September 30, 2013

Net Entertainment signs partnership agreement with online gaming operator William Hill

Net Entertainment has signed a partnership agreement with one of the largest and most reputable online gaming operators in the world, William Hill PLC. Under the terms of the agreement Net Entertainment will supply William Hill with a selection of top desktop and mobile titles.

"We continue to follow our growth strategy in the UK market, and I am very excited that William Hill has selected Net Entertainment as supplier for a selection of our best in class casino games to be distributed over their online casino network," comments Björn Krantz, Chief of GMO and MD Net Entertainment Malta Ltd. "The agreement with William Hill solidifies the trust and confidence our partners have in our operational and technical leadership. Both parties are now working very close together to secure a successful integration and planning for commercial launch and we are convinced that our games will be well received
by William Hill's player base."

"Net Entertainment is one of the leading suppliers of best in breed online casino content in the market today, and we are fully committed to make sure we can provide our player community with the very best experience, which now can be further realized through our agreement with Net Entertainment. The agreement will cover gaming distribution for all customer devices. William Hill are committed to be leaders in mobile development and working with proven suppliers like Net Entertainment will make our proposition even stronger," comments James Curwen, Director of Gaming, William Hill.

September 25, 2013

How the Canadian who founded the world’s largest poker site almost lost it all

One spring evening five years ago, George Clooney mingled with 300 champagne-sipping guests on a massive yacht moored in the harbour of Cannes, France. The occasion was a charity event with the cast of Ocean’s Thirteen, and Clooney was putting in an appearance along with co-stars Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, as the sun set over the Mediterranean. On the fringes hovered a short man in his early 60s, seemingly unsure what to do with himself. He didn’t socialize or drink, and clung to the small group of people with whom he’d arrived. He was a little hazy on the pedigree of the celebrities around him. One attendee recalls, “It was like someone had taken their parents to a party.”

That fellow, Isai Scheinberg, was actually a distinguished guest. He sponsored the whole event through his online gaming company, PokerStars, and he was there to explore marketing opportunities with the cast, some of whom were poker buffs. The effort never went farther than a few charity poker tournaments, but the actors did gather around a poker table with the company’s logo printed on the felt for a quick photo. The picture hangs in the company’s lobby.

Strangely, when asked about the evening in question, a spokesperson for PokerStars said Scheinberg was never there at all, despite an attendee witnessing him onboard. If he did indeed make an appearance, it was a rare event. He preferred to remain holed up in his company’s headquarters on the occasionally dreary rock that is the Isle of Man. But PokerStars craved the cachet that celebrity spokespeople brought, as it helped to position the website as a legitimate business in the United States. This was important because the year before, the U.S. has passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which prohibits financial institutions from processing payments related to “unlawful” online gaming. Poker had always been something of a grey area in the U.S., the country where it was most popular. Now its legality appeared even murkier.

Scheinberg was a masterful tactician, and he was prepared for something like this. He didn’t travel to America, and when he shuttled between the Isle of Man and Toronto, where he originally founded the company, he flew on a private jet to better avoid an emergency landing or unplanned diversion to an American airport, according to those who worked with him. (The company says he flew only once on a private plane along this route.) In the past, Scheinberg solicited law firms for opinions on the legality of online poker, and did so again after UIGEA. The law, he was told, didn’t apply to online poker. He was already of the opinion that existing laws only affected games of chance, like blackjack and roulette. In Scheinberg’s mind, and in those of his lawyers’, poker was a game of skill, much like chess, another game he was fond of. He saw no reason to stop serving U.S. citizens. But he did need to consider the handful of American executives he employed, and, leading up to UIGEA’s passage, asked them if they could stay with the company and forgo travelling back home, the consequence of challenging muddy U.S. laws. Not everyone was prepared to do so. But armed with his legal opinions, Scheinberg had made his decision: he went all in.

The repercussions of Scheinberg’s choice to continue dealing with U.S. citizens are still reverberating today. PokerStars became the world’s biggest online poker site overnight when its main rival, PartyGaming PLC, shuttered its U.S. operations in light of UIGEA. Its rise to the top is a largely untold story, one with Canadian roots. Scheinberg built his company, which now has 1,640 employees, with a combination of brains, audacity and, though he might not care to admit it, luck. That luck evaporated in 2011. The U.S. Department of Justice launched civil charges against PokerStars, branding its business illegal and accusing it of money laundering, and PokerStars was forced to shut down U.S. operations. But all may not be lost: cash-strapped state governments are letting online poker back into the U.S. PokerStars’ future now depends on the company’s ability to account for its troubled past in front of state regulators. And it will be all the more difficult with criminal charges hanging over Scheinberg’s head.

The headquarters of PYR Software Ltd. sits in an office building in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill. Next door, a rundown plaza houses a kebab shop and a pizzeria. PYR’s website says the company helps its “customers worldwide to retain industry leadership…while maintaining world domination in terms of market share.” The mission statement doesn’t mention that PYR has only one client: PokerStars.

Scheinberg founded PYR in 2000. It built the software to power his online poker venture. Its employees, numbering around 100, are still mostly responsible for the software that services the tens of thousands of players on the PokerStars site at any given time, about 60% of the market. The nondescript digs are befitting of its founder. Scheinberg has never given an interview, and only two photographs of him have ever been published. (If you plug his name into Google, the top image result is of someone else.) For a while, his desire for anonymity even extended inside the company. When PokerStars established headquarters in the Isle of Man in 2005, Scheinberg described himself to new hires as the chief technology officer. A former employee says during a job interview, Scheinberg never once let on he was the founder. Many people contacted for this article were reluctant to talk; some declined out of respect for Scheinberg’s privacy. The company would only respond to written questions through a spokesperson.

Raised in Lithuania, Scheinberg holds Israeli-Canadian citizenship and is fluent in Hebrew. He earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Moscow State University, and later moved to Israel where he served in the Israeli Defense Forces and fought in the Yom Kippur War. Owing to his technical mind, he ended up working for IBM in Israel before transferring to the company’s Canadian office and settling in Richmond Hill. Part of his leisure time was spent playing cards, and he travelled to Las Vegas in 1996 to participate in the World Series of Poker, pocketing $3,337. Scheinberg also played in card rooms around Toronto, sometimes with Daniel Negreanu, now the third-highest-ranking professional in the world.

