December 29, 2014

Kara Scott and Partypoker Sever Ties After Five Years

Kara Scott is the latest professional poker player to part ways with a sponsor after her five-year affiliation with partypoker ends with 2014 drawing to a close.

Kara Scott is back on the market.

Nope, Kara Scott remains happily married; but she has signed on the dotted line of a set of divorce papers that ends a five-year relationship with partypoker. There was a time when this news would have made waves; today it barely ripples – and it goes to show the recent trend of burning professional sponsorship contracts can tinge the fingers of anyone.

In a recent interview with the PR mastermind, Warren Lush, I asked him which sponsored players had been worth their weight in gold during his time in the biz?

“I think Kara Scott is a fantastic ambassador for poker. She is an excellent TV presenter, and great with customers. We use her as a face on the mobile app, and we have enjoyed an excellent relationship for years now.” Lush told me.

She ticks every single box; proving the decision to allow people to leave – or not trying harder to get them to stay – says more of what online poker rooms are beginning to understand about the value a sponsored pro has to the company doing the hiring, than the actual ability of the person hired.

The announcement was made on Kara Scott’s Cardrunners blog.

“PartyPoker has gone through many changes and unfortunately as their focus shifted, there were fewer and fewer TV projects. As those shows disappeared, so did one of my favorite parts of the job and now my association with Party is ending. However, I’m not going anywhere. I still love playing poker and have made a lot of great friends in the industry.”

To be fair to they did say that moving forward their rest of the world focus would be on casino products, and a concentrated effort on poker would only be made in the U.S. Scott is a globally recognized face, and spends more time on airplanes than Ted Striker, but her European base, and work within the European tour stops, doesn’t push her nicely into a New Jersey niche.

Scott follows ‘Mad’ Marvin Rettenmaier out of the door marked ‘exit’, and it will be interesting to see what happens to both Jamie Kerstetter and Scott Baumstein once their contracts come up for renewal. Ken Daneyko did buck the trend by joining the team at partypoker, but he is a former sports star, thus fitting the model of sponsored pro that seems to more appropriate in modern times.

With ties to partypoker now snipped, Scott can spend more time concentrating on her family, and she will continue to work with the ESPN and World Series of Poker (WSOP) when the summer comes rolling into her life. During her time with partypoker Scott played a pivotal role in turning TV productions of The Premier League and the Big Game into some of the greatest poker shows ever televised.

December 18, 2014

Czech Republic gambling operators brace for tax hikes

Gambling operators in the Czech Republic could see their tax bills nearly double by 2016 if Finance Minister Andrej Babis (pictured) gets his way. Babis is set to present a new gambling tax proposal on Friday and a Czech newspaper reported that the plan includes rate hikes that would boost the government’s annual tax haul from CZK 8b (US $359m) to CZK 14b ($629m).

The newspaper claimed the current 20% tax on gross gaming revenue would be raised to between 30% and 40%, with fixed-odds sports betting coming in somewhere at the low end of that scale and slot machines at the high end. That’s on top of the 19% corporate tax that licensed gambling companies are required to ante up. The newspaper didn’t cite its sources for the figures and Babis declined to comment when queried by Reuters.

The Czech government is in the process of overhauling its gambling laws to allow online casino and lottery products in addition to sports betting. The legislation, which the government hopes to approve early in the new year, would also open the market up to international operators, although how many would find those tax rates appealing remains to be seen. The Czech Republic was one of several nations whose online gambling regimes were scolded by the European Commission last November as too restrictive.

The legislation is also intended to rein in the number of gaming machines currently entertaining gamblers in pubs, bars and other small-scale venues. There are currently 7.5 gaming machines for every 1,000 Czechs, twice the number in Slovakia and 25x the number in Austria.

On Monday, Czech national anti-drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril revealed that the government had approved a new national strategy that lumps gambling in with alcohol and drugs as targets for further restriction. The Ministry of Health has been tasked with preparing a plan of action by the end of March, which will remain in place until March 2019, after which the results will be evaluated and a new plan formulated.

December 17, 2014

Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen asked for a $50 million bribe from Fenerbahçe chairman Yıldırım

Chairman of the Galatasaray Football Club, Duygun Yarsuvat has claimed that Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen asked for a $50 million bribe from the former chairman of Fenerbahçe Football Club, Aziz Yıldırım, and after he refused, began the match-fixing which led Yıldırım to prison.

