June 26, 2013

What makes Bet365 so successful

It’s pretty hard to overstate the success that bet365 has had in recent years. So by now you may well be getting a bit sick of hearing just how great they are. Should this be the case then this article probably isn’t going to be for you.

The most recent wave of bet365 sycophancy has come following the emergence of the Stoke-based company’s financial figures from April 2012 to March 2013. The privately owned company made profits of £148 million – three times that of last year.

In addition, their workforce grew by almost a fifth as more than 2,500 staff are now employed by the company which is no mean feat for a pureplay operator. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that almost £20,000,000,000 (written in numerical form to emphasise just how much that is!) was wagered on their site – an amount that was greater than those of William Hill and Ladbrokes put together.

While Ladbrokes in particular hasn’t had a smooth transition to the internet, Hills has enlisted the help of Playtech and has been operating at a reasonable level – making this fact quite surprising.

So as the company continues to go from strength to strength; expanding its operations, increasing profits and building on its already impressive brand reputation, others will surely be looking at it to see what bet365 are doing that they’re not. The problem is, there aren’t really any standout tangible answers to this question. The answers are perhaps more subtle and are woven into the fabric of the company.

Regardless, below are some attempts to put a finger on some of the reasons why bet365 have been so successful.

This is the most obvious reason behind bet365’s success but unfortunately it’s one that other iGaming operators are going to find very hard to replicate.

The Coates family and Denise Coates in particular don’t just resonate strong leadership but given the fact that they built the company up from very little, they’re also appear to be incredibly emotionally invested in the company. Lots of companies have strong leadership; it can be bought by bringing in a hard-nosed CEO from other industries. Unfortunately for them, what can’t be bought quite so easily are people who genuinely care about the company and all of its employees.

In an interview with Stoke newspaper The Sentinel, Denise Coates revealed what she thought was important to being a good employer.

She said: “We spend such a large part of our lives at work, it is important people enjoy what they do. We try to be good employers by creating opportunities for people, being fair and providing an environment for progress.”

In addition to enjoyment, Coates is also known to set a fantastic example when it comes to work ethic. Often seen working on weekends and late into the night, she certainly provides a light for others to follow.

With the deliberate avoidance of the term ‘innovation’ – a word that has been used so much that it barely carries any weight anymore – bet365 have shown time and time again that they’re not afraid to try things out.

The decision to move the entire site to HTML5 was described by Computer Weekly as ‘more than a gamble’ but the logic behind it is sound. It enables more developers to focus on the same site and, given that the user experience doesn’t suffer on any device, allows them to move faster due to greater attention focusing on the same place.

Even more recently was the launch of bet365’s mobile and table live dealer products. In app and browser form, the products are by no means perfect with video quality and mobile internet speeds still being a very prominent issue for non-4G users but the bet365 have jumped straight in regardless.

When you mention bet365 to the reasonably knowledgable punter, there are two things that they’re most likely to mention. The first is Ray Winstone gleefully offering odds on television adverts in the middle of sporting events. The second is what these ads are marketing, bet365′s In-Play markets.

Their dominance in this area is by no means an accident. While other operators had trusted high street brands, bet365 built their success on their In-Play betting. It was a niche that was just coming to the fore when Denise Coates began building her empire and as the popularity of this form of betting has grown, so has the company.

Even bet365′s company description on LinkedIn stresses the importance of In-Play. It reads: “It was Denise’s decision to focus on In-Play betting that enabled it [bet365] to forge its leadership position. The gamble paid off. In-Play has been fundamental to bet365’s success and remains the cornerstone of the business.”

The company hasn’t overextended and it’s workforce hasn’t been spread too thin. Expansion has come at the appropriate time and circumspect decisions have been vindicated when other operators have rushed in wide-eyed.

This might seem like a bit of a contradiction to the section regarding the company’s penchant for taking a gamble on new products but there is a clear distinction. While the powers that he at bet365 been happy to take calculated risks with product launches that they can test, acquisitions of unproven companies or moving into new markets has seen an entirely different approach.

Rather than installing the mantra that Richard Koch intended to at Betfair should his bid have been successful, bet365 claim to prefer taking lots of small wagers from a larger customer base. So rather than earning 80% profits from 20% of customers bet365 have looked to do things the other way round.

Looking at it logically this appears to be a much more sustainable business model as you’re far less reliant on a few big players. The company has also been shrewd in other areas by being very quick to lower the betting limits of successful punters. While this may have earned them the nickname of bet£3.65, the fact is that it’s only a small minority that warrant such restrictions.