Around that time, gaming was moving online. Total industry revenue, including poker, amounted to US$1.2 billion in 1999, with companies like Paradise Poker and PartyGaming leading the way. Poker was still a relatively obscure game back then; the number of players on Paradise Poker rarely exceeded 2,000. Scheinberg thought he could do better. He founded PYR, assembled a team of programmers (some from IBM) and recruited people who knew more about poker than he did. In late 2000, he sent an e-mail out of the blue to Terrence Chan, then a student at Simon Fraser University. It was just two sentences long: he wrote that he had an idea to discuss, and gave his phone number. Chan called, and learned Scheinberg had found him through a discussion group called Scheinberg, a reader of the forum, was impressed with the depth of knowledge Chan showed for the game. He explained he was launching a poker site and needed an expert consultant. Chan signed on and helped the programmers in Richmond Hill translate the intricacies of live poker into software, while still taking classes. To help manage operations, Scheinberg recruited one of his sons, Mark, who holds Canadian citizenship and grew up outside Toronto. At the time, Mark was a college dropout in his 20s travelling around Latin America. “He was pretty much being a beach bum,” Chan says. Scheinberg often insisted his website would beat the rest. “They seemed insurmountable,” Chan says, “but he was always confident and said if we have world-class software and world-class support, there’s no reason we can’t do it.” PokerStars launched on Sept. 11, 2001, and introduced cash games shortly afterward. Just like a traditional cardroom, PokerStars makes money by keeping a small percentage of the pot (up to 4.5%) on almost every hand played.

Word spread that PokerStars’ software was more reliable than the competition’s. “It was so swift,” says John Duthie, a player who went on to found a live poker tournament with PokerStars, “and it very rarely crashed.” PokerStars was geared toward serious players, eschewing the cheesy graphics employed by the likes of PartyGaming, which “was almost like a bingo site rather than a serious poker site,” Duthie says. At first, customer service was outsourced, but Scheinberg soon brought it in-house. He opened an office in Costa Rica, a country known for its gambling-friendly laws, and put Mark in charge. Chan moved to Costa Rica and found Mark to be a talkative, energetic boss who retained the carefree ethos of his travelling days. “He would go out and party with us,” Chan says, “but I think at some point when the company got bigger, he started being more aware of his image.” The company hired seven people in Costa Rica to answer questions and complaints, only one of whom knew anything about poker, so Chan spent two solid weeks giving a crash course. Taking control of customer service proved wise, as PokerStars’ competitors were either slow to respond or outsourced customer service to a firm where nobody knew much about the game. Finally, Scheinberg carved out a niche by focusing on tournaments, which offer better prize money and a shot at glory, on top of regular games. The site attracted a cult following and became the “darling of the community,” as Chan puts it.

PokerStars’ big break came in 2003 at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The event was largely the territory of poker pros, but online companies saw an opportunity. PokerStars held tournaments to send winners to the WSOP, where the buy-in was $10,000 each. The company spent $370,000 to send 37 players to Vegas that year, and while the cost was steep, ESPN planned to broadcast the tournament, which would provide television exposure for PokerStars. Chris Moneymaker, a mild mannered 27-year-old accountant from Tennessee blessed with the perfect name for a poker player, won a seat through PokerStars after paying $39 to enter a tournament. Few considered the gaggle of amateurs bumbling around in PokerStars T-shirts to be threats, but on the last day of the tournament, Moneymaker was sitting at the final table with seasoned pros. He beat them all and walked away with $2.5 million.

Thus began the poker boom. It had been building for a while, but Moneymaker’s arc from obscurity to multimillionaire convinced others the same thing could happen to them. “This was so perfectly, magically ideal for the target demographic,” says Nolan Dalla, the company’s former director of communications. The company began growing rapidly, and two years later Scheinberg established corporate headquarters in the Isle of Man, a self-governing British crown dependency best known for its zero corporate tax policy. PokerStars took over part of a sprawling building perched on a cliff overlooking the Irish Sea. (It eventually purchased the building last year, and the exterior still lacks any corporate branding.) Scheinberg then split his time between headquarters and PYR in Richmond Hill.

By 2006, PokerStars was the second-largest poker company in the industry, outmatched only by PartyGaming, which went public the previous year on the London Stock Exchange with an $8.5-billion valuation. Rumours surfaced in the British press that PokerStars, too, was considering an initial public offering and seeking a $3-billion valuation. Whatever plans Scheinberg had were scrapped when the U.S. passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in October. The legislation was largely driven by conservative politicians concerned about the potential destructive effects of online gambling. Leading up to UIGEA’s passage, PartyGaming’s stock plummeted. Scheinberg, meanwhile, was offering to double the money in new player accounts. PartyGaming then completely pulled out of the U.S., which had accounted for more than 80% of its revenue. Scheinberg’s legal advisers told him UIGEA only affected payments around already illegal forms of gambling. And because it could be argued poker was a game of skill—and not chance—it was not illegal to begin with under U.S. law. UIGEA, the company believed, changed nothing. With PartyGaming gone, his company became the biggest poker site in the world. But it wasn’t the only one to continue soliciting U.S. customers. Full Tilt Poker, based in Ireland, remained, and became the second-largest company after PokerStars. While Scheinberg’s decision looks shrewd, it was the result of exhaustive examination by gaming lawyers, and former employees say he is a conservative person by nature. Still, there was an irresistible momentum at the company. “It’s like if you’re running a marathon and you quit at the 25th mile. You wouldn’t do that,” Dalla says. As an American working in the U.S., Dalla was offered the chance to move to the Isle of Man around the time of UIGEA. He declined, and reluctantly left the company.

The following five years were a period of huge growth for PokerStars. The company expanded not only in the U.S., but also into parts of Europe, Asia, and South America. It was an aggressive marketer and spent heavily on spokespeople ranging from Mats Sundin to Jason Alexander. Tennis pro Rafael Nadal is currently the company’s poster boy, following in the footsteps of Boris Becker, both of whom were selected in part because of Scheinberg’s love of tennis. “He’d do anything to meet these tennis stars,” says a former employee. PokerStars also operates many live poker tournaments around the world, which helped to establish the brand in new markets.

By 2008, according to a former executive, Scheinberg sat atop an empire that churned out around $1 billion in revenue. But even when PokerStars published an account of its history to mark its 10th anniversary, there was not a single mention of the founder. He wasn’t highly visible inside the company, either. Scheinberg was so nondescript that when he did appear, “we used to joke he was the janitor,” says a former employee. Those who worked closely with him describe him as impersonal, obsessive about details, and in command of an impressive memory. He could pick up an intense discussion from weeks ago as if it just happened. As the company grew, he still browsed poker forums to keep tabs on what players were saying, and he would shift gears accordingly. “He would change an entire project at the last minute on the basis of what somebody said on the forum,” says a former employee. “The guy probably sleeps three hours a night because he’s literally all over the forum.” There was an understanding at the company to never do anything that somebody could complain about online, because Scheinberg would find out.

As Scheinberg’s personal fortune grew, he retained a modest demeanor and seemed to prefer spending time working, or walking along the shoreline. But as a manager, he enjoyed debate and playing devil’s advocate. During a job interview with an individual he had been trying to hire for some time, Scheinberg began by “slagging off every fucking thing I’d done,” the individual recalls. “He loved all this stuff.” Scheinberg and his son Mark, now CEO of the company, would get into heated arguments in front of staff, usually in Hebrew, while no one had a clue what they were shouting about.