"Fethullah [Gülen] asked for $50 million from Aziz Yıldırım. Neither Aziz Yıldırım nor Fenerbahçe paid the money. A well-known process started after all of this. … This process has not ended yet," Galatasaray Chairman DoygunYarsuvat told Turkish daily Milliyet on Wednesday.

In the summer of 2011 a comprehensive investigation was launched into allegations of match fixing and organized crime networks in Turkish soccer circles. More than 60 people, including Fenerbahçe club chairman, Yıldırım, were taken into custody. On July 14, 2011, Hüseyin Gülerce, a senior journalist associated with the Gülen Movement, wrote about the match-fixing arrests in Today's Zaman, the English language version of Zaman daily. In an article titled, "Second breach in Ergenekon's fortress," Gülerce described the match-fixing investigation as part of a concerted attempt to destroy the same people who had been targeted in the Ergenekon investigation. "As they fail to understand that their resistance is futile, they will be eliminated faster," Gülerce predicted.

On July 2, 2012, Turkey's now defunct Specially Authorized Courts convicted and sentenced Yıldırım to six years and three months in prison for match fixing. On June 7, 2014, the newly assigned prosecutor of the match-fixing scandal demanded a retrial for Yıldırım from the 13th High Criminal Court, which is the newly assigned court for the match-fixing scandal. Immediately after his release from jail on July 2, 2013, he spoke to Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök and said that the Gülen Movement was responsible for all of these matters.

Furthermore, on January 20, 2014, Yıldırım claimed to The Wall Street Journal that the evidence of the match-fixing case was fake and unstable and that the Gülen Movement was behind it. "The match-fixing case was a political trial with a political verdict. I don't respect the decision of this judiciary," he said. He had been the head of Fenerbahçe since 1998 and won five Turkish league titles.

"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his statement on December 17, said that a parallel structure exists. This parallel structure is run by Gülen and his community. All those prosecutors, judges and police officers were removed from office because they are Gülenists. … So, it means that all those operations in the past, including the one against us, were the work of the Gülen Movement. I cannot be sure now whether the Appeals Court judges [who upheld my sentence] are in the service of the parallel structure or the Republic of Turkey. The justice minister should make a statement to shed light on the situation," Yıldırım said.

On June 7, 2014, the newly assigned prosecutor of the match-fixing scandal demanded a retrial of the case, which was accepted by the court and will lead to all those convicted, including Yıldırım, to have a retrial.

Herrera denies match-fixing claim

Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has denied being involved in a match-fixing scandal surrounding a Levante-Zaragoza game in 2011.

Anti-Corruption prosecutor Alejandro Luzon is claiming that €965,000 was paid to Levante players so they would lose the game, which the Aragones club won 2-1 and thus claimed the three points needed to avoid relegation.

However, Herrera, who is one of 41 players, Coaches and club officials named in the investigation, issued a statement via his Facebook account denying he had anything to do with rigging the game and helping his former club retain its top-flight status.

“In an on-going legal process involving Real Zaragoza (Spain), the club I was honoured to play with from 12 until 22 years of age, there are 41 people mentioned, of which I am one.

“I have never had and will never have anything to do with manipulating match results. If I am ever called to testify in any judicial hearing, I’ll be happy to attend, as my conscience is totally clear.

“I love football and I believe in fair play, both on and off the pitch,” it read.

December 12, 2014

Gambler wins case against Novomatic

Novomatic have lost a court case involving a gambler who says he was not responsible for the huge losses he accumulated playing slot machines in Vienna.

A local court in Vienna ruled that the un-named gambler who lost a total of €800,000 over a 4 year period from 2006 to 2010 should have €400,000 of that amount paid back by the slot manufacturing giant.

The gamblers lawyers had the gambler take a psychiatric evaluation which supported his case that he was not responsible for the losses, the court agreed that his gambling ”contracts” for the period should be annulled.

“Unlike in casinos, it’s not possible in Vienna to ban somebody from a slot machine room. And you find these machines in many places, including petrol stations,” the gambler’s lawyer Christoph Naske told AFP.

Novomatic which operates the slot machines has appealed the ruling.

Skrill adds 1-Tap to SBOBet verticals

Online payment processor Skrill, today announces that it has integrated its 1-Tap payment system with SBOBET desktop and mobile verticals.

Skrill 1-Tap connects with Skrill’s Digital Wallet to offer quick and easy mobile payments to merchants and customers. By using Skrill 1-Tap, SBOBet customers can make payments in ‘one tap’ on any device, rather than having to repeatedly enter their login details or sensitive credit card information. Customers’ card details are securely saved after the initial payment made via Skrill, so the one tap functionality is enabled next time they log on to SBOBET.

