February 22, 2013

Shootout on Las Vegas Strip leaves three dead and six injured

A taxi exploded, killing its driver, when it was caught in gunfire between a Maserati and an SUV on the Vegas tourist corridor

The Las Vegas Strip became a scene of deadly violence early Thursday when an unidentified individual in a black Range Rover opened fire on a Maserati at a stoplight, sending it crashing into a taxi that burst into flames. The incident left three people dead and at least six injured.

Police believe an altercation earlier at a hotel prompted the attack in the heart of the Strip, at Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, the site of several major hotel-casinos, including Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's.

"This doesn't happen where we come from, not on this scale," said a British onlooker, Mark Thompson. "We get stabbings, and gang violence, but this is like something out of a movie. Like Die Hard or something."

Police said they were contacting authorities in three neighboring states about the Range Rover Sport with tinted windows and paper dealer ads in place of license plates that fled the scene about 4.30am. In Southern California, the California Highway Patrol alerted officers in at least three counties to be on the lookout for the Range Rover with custom wheels, authorities said.

Police said the Maserati hit the taxi cab, which went up in flames, and the driver and passenger were killed. The male driver of the Maserati died, and his passenger was shot.

Tourists staying in high-rise hotels around the scene found police tape blocking access to the area around the intersection. Closures were expected to last most of the day, snarling traffic in the tourist corridor. Jeff Martin, 33, of Columbus, Ohio, said he was unable to cross the Strip several hours after the incident. "When you're out at 4am nothing good's going to happen," he said.

Las Vegas police sergeant John Sheahan said the attack was not a rolling gun battle, as previously described. The cars were stopped at a light when at least one person in the Range Rover opened fire. Several people were inside the vehicle. Six other vehicles were involved in the crash that followed, including the taxi and Maserati. The taxi was affiliated with the Desert Cab company, according to general manager Sandy Shaver. He declined to comment further. The taxi might have been propane-powered.

The incident marked the latest violence on the Strip since the beginning of the year. Two people were critically wounded in a shooting at a parking garage on 6 February and a tourist was stabbed on Saturday in an elevator at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. A spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Jeremy Handel, issued a statement reassuring people that much is being done to keep them safe.

"Recent incidents, while unfortunate, were isolated events," he said. "Las Vegas is among the safest travel destinations in the world and utilizes the most advanced technology and training to maintain a secure environment."

Las Vegas police officer Jose Hernandez said police had made arrests or identified suspects in each case. "People don't have to worry," he said. "This is an unusual occurrence, as tragic as it may be."

Sheahan said police had video from traffic cameras at the intersection where the shooting occurred on Thursday. "We have a lot of pieces to put together to establish a timeline as to why this confrontation occurred", he said.

Svenska Spel closes 14 accounts involved in cheating allegations

Svenska Spel is taking the serious measure of locking 14 poker accounts after details of an alleged bot-based cheating conspiracy happened involving the said accounts. According to Swedish national operator, the suspended accounts carried over $108,000 and have won over $1.8 million in the past year.

The investigation began after a player report a few months ago and suspicious practices were discovered involving what the poker site suspected as poker bots. Since then, the state-owned Svenska Spel reported the matter to the Swedish police and has also found its way to the Swedish Gaming Board.

Svenska Spel representatives on its player forum posted that the poker bots, which are illegal computer systems that mechanizes online poker play, made their living playing in Hold’Em games ranging from NL50 to NL500 and taken most of their winnings in the past six months.

As one of the few authorized gambling providers in Sweden and the only one licensed to offer online poker, Svenska Spel is the only place where Swedish players can play online poker in the country. Ultimately, this falls on the company itself who admitted that it had known of the matter beforehand and failed to report it to the proper authorities. They’re stopping short of revealing the screen names of those responsible while investigations are still underway, but this does paint a pretty unflattering picture of the state-owned operator who will now have to carry the burden of having its GTECH G2 software-run online poker room tainted by cheats.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened to an online poker room. Even PokerStars had to deal with its own cheating scandal a few years ago involving collusion among Chinese players who pilfered more than $2 million from over 25,000 players. So Svenska Spel can take comfort knowing they’re not the first. But it still paints a negative picture if you’re in that list.

More details are expected to be revealed as the investigation progresses. It’ll be interesting to see where this case goes from here.

February 21, 2013

On the frontlines of the fight against match-fixing

A Georgian townhouse in a genteel, leafy London suburb houses a team of gambling experts huddled round dozens of computer screens showing match results from around the world. No bets are placed, however, no money won or lost. This is the frontline of the war on football match-fixing.

The multi-billion dollar football industry was shaken to its core earlier this month when European police and prosecutors said hundreds of games may have been rigged in a match-fixing syndicate being run from Singapore.

Helping football's governing bodies tackle the problem, companies such as Sportradar analyse betting odds movements to detect match-fixing, while FIFA has also set up an inhouse Early Warning System (EWS).

In Europe, a group of 15 leading bookmakers work together in the European Sports Security Association (ESSA), sharing information on suspicious betting patterns via e-mail.

But the scale of the problem, with World Cup qualifiers and Europe's flagship Champions Leagues under suspicion, as well as games in Asia, Africa and Latin America, necessitates a global solution, says former FIFA security director Chris Eaton.

"A warning system has got to be global - gambling is global," he told Reuters. "It's true to say that ESSA will pick up movements in the legal gambling area - for the most part it is illegal betting where the fixes are conducted."

Sportradar is part of an emerging industry that has grown up around official efforts to stamp out fixing in sports, especially football. The firm's employees monitor 300 or more bookmakers and more than 30,000 games a year for European soccer's governing body UEFA.