“He’s the most demanding human being I’ve ever known,” says Steve Morrow, a veteran poker tournament director hired in 2002. Morrow moved to Costa Rica to serve as a poker expert, though he soon realized Scheinberg wanted him mainly for his name. “I truly believe he was more interested in my reputation for honesty than anything else,” he says. Building trust with players was crucial, and Morrow’s reputation helped PokerStars earn credibility out of the gate. But Morrow was uncomfortable with the arrangement, and butted heads with Scheinberg so often he tried to resign after five months. He ended up staying for one more year, and left when Scheinberg offered to renew his contract with a huge pay cut. Despite mixed feelings, Morrow doesn’t begrudge Scheinberg his success. “He did so many things right,” he says. PokerStars, which says it values Morrow’s early contributions, doesn’t dispute his account, but adds he was expected to be “very proactive” in communicating with players on poker forums, and was reluctant to do so.

Despite the success that came from continuing to operate in the United States, a low-grade paranoia about a crackdown by the American government permeated the Isle of Man. One former employee recalls being spooked after hearing so many American accents around the island’s tiny capital, called Douglas. In 2010, Daniel Tzvetkoff, one of the industry’s biggest payment processors, was arrested and charged on a trip to Las Vegas. Tzvetkoff, who processed for PokerStars, was a wunderkind from Australia who became a multimillionaire in his 20s, and owned a mansion and a fleet of cars, including a Lamborghini with a licence plate reading “BALLER.” Rather than face a lengthy prison sentence, he co-operated with authorities.

The U.S. Department of Justice had a very different view on the legality of online poker. With Tzvetkoff in its pocket, the DOJ struck in 2011, filing civil suits against PokerStars and Full Tilt, along with another company operating in the country called Absolute Poker. It also filed criminal charges against Scheinberg and Paul Tate, the company’s director of payments, alleging bank fraud and money laundering. Nine other poker company executives and payment processors were charged. The crackdown caught the industry off-guard, particularly because there appeared to be a push by some U.S. politicians to finally clarify the laws around online poker. The case alleged that because most banks would no longer process poker transactions, the three companies relied on middlemen to establish bank accounts using phony business names and funnel player funds through these accounts. One of these middlemen set up websites for his fake businesses, which purported to sell “everything from clothing to jewelry to golf clubs to bicycles.” Another claimed to sell environmentally friendly household products, and built a website featuring testimonials. Eight of the eleven men have since pleaded guilty to some charges. Scheinberg and Tate, who are not U.S. citizens, haven’t entered a plea.

Chad Elie was one of those who pleaded guilty. Elie was charged with disguising transactions for all three poker companies as payday loans and fees related to online clubs that offered shopping discounts, among other things. He also processed payments transparently for PokerStars by forging a relationship with a struggling bank in Utah. Elie originally decided to fight the charges and pleaded not guilty. Though he wasn’t an employee of PokerStars, he had an indemnification agreement with the company to minimize his liability in legal matters. Scheinberg, Elie says, was initially reluctant to honour the agreement. “There was a lot of arguing between me and him,” he says. “Some pretty bad text messages.” Scheinberg relented, and the company ended up paying millions for the defence, Elie estimates. A trial date was set (Tzvetkoff was to appear as the prosecution’s star witness), but shortly before it began, Elie changed his plea and fessed up to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The charge related to a bank account that handled transactions for all three online poker companies, but appeared to handle transactions related to online clubs.

Scheinberg was floored. “He’s mad to this day that I pled,” Elie says. Scheinberg sent an e-mail demanding an explanation, and insisted Elie could have beaten the charges. But Elie’s lawyers discerned the judge presiding over the trial was not sympathetic to the view that poker was a skill game, and during a mock trial, the jurors had trouble grasping the concept. Elie spent five months in prison and completed his sentence in June. He doesn’t deny that some payment processors deceived banks into handling poker transactions (he mostly blames Tzvetkoff), but insists he never intentionally misled anyone. Even with the bank account that led to his guilty plea, Elie characterizes it as a case of sloppiness. His account representative at the bank knew about the poker transactions, he says; it just wasn’t recorded in the documentation. “I should have had that signed off by them,” he says.

How much did Scheinberg know about the dubious practices used to serve American poker players? Elie, who describes Scheinberg as “very hands-on with every single thing,” says, “I don’t think he knew…I definitely would swear that under oath.”

But at least one PokerStars employee knew. Nelson Burtnick, a Canadian, served as the company’s director of payments until 2008, when he joined Full Tilt. Burtnick was indicted alongside Scheinberg and pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, and two counts of accepting funds related to illegal gambling, for his actions at both companies. “My superiors, other employees and I knew and understood that if we did not use payment companies that deceived their banking partners, the business would not function or operate,” he said at his plea. “Most U.S. business for both poker companies was fashioned this way.” Burtnick didn’t name his superiors.

PokerStars, through a spokesperson, disputes Burtnick’s statement. “Nelson’s statement does not mention PokerStars explicitly,” wrote Eric Hollreiser, head of communications, in response to e-mailed questions. “If he did mean to include PokerStars in that, then his statement is wrong. Furthermore his statement is incorrect about business not being able to function, because PokerStars has only processed credit cards with the correct coding for Internet gaming.” Hollreiser also wrote the company had contracts with its payment processors requiring them to operate transparently with banks. “When later on PokerStars became suspicious that these obligations were not complied with, the company moved to establish independent and transparent relationships with U.S. banks.” In the months following the DOJ’s allegations, PokerStars came off much better than its co-accused. Full Tilt had been partly funding itself with the money players deposited in their accounts. The business collapsed within months (the DOJ branded it a Ponzi scheme), and players couldn’t retrieve their funds. PokerStars, in contrast, kept player accounts and operating funds segregated.

In July 2012, a settlement was reached with the DOJ, Full Tilt, and PokerStars. Full Tilt surrendered its remaining assets to the DOJ. PokerStars forfeited $547 million to the government to be used to reimburse Full Tilt’s American players, and another $184 million to its foreign customers, bringing PokerStars’ total settlement fee to $731 million. As part of the agreement, the government turned over Full Tilt’s assets to PokerStars. In a weird way, PokerStars came to the aid of the DOJ. Players were furious about the crackdown, and blamed the DOJ for the fall of Full Tilt and the loss of their money. Scheinberg allowed the DOJ to save face, earned the goodwill of players, feasted on the remains of his primary competitor and dealt with the company’s civil suit—all without ever admitting to anything. The settlement also states that nothing contained in the agreement “shall limit” PokerStars in returning to the U.S. should online gaming laws change, a clause the company believes helps its case with state regulators today. In a separate agreement this past June, Mark agreed to turn over a further $50 million to the government, even though he was not subject to the indictment. In the settlement document, the DOJ alleged payments made to Mark by PokerStars during the period covered by the indictment are subject to forfeiture. Though Mark disputed that claim, he paid up anyway and admitted no guilt or culpability. Scheinberg’s criminal lawsuit is still ongoing. As part of the company’s settlement, he’s forbidden from serving in a management or director role at the company while he’s facing charges. He’s now a PokerStars Fellow, primarily advising on technology matters and on entering new markets.