Paul Barclay, VP of Gambling and FX, Skrill commented:“We developed Skrill 1-Tap following in-depth consumer research, so we are delighted to see this innovative solution quickly becoming the preferred option for mobile and desktop payments in the gaming sector. SBOBet customers can now make seamless payments in a secure way wherever and whenever they wish.

“The future is mobile and Skrill’s focus on innovation means we are able to meet customer’s changing needs, delivering an enhanced, more convenient experience and a product that suits them.”

Bill Mummery, Executive Director, SBOBet added: “Adoption of Skrill 1-Tap means a significant reduction of ‘friction’ for our customers when placing their bets. This is particularly important for in-play betting, which now forms a major part of our gaming activity. We have been particularly impressed by Skrill’s innovative technology-led approach to digital payments.”

December 11, 2014

ICSS and Sorbonne release match-fixing report

A 700-page report into the manipulation of sports results has been released and is available for download.

The report is the result of a two-year long cooperation between the Sorbonne University in Paris, France and the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), during which a total of more than 80 researchers and experts have been contributing to the report entitled 'Fighting against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions'.

According to the press release, the joint project initially set out to map the different forms of sports corruption and to provide a set of recommendations that sports’ stakeholders could use in their work against match-fixing. Match-fixing is an area whose recent developments are worrying, says the press release, with 300 to 700 sports events suspected of being fixed each year since 2010.

The report estimates that the yearly amount of bets is between 200 and 500 billion euro and that up to 80% of this amount is placed on illegal bets. The report also assesses that organised crime launder up to 140 billion dollars each year through sporting bets.

Although states are beginning to understand the scale of this threat, their tools to fight it vary a lot from nation to nation. But according to the report, it should be possible “to establish a classification of the countries according to their policy on sport integrity”, and “to measure their degree of implication and their responsiveness in the face of this scourge”.

The three most important recommendations to be found in the report are, according to Laurent Vidal, Director of the Sorbonne-ICSS Research Programme on Ethics and Sport Security:

  • The urgent need for an effective cooperation between all stakeholders without ulterior motives
  • The introduction of a subtle balance between the protection of public order, sport autonomy and the functioning of the markets of sports bets and sports spectacles
  • An uncompromising fight against organised crime and illegal bets

December 04, 2014

CVC takes control of £800m Sky Bet

CVC Capital Partners is to spend a potential £720m to buy a controlling stake in online bookmaker Sky Bet. Under the agreement, Sky will receive £600m on completion of the deal, and further deferred and contingent payments of up to £120m, while Sky will retain an equity stake of 20% in Sky Bet, with which it has entered a long-term brand licence agreement.

The broadcaster said that the sale ‘crystallises value’ for Sky that has been created in Sky Bet, while the price represents a multiple of approximately 15x EBITDA for the 12 months ended 30 June 2014, reflecting Sky Bet’s record of strong growth and high cash generation.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “In the last ten years, we have successfully grown Sky Bet from a start-up to one of the leading online betting and gaming companies in the UK. This transaction will allow us to focus further on the substantial growth opportunities in our core international pay TV business while realising significant value for our shareholders.”

The acquisition includes Sky Bet, its sports betting business; Sky Vegas & Sky Casino, its casino gaming businesses, Sky Poker and Sky Bingo, and Oddschecker, the UK’s leading odds comparison site. The deal is subject to regulatory clearances in the UK and Ireland and is expected to be completed in the first three months of 2015.

The Sky Bet management team, under the leadership of managing director Richard Flint, will remain with the business under the new ownership structure with all Sky Bet’s employees moving across into the new entity. The business will remain headquartered in Leeds.

Flint said: “Over the last 7 years, Sky Bet has grown rapidly to become one of the UK’s leading online betting and gaming operators, achieved through the hard work of our employees and the valuable support of Sky and Sky Sports. Looking forward, we have exciting growth opportunities, both in the UK and internationally. Today’s transaction brings in CVC as a new majority investor who will support us in the exciting next phase of our development, and retains the benefits of Sky’s and Sky Sports’ continuing involvement. CVC brings a broad international network, has an excellent track record of building businesses, as well as valuable experience in the betting & gaming sector, through previous investments in companies such as William Hill and IG Group.”

