low, with very little hope of devising a winning strategy that can compete with William Hill, the UK’s leading bookmaker. Last week, William Hill was able to ramp up pressure on its long-time rival by announcing a 23% increase in online operating profits to £68.9m.

Ladbrokes decided to spend £50m developing its own in-house digital technology, a move many in the industry say was its undoing. Almost all other traditional bookmakers team up with industry respected supliers, such as the done between William Hill and Playtech.

Ladbrokes, however, pushed forward with its own project, which has come up short against rivals and diverted much-needed capital from the advertising budget.

Mr Ames is the last of the old guard who served under Chris Bell, the former chief executive. Last year, he earned in the region of £380,000. But his removal is really designed to appease shareholders who have started to lose their patience with Ladbrokes’ online strategy.

Some insiders suggest Mr Ames’ departure is simply designed to offer up a scapegoat to protect Mr Glynn.

Meanwhile, Nick Rust, who was hired by Mr Glynn, will take over online operations, as well as retail and trading.

Betfair gets snookered

Betfair, has signed a deal to sponsor the World Snooker’s new European Tour this season.

The European Tour is a series of six events over the next few months, capitalising on the sport’s burgeoning popularity across the continent. It will be known as the Betfair European Tour with each event broadcast on Eurosport.

The six events, which form part of the Players Tour Championship series, are:

- Paul Hunter Classic, Furth, Germany August 23-26
- Gydnia Open, Gdynia, Poland, October 5-7
- Belgian Open, Antwerp, Belgium, October 19-21
- Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, November 16-18
- Scottish Open, Ravenscraig, Scotland, December 14-16
- Munich Open, Munich, Germany, January 4-6

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to bring in Betfair as the sponsor of the European Tour. Just like us, they are targeting emerging markets in many areas of Europe, and this tour will provide tremendous exposure for their brand.

“Each of these events will receive extensive television coverage from Eurosport and the viewing figures are phenomenal. We are extremely excited about the potential snooker has on the continent in the coming years. These events will attract the best professionals and amateurs, providing great opportunities for the players. And for the passionate fans in places like Bulgaria and Poland it’s a chance to see the world’s leading stars compete.”

Matt Robinson, International Director at Betfair, said: “We are delighted to add World Snooker’s new European Tour to our sponsorship portfolio. The tour visits some key European markets so it’s a great way to raise awareness for our brand. We’re excited to support a game which attracts fans both old and new.”

Argentina’s government looks to nationalise casinos

The AFIP (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos) of Argentina last week requested that casinos and bingo halls nationwide supply their slot turnover to the government.

This raised speculation amongst employees that Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner wants to nationalise gaming, as the AFIP already poses the requested information from the receipt of taxes.

The government has the power to automatically nationalise all casinos controlled by the national government. Under existing legislation, it includes cities that take the lion share collecting around us$70 million a year.

According to recent reports, the industry located inside the capital city’s limits would be subject to any new legislation.

There are three large gaming establishments in Buenos Aires, a racino in the upmarket area of Palermo, and two floating casinos permanently moored next to each other in the city centre.

Congressman Mario Daniel Caputo recently drafted legislation that would give the state “exploitation, regulation, control and administration” of gaming in the state, whilst banning “privatisation, awarding and outsourcing under any conditions.”

Mario Caputo, commented, “From the Chamber of Representatives of the Province of Buenos Aires, it is essential to revise the whole system to bring the regional government a legal instrument that enables to take the most of the resources generated by the games of chance.”

In the case of bingo and gaming halls in Argentina provinces, a bill first needs to be drafted and approved by local legislative leaders.

Privatisation of gaming in Argentina comes as a great shock to the country under Cristina Kirchner, who assumed presidency in 2007. The previous president and former husband of Cristina, the late Néstor Kirchner, had close ties to the gaming industry.

Casino Club, one of the country’s largest gaming operators and owned by a close friend of Mr. Kirchner, was granted permission to run three casinos in Santa Cruz in 2001. Two years later, Casino Club took over the slot machine operation at the Palermo racino and bought a significant share of the floating casinos from CIRSA.

However, things changed with the new President, who according to local media reports, is shutting all correspondence with the industry. The idea of nationalising the gaming industry seems to be gaining ground in Buenos Aires and a newly submitted draft would not renew existing casino and bingo licenses.

Nationalisation is still in the speculative stage and no concrete plans have been announced, but the industry is preparing for a possible change. This would include a central system that would license operators and collect gaming tax.