The DOJ’s charges against him, and the company’s contention that it did not condone any deceptive practices used on its behalf, will probably not be tested in court so long as Scheinberg never steps foot in the country. But from his office in the Isle of Man, he’s pushing the company back to the U.S. with full force.

The federal government may have demonized PokerStars and its competitors, but many cash-starved states in the U.S. are taking a different approach. Three of them, including New Jersey, now regulate online gambling within their borders. Even before New Jersey passed legislation in February, which allows only the state’s land-based casinos to offer online gambling, PokerStars was plotting just such a re-entry strategy.

In December, it agreed to purchase the struggling Atlantic Club Casino Hotel for just $15 million. The acquisition would go through only if PokerStars received an interim casino authorization from the state. The fact the company could apply so easily was something of a coup. Companies that operated in the U.S. after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed are banned by Nevada’s online gambling laws from operating in the state for five years. Other states considering online gaming, such as California, are also looking at so-called bad actor clauses. PokerStars says these clauses wouldn’t stop it from applying, and that it would also consider challenging the constitutionality of them. New Jersey, however, decided against the introduction of such clauses.

The American Gaming Association, the lobby group for the casino industry, filed a 26-page motion in opposition to PokerStars’ application. It was the first time the AGA had ever tried to stop a company from getting a licence. The AGA slammed PokerStars as a business “built on deceit, chicanery, and the systematic flouting of U.S. law.” PokerStars rejects the claims made in the submission, and paints it as an attempt to discredit a viable competitor. “Cynical mudslinging based on innuendo and, often, outright fabrications, must be seen for what it is—a desperate attempt to tarnish the most successful, customer-oriented, financially stable and secure online gaming company in the world,” according to Hollreiser.

New Jersey regulators stalled, and the Atlantic Club pulled out of the deal. PokerStars sued, arguing it had already pumped $11 million into the business to keep it afloat, but a New Jersey court allowed the Atlantic Club to seek new buyers. PokerStars’ first comeback attempt proved to be a costly failure, but it didn’t give up. Just a couple of months ago, in July, it partnered with the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City to offer online gaming in the state. That deal still needs regulatory approval, and while the AGA has been mum, its opposition to the Atlantic Club deal gives the state a lot to consider.

So far, the new partnership looks more promising, but PokerStars may have given its opponents more ammunition. The AGA previously raised questions about the extent to which Scheinberg had stepped back from the company as required. Since then, more details have emerged about his role. In the litigation over the Atlantic Club, the casino’s chief financial officer, Eric Matejevich, testified he had at least two phone calls with Scheinberg—one in October that opened discussions about the acquisition, and another days before the Atlantic Club pulled out of the deal. Scheinberg called to say his advisers told him the company stood a 90% chance of receiving the casino licence, and groused about how long it was taking. PokerStars responded that the phone call was “entirely within the defined scope” of his role.

The treatment of PokerStars mystifies analysts across the Atlantic. “Europe forgets the past,” says Warwick Bartlett, founder of Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy in the Isle of Man. “In America, you’re damned forever.” The online gaming industry could change dramatically if PokerStars is shut out from states that legalize gaming. Many established names are looking to cater to U.S. players and lock up the market, including Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which partnered with an Israeli gaming powerhouse. The glory years may already be over for PokerStars—and not only because it lost access to American players. New regulations in European countries, including France, Italy and Spain, allow people to play only against other citizens, not across borders, which has decreased the appeal of the game, along with revenue. Bwin.Party, which acquired PartyGaming, earned €185 million from poker in 2011, but €174 million the following year. “Poker has been the only online gaming vertical in decline,” say Gavin Kelleher, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers in Ireland. That may help to explain why PokerStars is considering “casino style games” under the Full Tilt banner, branching beyond poker for the first time.

In the U.S., the odds appear to be against Scheinberg, but then he’s never had much use for odds. As a poker player and as a businessman, he puts faith in his abilities. “He’s the one person I’ve played poker against I cannot read,” says an industry insider. “Most people over time, I’ll get used to them. But Isai is impossible. He’s extremely analytical, and changes strategy on the turn of a coin.” It’s the approach of a guy who leaves nothing to chance. It’s no surprise that the corporate entity that owns the PokerStars brand is called the Rational Group. For Scheinberg, it’s all about skill. A couple of years ago, when a former employee expressed concern about the difficulty of re-entering the U.S. market, Scheinberg chuckled. “We’ll find a way,” he said.

Bookmakers Expecting 6 Teams To Challenge For 2013/14 Premier League Title

Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham were considered title outsiders when the season began although the trio occupy the top three places of the Premier League table after four rounds of fixtures played.

Sure enough, it’s still early and we might see their title challenge falter as the campaign progresses, although each club will be confident that they can rival the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea until the business end of the competition.

Liverpool were as big as 33/1 before the season started although three wins and a draw means that Brendan Rodgers team are sitting pretty at the top of the table, with bet365 and BetVictor shortening the Reds’ title odds to 8/1.

The Merseyside club haven’t spent a huge amount of money in the past few months, although retaining the services of Luis Suarez is a big plus. The Uruguayan will soon be returning from a ten-match ban to help fellow forward Daniel Sturridge lighten the load.

As for Arsenal, the Gunners were roundly criticised for a lack of transfer activity in the summer until they signed MesutOzil from Real Madrid and they have recovered from an opening day defeat against Aston Villa to win three on the bounce.

Paddy Power and Coral certainly expect them to be in the mix with their quote of 15/2, while north London rivals Tottenham are no bigger than 16/1 following a strong opening to the campaign, with Spurs having spent over £100million in the transfer market.

Question marks over City, United and Chelsea

Manchester United might have won the title at a canter last season although they are now available at 4/1 for the title after claiming seven points from their opening four matches. David Moyes appears to be finding his feet at Old Trafford and the new manager missed out on several transfer targets before the window closed.

Meanwhile, Manchester City also have seven points on the board and looked far from convincing when drawing at Stoke, while the team lost 3-2 at Cardiff which exposed some rather shoddy defending.

As for Chelsea, the return of Jose Mourinho saw their title odds contract although the Blues have so far served up a cluster of negative performances despite the Special One having a squad bulging with attacking players.

They have drawn a blank at Old Trafford and Goodison Park, with bet365 prepared to offer 11/4 about the west London side due to the fact that we could see a six-horse race for the title this term.

Perhaps Manchester City and Chelsea’s squad depth will ultimately see them vying for the title in May, although we should note that Pellegrini and Mourinho will be desperate to succeed in the Champions League, as will the club owners at their respective clubs.

While Liverpool and Tottenham might have started the season aiming to finish in the top four of the Premier League, their sights might be aimed a little higher by Christmas if they can sustain the sort of form required to win the title.