Rob Lucas, managing partner of CVC, said: “We are delighted to have agreed to acquire a controlling stake in Sky Bet. Richard Flint and his team have built a fantastic business, which is a leader in the fast growing mobile and online, betting and gaming markets. The partnership between CVC and Sky will provide a strong platform to support SkyBet’s ongoing success at this exciting point in its development.”

Betradar enters Nigeria with 1960bet

Betradar, supplier of sports and betting related data has announced the launch of its Live Channel products with Nigerian bookmaker 1960Bet. Betrader will roll out its Live Channel Retail across 5,000 stores by using a local satellite distribution provider and will implement the Live Channel Online into its sports betting website

In addition, 1960Bet has also signed up for Betradar’s Managed Trading Services, a new business concept that allows sports betting operators to externalise their labour intensive risk and liability management to Betradar’s proven industry expertise. Combined with the live streaming services Live Channel Retail and Live Channel Online, 1960Bet is strengthening its live betting offering significantly in retail outlets and on their website, to provide their clients with a new level of entertainment and bet stimulation.

1960Bet CEO, Dotun Ajegbile stated: “We at 1960Bet have had a strong and trusting relationship with Betradar since we launched in 2012, and the quality of their services have gone a long way in driving the growth of 1960Bet. We now look forward to taking advantage of the growing interest in live betting by rolling out the Betradar Live Channel in 5,000 of our 1960Bet shops and agents. Together with this,we have entrusted our day to day risk-management to the Betradar Managed Trading Service, and weare confident this is a great step forward in securing our future growth in the market.”

Sportradar’s Sales Director for the African region Gregory Parsons had this to add: “We are very pleased to see the Betradar Live Channel make its first entry into the Nigerian market with 1960Bet. We expect live betting to begin to gather significantly more traction in Africa in the very near future,particularly in Nigeria. 1960Bet will be looking to capitalize on this great opportunity by leveraging localsatellite distribution technology to make rapid and significant in-roads into the market. Through the
Betradar Managed Trading Services, we will now offer even more of a comprehensive range of meaningful, and growth-driving, services to 1960Bet and together we are very excited about what the future holds.”

December 03, 2014

Polish government threaten online gamblers

The Polish government has issued a warning to online gamblers in the country that they could be prosecuted should they play online using offshore unregulated online operators. The announcement by the government is the first ever move to prosecute players instead of operators for unlicensed online gambling.

A statement on the website of the Ministry of Finance’s website says it has proof of more than 24,000 gamblers playing online within the country using unlicensed online gambling sites from outside the country. It also says they have started criminal investigations against some 1,100 players.

Polish gambling law states that any online operator wishing to offer services in the country must have their servers based in the country and have to carry the domain ending .pl.

It also states that all money transactions would have to run exclusively through Polish banks, with the tax rate was set at 12% for operators.

There have been many objections to the Polish regulations and the government has said it will consider in the future that operators only need to have a local branch not all the servers based in the country.

Richard Glynn steps down as Ladbrokes chief

Ladbrokes today announced the departure of their Chief Executive Richard Glynn after almost a year of the axe hovering over the boss of the second largest UK bookmaker since investors threatened him with removal if results and business did not improve.

Mr Glynn joined the company in 2010 when he was poached from Sporting Index, however over the last two years with the rise of William Hill their main competitor in the online business Ladbrokes started making noises earlier this year with announcing that the football World Cup would decide the Chief Execs fate. Although results for the company were good for the summer overall it was not enough to keep Glynn in his role.

Peter Erskine, chairman of Ladbrokes said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Richard for his leadership of the company and his considerable achievements in delivering a new digital future for Ladbrokes. He has devoted enormous energy and dedication to securing the transformation of the company and the benefits of that work are beginning to be seen.”

“I have always said speculation comes with the turf and my focus is on what needs to be delivered,” said Mr Glynn in October when asked whether he had done enough to satisfy investors.

However, this morning Mr Glynn said that it was the “right time for Ladbrokes to identify my successor”.

It is understood that Mr Glynn has a bonus related pay structure worth £12 million when he leaves which he stated will be once the company has found a suitable replacement whether that be internal or external.

December 02, 2014

The King Of Online Gambling (Is 34)

Earlier this year David Baazov walked into the Manhattan offices of the Blackstone Group, the world’s biggest private equity firm, with an outrageous offer. At 33 Baazov was the little-known chief of Amaya, an obscure Montreal company with a loose handful of assets in the gambling industry. But he had big plans. With the backing of Blackstone’s credit division he wanted to stage the $4.9 billion purchase of PokerStars, the world’s biggest online poker company. Operating like he held all the cards, Baazov proposed what would seem to be a crackpot scheme. Despite Amaya’s stock trading just under $7 (all prices are in U. S. dollars), he wanted Blackstone and other investors to buy shares at nearly $18 apiece and securities convertible into Amaya stock at about $21.