July 30, 2012

Hills hire lawyers to fight a whole kingdom

William Hill chief executive Ralph Topping is confident about a legal challenge against the UK government point of consumption (POC) tax plans. Hills has instructed lawyers to challenge the legality of the tax as they claim it’s an attempt to flout EU law by restricting the movement of goods and services for taxation purposes. A Telegraph story quotes Topping as stating he has heard “encouraging noises” from lawyers working on the case. If introduced the new POC tax will take 15 percent of all bets placed on UK soil and thus challenge some of the territories that host UK-facing gambling brands. Gibraltar has already signaled its intention to battle the UK over the new tax plans and don’t be surprised if more opponents come out of the woodwork to take them on.

The UK Gambling Commission is considering creating a “kite-mark” that will encourage operators to adhere to the new regulatory rules. The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which published its findings last week, are looking to limit any “grey” market that might start to operate as a result of the new rules.

“We recommend that the Gambling Commission should consider, as a part of efforts to communicate to online gamblers the potential risks to their funds, introducing a kite-marking system for gambling websites, indicating which sites are regulated in the UK,” the committee said. “This could protect consumers by encouraging them to use UK-regulated sites and by incentivising suppliers to choose to be regulated here.”

Knowing the gambling industry as we do, maybe shit loads of free drinks vouchers for a party at Chequers would be a better idea…

July 29, 2012

Betfair create Olympic market without winner

I’ve been interested in what the Olympics couldn’t bring on the trading front for Bet Angel users. Athletics markets are pretty quiet in general, but are often full of surprises. Nothing is guaranteed in sport, especially where markets are tricky to price.

I watched the Men’s Cycling race today with half a eye on whether Mark Cavendish was to get his just reward, alas it was not to be. As the competitors re-entered the streets of London I started collecting data and scanning the markets to judge what would have been a useful trading position. Curiously I couldn’t find one of the two leaders and wondered if I had just completely failed to interpret the action correctly, or mis-heard the commentator. I made a few notes and returned to the horse racing markets. When I returned to the Cycling there was the leader in the market but traded only at very short odds, hardly any competitors had been. I thought I was going mad!

As it turns out there were 144 competitiors at the start of the race but Betfair had only formed a market around 143. Incredibly the only one they left off won the race! To profit you just needed to lay anything in the market. When Betfair added the runner late on, you would have mysteriously created a profit at every backers expense. An interesting start to the Olympics!

Betfair later issued a clarifying statement: -

“We created the Men’s Olympics Cycling Road Race market on 20th July from the official London 2012 website, which at that point did not show Alexandre Vinokourov as a listed competitor. The market remained ‘incomplete’ allowing us to add any further runners on request. We did not receive any requests for Vinokourov to be added, but when it became apparent that he was in a two-man breakaway group towards the latter stages of the race, we added him into the market (approximately 5km from the finish).”

July 27, 2012

European bookmakers pledge to support fair Olympics

Europe’s leading online sports betting operators have said that they will suspend or void Olympic bets if instructed to do so by the UK Gambling Commission, as part of their commitment to keeping the games free from corruption and match fixing.

The European Sports Security Association (ESSA), whose members comprise the leading online sports book operators in Europe, says it is working closely with the British Gambling Commission and the IOC to support the sports and betting integrity of the games.

The Association said its members will offer bets on any Olympic event and will monitor and report all unusual betting patterns and any identified breaches of IOC rules to the UK Gambling Commission’s Sports Betting Integrity Unit.

ESSA members will also take steps to ensure that no bets are knowingly taken from IOC accredited individuals and that senior personnel manage their internal systems and offer a 24-hour reporting service.

“ESSA and our members will make sure that everything possible is done to make sure that the London 2012 Olympic Summer Games are free from corruption and match fixing,” said ESSA secretary general Khalid Ali. “We are all looking forward to a tremendous sporting competition that will be enjoyed by millions around the world.”

As part of its commitment to sports integrity, ESSA has signed over 20 memorandums of understanding with leading international sports governing bodies, including FIFA, UEFA, the IOC, the ATP as well as national gambling regulators in jurisdictions including Alderney, Gibraltar, Malta and the UK.

July 23, 2012

32Red announce booming profits

32Red has announced their 6 month results and are at a record for the Gibraltar based online operator, with total Gross Win up 50% to £16.5m (2011: £11.0m) in the first six months of 2012.

The results represent a sixth successive 6 month period of record revenues for 32Red, here are some of the highlights:

Casino Performance:

Gross Win (revenue) £14.5m, up 52% on 2011
Active casino customers* of 31,722 up 81% on H1 11
Casino player yield £457* (H1 11: £543)
New Casino players 18,724*, up 93% on H1 11
Casino cost per acquisition*: £166 (H1 11: £173)

Current Trading and Outlook for the Full Year

Gross Win for the twenty days to 20 July is up 28% on the corresponding period in 2011. The strong H1 trading performance and current trading is likely to see the Company deliver revenues that are ahead of current market expectations for 2012. The Company continues to invest in marketing and confirms that profits remain in line with management expectations.