So, perhaps it’s not so difficult to pick out a few reasons behind bet365′s success after all. What is difficult is to see how companies that are already set in their ways could learn from these practices but there are certainly some that need to give it a go.

June 24, 2013

Belgium, Bulgaria add names to online gambling blacklists

The itchy trigger fingers of the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) have added five new names to its online gambling blacklist, including Gibraltar-licensed BetVictor, whose CEO Michael Carlton co-authored a public letter last November expressing his disdain for Belgium’s protectionist online gambling stance. The BGC also blackballed two UK-registered firms – Casino GrandLuxe and MonaCasino – as well as two CuraƧao-licensed outfits, City Club Casino and RoyalCasino. The additions bring the BGC’s naughty list to a total of 74 enemies of the state.

That’s 54 more names than on the first blacklist drawn up by the Bulgarian State Gambling Commission. Among the 20 names thus tarred and feathered are the familiar faces of 888, Bet365, Betfair, Befred, Ladbrokes, Sportingbet and Unibet. Bulgaria first announced plans to IP-block unlicensed gambling sites last year, with the digital firewall scheduled to go up this March. The move was supposed to precede the introduction of a regulated online gambling regime, but while the necessary legislation has been published, it has yet to be officially enacted.

In less punitive regulatory news, the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission has inked an info-sharing agreement with the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, which regulates gambling and lottery activity in the Baltic country. The goal of the agreement is to improve regulatory standards in both online and land-based gaming sectors to better protect consumers and to create efficiencies for businesses.

Not to be outdone, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) has teamed up with Spectrum Gaming Group to help regulatory agencies craft online gambling regulations. Andre Wilsenach, exec director of the AGCC, says the new Alderney Spectrum eGaming Advisors (ASeGA) will provide “an opportunity to progress common best practice standards of operation.” Spectrum Gaming managing director Michael Pollock called the joint venture a “perfect fit between an experienced, respected regulatory agency and a private firm that already serves tribal, state and national governments around the world.” ASeGA will also provide due-diligence and background investigations to determine a licensee’s suitability to operate in a given jurisdiction.

June 06, 2013

Casinos ban gamblers from wearing Google Glass

Casinos in several states are forbidding gamblers from wearing Google Glass, the tiny eyeglasses-mounted device capable of shooting photos, filming video and surfing the Internet.

Regulators say the gadgets could be used to cheat at card games.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued a directive on Monday ordering Atlantic City's 12 casinos to bar casino patrons from using the device. The directive was first reported by The Press of Atlantic City.

Similar bans are in place at casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Connecticut, among other places.

"If these eyeglasses were worn during a poker game, they could be used to broadcast a patron's hand to a confederate or otherwise be used in a collusive manner," David Rebuck, the division's director wrote in a memo to the casinos.

That type of use would constitute a crime in New Jersey. But it would be difficult to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the glasses were actually being used to cheat, Rebuck wrote. For that and other reasons, he decided to ban the glasses on the casino floor and anywhere else gambling is taking place.

"Even if the glasses had not been used for cheating ... their presence at a gaming table would lead to the perception that something untoward could be occurring, thereby undermining public confidence in the integrity of gaming," he wrote in the directive.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Google said, "We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues." It said its "Glass Explorer" pilot program "will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology."

The New Jersey casinos must ask anyone wearing the glasses to remove them, and can kick out any customer who refuses.

The prohibition against photography or video filming in the casinos is not unique to Google Glass. New Jersey regulators require five days' advance notice — and explicit approval from the gaming enforcement division — for any type of photos or videos to be shot on the casino floor, and Las Vegas has similar restrictions. But as a new technology, the glasses are catching the attention of regulators, who are updating their rules to keep pace.

In Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have directed their security workers to ask patrons to remove the devices before beginning to gamble.

Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Las Vegas guests will need to take off their glasses when they hit the tables.
"Gaming regulations prohibit the use of computers or recording devices while gambling, so guests can't wear Google Glass while they're gambling," Thompson said. "The devices will also not be able to be used in showrooms."

The edict will also be applied at casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

In Pennsylvania, state regulators plan to advise its 11 casinos that an existing regulation prohibiting gamblers from using electronic devices at a table game also applies to the Google Glass, a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesman said Wednesday.

Mohegan Sun in Connecticut also bans the devices on the casino floor.