If a CEO in the history of capitalism had ever managed to sell equity for such a sky-high premium, the top minds at Blackstone’s credit group had never heard of it. They abruptly ended the meeting and threw Baazov out on the street. “We left the building, and my guys were having heart palpitations,” says Baazov. “The whole time I am still negotiating with the sellers and saying, ‘Hey, I am money good.’ ”

In the months that followed, Baazov corralled the deeply secretive owners of PokerStars, reluctant bankers and big-shot Wall Street investors–all while driving a hard bargain for himself and other Amaya shareholders. In August Baazov ended up buying PokerStars by selling approximately $1.7 billion of Amaya stock for about $18 and convertible preferred shares with a conversion price of about $21 per common share. Blackstone’s credit division, known on Wall Street as GSO, invested $1 billion, its biggest-ever financial commitment in a single deal, getting shares at essentially an effective price of some $15 apiece after Baazov threw in nearly free warrants for his most important financial backer.

With that one transaction Baazov is now the new king of online gambling, a near-billionaire player in a complex and high-stakes game, facing off against titans like Sheldon Adelson. The boldness of what Baazov has pulled off is stunning. Nobody–not even his own executives–thought Baazov could get Amaya, a publicly traded company with $150 million in revenues, to buy Rational Group, an Isle of Man powerhouse with $1.1 billion in revenues and a controversial history, in an all-cash deal that included Rational’s PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

But Baazov somehow pulled it off, and his stock recently changed hands for $33, returning more than 2,600% since he took Amaya public in 2010. Baazov’s 12.5% stake in the company is now worth $800 million. “It is an audacious deal that shocked the industry and shocked the people who watch the company,” says Robert Young, a financial analyst at Canaccord Genuity. “They went out and bought one of the crown jewels of online gaming for $4.9 billion, and their valuation was much less than $1 billion.”

Whether or not he ultimately succeeds is still an open question, but Baazov’s story is an untold saga of chutzpah, luck and pure perseverance. “The game of poker itself is like negotiating a transaction. This was a really, really big-stakes game.” And it’s only just begun.

For a guy who won about as big as you can win in the deal game, Baazov says he’s not much of a poker player. The son of a construction worker, he was born in Israel, and his Georgian parents moved him to Montreal at the age of 1. It was a tight-knit Modern Orthodox Jewish family with six children that tolerated Baazov’s strong rebellious streak–for a while. A math whiz, Baazov was bored at school and at 16 told his deeply conservative parents that he was done with it. They responded as well as you’d expect. They kicked him out of the house.

Filled with pride and desperately wanting to start something, Baazov did not back down. For a while he stayed with a friend, but soon found himself sleeping on park benches and in Montreal’s ubiquitous outdoor public hockey arenas, camping out in the penalty box to block the harsh winds. After more than two weeks on the streets in cold temperatures, Baazov used his brother’s driver’s license to rent an apartment. In time he made up with his parents and went on to make some early cash by selling packages of discount coupons for dry cleaning and clothing stores through the mail. Baazov eventually started a computer-reselling outfit in Montreal, renting a tiny office that maybe two people visited in the first five months. “Your conscience runs with your thoughts,” says Baazov. “You are thinking, what am I doing?”

His big break came when he landed a contract to sell computers to Montreal’s public library, expanding his operation into a $20 million computer reseller over the next five years. “He could take apart a computer and put it together with his eyes closed,” says Morden Lazarus, a Montreal lawyer who has known Baazov for years. “Like every Duddy Kravitz in this world, he wanted to be successful and for his family to be proud of him.” At 25, and fearing the direct computer sales model, he abruptly sold the company after losing a bid to Compaq, one of the companies he distributed for, to supply computers to the City of Montreal.

Burned by hardware, Baazov decided in 2005 to get into software, though he wasn’t much more focused than that. He brought in some developers and to generate revenue they built an electronic poker table that could be sold to casinos and cruise ships, essentially allowing people to play poker without a human dealer. He dubbed the company Amaya, a play on Avaya , the computer networking company where the sister of his chief financial officer worked.