Commenting on the performance, Ed Ware, CEO of 32Red, said:

“The continued growth in revenues, particularly in light of strong comparatives, is testament to the strong new player recruitment resulting from more investment in our main market, the UK. We aim to continue in this regard as well as taking our first measured steps in entering the Italian market. We look forward to launching 32Red.it during the second half of the year and welcome the recent decision by the Italian authorities to commence the procedures to approve online slots games from December 2012 onwards.

”While we recognise the potential for economic and regulatory uncertainty across Europe, we look forward to further progress during the second half of 2012.”

£50 million plus being bet on the Olympics

The Olympics fever has triggered a £50million betting bonanza with one in eight Brits having a flutter on the Games according to Coral the bookmaker, which found that half of those placing bets on London 2012, a whopping three million people, were entirely new to gambling.

A surge in patriotism has seen many punters keen to back Team GB medal hopefuls including distance runner Mo Farah, 29, and heptathlete Jessica Ennis, 26.

Ennis is 8-11 to top the podium, while Farah is 6-4 to bag a gold medal.

Other British stars being backed include 400m hurdler Dai Greene, 26, who is 11-4 to take the top prize.

David Stevens of Coral said: “Turnover across the industry could top £50m, with one in eight of those we questioned saying they would be enjoying a flutter on the Games.

“British sport is on a high, with Andy Murray reaching the Wimbledon final and Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France.”

Tipico looking to double business in 3 years

Tipico, the Malta based international betting and broker company, is set to double its business within three years as it taps new igaming markets in Europe and beyond from Malta.

“Tipico is in Malta for good,” chief executive officer Jan Bolz told The Sunday Times. “We are not planning to relocate any function from the island. Even if we expanded into the US in the long-term, we would not change anything about our headquarters here. The Maltese authorities have created advantages that are hard to find anywhere else.”

The German-owned company, which currently occupies two floors at Portomaso Business Tower and is in the process of taking over a third, announced its intention to double its workforce to 200-plus employees by 2013 when it hosted the Prime Minister at its premises on July 11.

Tipico set up operations on the island in 2004 with two members of staff as it was having difficulties obtaining the right licences in Germany. Its Maltese licence allows it to operate in several markets, and it has licence applications pending in Italy and Denmark, while it prepares to file applications in Austria and Belgium.

Mr Bolz, who has previously been based in London, Geneva and San Francisco, understands the implications of asking executives to move countries. The toll on young children, language barriers and myriad unforeseen factors may translate into talent loss.

Portomaso’s business tower and its vibrant environs are major assets not only to its corporate image, but also to its teams’ wellbeing. Mr Bolz maintains the secret to running a successful business is to make sure the teams are having as much fun as the customers.

The chief executive brought a wealth of experience in fast-growing industries to Tipico when he joined last year.

Between 2003 and 2008, he was vice-president, marketing and sales, first for Europe and then internationally, for Electronic Arts, the interactive entertainment software company. At EA, he was instrumental in developing executive strategies for EA’s online business model including the Fifa Interactive World Cup and Sims Online in Europe and Asia.

Earlier, he built the first ever music-talent partnership team for the whole of EA Europe with artists like Justin Timberlake, Black Eyes Peas, and Christina Aguilera to promote EA games.

Between 1989 and 2003, he held various roles at record company BMG, for which he built BMG Ariola Munich into the most profitable record label within the group outside the US. In the mid- to late 1990s, he was responsible for the marketing activities of artists including Whitney Houston, Carlos Santana, David Bowie, Puff Daddy, Pink and R. Kelly.

While he was deputy managing director and head of international business at BMG Ariola Muenchen, the company signed the then unknown Backstreet Boys for the German-speaking territories and signed NSYNC with all their rights worldwide, including Justin Timberlake.

“Fast-growing industries are more fun,” Mr Bolz said. “The atmosphere is happier when your problem is where to discover 10 new people, not how to lay 10 more off. I hope to use my background in entertainment, particularly games, to grow new business models at Tipico. There is potential in various target groups in the sports betting industry.”

Tipico, he added, is currently talking to half a million customers in Germany where 30 million people viewed Euro 2012 last month. The company aims to win 10 per cent of the 29.5 million football fans not on its books – football makes up 80 per cent of Tipico’s betting business – while building a larger international market share.

The company’s long-term strategy is to diversify its business – Mr Bolz “lives and breathes games” – as it seeks to tap the synergies and cross-opportunities in the games and betting sectors over the next five years.