Ben Paterson, Sportradar's Integrity Manager, said his firm identifies between 250 and 300 suspicious football games every year, and that those figures show no sign of dropping off.

"A lot of people are doing a lot of things to curb match fixing, yet we still see the numbers maintained, if not increasing slightly," he added.

Although ESSA covers only a small part of the global market, it says it can give specific details on who is betting and where bets are placed to help prevent fixing before a game.

Bookmakers are linked by an email alerting system allowing its members to flag details of suspicious betting to each other and pass on details to sports bodies with whom they have ties.

Its advantage is that bookmakers know who made the bet and where. Its downside is that it is limited to Europe.

FIFA's system can monitor betting patterns but without the level of specific detail ESSA has. EWS also uses a network of contacts around the world to pass on intelligence and runs a whistleblower hotline. As well as FIFA games, it also monitors Major League Soccer in the United States and Japan's J League.

"EWS in FIFA is a small and capable organisation but it seems to me that they don't have a substantial field presence," said Eaton.

"Sportradar are probably the best there is for the present. While they are a commercial organisation, I would rather see them operating within an independent global body independent of sport and betting organisations."

Detection efforts are struggling to keep up, experts say, because of poor coordination between gambling companies and soccer's ruling bodies, while a lack of regulation in Asia means vital data is simply unavailable.

Mike O'Kane, chairman of ESSA, wants big Asia betting houses like Sbobet and Ibcbet to join forces with their European counterparts to fight fixing.

"I do call on all the European betting operators, in fact all global licensed operators, who are serious about protecting their company to join ESSA," he said.

Philippine-based Sbobet and Ibcbet declined to comment on the issue when contacted by Reuters.

A German investigator who helped jail 14 people for match-fixing was critical of the systems.

"Coming from our experiences of the last three years we have to say that these systems are not productive for our investigations as evidence in court," said Friedhelm Althans, investigator in the German city of Bochum.

"They are basically blunt instruments which don't yield results," he told Reuters.

Football has replaced horse racing as the staple of the bookmaking business, helped by technology that allows punters to bet live online while watching matches on television.

Sportradar's Paterson said the explosion of the online industry led to particular match-fixing trends appearing.

Ninety percent of fixed games will see suspicious patterns in live betting, usually with the Asian bookmakers, rather than any pre-match betting.

The mechanics of Sportradar's system rest on complex algorithms, a global network of 150 freelance informants and decades of analysts' experience, but the principle behind it all is relatively simple.

Most football betting happens during the match, when bookmakers increase odds and offer a chance of higher payouts.

As the betting is live, the odds are reactive. If a large amount of money is placed on a particular bet, bookmakers respond by lowering odds. If they lower the odds far enough, Sportradar's system triggers an alert and analysts get to work.

If a match is deemed suspicious, Paterson's team will gather round a whiteboard and thrash out the details.

"If we see some suspicious betting, we try to exhaust all avenues of why that betting could be legitimate," said Paterson. "Most of the time we're able to find a legitimate reason for these."

Some, such as a match that ends 0-0 and has no corners, no throw ins and no free kicks, are hard to defend.

"All this does though is raise the flag that this match is fixed," Patterson said. "It's the start of an investigation."

Monitoring in Asia is far weaker and Professor David Forrest, an expert on the economics of sports betting, said the conditions were ripe for match-fixing to flourish in the region.

"Most of the competitions targeted are competitions where there is low pay and yet there is a very, very big unregulated betting market in Asia where criminals can make lots of money," said Forrest. "It's made for corruption."

The special economic zone of Cagayan in the Philippines is home to the top five Asian bookmakers who, due to a lack of stringent regulations, are under no obligation to file accounts, keep memoranda of understanding with sporting bodies or ensure 'Know Your Customer' principles like European counterparts.

Ralf Mutschke, FIFA's head of security, says better coordination with law enforcement agencies would also help. Efforts to tackle match-fixing are hampered by the fact that it is not a criminal offence in every country.

Laila Mintas, head of legal at FIFA's EWS, told a gaming conference in London this month: "We would appreciate the European Union taking a lead by setting the minimum national regulations on match-fixing."

For Sportradar's Paterson, match-fixing has become such an issue that left unchecked it could seriously challenge the game's integrity.

"Who wants to go to a football match where people know the results already? You might as well go and watch worldwide wrestling."

February 19, 2013

Betsson acquires the Automaten brands

Betsson AB has today entered into an agreement to acquire the brands Sverigeautomaten.com, Norgesautomaten.com and Danmarksautomaten.com from Cherry, for a consideration of SEK 286 million, of which SEK 60 million constitutes an additional purchase price. In practice, the deal implies that Betsson AB’s subsidiary in Malta, which already today is responsible for the operation of the Automaten sites, now also takes over the brands and the responsibility for the external marketing of the brands. Simultaneously, Cherry acquires the brand Cherrycasino.com from Betsson AB’s Maltese subsidiary, for a consideration of SEK 1 million.

The initial net consideration of SEK 225 million will be paid by the delivery of 1,063,895 newly issued Betsson B shares. The additional purchase price will be paid in cash after 12 months.

The Automaten brands delivered revenues in 2012 of SEK 168.2 million, which already are included in Betsson’s total revenues. In total, the deal implies that Betsson, calculated on 2012 levels, makes a yearly saving of SEK 52.7 million in costs corresponding to the net effect of savings of revenue share to Cherry from the previous partner agreement and additional marketing spend to be carried out by Betsson. The deal is hence done on a level corresponding to an EBIT multiple of 5.4 and will give a positive EPS effect from the second quarter 2013.