With about $6 million in revenue, Baazov took Amaya public for just under $1 a share in 2010 on the Toronto Venture Exchange, Canada’s penny stock market, raising nearly $5 million. In preparing for his IPO, Baazov, then 29, secured a dinner meeting with former NATO commander and presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, who was a proponent of gambling-generated tax revenue, particularly in small countries. He returned from the Washington dinner and told his staff that General Clark would join the board. “Did he say he was joining?” his CFO asked him. No, but Baazov was certain he would. “He is the ultimate optimist,” says Marlon Goldstein, Amaya’s general counsel. “His glass is always half full even when it’s fu**ing crumbling.” General Clark signed up and remains on Amaya’s board.

Given this kind of bet-the-house bullishness, it was perhaps inevitable that Baazov would set his sights on the Wild West of online gambling. Because of its close proximity to the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, which asserts sovereignty and has long hosted online gambling servers for offshore companies, Montreal has b een an online gambling hub. Running a tiny, publicly traded company, Baazov bought cheap and out-of-favor assets at steep discounts, like Chartwell Technology and Cryptologic, which provided casino-game software to online operators. Baazov also snapped up Ongame, a maker of online poker software. Critics couldn’t figure out what he was up to, but it was simple: He was building a story and a stock.

In 2012 he purchased Cadillac Jack, a slot machine maker, for $177 million. Now Baazov had cash flow, some $36 million a year. He also had a relationship with Blackstone’s GSO credit division, the largest financial backer of the Cadillac Jack purchase, raising $110 million in debt for the deal. Amaya’s stock soared from $3.50 in November 2012 to more than $7 by the end of 2013.

After buying Cadillac Jack, Baazov told his CFO, Daniel Sebag, that he had his eye on much bigger prey. He wanted to buy Rational Group, the private, secretive owner of PokerStars. “Please do not put even one minute of your time in that,” Sebag told him. It seemed impossible. Rational was not only many times larger than Amaya, it was known to be insanely profitable. Meanwhile, Amaya was losing money.

But Baazov smelled opportunity. PokerStars had been essentially founded and run by Isai Scheinberg, a Canadian with Israeli roots, and his son, Mark, who legally owned most of the company. Despite PokerStars’ financial prowess, the owners had run into legal problems for continuing to offer online poker in the U.S. after Congress passed the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

December 01, 2014

Man scoops $14 million on slots and donates all to charity

As the festive season begins a wonderful story has come out of Las Vegas, a local resident who wishes to remain anonymous visited the Rampart Casino with a friend and won the progressive jackpot of $14 million and donated the full amount to charity.

According to the casino the man who is not a regular at the slots there took a friend who is not from Las Vegas to see the casino and within five minutes of playing on the Megabucks slot machines scooped the jackpot with just $20.

Now most people would think of buying a new house and cars along with those long holidays, but not this gentleman he decided to give the whole lot to charity along with paying for a new church for his parish as currently they use a school gym to hold services.

The man has asked the casino not to release his name when he picked up his cheque which will make life a little easier for many people this Christmas, could his name be Santa?

William Hill terminates Dutch igaming services

Following the Netherlands Gaming Authority (NGA) recent clampdown on remote gaming operators targeting Dutch consumers. UK operators William Hill has terminated its gaming and marketing services form the region.

William Hill sent an email communication to marketing partners and affiliates asking them to withdraw all marketing inventory promoting William Hill products. The operator will no longer process wagers and players from Dutch IP’s.

The operator stated that it did not want to jeopardise its chances of gaining a future Dutch igaming license, it would therefore comply with the NGR’s request to stop igaming services.

NGR had warned numerous operators that it would be willing to reject future licence applications on the basis of continued unlicensed activity targeting Dutch consumers.

Last month the NGR had asked international operators to register their official interest on legally entering the Dutch igaming market.

November 28, 2014

Skrill acquires Ukash for undisclosed fee

According to a company announcement issued today, UK- based global payments company, Skrill Group, signed an agreement with electronic money system Ukash. The move aims to boost Skrill Group’s rapidly growing business segment paysafecard, which is a secure prepaid payment system for online purchases.

Paysafecard is a payments system which allows clients to securely transfer money to shop online. After a customer funds his/her card in a physical outlet offline the funds can be used online by entering a 16 digit Pin number.

After Skrill Group acquired paysafecard last year it has become one of the fastest growing segments of the firm’s business. Combining paysafecard with Ukash will enable Skrill to further expand its digital payments business in both established and emerging markets.

The CEO designate of Skrill, David Sear, who will take the helm at the company in January, commented, “The acquisition of Ukash will significantly extend our reach in the high-growth prepayment market. We are proud to support both consumers and online businesses with the world’s largest online cash replacement payment method and look forward to serving a combined base of millions of consumers around the world.”