Growth in the next 12 months will stem from Tipico’s core betting business, Mr Bolz emphasised, particularly after Euro 2012 led the company to its best month ever, with revenues up by 70 per cent over June last year.

Tipico’s growth in Malta comes with some challenges, Mr Bolz pointed out. Specialised software developers and engineers are in short supply around the world.

The shortage is acute in Malta, where Tipico could build a team of 24 given the talent. It hopes to foster relations with the University and other colleges with a view to offering internships as part of its strategy to build its employer brand.

Meanwhile, Mr Bolz and his wife are enjoying showing Malta off to their friends who visit from around the world.

“Malta is about the bright light when you open the door and the ability to organise a barbecue party for September 13 and you know the sun will shine. It compares beautifully with any other place we’ve lived.”

July 20, 2012

Ireland announces remote betting bill

Ireland’s Minister for Finance Michael Noonan announced a new bill that will create a new licensing system for remote betting operators.

The Betting (Amendment) Bill 2012 is designed to “ensure a fair and equal treatment of all bookmakers and betting exchanges offering services in Ireland.” The bill will bring into the licensing and taxation regime all remote bookmakers and betting intermediaries, such as betting exchanges.

The new licensing system for remote operators is intended to prevent crime and protect consumers against fraud. It has also been drafted to ensure that all businesses offering betting services from Ireland or to persons in Ireland are regulated appropriately. The bill amends, for that purpose, the Betting Act of 1931, which contains the existing provisions governing licensing of bookmakers and will be scheduled in the next Dáil session.

Provision was made in the Finance Act 2011 for the taxation of remote bookmakers and betting exchanges, subject to a ministerial commencement order.

“This bill will bring into place a fair and equitable licensing and regulatory regime for all bookmakers and betting intermediaries,” Minister Noonan said. “This bill, once enacted, will allow for the extension of betting duty to remote bookmakers and will ensure that all bookmakers' activities offered in the state are taxed equally.

“The fact that off-shore bookmakers were not subject to the betting levy represented a competitive disadvantage to on-shore firms and also narrowed the state’s yield from the levy.”

There is “significant downstream revenue potential” from investment from major companies, he said, noting that such organisations prefer to base themselves in “properly licensed and regulated regimes.”

July 19, 2012

Betfair to sponsor Bayer Leverkusen

The British betting exchange Betfair has become the official sponsor of one of the best football teams in the German Bundesliga - Bayer Leverkusen.

The betting exchange is famous for its cooperation with many sports teams such as Barcelona and Manchester. It's time for another giant of European football. A two-year sponsorship contract with a possible extension for another year has been recently signed. According to the terms of the agreement Betfair will be able to advertise its logo at BayArena, the main stadium of the club. Moreover, Bayer will participate in a variety of marketing promotions of the betting exchange.

Before signing a cooperation agreement with Betfair, Bayer Leverkusen had concluded a contract with the Maltese bookmaker Bet3000. According to the representatives of the German club, Rudi Voller, Bayer sporting director and former successful player and coach, will become a representative of the Betfair brand. Both parties look forward to the fruitful cooperation, which will bring many benefits.

Scandinavian bookmaker Unibet acquired Bet24

The Scandinavian bookmaker Unibet has acquired Bet24 for €13.5 million. The main purpose of this agreement is to increase revenue of the poker room, which experienced a decline in profits.

Bet24 sportsbook announced a net profit of €10.5 million last year, so this acquisition of Unibet can pay off as early as next year. Before, Bet24 had been run by the company Modern Times Group, which belongs to the well-known concern Nordic Betting. The deal is to be concluded in the second quarter of this year, after the full payment of money. The new owner of Bet24 announced that it would not change the name of the company which would operate on the Danish market under this name.

The former owner of Bet24 stated that the acquisition was a strategy for further development, and would also be a more attractive platform for Bet24 customers, given the fact that Unibet is one of the largest and most prestigious bookmakers in Europe.

July 18, 2012

Åland’s Paf launches Ongame’s first casino side games

bwin.party’s Ongame has announced its first implementation of casino side games within the poker client following a deal with WMS subsidiary Jadestone.

Ongame said that the “non-intrusive” implementation of side games is designed to increase total operator revenues without cannibalizing on poker, while also enabling the promotion of other gaming products to poker players, which increases long-term player loyalty for the operator brand.

“Entering the casino market is a strategic step for Ongame,” said the company’s managing director Peter Bertilsson. “Ongame’s excellence within poker and our long-term relations with our operators puts us in a unique position to offer an improved player experience and increased profits for our partners.”

Åland’s Paf has become the first operator to offer the side games within the poker client, with casino side games provided by Swedish games developer Jadestone.