”The deal is in line with our strategy to focus on B2C in our core markets in the Nordics. Our judgment is that the acquired brands will develop stronger internally because we can use the marketing power and scale advantages of the entire Betsson group.” says Magnus Silfverberg CEO of Betsson AB.

Betsson AB’s Core Business consists of owning and administering shareholdings in companies which, themselves or through partners, offer gaming to the end users via the internet. Betsson AB owns Betsson Malta which operates gaming to the end users either through their own websites or through partnerships. Betsson Malta offers Poker, Casino, Sportsbook, Scratch Cards, Bingo and Games. The customers come primarily from the Scandinavian countries and other parts of Europe. Betsson AB is listed on NASDAQ OMX Nordic Mid Cap List.

February 15, 2013

Suspended snooker ace Stephen Lee to face governing body hearing over match-fixing allegations

Snooker star Stephen Lee is battling to save his career after the sport’s rulers insisted he has “a case to answer” over match fixing.

In an announcement that rocked the sport Lee – who has been suspended since October 12 – now faces a hearing to determine his fate.

The 38-year-old cueman from Trowbridge started this season ranked eighth in the world.

He is accused of breaching the rules of the governing body, the WPBSA, in matches at four tournaments, including the 2009 World Championship, the pinnacle of the sport.

And they have decided to take their current course of action after examining “a large amount of material”.

Lee appealed his present suspension but that was thrown out on October 24.

The WPBSA said: “We have gathered a large amount of material from the Gambling Commission, West Midlands Police and third parties in relation to the allegations.

“The available evidence has now been considered and the chairman of the committee has decided that there is a case for Stephen Lee to answer.

“These alleged breaches relate to four matches at the Malta Cup 2008, two matches at the UK Championship 2008, one match at the China Open 2009 and one match at the World
Championship 2009.

“The investigation into the suspicious betting in relation to Stephen Lee’s Premier League match with John Higgins on October 11, 2012.”

Meanwhile, Graeme Dott crashed to the worst defeat of his career at the BetVictor Welsh Open in Newport.

The Larkhall ace was upset 4-1 by unranked qualifier Pankaj Advani in their last-16 clash.

But fellow Scot Stephen Maguire dug deep to topple Matthew Stevens 4-2.

Next up for the former UK champion is a quarter-final clash with either Alan McManus or Joe Perry.

February 12, 2013

New Jersey first to offer television gambling

Customers at a New Jersey casino won’t even have to get out of bed in order to place a bet soon, as The Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City said it will become the first casino in the US to let guests gamble in their hotel rooms via TV sets, starting the end of next week.

Its E-Casino program will let guests with player’s cards set up electronic accounts and risk up to $2,500 a day. Slots and four kinds of video poker will be the first games offered.

The casino says the technology can be expanded to include gambling over hand-held devices anywhere on casino property, which New Jersey recently authorized, and full Internet gambling, if the state approves it.

“This puts us in a position to leverage the technology into true mobile gaming and Internet betting later on,” said Tom Balance, the Borgata’s president and chief operating officer. “We’re moving forward with the future of gaming, and this is that first step.”

John Forelli, the casino’s vice president of information technology, said it is designed not only as an added amenity, but to get them familiar and comfortable with the concept of electronic gambling accounts for the day when Internet wagering comes to New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie last week vetoed an Internet gambling bill, but said he would sign one with some moderate changes.

The casino does not expect in-room gambling to supplant a significant portion of its action on the casino floor. Rather, it views it as an added attraction for customers trying to decide which of many East Coast casino destinations to visit.

Borgata officials said they had no estimates of how much they expect to take in through the system, which is subject to a 90-day trial period by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The system is built by Allin Interactive, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company that specializes in interactive television applications.

There are several controls to prevent the system from being used by minors or people excluded from gambling. A customer would have to have a Borgata player’s club card, which would screen them to ensure they are of legal gambling age and are not banned from any casino premises.

The PIN number used for the players’ club card would have to be combined with a temporary password provided by the casino’s front desk. Patrons would then go to the casino cashier cage and open an electronic account by providing up to $2,500 in cash, the maximum the state allows to be transferred into the system each day.

The system works using the TV remote control. Players can toggle back and forth among a slots game called Rum Runner’s Riches and four kinds of video poker. The casino eventually plans to add more games if the test period if successful.

Players who want to cash out just click a button on the screen and the proceeds of their gambling go into an e-wallet that can be stored for future visits, or paid out at the casino cashier cage, just like winnings accrued on the casino floor.

The technology is currently used on large cruise ships. It will be available in all 2,000 of the Borgata’s rooms.

Britney does Las Vegas with Caesars

There has been weeks of speculation, but now Entertainment has confirmed that it’s trying to bring Britney Spears to Las Vegas for a recurring gig at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

Spokeswoman Emily Wofford said Friday the company is in negotiations to install the pop princess on the Las Vegas Strip.

“We can now confirm the company is actively engaged in discussions with Britney Spears’ representatives regarding a potential headlining residency at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino,” the company said in a statement.

The 31-year-old “Scream & Shout” singer stoked rumors last week by responding with a “Viva Las Vegas” hashtag to a post from her dog’s Twitter account asking if puppies can gamble in Sin City.

Earlier this week, Spears’ manager Larry Rudolph revealed negotiations were down to two casinos, one of which is part of the Caesars Entertainment Group. The deal will reportedly be finalized once the pop star’s team decides on a casino.