Why sports gamblers target tennis players on Twitter

It had been a very good spring for Alex Kuznetsov. The former junior tennis standout, now 26 years old, had stagnated outside the top 200 in the rankings. In April, as a result, he faced the indignity of having to qualify to gain entry into the Sarasota, Fla., event on the minor-league Challenger circuit. Improbably, Kuznetsov won that tournament and then reached the quarterfinals in subsequent Challenger events in Savannah, Ga., and Tallahassee, Fla.. Those strong performances improved his ranking from No. 271 to No. 171 and earned the American a wild card into the French Open—just the fifth time he’d gained passage to the main draw of a Grand Slam.

Kuznetsov’s run ended in the first round in Paris, as he fell to French wild card Lucas Pouille in straight sets. A few hours after the disappointing loss, Kuznetsov received a tweet with an impolite rhetorical question:

Sixteen minutes later, another tweet arrived, this time from an account with the description: "It's constructive criticism, nothing personal."

It’s no secret that Twitter can be a cruel place. But why pick on a guy who’s ranked No. 171 in the world and who overachieved by even making it to the French Open?

Social media vitriol is easier to understand in a team sport, where fans have a lot invested in the outcome. It’s not shocking to hear that Quincy Pondexter was told he was “the definition of trash” after missing crucial free throws in the playoffs, or that the Redskins’ Graham Gano would get a lot of heat after botching a big kick.

In the case of Alex Kuznetsov, it’s possible that these trolls were just, well, trolling—the Twitter user Clock Counter has also taken the time to assail various point guards and baseball pitchers. But the most plausible explanation for the attacks leveled at Kuznetsov and his little-known tennis-playing ilk is that there’s money on the line. Oddsmakers had made Kuznetsov a marginal favorite against Lucas Pouille. When he lost, he faced the wrath of those who had bet on him. While not all insulting post-defeat tweets mention gambling directly, tennis players believe that’s typically the motivation.

"I just automatically assume that they're gamblers," says No. 210 Peter Polansky, a friend of Kuznetsov who says he also gets his share of angry messages. "Only that one time did someone say that—'You owe me money.' " (I sent messages to the accounts of all the Twitter users cited in this article. I have yet to hear back from any of them.)

Polansky says most of the messages appear to come from Eastern Europe or Latin America and that he also occasionally gets threatened through his Facebook account. "Some guy messaged me on Facebook, and he was just like, 'You suck, how can you lose to Tennys Sandgren at home?' " recalled Polansky, referring to a message he received after losing in the finals of a small tournament in his Canadian hometown. The message continued, in Polansky’s recollection: "You're a shit tennis player, and come to my city in Croatia, I'll kill you."

In countries where online sports betting is rampant and legal, tennis is one of the most attractive sports to bet on. There are always matches being played, and none of them will end in a draw. Not only can you bet on who will win and by what score, but also who’ll take the next set, the next game—even the next point. While a lot more cash gets bet on big matches and big events, it’s also possible to gamble on Futures events. That’s the tennis equivalent of single-A baseball, where the difference in earnings between a first-round winner and loser can be as low as $68 ($172 to $104).

The combination of pervasive online gambling and social media means that a losing bettor no longer has to be content to scream at the television, annoying just those within earshot. Now, it’s easy enough to type an athlete’s name into Twitter and send your anger to the vibrating pocket of the offender, no matter where he or she is in the world, no matter how famous he or she is.
Kuznetsov, who because of his ranking rarely plays on the main tour—and is rarely favored even on the Challenger tour—could only recall one previous case of Twitter abuse before his loss in Paris. "They've been nice to me so far," he says. For Tim Smyczek, who’s ranked No. 115 and is more often favored to win matches, abuse has been more common. Smyczek, a Milwaukee native who lost in his first match in the French Open qualifying draw, occasionally quotes and comments on the tweets he receives.

Smyczek says most of the players he knows on the Challenger circuit are, like him, able to laugh about this stuff. "I don't know of anybody that really takes it seriously, which is good, because they say some pretty horrible stuff sometimes," says Smyczek. "And if you did take it seriously, it'd be easy to really be hurt by it. But you just gotta take it for what it is—it's probably somebody who lost money that they didn't have to lose, and you know, they're upset. It's almost, if you think about it, it's almost kind of flattering that somebody would think you're a sure thing—‘I'm gonna lay money down on you, and there's no way I lose.' You can take the positives out of it."

There have, though, been several instances of players, both male and female, pleading for the tweets and Facebook messages to stop. That includes Rebecca Marino, a 22-year-old Canadian who retired from the sport in February as she battled with clinical depression and suicidal thoughts that she said were sometimes worsened by the death threats she received from gamblers.
"The Internet definitely scares me," Marino told me earlier this year. "And it also makes me really sad that, you know, people can sometimes take things too far, and they don't really fully grasp the effects of words."