“We are happy to finally offer side games within our poker client,” said Arvid Klingström, head of poker at Paf. “For us at Paf, with our focus mainly on recreational players, this is a natural step to expand our offering towards our poker players and to cross promote poker and casino. The packaging of the games is great and the look-and-feel really fits Paf.”

Robert Henrysson, CEO at Jadestone, added: “Jadestone’s side games offering is perfectly suited for implementation within the Ongame poker client. With the help of Ongame we are able to offer exciting casino games to poker players without making it hard for the operator to implement.

“This is a new way for us to distribute content, and through the recent acquisition of Jadestone by WMS, we may ultimately look to provide WMS award-winning portfolio in a similar manner.”

July 16, 2012

Californian voters keen on sports betting but unsure on poker

A poll conducted in California on internet gambling shows that most California voters are ready to add sports betting to be legalised in the Golden State, but they are split on whether the state should allow residents to play poker over the Internet.

Both proposals are the subject of pending legislation. A bill that would allow sports betting if Congress or the courts lifted the federal restrictions on it has passed the Senate & one Assembly committee. But a measure to legalise online poker stalled at its first committee hearing last month.

The poll found that 58% of Californian voters support the legalisation of sports betting, with 35% opposing the idea.

There is a more reserved attitude toward internet poker, however; where 49% of respondents were for the concept but 45% were against it.

Mark DiCamillo who’s company conducted the poll, said voters seem receptive to the trade when it comes to sports betting, but are more cautious about letting people play poker – & potentially losing big – without ever leaving the house.

The latest poll shows a slight decline in support for the introduction of online poker since the last poll, conducted in September 2011, which found that 53% of registered voters want to licence & regulate online poker & have the state tax its proceeds, & 41% opposed it.

Support for the idea is higher among Democrats, independents & men. Republicans & women are more concerned about the possible impact of online poker, according to the poll. There’s also a major age difference, with older voters far more opposed than the younger generations, which are more comfortable online.

The Field poll contrasts markedly from one published by the Poker Association last month, finding that 76 percent of voters favoured regulating & taxing online poker, spokesman Ryan Hightower said.

Voters said they support online poker because of the revenue it will generate for California's economy, he advised.

The Field poll was conducted between June 21-July 2 among 997 voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Sands given more time for Macau development

Sands China said it has been given more time to build their casino resort in Macau on land granted by the government, however it does expect to pay a penalty for the delay under the agreement.

The Macau government extended a deadline to develop a plot called Parcel 3 to April 17, 2016, from April 2013, Sands said in a statement. The government also said the casino operator will be notified about the penalty amount for delaying the construction, according to the statement.

Construction has yet to begin on Parcel 3, which is slated for the company’s biggest project after the $5 billion Cotai Central resort opened this year. Sands’s rivals Melco Crown Entertainment, SJM Holdings and MGM China Holdings are also awaiting land grants or government approvals for construction in the world’s largest gambling zone.

The new resort will target the mass-market and feature“family-oriented” facilities, Sands said in a separate statement.

The Parcel 3 resort would increase Sands’s presence on Cotai, a strip of reclaimed land. Operators are adding resorts there to draw more of the Chinese tourists who boosted Macau’s casino gambling revenue by 42% last year.

In regulatory filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, parent Las Vegas Sands had said it would apply for the extension because it would be unable to meet the April deadline.

If the extension isn’t approved, the company may have to take a charge for some or all of its $96.7 million in capitalized construction costs and land premiums as of March 31, 2012, Las Vegas Sands estimated in a May filing.

The company was initially required to complete the development by August 2011 and the Macau government had already given it one extension, according to the May filing.

July 13, 2012

Poker and casino pay out for 888 Holdings

Online gaming company 888 Holdings has signalled 2012 could be its annus mirabilis as it surprised investors with improved forecasts for the year.

The group, which analysts believed was close to “crisis point” in 2011, said earnings for the first six months will likely “significantly exceed current expectations” as its revamped casino and poker products gain traction with online gamers.

Margins over the next six months are expected to take a knock from the Olympics, which is likely to draw punters towards sports betting.

Investments in the Spanish market, where online gaming has just been legalised, and in the US will also result in a slightly weaker performance in the second half compared to the “strong” start to the year, 888 said.

Even so, the company believes earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization(ebitda) for the full-year will be “materially ahead of expectations”.
Last year 888 saw pre-tax profits slump 44pc to $5.85m (£3.8m) as chief executive Brian Mattingley steered the company away from unprofitable contracts in its business to business arm, to focus on consumer products.

July 09, 2012

Betfair drops 4.5% as Cyprus announces restrictions on online betting

Betting exchange group faces unexpected blow from new laws to limit gambling.