“We are in deep negotiations and I’d be shocked if it didn’t happen. Hoping to have a deal done very soon,” Rudolph said.

Spears left her position on the television singing contest “The X Factor” in January, telling fans she wanted to refocus on her music.

Caesars Entertainment currently is promoting residencies by singers Cee Lo Green at Planet Hollywood and Shania Twain at Caesars Palace.

February 08, 2013

Skrill complete acquisition of Paysafecard

Skrill the winner of Payment Solutions Provider at the recent 6th International Gaming Awards have announced that the acquisition of paysafecard, the Austrian prepaid payments business, has been completed today. Skrill is majority owned by Investcorp Technology Partners.

As the European market leader in prepaid online payment, the acquisition of paysafecard represents a hugely significant step forward for Skrill, expanding its position as one of the world’s largest digital wallet providers. paysafecard’s products allow payments without a credit card or bank account at more than 4,000 online stores and more than 450,000 sales outlets in 33 countries across Europe, North America and South America. In 2012, it processed more than 55 million transactions.

Skrill and paysafecard’s combined offering will deliver an end-to-end stored value payment solution, combining a secure prepaid product that complements Skrill’s existing payments service. paysafecard’s offline distribution network adds to Skrill’s already significant online network that boasts more than 100 payment options in 200 countries worldwide. The joining together of Skrill and paysafecard also opens up the business to new markets within under-banked populations.

“For both sides this is a strategically important acquisition and we are pleased it is now finalised. paysafecard complements our current offering and strengthens our position in the key gaming and digital media markets verticals, establishing us as a provider of end-of-end transfer of stored value,” said Siegfried Heimgaertner, CEO of Skrill. “This is another significant step towards our long-term ambitions to become the first choice for online payments, helping our end-customers and merchants to pay and get paid globally.”

Michael Mueller, CEO of paysafecard, said, “Having grown into a market leader for prepaid payments our consolidation with Skrill is a natural next step for the business, taking our products to a global network of merchants and consumers. We have great faith in Skrill’s entrepreneurial vision, and look forward to continuing to grow the business.”

Dan Tan, Perumal and soccer's match-fixing

Tan Seet Eng, an ethnic Chinese man in his forties, first reached public attention in 2011, when his alleged partner and fellow Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal was arrested in Finland, convicted of match-fixing and jailed.

It's a conventional life for a well-to-do Singaporean businessman: he lives in a condo, drives a BMW and enjoys trips to the casino, according to people familiar with his routine.

The difference is that Tan Seet Eng - better known in global law-enforcement circles as Dan Tan - is the key suspect in what could be the biggest match-fixing scandal in football history.

When news broke this week that nearly 700 games, mainly in Europe, had been targeted by Singaporean-linked fixers, questions were immediately raised about Tan, who has been in the spotlight for the past 18 months.

His name has cropped up in multiple investigations. In the latest probe revealed by Europol, hundreds of players and officials are under suspicion, 14 people have been sentenced and more than 100 prosecutions are expected.

But the head of Interpol complains that, while the integrity of the world's most popular sport is under threat, the alleged ringleaders are living freely.

Tan, in a rare interview in 2011, vigorously protested his innocence and said he was mystified as to why he had been accused.

"Why I'm suddenly described as a match-fixer, I don't know. I'm innocent," he told Singapore's The New Paper. "If there's anything against me, I can take it to court and fight it."

Tan, an ethnic Chinese man in his forties, first reached public attention in 2011, when his alleged partner and fellow Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal was arrested in Finland, convicted of match-fixing and jailed.

Perumal, believed to be a key source for blowing open the "calcioscommesse" scandal in Italy, as well as this week's Europol revelations, maintains he was double-crossed by Tan and named him as a key figure in his fixing syndicate.

Italian police have issued an arrest warrant for Tan, and court papers quoted by The New Paper called him the "leader" of an international fixing ring.

Reports have named him in a German court case and police probes in several countries. According to Perumal, who spoke to the "Invisible Dog" investigative website last year, Tan was still active as recently as June.

"If you arrest Dan Tan, the signal it gives is that investigators can reach out and touch you," said Zaihan Mohamed Yusof, The New Paper's investigative reporter who interviewed Tan.

But Tan appears to feel secure in Singapore, according to Zaihan, who recounted his routines including trips to the casino.

"It doesn't make any sense for him to leave the country, he could be arrested. It's safer for him to be in Singapore," the reporter told AFP.

Attempts to contact Tan this week failed. His listed phone numbers are disconnected, and a visit to his home, a run-down condominium next to a suburban shopping mall, proved fruitless.

Singapore is considered the nexus of global match-rigging after fixers learned their trade in the local leagues and neighbouring Malaysia.

With the birth of online gambling, Singaporean fixers were perfectly placed to take advantage, with contacts in the European leagues and criminal gangs, and in the underworlds of Asia where illicit betting is possible on a huge scale.

Last month, Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said match-fixing generates hundreds of billions of dollars around the world each year, comparing the revenues to multinationals such as drinks giant Coca-Cola.

With enormous pressure now on to smash the match-fixing syndicates, Singapore, a wealthy island state known for its low crime and low corruption, is squirming in the glare of attention.

Its powerful Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said "match-fixing of any form is not condoned in Singapore" and that it investigates allegations of game-rigging through bribery.

Since 2005, the CPIB has investigated eight such cases in Singapore, with 11 individuals charged and convicted, it said in a statement. However, the CPIB also told AFP it was not involved in matters concerning Interpol.