September 19, 2013

Fed court nixes NJ appeal in sports betting case

A federal appeals court dealt another blow to New Jersey's efforts to legalize sports gambling Tuesday, upholding a ruling that the state's betting law conflicts with federal law and shouldn't be implemented.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel at the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, and the state could seek to have the case re-heard by the full appeals court. But Tuesday's ruling more likely means New Jersey's last chance to legalize sports gambling is to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

In March, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp ruled that some of the questions raised in the case were novel, but he suggested the best way to change the U.S. law was to get Congress to repeal or amend the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Tuesday's appellate ruling, by a 2-1 majority, reinforced Shipp's view.

"We are cognizant that certain questions related to this case -- whether gambling on sporting events is harmful to the games' integrity and whether states should be permitted to license and profit from the activity -- engender strong views," judges wrote. "But we are not asked to judge the wisdom of PASPA or of New Jersey's law, or of the desirability of the activities they seek to regulate. We speak only to the legality of these measures as a matter of constitutional law ... New Jersey's sports wagering law conflicts with PASPA and, under our Constitution, must yield."

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Thomas Vanaskie agreed substantially with his two colleagues but differed in his interpretation of PASPA, a law that allowed state-sanctioned sports gambling only in Nevada and three other states.

"PASPA attempts to implement federal policy by telling the states that they may not regulate an otherwise unregulated activity," Vanaskie wrote. "The Constitution affords Congress no such power."

Gov. Chris Christie's spokesman on Tuesday reiterated that the administration would take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"In the dissent, the judge agrees with New Jersey's central argument -- that the law is unconstitutional since it prevents sports betting in New Jersey against the wishes of its own elected officials and citizens," spokesman Colin Reed said in an email. "This makes the issue all the more appropriate to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Two years ago, the people of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to bring sports betting to New Jersey, and the governor agrees with his constituents. There's no reason it should be limited to only a handful of states. It's a fundamental issue of fairness."
Voters passed a sports betting referendum in 2011, and last year New Jersey enacted a law that limited bets to the Atlantic City casinos and the state's horse racing tracks. Bets wouldn't be taken on games involving New Jersey colleges or college games played in the state. Christie said at the time that he hoped to grant sports betting licenses by early this year, but those plans were put on hold.

The NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA sued the state last year and claimed the betting law would harm the integrity of their games. The NCAA moved several of its championship events out of New Jersey, though it later relented.
Attorneys for the state had attacked PASPA on several constitutional levels. They argued the law unfairly "grandfathered" Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware, which each had some form of sports gambling at the time, and said the law violated state sovereignty and equal protection provisions and trampled the authority of state legislatures under the 10th Amendment.

PMU takes a tasteless bet with ad mocking Kennedy assassination

French betting firm PMU has come under fire for poking fun at the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy in a recent advertisement.

The ad in question features a 30-second clip of a cheering crowd awaiting the President’s motorcade.

Shots ring out and a female passenger dressed like then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is seen attempting to flee the vehicle.

Then there is a hapless cop who bets another that he can spin his gun around his finger three times “like a cowboy”, accidentally firing off his weapon in the process. The bullet ricochets off a staircase, hits a mailbox and knocks a woman’s ice cream scoop off her cone towards the limousine. The Jackie look-alike is able to flee.

"It wasn't down here," the officers say, pointing upward to suggest another shooter

The ad closes with "You like to bet?" written across the screen, as sirens are heard blazing in the background.

Publicis USA created the ad and has come under fire from the public who overwhelmingly suggest it was made in “poor taste”.

You can watch the video below.

European Lotteries President welcomes adoption of unfair operator principle

On Tuesday September 10 in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted with an overwhelming majority the online gambling report prepared by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee.

While the report does not call for harmonization of the online gambling sector at EU level, it highlights the need for co-operation amongst member states and urges a high level of protection for consumers.

European Lotteries, the umbrella organization of national lottery operators, welcomed the European Parliament resolution that confirms the European Commission’s approach to not propose a sectoral harmonization directive for online gambling.

Friedrich Stickler, President of European Lotteries, commented: "The European Parliament has spoken out very clearly that a sectoral online gambling Directive is not desirable: gambling is not an ordinary economic activity. We are pleased that the threat for consumers from illegal gambling offerings is taken seriously. This Resolution takes a clear stance on the need for law enforcement at the national level and cooperation between the Member States: we welcome in particular the adoption of the ‘unfair operator principle’: online gambling companies that violate the laws of one Member State should lose their license in other Member States."

The texts adopted by the the European Parliament elaborated on 5 different topics: specific nature of the online gambling sector and consumer protection, compliance with EU law, administrative cooperation, money laundering and integrity of sports, but Bookmakers Review could not find any specific mention of the adoption of the so-called ‘unfair operator principle’.

If anything the European Parliament noted the need for more coherent EU policies in order to address the cross-border nature of online gambling.

European Lotteries also welcomed the European Parliament strong stance on the need for a broad set of measures to fight illegal operators, although we hope and believe MEPs do not consider illegal bookmakers licensed in the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency.

Earlier this year, while speaking during the CEO panel at the World Gaming Executive Summit, the President of European Lotteries labeled as 'illegal operator' SBOBET, an online bookmaker present in Asia and Europe with licenses in First Cagayan (Philippines) and the Isle of Man.

The sensation that day of July was that Mr Stickler considers illegal all online bookmakers based in offshore jurisdictions and that he would have probably bashed Gibraltar-licensed BWIN had the company's Co-CEO not been present in the same panel.

September 18, 2013

‘Tele-Casinos’ Fill The Gap As Japan Awaits Casino Legislation

The awarding of the 2020 Olympic Games to Tokyo may have boosted expectations that Japan is now a virtual lock to be the next Asian casino hotspot, but Credit Suisse gaming analyst Joel Simkins says hold the phone. In a recent note to investors, Simkins noted that similar talk had suggested Brazil would open up its casino market after Rio de Janeiro was awarded both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, yet that casino chicken has yet to hatch. As for Japan, Simkins cautioned that “managing developments for the games, as well as rolling out integrated resorts, would make for a very full plate, particularly for the various political parties.”

While waiting on Japan’s politicians to make up their minds, Japanese gamblers have few domestic options beyond pachinko. They have one less option following the recent bust of an illegal ‘tele-casino’ in Aichi Prefecture. The illegal gambling joint was located in an entertainment district in Nagoya and advertised as an internet café, but entry required membership and members had to pass through a maze of steel doors and security cameras to gain admittance. The owners required gamblers to register for membership using a mobile phone, and only a call placed from this phone would guarantee entry.

Once inside, gamblers sat themselves down at one of a dozen computers on which live-dealer casino feeds were beamed in from jurisdictions such as the Philippines and Costa Rica. According to a report in the Asahi Shinbun, the tele-casino operators purchased ‘points’ from these live-dealer operations for ¥50 (US 50¢) apiece, which they would then sell to gamblers for ¥100 a point.