The beleaguered eurozone state said it would restrict online casino and poker as well as exchange betting. Betfair said Cyprus contributed around 4% of group revenues last year, and around £9m of profit. Its shares have lost 34p to 722p on the news, but it is taking advice on the legality of the move. It said:

The company believes the legislation contains serious flaws and, in certain areas, is inconsistent with European Union law.

Betfair...will be taking all necessary steps to reduce the impact on profitability through both legal action and cost management.
Analyst Michael Campbell at broker Daniel Stewart said he believed Cyprus also planned to introduce a new betting tax of 13% of gross profits.

This is another blow to Betfair's exchange betting business. The stock trades on around 6.6 times 2012 consensus EBITDA which appears reasonably priced, though our biggest concern remains whether other markets will, like Cyprus, ban exchange betting which will hamper the business's ability to grow outside of its core UK market.
Karl Burns at Shore Capital said full year forecasts were likely to be reduced after the news:

We retain our hold recommendation, highlighting that whilst we believe the exchange is a unique and highly cash generative business model, in addition to reporting strong underlying revenue growth recently, we continue to harbour concerns over the pace of exchange regulation in Europe, with Europe around 40% of group revenue, whilst comparatives will toughen through the year.
Overall markets have begun the week on a downbeat note, on renewed worries about the eurozone as Spain's 10 year bond yields climb above 10% again, ahead of the latest EU finance ministers meeting. The FTSE 100 is currently down 23.49 points at 5639.14.

Banks are mixed, with Barclays down 0.85p at 163.9p as the libor fixing scandal continues to cast a shadow over the group. But Royal Bank of Scotland has risen 1.1p to 202.6p as analysts at, yes, Barclays issued an overweight rating although they cut their price target from 340p to 270p.

Elsewhere the profit warning from JJB Sports, down nearly 30% at 7p, which blamed the weather and poor sales of Euro 2012 replica kits has helped push the rest of the sector lower. JD Sports is down 28p at 712p while Mike Ashley's Sports Direct International has dropped 1.8p to 308.2p. But Jonathan Pritchard at Oriel Securities remained positive on Ashley's business:

We do not think that the trends should be read across to Sports Direct - indeed that company's actions have caused JJB's problems.

Sports Direct has been aggressive in terms of replica kit pricing and stated as soon as Dick's arrived [to invest in JJB] that it would up the ante on price.

July 06, 2012

Betfred signs branded content deal for social football game

Independent bookmaker Betfred has signed a deal to provide its branded content within a popular social football game developed by We R Interactive.

We R Interactive’s I AM PLAYR social football game was first released last October and lets users play the life of a professional footballer. It fuses live action video, interactive story-telling and first-person perspective 3D game play to create an original narrative, where the storyline is dictated by the player's decisions and actions both on and off the pitch.

From August 18th, Betfred.com will appear in the game via a virtual in-game betting shop which pulls in real-life Premier League football betting fixtures and allows players to bet using their in-game cash.

The game also incorporates Betfred’s high profile horse-racing sponsorships, as well as its recent sponsorship of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible.

Betfred said that it was an “innovative” deal which aims to drive brand awareness, as part of the company’s strategy to create social entertainment experiences around its sponsorship portfolio.

“Betting and football are natural partners, so it's great to be bringing the Betfred brand into the game through these really innovative integrations that further authenticate the game and blur the boundaries between the real life of a professional footballer and the virtual world of I AM PLAYR,” said Paul Whitehead, global commercial director of We R Interactive. “We're building a large audience for I AM PLAYR, so we'll be working with Betfred to grow their own social activities.”

Betfred managing director Chris Sheffield added: “We are all about innovation at Betfred.com, that’s why this deal was so appealing and we are delighted that our brand will be exposed to a wider audience.”

July 05, 2012

New York Lottery adds Gaming Terminals to Bars

Bars throughout New York are introducing bingo-style terminals, under new laws passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier this year.

The New York lottery, who has placed 92 terminals since April, is targeting about 500 bars and pubs throughout the State for Quick Draw video terminals.

Cuomo lifted restrictions on gaming terminals in bars and pubs as part of an effort to improve the state’s budget and introduce much needed revenue to government coffers. Bars in back streets will bring the flashing lights of casinos into the drunken atmosphere, with maximum convenience for players.

“Customers get the same thrill of gambling without having to drive to the casino,” said Richard Keeler, owner of a neighbourhood tavern in New York.

The game Quick Draw resembles the casino game keno and “the most addictive form of gambling,” according to Donald Trump, he said, “The record shows that the biggest losers of all will be the poor and minority communities. When you add it all up, the social costs far outweigh the potential tax revenues.”