Singapore's police force has confined its comments to a few terse statements saying it is cooperating with Europol and Interpol, including handing over information about Tan. But it said it needed hard evidence to make arrests.

"A question that really must be asked is why so little is being done to question Singaporean individuals allegedly involved in such a global match-fixing operation," Neil Humphreys, a Singapore-based football columnist and author of the novel, "Match Fixer", told AFP.

Interpol chief Noble told the Straits Times: "Until arrests are made in Singapore and until actual names, dates and specific match-fixing details are given, these organised criminals will appear above the law and Singapore's reputation will continue to suffer."

February 06, 2013

Hungary’s online gaming regulation could create monopoly

The Hungarian government last week submitted its amended online gambling law to the European Commission, to ensure plans meet with Brussels’ approval. Regulations propose 20 percent annual tax and one-off licensing fees for operators, whilst players will be exempt from tax on their winnings.

Alongside the annual tax on gross profits, licensees would be required to pay a HUF100m (US $461k) concession fee for each type of game they could offer, which includes sports betting, card games, casino games, horse and greyhound racing.

Operators would also be required to pay a regulatory supervision fee equivalent to 2.5 percent of their net quarterly revenues, capped at HUF50m (US $230k). Licenses would be granted for five-year terms, but the huge financial barriers to market could prevent a healthy online gaming environment in the country.

To promote online gaming in Hungary, gamblers will be able to play tax-free and barriers will be put in place to limit illegal operations cutting into licensed businesses. The government intends to publish a list of unauthorised operators and ISPs would be authorised to block any unlicensed websites, facing fines if they don’t comply.

Whilst the EC needs to sign-off on the optimistic draft legislation that the government is hoping will raise HUF10bn (US $ 46m) in 2013, it could still take more than a year before any operator is licensed. Meanwhile, state-owned operator Szerencsejáték Zrt would be granted a license automatically and work on having its Lottomatica-powered Margin Maker product online in the coming months.

This appears to be a protectionist bill disguised as an open market bill, establishing guidelines and extortionate fees, but giving the government final decision on licensing rights. The EC is encouraging member-states to promote fair trade and analysts therefore suggest the bill will not be approved. However if it becomes law, the proposed licensing structure will enable the market to remain as a monopoly.

Budapest-based gambling lawyer Gábor Helembai said that as the government will decide the number of licenses and what products licensees will be allowed to offer, “presumably not many competitors (if any) will be allowed to operate in Hungary.”

“If the new regime is to be successful then it must offer appropriate regulation and a viable fiscal framework,” added Clive Hawkswood, Remote Gambling Association CEO, “The combination of the new gambling tax and an unrealistically high concession fee would frustrate entry to the Hungarian market.”

February 05, 2013

Match-Fixing Scandal: How International Football Has Failed

The results of the ongoing international investigation into the fixing of football matches reveal a far-reaching system that has affected hundreds of games. They also show that efforts by UEFA and FIFA to combat match-fixing have been a failure, as have attempts to arrest the scandal's primary suspect.

Wilson Raj Perumal landed his biggest coup in February of 2011. It was the product of weeks of planning, according to documents from the Finnish public prosecutor's office. A native of Singapore, Perumal had traveled widely, meeting with soccer officials and arranging a site to stage two international friendlies. According to court documents, he then bribed six referees in order to guarantee the results he wanted.

The two matches, with the Bolivian national team beating Latvia 2:1, the other a 2:2 draw between Estonia and Bulgaria, were played one after the other in the Turkish coastal town of Antalya. And they ended just as Perumal had planned. Of particular note on that day: Every single one of the goals was the result of a penalty.
"We all had a strange feeling," former German national player Lothar Matthäus, who was the Bulgarian trainer at the time, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We knew that something wasn't quite right. But I didn't think that a manipulation on that scale was possible."

Perumal was arrested in Finland not long after the matches, and he ultimately became a key source of information as investigators delved into what has emerged to be a massive match-fixing scandal. On Monday, Europol head Rob Wainright announced the preliminary results of a broad investigation into corruption in global soccer, saying officials had identified some 680 games suspected to have been manipulated, involving some 425 players, referees and other officials. Many of the matches that were fixed were lower league clashes. But the list also includes World Cup qualification games as well as Champions League fixtures.

'No Measurable Success'

A large number of the matches, including those fixed by Perumal, were already known to have been manipulated. Most of the 70 rigged games that took place in Germany were also no secret. But Wainright's announcement, the product of a lengthy and ongoing Europol investigation, revealed the breadth of the problem facing European soccer and also threw light on the degree to which organized crime, particularly in Asia, has targeted football.

How, though, could such a broad scandal of illicitness be possible? FIFA head Sepp Blatter, after all, announced a "zero tolerance" policy on match manipulation two years ago and invested in an "early warning system" to identify suspicious betting patterns.

But Friedhelm Althans, a chief investigator from the German city of Bochum and one of the world's leading experts on sports betting scandals, indicated that such measures had been a failure. At the Monday press conference, he said that systems installed by FIFA and the European football organization UEFA "had remained thus far without any measurable success." It was a scathing verdict.

The two football associations had had high hopes for a software system that was designed to highlight instances of suspicious betting activity and spreads around the world. A former UEFA employee, who assisted in setting up the system, said that the warning system functioned such that "when someone bets a high amount on a match, an amount of money that is much higher than the average bet, then the system calls attention to the match as endangered." But the former UEFA employee, who asked not to be identified, said that the system was "essentially blind" in cases where "many, smaller bets are made at several different sports betting shops."