Like pachinko, in which the players can usually find ways to redeem their little silver balls for cold hard cash instead of the prizes on display at the front counter, tele-casino gamblers could convert their points back into cash once they were finished gambling (assuming they had any points left). Regardless of an individual gambler’s fortune, the drinks and cigarettes are on the house, so banzai!

The Nagoya tele-casino manager said about 80% of his customers played baccarat due to its brisk pace. Most gamblers wagered only ‘several tens of thousands’ of yen a night, although a few high-rollers could burn through ¥1m ($10k) in a single sitting. The tele-casino reportedly netted a monthly profit of ¥5m until it was shut down. There are believed to be at least 60 such establishments in Aichi Prefecture.

September 17, 2013

Women overtake men in causal game usage

Women are now playing more casual online games than men according to a new survey by Mintel, figures show that 27% of women play games such as Candy Crush and other Facebook game apps than 24% of men.

Although the new figures show an increase in women playing online games, the number of people admitting to being “hardcore gamers” are still men with 13% of men compared to 6% of women saying they think they are heavily involved in the gaming culture.

Even when the survey asked if you consider yourself a moderate user of online games the figures still showed men believe they are a moderate user with 24% saying they were compared to 15% of women.

The casual gaming industry in Britain is worth £1.7bn currently and with the increase of women now using their smartphones to play, the gaming industry is looking at more games to attract the growing number of female gamers.

Indeed of many women surveyed the indication was that they are not into “shoot’em up” games like the fella’s they want more tactical, puzzle-based games which are more common on smartphones, hence the increase in usage.

In a recent survey among the sexes when it came to gaming consoles where “shoot’em up” games are dominant the figures showed that women playing those games had dropped. It is clear from the numbers that if gaming developers want to tap into the growing number of women playing gaming apps, they have to adapt their games to suit.

September 15, 2013

Bidder to crash online gaming giant Bwin's Party?

Broker Peel Hunt’s veteran leisure analyst Nick Batram hit the nail on the head in a recent note on Gibraltar-based online gaming giant Bwin Party Digital Entertainment, 0.3p easier at 109.9p.
Coming after a shock profits warning last month, he said its management is running out of chances to put things right. It has yet to provide the market with any confidence that it can deliver a sustainable improvement from here. There is value in the business, and if this management team doesn’t unlock it, then someone else will.

Analysts slashed earnings forecasts after it warned that revenues would fall by up to 17 per cent this year as it shrinks the business to focus on fewer markets where it can make higher returns.

Rumours of a 200p a share cash offer from Google has been doing the rounds of late with dealers hearing that the US giant could pounce before Bwin’s online poker and casino games are up and running in the state of New Jersey before the end of the year.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an amended bill into law in February this year. The online gaming market in New Jersey is believed to be worth £630million.

Rival broker Numis says there are reasons to be optimistic about 2013. Operations may start in New Jersey, a new poker product will launch, as will a new mobile interface for sports. Its target price is 200p.

William Hill, which has also been mentioned in the same breath as Bwin Party, closed 5.1p better at 424.1p.

Gaming software developer Playtech advanced 17.5p to 720p after Panmure Gordon upgraded earnings forecasts. The company will have cash (no debt) of €532million on the balance sheet at the year-end. Irish bookie Paddy Power, which has already teamed up Facebook in a live cash betting joint venture, closed down €0.80 at €60.20.

Confirmation of the Government’s largest privatisation in decades with the £3bn flotation of the Royal Mail postal service provided an early talking point but markets generally lacked inspiration.
Revived fears that the US Federal Reserve will taper stimulus measures next week inhibited investment enterprise but the Footsie stayed in the black with a modest gain of 0.55 points to 6588.98. The FTSE 250 fell 53.71 points to 15,192.07. Wall Street fell 26 points after a jobless claims report failed to give any clues about the Fed’s next move.

Reflecting relief it had dropped its proposed £700million bid for oil services engineer Kentz (50.5p down at 499p), shares of Amec rose 20p to 1078p. Amec now says it is considering paying out cash (£500million?) to shareholders in the fourth quarter.

Broker Oriel Securities is a buyer of Kentz and says it remains an attractive target and the bid simply flagged the value that has been overlooked by the market.

Sellers dimmed the lights at temporary power group Aggreko after Deutsche Bank slashed its target price to 1870p from 2100p. The close was 41p lower at 1610p.

Industrial lighting group Dialight was also left in the dark at 1150p, down 225p, after warning that delays in the signing of large contracts means profits will be flat for the full year. Profits will now come in at around the previous year’s £25million, which is around £6million below shop broker Canaccord Genuity’s latest forecasts.

Charles Skinner’s thriving UK office services provider Restore rose 9p to 137p in response to excellent interim results. Pre-tax profits soared 95pc to £4.1million on revenues 35 per cent higher at £24.6million. The dividend is hiked 50 per cent to 0.6p.

House broker Cenkos forecasts full-year profits of £6.2million, rising to £10million next year. It expects Restore to remain a stand-out performer within the small-cap universe.

Luxury car dealer HR Owen accelerated 21p to 162.5p after Philippine investment group Berjaya Philippines increased its offer to 170p cash a share from its rejected 130p a share bid after buying a further 2.4million shares, taking its holding and that of people acting in concert with it to almost 41 per cent.

An upbeat note from Daniel Stewart helped Plethora Solutions firm 0.88p to 6.32p. The broker says that now the group has regained global control of PSD502, a treatment for premature ejaculation, it intends to commence regulatory filings with the US Food & Drug Administration. It sees it being launched in the US in the second-half of 2015. It is in discussions with multiple partners to roll-out the drug once PSD502 is approved.

AfriAg put on 0.22p to 2.1p after completing a £600,000 financing at 2.06p a share with YA Global Master SPV. Patagonia Gold dipped 1.25p to 12.5p following interim results.

September 13, 2013

Slovaks are behind Czech football match-fixing scandal, police says

A group of Slovaks played a key role in a football corruption scandal in the Czech Republic and it manipulated the Slovak league matches' results as well, according to Slovak police, Police President Tibor Gaspar told reporters yesterday.

Seven people have been accused in the case, he added.

The gang was allegedly bribing footballers and then it gained money by betting on the manipulated matches, mainly via foreign online betting operators.

The Slovak group rigged at least 19 soccer matches in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia in the past year, Gaspar said.

The gang gave bribes of some 210,000 euros in total to football players, allegedly some 2000 to 60,000 euros per match.

The Slovak police estimated that the gang had gained 50,000 euros per fixed match.

"According to available information, the main organisers of this match-fixing and corruption were Slovaks. They masterminded the whole process of illegal betting," Gaspar said.

However, the gang's boss was a foreigner, probably from an Asian country, from whom the gang members received money to bribe players.

The group first chose a match from which it wanted to profit, then it addressed some footballers and offered them a bribe for match-fixing, Gaspar said.