Players simply select numbers and hope their numbers are paired with the drawing numbers displayed on the screen. Wagers in New York’s version start at $1, players can pay with cash or credit cards and have the opportunity to win up to $100,000. The games can be offered during all hours, expect for half and hour in the early mornings.

In 1995, a law was passed which allowed keno in New York bars, which made approximately 25 percent of revenues from the sale of food. Andrew Cuomo is the first governor to successfully permit terminals in a bar that does not sell food.

“People got more comfortable than they had in the past with gambling, helped by the larger messaging about casinos,” said Scott Wexler, speaking for a pro-gambling group in New York, “Once lawmakers agreed to allow seven casinos, why not take the revenue from Quick Draw?”

The expansion of gaming terminals throughout bars and non-food establishments in New York is expected to raise $22m annually, said a government spokesperson.

July 04, 2012

Sportsbook releases odds on who Tom Cruise’s next “leading lady” is going to be

Tom Cruise’s divorce from Katie Holmes made worldwide headlines and everybody seems to have built an opinion on what led to the downfall of one of Hollywood’s most famous couples. Was it the nanny? The pool boy? Or was it a combination of both, which if we’re honest, we’d rather leave out of our imaginations.

From what we’ve read and heard, though, the culprit seems to be scientology, the religion Tommy Boy calls to for his salvation but something Katie doesn’t want their daughter Suri to be exposed to. Bleh. Would’ve been more intriguing if there was a third party involved, but in any case, the couple is headed to splitsville after seven years of marriage.

That being said, we’re all excited to find out who’s going to be the next lady that will make him jump on Oprah’s couch like a raving lunatic again. We don’t know the answer to that yet, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate.

Oddsmakers over at Sports Interaction share our sentiments, and they’ve decided to release a prop bet on who will become the next apple of Tom Cruise’s eyes.

The early favorite is Charlize Theron at 8/1 odds. The South African bombshell is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars so those two won’t have to worry about stealing spotlights from each other. One thing we’re wondering, though, is how Cruise will take to Theron’s support of same-sex marriage. Does his belief in scientology even call for an opinion on that?

Following on Theron’s favorite status are Cameron Diaz and Kristen Stewart, both of whom have been penciled in at 10/1 odds. Cruise and Diaz know each other very well, after co-starring in Vanilla Sky and Knight and Day in the past. Cameron’s also had a history of dating men with bigger egos than her – hello there, Alex Rodriguez! – so Cruise fits right in her proverbial wheel house.

Then there’s Hollywood “it”-girl, Kristen Stewart, who at 22 years old is 27 years younger than Cruise. We know Katie is 16 years his junior, but 27?! That’s a little too creepy even for a dude like Tom Cruise; unless he “imprinted” Stewart as a baby when he was 27. Yikes.

If there’s a value pick among the choices, it’s Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss, who for no other reason, shares Cruise’s love and devotion for scientology. She’s been penciled in as at 11/1 odds. Jump on her, fellas.

Next up is another bodacious blonde, Scarlett Johansson at 12/1. Just like Stewart, there’s a huge age gap separating Cruise from ScarJo, but unlike Stewart, Johansson is hot to the point it hurts. She can have any man on the planet she wants and we find it hard to believe that she’s going to settle for a 50-year old nut job with a certain proclivity for believing the humans are actually “immortal aliens”.

Other notable choices are Reese Witherspoon at 15/1, somebody who Cruise fan finally kiss without having to tip toe. Interesting choice, indeed.

There’s also Emma Stone at 15/1 odds. We’re again exercising the “a-little-too-young-even-for-Tom’s-standards” card here. And for selfish reasons, we want Stone all to ourselves.

Then there are two long shots, both of whom intrigue as because of their history with Cruise. One is Top Gun co-star Kelly McGillis as the ultimate longshot at 101/1 odds. Then there’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman at 26/1 odds. Kidman’s still married to country crooner Keith Urban, but don’t lose out hope that Tom Cruise gets back into the picture to woo Kidman back into his arms. Unlikely, yeah. But we also thought the same thing when rumors of Holmes and Cruise dating surfaced some years ago.

And finally, for sheer hilarity and outright absurdity, “Any Kardashian” has been tagged at 21/1 odds. It probably will never happen, but if Tom Cruise seriously and somehow ends up with, say, Kim Kardashian, then it’s over.

Pack your bags and prepare for the end. The Mayans were right after all.