The two market leaders -- Sportradar, which is used by UEFA and Early Warning System (EWS), preferred by FIFA -- also have a much larger deficit, according to the UEFA insider. "They recognized almost exclusively the large and mid-sized betting shops in Europe. The many smaller, and sometimes semi-legal and illegal betting companies in Asia have no interest in cooperating with the official associations," the former UEFA employee said.

Easy to Avoid

Yet it is those companies that are responsible for much of the illegal betting activity. Ante Sapina and Marijo Cvrtak, both of whom were sentenced in Germany to five years behind bars for match manipulation between 2006 and 2008, were convicted of having placed large bets in Asia via a middleman in an English betting shop. Both have appealed.

"The early warning systems are completely toothless. At most, it is just a nice business where some people can earn some good money," says a former employee of Interpol. "But real bet manipulators, particularly the hardcore in Asia, find them easy to avoid." Both EWS and Sportradar declined to comment for this article.

The two international friendlies arranged by Perumal in Antalya, of course, were easier to spot than most. Because of the way the goals were all scored, the two games were immediately considered suspicious. But the system that Perumal was a part of has yet to be fully uncovered to this day, despite assistance provided by Perumal himself.

It is a system thought to be run by a man named Dan T (German media standards prohibit identifying a suspected criminal by his or her full name). Underlings such as Perumal found sports marketing companies which then approach national football associations about the rights to hold matches. They guarantee lodging and travel expenses for the players and deal with marketing and broadcasting rights. They also provide the referees and the host teams, which can be extensively manipulated.

"Most football associations are broke and welcome this kind of an offer," Perumal reportedly told investigators when he was behind bars in Finland. Betting scandal experts believe that Perumal ended up in prison primarily because he had become too powerful for T. He told Finnish investigators that he is willing to testify because T. allegedly double-crossed him.

Losing the Match-Fixing War

The information that Perumal has provided over the past year and a half has assisted prosecutors from around Europe to better understand the manipulation system operated by T. His testimony was likewise the basis for much of the information released by Europol at the Monday press conference in The Hague.

Via Perumal's testimony, T. has become the most important piece in the global match-fixing puzzle. "Perumal wasn't T.'s only employee. He still has a whole team of shareholders. They split the bribery payments for referees and teams, thus keeping their own risk relatively manageable," an investigator told SPIEGEL ONLINE. The distribution of profits, however, is more complicated. "T. calculates the winnings from each successfully manipulated game and then disperses payments on a percentage basis. We estimate his assets to be close to €200 million," the investigator said.

T. is thought to have divided his employees up by region and responsibility. Whereas Perumal was primarily responsible for international friendlies, others work at the regional level. Recently, suspected middlemen working for T. were arrested in both Hungary and Italy. Both, however, have thus far remained silent.
T. has denied all accusations levied against him. Still, it is difficult to imagine how he remains free, given the amount of evidence that has been gathered against him and given the international warrant for his arrest issued by Interpol. "T. has created an extremely complicated network of companies," on investigator told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "It is extremely difficult to pin individual transgressions on him. Furthermore, Singapore is not cooperating to the degree that we had hoped. T. is a very influential person in his country."

The investigative journalist Declan Hill, one of the first to identify systematic manipulation of sports betting from Asia, wrote recently on his blog that arresting T. should be the top priority. "What will happen if Dan T. is not arrested?" Hill writes, before answering his own question. "We will lose the war against match-fixing."

Match-fixing: How gambling is destroying sport

It was not a big surprise.

Before I explain why there were no big surprises, let us step back for a moment, and explain how we got to this situation.
We have all heard the news of the shocking Europol media conference on Monday revealing hundreds of fixed football matches. However, all of this excitement begs a key question - why now? What is going on in international football, indeed many other sports, that means we are suddenly hearing all this talk of fixing?

Fixing and corruption in sport has a long history. If you were to go to the site of the ancient Olympics in Greece you would find, outside the ruins of the stadium, remains of statues to their Gods. The statues were paid for by athletes and coaches who were caught cheating. Sports corruption goes back at least 2,800 years and some type of corruption will be with us for as long we continue to hold competitive sports. It is simply a part of human nature.

However, we of this generation, are facing something almost entirely new. It is a contemporary form of match-fixing - as if someone had taken fixing and injected it with steroids.

It is an utterly modern phenomenon and if we do not fight it properly, it will destroy many sports as we know them. This new form of corruption will, like a tsunami, sweep aside all other issues and leave some sports dead and destroyed.
The key to the new form of fixing is globalisation. In the last ten years, the sports gambling market has - like the music and travel industry - been utterly transformed. Now, gamblers in any part of the world can place a bet on almost any professional sports event in almost any country of the world.

What this means is that the Asian gambling market, which is far, far bigger than the European and North American market, has a huge amount of cash to bet on small matches. Today, at their press conference, Europol said the biggest amount gambled on one of the fixed matches had been £121,000.

This is peanuts. The Asian gambling market is measured in billions of dollars. Fixers working inside the Asian gambling market have destroyed much of the sport on that continent, so now they are turning their attention to other countries.

There are about 20 to 30 fixers who travel the world fixing sporting events. They regard themselves as "brokers" rather than fixers. They form alliances with local criminals, who in turn are able to form connections with corrupt players, referees and team officials.

The Asian criminals deal with fixing the gambling market by placing bets in such a way that no-one suspects the games are fixed. In this way, there is a network of corruption that stretches quite literally around the world.