He also described the communication between the gang and players during the match.

"If the mediator kept sitting at the stadium, he thereby sent a signal to the footballers saying the offer held and they should try to reach the agreed result. If he left the stadium, it was a signal that their match was not in the offer of the online (betting) operator," Gaspar added.

Three former football players were offering the bribes, Gaspar noted.

Four Slovak first league DAC 1904 Dunajska Streda players are accused of bribe taking. They are suspected of having manipulated results of four out of eight league matches this season.

Detectives traced the gang thanks to a Czech football club's player whom the gang had allegedly offered a bribe but he turned to the police.

The Czech anti-corruption police have so far accused 12 present and former football players of bribery within the match-fixing case.

The police made 15 searches of homes and other premises in a raid on Wednesday morning. Several players have been reportedly arrested within the raid.

Czechs investigate the case in cooperation with the Slovak police.

During the police raid in Slovakia on Monday, policemen searched homes of the suspects finding 49,000 euros in cash and communication devices which the fraudsters used for their criminal activities.

This was the biggest bribery scandal in Slovak football in the past years.

The Slovak Football Association, which helps detectives in the investigation, has appreciated the police work.

"It is in the interest of the football movement to clean it up of any corruption symptoms," the association said in reaction to the affair.

Slovak footballers face up to two-year ban from playing for match-fixing and their clubs would be expelled from the league.

September 12, 2013

Czech police arrest many footballers suspected of corruption

The Czech anti-corruption police today arrested tens of football players, mainly of lower competitions, but also from the first league, over betting and influencing matches, server wrote and the police´s spokesman Jaroslav Ibehej confirmed this in a press release for CTK.

The Czech Football Association (FACR) does not yet have any information about which players, or clubs and matches the case concerns.

"We have no detailed information on the matter, but what the police said in their press release. Until our security manager (Martin Synecky), currently attending a meeting of UEFA security managers in Warsaw, receives more detailed information, we will not comment on the matter," FACR spokesman Jaroslav Kolar told CTK.

Detectives from the Squad for Uncovering Corruption and Financial Crime have been securing pieces of evidence in connection with a suspicion of corrupt behaviour in the football environment since 4:00 today, Ibehej said in the press release.

September 11, 2013

Sheriff Gaming B2B license suspended till hearing

Sheriff Gaming has had its B2B license suspended by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC) until a hearing on the 29th October in London and has told the company it must cease trading and offering their online gaming services until that time.

The suspension follows raids by Dutch police into Sheriffs parent company the Bubble Group and its owners for suspected drug dealing, illegal gambling operations and money laundering. The iGaming Post reported exclusively at the time (see report) the raids taking place and confiscating properties, vehicles and bank accounts.

The Dutch firm supplies services to operators such as Betsson, Bet 365, Gala Coral, Unibet, Microgaming BetClic and many other, but will now have to suspend these services until the hearing takes place and a final decision on the B2B license is made.

It is a major blow to Sheriff Gaming and observers question if the company can return after such serious allegations even if they have their license restored, also will so many high profile customers as the company has want to be associated with them after such an investigation? It is very bad times at present for a company that was doing so well.

September 09, 2013

New Software Goes Live launched its new software client on Thursday, marking a "significant first step" in the integration of social features. The site overhaul has been specifically designed as part of a new strategy to revitalize PartyPoker as a brand centered around the recreational player.

The new has fresh new look, logo and interface, and offers a variety of features including a 1-Click Lobby and social features such as Missions and Achievements, Friends and much more. Players will also find a re-branded racetrack-shaped poker table, a cleaner table menu and a new theme.

The first phase release of the all new is now available on Mac and PC in download and no-download versions. The mobile product is available on Android and on iOS applications for the first time, and the company said it will be implementing more of the all new desktop features in a later phase.

Here are some of the highlights of the brand new software release:

1-Click Lobby

The new 1-Click lobby, found only at PartyPoker, allows players to organize their favorite games — tournament and ring games — all into the same view. With Filters and Favorites, players can highlight their preferred games and use the Favorites tab and lobby filters to narrow their search for the perfect table. Bankroll management concepts will also be figured into each player's 1-Click experience.


Missions give players targets to aim for, challenging them to try new things and improve their game. Missions help players improve poker skills but there are also great extra rewards for completing them, such as cash, tournament tickets, bonuses, and more.


Personal milestones will become a focus at the new PartyPoker. Every time a player collects an Achievement, it will boost their score which they can show off to their friends via their profile page and activity feeds.

Friends and Profile Page

Feeding into the new social aspects of the software, players can easily search and add friends via screen name, email address or by looking up contacts from their email address book.


The account page now offers players a one-stop location to provide a list of:

  • Real Balance
  • Bonuses
  • Loyalty Points
  • New or active promotions
  • Tournament dollars
  • Messages in account inbox

Italian Senate Accidentally Bans Online Gambling For One-Year Period

The dependably dysfunctional Italian government turned in another epic howler this week as the Senate passed a motion that could result in the banning of all online gambling for a 12-month period. The motion, which was proposed by the Lega Nord party in an apparent bid to minimize the harm caused by gambling addiction, called for a year-long ban on video lottery terminal (VLT) and amusement with prizes (AWP) gaming in public places, as well as a moratorium on issuing any more online gambling licenses and the suspension of activities by the 200-odd licensed online gambling firms already operating in the country.

News of the motion’s passage was originally brought to light by DLA Piper attorney Giulio Coraggio, who found Lega Nord’s proposal sufficiently daffy to include the phrase “Is it a joke?” in the title of Thursday’s blog post. Italy’s finance ministry has since declared the motion unworkable, given that the licensed online firms currently doing business in the country have made significant investments based on their belief that the nine-year terms of their Italian licenses would, you know, be honored. These operators would be well within their rights to sue Italy for compensation, which they would most assuredly be awarded.

Furthermore, an effective ban on all gambling in Italy would deprive the already cash-strapped state of billions of euros in sorely needed tax revenue. Italy’s economy is projected to shrink another 2% in 2013 and youth unemployment is closing in on 40%. How dysfunctional is the Italian economy? Consider that last month, the owner of an electronics components factory in the city of Modena used his employees’ two-week summer holiday to secretly move the entire factory to Poland. As the owner of the 50-year-old family business told an Italian radio station, his decision to get out of Dodge was a frustrated response to the country’s high taxes and red tape: “I had three options: either close, move the factory … or shoot myself in the head.” Unlike Italian politicians, shooting himself in the foot was apparently not an option.

It seem the Senators from other parties that voted for the motion were under the impression that Lega Nord was merely seeking to put the brakes on the issuance of any further online gambling licenses. This is perhaps even more worrisome, given that it suggests Italian politicians don’t even have aides that read legislation before giving their bosses the CliffsNotes to help them decide how they should vote. Fortunately, the head of the Lega Nord party has gone public with full details on his party’s future motions…

September 03, 2013

Dutch Online Gambling Worth Up To €370m, Says GamblingData

Dutch online gambling operators can expect to generate €266.5m in gross gambling yield in the first year of regulation, a figure that will rise to almost €370m in 2016, according to a new report from GamblingData.