July 03, 2012

U.S.Fort Bragg soldier who shot commander dies1 of 9CBS EVENING NEWSWhat Pena Nieto's election means for U.S.2 of 9HEALTHPOPLargest health care fraud settlement reached3 of 9CBS THIS MORNINGRedneck Resort - yes, really - opens in Tenn.4 of 9CELEBRITY CIRCUITAnderson Cooper: "I'm gay, always have been" 5 of 9CBS EVENING NEWSEven tiniest Chicagoans caught in gang crossfire6 of 9ENTERTAINMENTHouston tributes, foul language at BET Awards7 of 9GALLERYPortraits of Team USA 20128 of 9U.S.Eastern storms leave 22 dead, 2M still in dark9 of 9 July 2, 2012 10:29 PM PRINT TEXT Full Tilt Poker CEO Raymond Bitar arrested over alleged Ponzi scheme

The U.S. government raised the stakes Monday for an Internet poker company founder, boosting charges against him and saying he could face decades in prison for operating a Ponzi scheme that has cost poker players hundreds of millions of dollars.

Raymond Bitar, 40, was arrested as he arrived at Kennedy Airport. The founder and chief executive officer of Full Tilt Poker said in a statement issued by his lawyers that he voluntarily returned from Ireland.

"I know that a lot of people are very angry at me," said Bitar, of Glendora, Calif., in suburban Los Angeles. "I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds."

Bitar, who pleaded not guilty in a courtroom that included several family members and friends among spectators, was ordered held until he can meet the conditions of a $2.5 million bond, an amount set by U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman over the objections of a prosecutor who asked that he be held without bail as a flight risk.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown said Bitar falsely claimed to Internet poker customers that their money would be safe and would not be mixed with company funds.

He said authorities had determined that more than $430 million had been paid to Bitar and other owners while only $60 million to $70 million remained in company accounts to reimburse players who thought they had accounts totaling $350 million, half of it belonging to Americans.

3 online poker houses face fraud charges in NYC
Devlin-Brown accused Bitar of paying himself at least $40 million, most of which remains abroad. He said charges filed against Bitar on April 15, 2011, when the three largest online poker companies operating in the U.S. were shut down, would have resulted in only a few years in prison.

The new indictment, he said, could result in a sentence that would be "measured in decades."

The charges included conspiracy to violate gambling laws, operation of an illegal gambling business, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. They carry a potential maximum prison sentence of 145 years upon conviction.

Devlin-Brown said Bitar continued accepting money from new customers outside the United States even after last year's charges were filed in Manhattan.

"By then this company was little more than a Ponzi scheme, and his presence was needed to keep it from unraveling," he said.

Bitar, in his statement, said he had "worked hard" for the last 15 months to find solutions to get players repaid.

"Returning today is part of that process," he said. "I believe we are near the end of a very long road, and I will continue to do whatever is required to get the players repaid, and I hope that it will happen soon."

Roberto Finzi, one of Bitar's lawyers, said his client had worked around the clock trying to pay back customers, including considering the sale of company assets.

"He was not running around Mallorca having fun," Finzi said, referencing the vacation-friendly island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Devlin-Brown rejected claims Bitar was working for the greater good of the customers, saying it "strains all credibility." He said Bitar was "simply keeping a Ponzi scheme from being detected."

The prosecutor said the U.S. had been working with Irish authorities and was prepared to extradite Bitar if he did not return voluntarily.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that the indictment shows "how Bitar bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed."

Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI office, agreed.

"The online casino became an Internet Ponzi scheme," she said.

July 02, 2012

888 Signs US Online Poker Agreement with WMS

888 has announced, as part of its online US strategy, an alliance with WMS Gaming, the deal will enable WMS to offer an online product to all its customers utilising 888’s poker platform. By combining forces, WMS and 888 will provide an end-to-end solution that will enable land-based casino operators to leverage and aggregate their respective customer databases, aiming to build large-scale player pools.

WMS will market and distribute 888’s online poker solution to land-based casino customers in venues in the United States, initially with a play-for-fun offering. The agreement will allow the launch of a real money offering immediately as either Federal or state based regulation is finalised and upon licensing by gaming authorities.

Earlier this year, both 888 and WMS submitted applications to Nevada’s State Gaming Control Board for interactive gaming licenses in the State of Nevada.

Brian Mattingley, CEO of 888, said:

“WMS is one of the main gaming suppliers in America, with a network of relationships with land-based operators that is second to none. The combination of 888’s cutting edge online poker platform and WMS’ customer relationships, marketing and distribution capabilities, provides the opportunity to build a substantial online presence.

By deploying our joint online poker solution, casino operators in the United States will be able to provide their customers with a robust and secure network with the liquidity and games offering to give the best possible player experience.”

Orrin J. Edidin, President of WMS, added:

“Aligning our efforts with 888 Holdings will allow WMS to provide our casino operator customers with the capabilities and benefits from one of the world’s most experienced online poker operators which will significantly support their efforts to benefit from online poker in the United States as it becomes legal.”