The fixers have operated in Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and, particularly, Europe. There is now a line of badly affected leagues that is slowly moving west across Europe. Essentially, they dovetail with the former Soviet Empire, so countries like Bulgaria, Poland or Hungary have all been badly hit. Few football fans in those countries regard their sport with any degree of serious credibility.

However, it is not exclusively an ex-Soviet phenomenon - Turkey, Greece and Italy have also been hit with massive corruption scandals. What the current Europol investigation clearly demonstrates is that the line is moving closer to the UK.

For example, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Finland have all had scandals linked to fixed matches. This summer Norway had its first taste of the infamy that the fixers can bring to a league when there were suspicious matches in their third division.

The line taken by many British football fans has always been "only foreigners are corrupt". This is dangerously naive. A non-corrupt league is like the myth of the "unsinkable ship". It does not exist. There will always be, as the ancient Greeks knew, some risk of corruption.

I do not mean that there is rampant fixing in British football. But I do mean that the British leagues have a very small window of opportunity to get themselves ready to fight off this new form of corruption.

Football officials must start to put into place new forms of protection for the game. One defence is a proper and well-resourced anti-addiction program for players and referees. Gambling is part of the culture for many young British players and some of them risk, and lose, a staggering amount of their wages in gambling.

The Football Associations need to establish problem-gambling counselling and a clause in the players' contracts that allows them to seek help for addictive behaviour without it damaging their professional success. They need to back this up with a full-time integrity officer and a well-designed hotline for sports people to be able to anonymously report corrupt approaches.

If the British Football Associations implement these reforms, they stand a good chance of being able to beat back the modern form of fixing. If not, then UK football may be hit with a major scandal on its own shores.

February 04, 2013

888 posts double digit increases

888 Holdings oversaw a double-digit rise in revenue in 2012 as the business continues to enjoy success in a number of different jurisdictions. Revenue was up 13 percent to US$376million for the full year with the company’s B2C operations enjoying an excellent year. B2C poker increased revenue by 44 percent to $88million with B2C casino revenue enjoying a similarly lucrative year as revenue rose 12 percent to $US165m. B2C bingo had a slightly disappointing year as revenue dropped 4 percent to $52m. The company’s B2C revenue from their “Emerging Offering” more than made up for it with a rise of 16 percent to US$25m. Part of this were two markets in Souther Europe that were alluded to in comments from CEO Brian Mattingley.

“Our success in Spain and Italy shows that we have the right product and technology led marketing to make significant inroads into new markets, and we will look to repeat that success in other regulating territories,” said Mattingley. “In addition we are experiencing a significant increase in customer recruitment and revenue from mobile platforms and, given our focus and commitment to investment in mobile, see this is as just the beginning of an increasing trend. 2013 has started strongly and we therefore remain confident of future growth.”

The company also released figures for the final quarter of the year that showed group revenue rising by 7 percent to US$97m. B2C revenue rose 9 percent to US$86m with poker increasing by 31 percent to $24m as a part of that and casino revenue increasing by 6 percent to $44m.

One disappointing part of the company was their B2B brand, Dragonfish, which saw a decline in revenue of 2 percent for both the full year and fourth quarter. Apart from that the results were a very good set with Mattingley and pals likely to be very happy with them. The only thing that might make them happier is the US online poker market opening up – and it won’t just be them that are smiling ear-to-ear should that take place in 2013.

UK Bookies avoid £1bn tax

Bookmakers and casinos have avoided paying around £1bn in UK tax on bets placed by British people by routing them through subsidiaries based in overseas tax havens.

Football, racing and poker betting operators are estimated to be saving around £250m a year by offshoring online gambling – more than the highly publicised recent cases of tax avoidance by Starbucks and Amazon.

Although William Hill and Ladbrokes are UK Plcs with hundreds of high street branches, bets placed on their websites and phone lines are regulated and taxed in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Other big names such as Betfair, PaddyPower and 888 – which heavily market their games in the UK – also avoid paying British tax on "remote" betting and gaming.

The offshoring, which has grown in recent years, allows operators to replace the UK gambling duty of 15 per cent on gross profits with an effective rate of duty of less than one per cent.

All of the top 10 operators in "remote gambling" now headquarter a part or all of their operations in Gibraltar, the Isle of Man or Guernsey – at a cost to the Treasury of £1bn in lost duty since 2009.

The figures dwarf the tens of millions of pounds of tax avoided by Starbucks and Amazon, which have attracted heavy criticism for minimising corporation tax through the use of sweetheart deals in Luxembourg and Switzerland. Yet the Treasury – which is imposing cuts to public services as part of the Government's austerity drive – does not intend to close the betting duty loophole for almost two years.

It is currently consulting on a new gambling duty centred on "point of consumption" – taxing where the bet was placed – rather than where it was taken ("point of supply"), with the intention of introducing the change in December 2014.

The top indigenous British bookmakers say that for years they tried to warn the Government they were being pushed offshore by the UK's "uncompetitive" tax rate in an increasingly global trade.

However, they are also aware that publicity about the amount of money being diverted from the Exchequer by their move to Gibraltar and other places could play badly with the public.

In a statement, William Hill, which saves an estimated £37m annually in betting duty, vigorously denied it was "engaged in any avoidance scheme or artificial tax structure".

Ladbrokes, which saves around £18m annually, said it had only moved offshore reluctantly "to survive and compete".

However, disclosure of the scale of the money lost to the UK Government across the entire industry is likely to provoke anger, at a time of austerity caused by a growing deficit in the public finances. Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research, said: "This indicates, yet again, the toothless approach of the UK's tax authorities to tax avoidance."