The Netherlands is on track to become Europe’s next major online gambling market to open for business following the publication by the Dutch government in May of a draft bill that seeks to fully regulate the sector for the first time.

If implemented as it stands, the draft law would impose a 20 percent tax on gross gambling yield (GGY) and would not limit the number of licences issued or restrict the types of online gambling which could be offered to consumers, with the exception of a ban on spread betting.

Pending a vote in the lower house, the bill is expected to take effect from January 2015.

In the wake of the publication of the draft law, GamblingData has set out to forecast quarterly and annual GGY for online sports betting, casino and poker in the Netherlands over the first three years of regulation.

Based on an effective market launch date of January 2015, GamblingData estimates that online gambling in the Netherlands will generate approximately €266.5m in GGY in the first full year.

Licensees can then expect to see revenues, measured as GGY, grow 38 percent year-on-year to €368.5m in 2016, as sports betting benefits from the Euro 2016 Football Championship in France and online poker ramps up rapidly on a sequential quarterly basis.

GamblingData expects that market growth will flatten somewhat in 2017, contracting by 1 percent to €365.7m as poker spend stalls and sports betting suffers from the absence of a major summer football tournament.

On the basis of a relatively liberal regulatory system and the moderate taxation levels put forward in May, GamblingData believes unlicensed operators will be constrained to around 13 percent of the market from 2015 to 2017, safely within of the maximum 25 percent share that the draft bill envisions.

In line with previous reports, GamblingData's Dutch forecasts are predicated on base data from an established European regulated market, in this case Italy, and are calculated using GamblingData’s proprietary forecasting model, incorporating a quantitative and qualitative comparison of the two countries under observation.

An adult population just over a quarter of the size of Italy’s will inevitably limit the scale of theDutch market, but, adjusting for this differential, GamblingData’s analysis of operating conditions in the two countries foresees a Dutch regulated market more favourable towards operators than its Italian predecessor.

Some political risk remains however, with the operator-friendly provisions yet to be cemented into law. Currently the draft bill is expected to reach parliament around the turn of the year, with votes in the lower and upper house to follow.

Bwin.Party’s plan for revival

The middle of this month will see the launch of the much awaited new look poker offering from Bwin.Party said Chief Executive Officer Norbert Teufelberger. The new style poker platform will also aim at casual poker players along with a new ratings league for more regular players.

Elements that the company hope will bring success to the poker platform that has struggled against fierce competition is the social communication element offered and the rewards that climbing the ratings ladder will bring to more regular loyal players.

After recent poor results announced by the online gaming giant the company is also releasing a brand new mobile sports betting app which the company hope will improve its lowly 9% of revenues gained by the mobile sector, which many other gaming operators has seen increase their bottom line over the last couple of years.

PokerScout the online poker ranking site places PartyPoker in 5th place in the popular league which is a blow to the online company that actually launched online poker to the world.

Much of’s future is banked on the emergence of the US online gambling industry which the company thrived in prior to the 2006 UIGEA enforcement. The company has a deal in New Jersey when it opens up for online gambling in November with Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, along with their plan to soon apply for a license in Nevada to offer online gambling software.

Head of PFA is alleged serial gambler

The Head of the English Professional Footballers Association, Graham Taylor is alleged by two main newspapers in the UK to be a “serial gambler,” even though he has on many occasions warning his members against the dangers of gambling.

The newspapers are alleging Taylor has run up debts of over £100,000 and in a 30 month period gambled £4 million on some 2,000 individual bets, with one it is said to have been on an England versus Switzerland match in 2011, which he lost according to the reports.

According to the newspaper reports most of the bets were on horseracing however some are also on the premier league football matches. Ironically Taylor has said in the past that there should be a “zero tolerance” towards footballers gambling.

Taylor is the highest paid union official in the UK which represents the interests of professional footballers and earns over £1 million a year in his role as Chief Executive, which he has been for over 30 years.

Both reports on Taylor in the UK national press have failed to get any comment from Mr Taylor confirming or denying the stories.

Playtech show strong first half results

Playtech have announced their half yearly results with a 15% increase from the same time last year, the gambling software giant saw revenues rise to €176.8 million for the first half of 2013, compared to €153.8 million for the same period in 2012 .

Announcing its interim figures for the six months ending in June 2013 the company said that gross income had shifted up by 10% to €194.9 million to generate an adjusted net profit of €84.9 million, up 0.5% on the corresponding period of last year. Playtech also showed a strong cash reserve of €576.2 million allowing to offer shareholders a dividend of 7.8 cents on a share.

“Once again Playtech’s tenacity and drive have been demonstrated in these results as it has focused on deepening its licensee relationships; creating innovative new content; and providing its customers with cutting edge products and services,” non-executive chairman Roger Withers said.

“As online gaming continues to focus on mobile, it is pleasing to see our investment in this increasingly important market paying-off across many product areas.

“The company continues to capitalise on its customer-focused strategy and strong balance sheet: Playtech remains the world’s leading supplier of technology and services for the online gaming industry and can look to the future with confidence and optimism.”

While announcing the interim results it was also disclosed that Mr Withers will be stepping down from his current role on the 9th October, but will remain as an advisor to the company.

Alan Jackson, who is currently the senior non-executive director, will assume the role as non-executive chairman from Mr Withers.

September 02, 2013

ATR agrees new media rights deal with Irish racing bodies

UK and Irish horse racing broadcaster At the Races (ATR) has agreed a deal with Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) to gain exclusive cross-platform media rights to all Irish fixtures.

The two-year agreement, which begins in January 2014, is described as including “significantly improved terms” for multiple media rights with ATR expecting returns to racecourses to more than double next year. Revenue is also expected to be positively impacted by the option to offer domestic and international distribution through online and new media.

ATR’s partner, broadcaster and data supplier SIS will retain all domestic and international betting shop rights under its existing contract with HRI.

As part of the agreement ATR will offer HRI and AIR a seat on its board of directors, described as “a significant and important new development that will help further the effort to coordinate and align strategies and keep the Irish racing industry integrally involved in the management and direction of its rights exploitation.”

The company’s chief executive Matthew Imi said he was “delighted” that the relationship with the two associations would continue, describing Irish racing as “a significant part of [ATR’s] business.”

“HRI and AIR made it very clear that not only did they feel ATR had done a great job monetising their rights across our current distribution platforms but that they were also excited about the long term potential of the business and we look forward to welcoming their representative onto the ATR Board as we start to roll out our growth strategy,” he explained.

AIR CEO Paddy Walsh added that he was “very pleased” to have agreed the new deal with ATR and SIS, saying that he looked forward to “all parties benefiting from the partnership approach that we have always adopted in the past.”