According to the CEO of paysafecard, Udo Müller, “The acquisition of Ukash will bring together two prepaid technologies with strong synergies, enabling even more customers to pay online as safely and easily as with cash. Ukash increases paysafecard’s global presence and will open up new opportunities for online businesses.”

The financial terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. The completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approvals.

November 25, 2014

Boylesports begins Gibraltar migration

Irish Independent sports betting operator Boylesports has been given the go-ahead to move its online betting operations to Gibraltar. The operator has confirmed that it has found a business premises to house approximately twenty staff members.

The move to Gibraltar will see Boylesports consolidate its remote igaming and betting operations under the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner.

At the start of November Boylesport Founder John Boyle publicly announced that the operator had begun its migration process to Gibraltar. Boyle stated that the move would aid the operator as it targets business expansion for the UK market.

The operator confirmed that around 10 roles in Ireland and five in UK will be relocated to Gibraltar with affected staff notified of the switch and offered the option of relocating

Its migration of digital operations will see Boylesports close its London marketing operations. Industry news source EGR Magazine confirmed that London based Chief Marketing Officer James Arnold has decided not to continue with the operator.

James Arnold had joined Boylesport from Sportingbet in April 2013, in order to expand marketing and acquisition services for the operator. Arnold had helped set up the operators London marketing offices.

Boylesport as yet have not confirmed a replacement for James Arnold.

November 24, 2014

Louis XIII to open middle 2016

Louis XIII Holdings Ltd which is building a $1.1 billion casino-hotel in Cotai will be ready to open in the middle of 2016 says the company.

Casino Louis XIII will operate 66 gaming tables (50 premium mass and 16 VIP) according to previous regulatory filings. It will do so under a so-called ‘service agreement’ with an existing Macau concessionaire or sub-concessionaire, although the identity of the licence provider has not so far been confirmed by the company.

The owner is entrepreneur Stephen Hung who named the new resort after the French king who started building the famed Palace of Versailles, the resort will have over 65,000-square foot (6,039-sq metre), with villas billed as the world’s “most extravagant” hotel suite that will reportedly cost $130,000 a night.

BetSoftGaming Announces Launch at

BetSoftGaming have announced that their full suite of games, including the trend-setting Slots3™ collection of desktop video slots as well as the resoundingly successful ToGo™ line of best in class mobile games, have launched on is one of Europe’s most respected iGaming operators, and the launch of BetSoft’s catalog there has been eagerly anticipated.

“Partnering with Guts was exciting because of their high standards in every aspect of their operation,” said Annamaria Anastasi, BetSoft Account Manager. “Now that our signature true 3D games have been smoothly integrated with their highly reputable site, we are pleased to see their immediate popularity and we are enthusiastically looking forward to a mutually successful future.”

“We’re proud to have these unmatched BetSoft games among our broad repertoire,” said Ben Clemes, Head of Casino Operations. “At, we aim to provide a truly exceptional, world-class iGaming experience, and by offering this outstanding 3D content to our players, we can ensure that every click will bring excitement and delight. And as the market shifts toward a preference for mobile iGaming, BetSoft’s ToGo™ games give us a superior product to satisfy those players who like to game on the go.”

Among the true 3D cinematic games now available at are BetSoft’s smash hits SugarPop!, Mega Gems and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Lottery

November 21, 2014

Online poker’s US hopes may rest with sports betting

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a strong editorial in favor of federal online poker legislation yesterday. Titled “Congress must reverse foolish online poker policy,” it avoided mentioning Sheldon Adelson’s prohibitionism entirely and focused instead on the recent shutdown of Nevada’s Ultimate Poker. Ultimate’s chairman, Tom Breitling, said the week before that federal restrictions had created “an extremely cost-prohibitive and challenging operating environment,” and the RJ editorial made a strong case for an end to Congressional meddling. But when it comes to potential for making legalization happen on its own, poker’s time has come and gone. And oddly enough, its best chance to get back onto American laptops and mobile devices now may be to tag along with sports betting legislation.

Dealers Choice: Online Poker's U.S. Hopes May Rest With Sports BettingThere may eventually be a renaissance of sorts for the poker online, but pushing for legislation to legalize poker on the federal level is essentially impossible today. The peak of the poker boom is receding further back into history with every passing year, the games that do exist are small and dominated by sharks, and poker’s popularity in American culture has been on the wane since long before Black Friday. If legislation specifically to legalize online poker couldn’t make it through Congress when the game was still highly popular and the Senate Majority Leader was from Nevada, the chances of it passing today, particularly with the new Republican-controlled Congress coming into power in January, are next to none.