Obscure though these players may be, their results have swung untold millions of dollars in wins and losses for bettors, far more than the prize money they play for. Smyczek says a former Scotland Yard detective now working with the International Tennis Federation's Tennis Integrity Unit once told him that a first-round match he’d played at the Indian Wells ATP tournament generated more than $1.5 million in wagers on one betting site alone, with likely millions more on other sites.

While Indian Wells is one of the biggest tournaments on the tour calendar, Smyczek expressed disbelief that people are betting on his matches at all, especially on Challengers that sometimes have fewer than 10 people in the stands. "I've had to try my best to kind of bite my tongue a couple times, because I've gotten messages after Challenger doubles matches," says Smyczek, laughing. "And what kind of—who bets on that sort of thing?"

Higher-ranked players who lose in upsets get irate messages, too. After her third-round loss at the French Open, Petra Kvitova fielded missives from a guy who lost a bet and some fellow who called her “an amateur mentally.” Nicolas Almagro was called “an embarrassment.” Someone else told him to kill himself. But the difference between lesser lights like Kuznetsov and Smyczek and relative stars like Kvitova and Almagro is that the more popular players also get messages of condolence or encouragement after a tough loss. If you’re a top player, kindness has been earned. If you’re closer to the bottom and someone else has paid the price for your loss, cruelty comes free.

June 04, 2013

Andros Townsend: Spurs midfielder fined over betting

Tottenham midfielder Andros Townsend has been fined £18,000 by the Football Association for breaching betting regulations.

The 21-year-old was also suspended for four months backdated to 23 May although three of those months have been suspended until 1 July 2016.

Townsend had already voluntarily withdrawn from the England squad for the European Under-21 Championship.

It is believed he was not accused of betting on games he had involvement in. However, the FA has strict betting rules that forbid gambling on a wide spectrum of fixtures laid out in its regulations.

The length of the up-front ban, coupled with the fact that he withdrew from the England Under-21 squad, mean he will not miss a game.

The midfielder, who was on loan at QPR for the second half of the season, is a product of Tottenham's academy and signed as a trainee in 2008. He has had loan spells at Yeovil, Leyton Orient, MK Dons, Ipswich, Watford, Millwall, Leeds, Birmingham and, most recently, with former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp at QPR. Townsend made his Premier League debut for Spurs in September 2012 before joining Rangers in January, where he made 12 Premier League appearances, scoring twice.

Melco to take part in Barcelona resort

The competitor to EuroVegas which is to be built in Barcelona has asked Melco International Development which is a partner to Melco Crown Entertainment in Macau to take part in the development.

Melco which is led by Lawrence Ho has confirmed they have been invited to take part in the project in Barcelona by developers of the project, Veremonte.

The Barcelona gaming and leisure complex which is estimated to cost $1 billion,

Melco International Development Ltd – a partner in Macau casino developer Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd – has been invited to take part in a US$1 billion gaming and leisure project in Barcelona, Spain.

Melco confirmed last night it had been asked to operate a casino at ‘Barcelona World’ – also known BCN World – planned for the Catalan capital. The project is being organised via a vehicle called Veremonte.

Melco said in a statement to Macau Business Daily: “Melco International Development Limited is happy to be invited by Veremonte to take part in the Barcelona World project as casino operator. In the coming months, we shall continue to work with Veremonte on the definitive casino management agreement and shall make announcement when the agreement is signed.”

The Barcelona project came about after being turned down by Las Vegas Sands as its preferred destination for the EuroVegas resort, which Madrid eventually won. EuroVegas is slated as a $9 billion resort project, however recently EuroVegas has been stalled with land auction delays and the request that the casino side of the resort be allowed for customers to smoke, which is against the law in Spain.

The first phase of the resort in Barcelona would be called Barcelona Dream and occupying 300,000 square meters with 1,100 hotel beds, a casino and a theatre. Developers say that it will take two years to build and could be operational by 2016.

Tokyo to build casino resort says Governor

In the most telling turn of events so far for Japan to get casinos, Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said he will build a casino in the capital’s waterfronts district which is known as a tourist hotspot, even though currently casinos are illegal in Japan.

“I expect the Government to revise the law as soon as possible,” he said at the metropolitan assembly session.

As the incoming Governor, Inose said a casino could serve as a sightseeing facility and a place for social interaction among adults.

“To boost the number of foreign visitors to Tokyo, I will consider preparing an integrated resort facility that combines restaurants, theaters and casinos,” he said.

The latest remarks that the Japanese Government will soon path the way for Casino’s came as the new Governor was discussing Japan’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.