Signs that gambling taxation would fail to tackle the rise of the internet first emerged a decade ago. To counter growing foreign competition from gaming sites headquartered in Gibraltar and Malta, in 2001 Gordon Brown replaced betting duty of 6.75 per cent on stake money to a 15 per cent duty on bookmakers' gross profits.

Leading British bookies were widely reported to have entered into a "gentlemen's agreement" with the then Chancellor to move their putative offshore operations back on shore – which they did. But, undercut by rivals based in tax havens, particularly those operating casino sites, in 2009 William Hill, Ladbrokes and SkyBet moved their online and phone business offshore. In 2011, Betfair, the fast-growing betting exchange, joined the exodus by relocating to Gibraltar, telling investors it expected to save £20m in tax annually. Only two major UK gambling companies – Bet365, a family firm based in Stoke-on-Trent, and Sky – pay UK duty on sports betting, although their casino games are located, respectively, in Gibraltar and Alderney.

The Government's current plan is to force companies taking bets from Britons to obtain a licence from the Gambling Commission or risk having their websites and advertising blocked. However the Treasury, which would have to enact the change in a parliamentary Bill, does not expect to introduce the change before December next year and is still considering the results of a consultation which closed last summer.

Several gambling companies are fiercely opposed to the move, arguing that a 15 per cent rate would endanger a British success story.

Other operators back the change in an industry associated with social problems. The Coates family, which owns Bet365, wants the new tax to be introduced as quickly as possible. Ian Burke, chief executive of Blue Square-owner Rank Group, said that the current system of taxation was "indefensible". The Treasury defended its record, saying: "The Government is levelling the playing field on remote gambling taxation. This is a major reform, and the first time a UK Government is taxing remote gambling companies with no base in the UK."

Labour's shadow Treasury spokeswoman, Catherine McKinnell, said: "The offshore gambling industry is making massive profits from tax-paying UK punters and yet hundreds of millions of pounds are potentially being lost to the Exchequer at the same time as ordinary taxpayers are being hit hard by cuts and tax rises.

"It isn't just UK taxpayers who are paying the price – responsible firms who have remained in the UK and employ thousands of people are at an unfair disadvantage. The Government should be straining every sinew to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance, and loopholes, as quickly as possible."

Mr Murphy added that the Treasury's approach of working in co-operation with business to secure tax agreements was "not working".

"We know it failed in the case of banking where Barclays ignored their deal with HMRC months after they signed it," he said. "Now we can see that the negotiated arrangements with the gambling industry – where they were given all the concessions they demanded – haven't worked."

Addicted Britain: A growing epidemic

Gambling addiction has soared in the UK, fuelled by the rapid growth of online betting.

The number of hardcore addicts has doubled in the past six years to almost 500,000. The number of people in danger of becoming problem gamblers, meanwhile, has reached nearly a million.

One of the areas that has seen the biggest is online gambling.

Around nine million Britons will gamble online this year. The UK online gambling industry is expected to be worth more than £2bn in 2013. The boom was brought about in part by a relaxation of laws regulating the industry under a shake-up by Tony Blair's government in 2005.

The Gambling Act allowed bookmakers to advertise in the UK for the first time.

Charities have been critical of celebrities glamorising gambling through endorsements. The Australian cricketer Shane Warne promotes gambling to his one million Twitter followers through his @Warne888 handle – he signed a lucrative deal in 2008 with the 888 Poker group to represent the company at events around the world. Ray Winstone became the face of bet365 and regularly features at half-time during games urging people to "bet in play, now".

Match-fixing: Champions League tie played in England 'was fixed'

A Champions League tie played in England is one of 380 matches across Europe investigators say was fixed.
European police did not reveal the identity of the match they believe was corrupt in England.

But Europol did say that they had uncovered an organised crime syndicate based in Asia that was co-ordinating the operation.
Some 425 match officials, club officials, players and criminals are suspected of being involved.

At a news conference in The Hague, Netherlands, Europol claimed:

- The fixed Champions League tie in England took place in "last three or four years";
- The identity of that match cannot be revealed due to "ongoing judicial proceedings";
- Other "corrupt" matches included World Cup and European Championship qualifiers and "several top football matches in European leagues";
- In Germany-based matches alone, criminals wagered £13.8m (16m euros) on rigged matches and made £6.9m in profits
Officials fear this is as the "tip of the iceberg".

Rob Wainwright, director of Europol - the European Union's law enforcement agency, said: "This is the work of a suspected organised crime syndicate based in Asia and operated with criminal networks around Europe.

"It is clear to us this is the biggest-ever investigation into suspected match-fixing in Europe. It has yielded major results which we think have uncovered a big problem for the integrity of football in Europe.

"We have uncovered an extensive criminal network."

Europol, which has been investigating for 18 months, said suspected matches included World Cup and European Championship qualifiers, two Champions League ties and "several top football matches in European leagues".

In addition to the £13.8m wagered on Germany-based matches, payments of £1.73m are thought to have been paid to those involved. The biggest payment to an individual was £121,000, according to investigators.

Europol believes a crime syndicate based in Asia was liaising with criminal networks throughout Europe. It believes match-fixing has taken place in 15 countries and 50 people have so far been arrested.

Asked specifically about the allegations surrounding the Champions League tie held in England, Wainwright declined to identify the match because of "ongoing judicial proceedings".

However he did say it happened in the last three to four years, before adding: "The focus has been on other countries, not the United Kingdom. However we were surprised by the scale generally of the criminal enterprise and just how widespread it was.

"It would be naive and complacent of those in the UK to think such a criminal conspiracy does not involve the English game and all the football in Europe."