Sports betting, on the other hand, is more popular today than ever before. If you want to take the narrow view, it’s still only legal to bet on individual games in Nevada. But the state of New Jersey is currently battling in federal court to legalize sports betting, defending a law which its legislature passed and its governor signed. Look a little wider and the landscape is much more friendly than it’s ever been before. Real-money daily fantasy sports leagues, the only form of sports betting explicitly legalized by the UIGEA, are thriving in popularity today. Sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are advertising with the major sports leagues now. And DraftKings even sponsored several of the players at the final table of this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event.

When it comes to legalization today, there’s a world of difference when it comes to institutional support between sports betting and poker. The NBA’s commissioner has begun leading the charge to legalize sports betting, which he called “inevitable” earlier this year and which the majority of Americans support, according to a recent poll. Other major leagues aren’t on board, but the NBA has a template sports betting law based on research in other countries – and as the NFL continues to stage more games overseas where betting is completely legal, they might be tempted to change their stance back stateside.

Meanwhile, online poker is drowning without support from any major players. The American Gaming Association, which once testified before Congress in favor of federal online poker legislation, has now backed away from that stance as one of its members spends millions encouraging federal prohibition. The only active force consistently lobbying Congress on online poker is the Poker Players Alliance, which hasn’t had much effect so far and isn’t likely to see a watershed moment anytime soon. As such, online poker legislation on its own is a dead letter, particularly with Sheldon Adelson crusading against all online gambling and his minions coughing up legislation in response.

If the sports leagues, who have traditionally been the major opponents of allowing sports betting outside Nevada, change their tone on legalizing sports betting, they could easily counterbalance Adelson’s influence in Washington. And since the NBA and their ilk are pretty likely to outlive the one guy in America who really cares about prohibiting online gambling, having them enter the fray would be a pretty strong signal that the game is going to change. The irony in such a situation would be pretty thick because poker proponents had the chance early on to encourage the legalization not just of poker but of all gambling. Instead they avoided the question altogether until after the UIGEA was passed, and then fell back on seeking a carve-out from the law for online poker as a game of skill.

The old saw that poker isn’t gambling may be true in a handful of cases for the most talented players, but in the long run everybody else has to beat the rake, just the same as sports bettors have to beat the vig on their losing wagers. Still, that’s the line was pushed. It was a more politically attractive angle when trying to get a law passed in a conservative Congress than arguing that all forms of online gambling should be legalized. Besides, who cared if others got to gamble the way they wanted, so long as those millions of players in the world’s hottest game got to continue taking to the tables?

In the end, trying to leave all other gambling out of the equation proved to be just as effective as a full frontal assault for all gambling would have been. And it had the side effect of alienating a lot of people who otherwise would have been allies to the poker community. Looking back a few years from now, we may end up seeing the sale of PokerStars to Amaya as the first major sign of the end of poker’s hopes for being the only game on the block. Amaya has been angling to launch a sports betting product in 2015 since before the acquisition, and the customer database they bought along with PokerStars contains plenty of would-be sports bettors just waiting for an invitation.

Instead of being a gold mine because they’re loyal poker customers at the world’s largest poker room, those PokerStars players could eventually end up being most valuable primarily because they’ll no longer have to go elsewhere to bet on the games that they watch while they’re playing in their favorite cash games or tournaments. And if they’re able to play from the U.S., there’s a chance it will only be because poker was tacked on when the NBA’s template law was ushered through Congress after a few years of heavy campaign contributions to the right legislators. If so, try not to choke on the irony while you’re watching Monday Night Football, check-raising that donkey on your left and hoping the Seahawks cover the spread.

November 19, 2014

British heptathlon star Karla Drew turns £5 football bet into £50,000

As an up-and-coming British heptathlete, you'd expect Karla Drew to have a great chance of beating the bookies when it comes to predicting Olympic or World Championship athletics results.

But it turns out that the 25-year-old also knows more than a thing or two about football - because she took a bookmaker to the cleaners by turning a £5 bet into more than £50,000.

The Sheffield-based athlete - who is coached by the famous Toni Minichiello, the man who made Jessica Ennis a star - decided to stick a 10-match accumulator on the latest round of international football matches with bookie Victor Chandler, who is famous for his smug smirking in his TV ads.

But old Victor wasn't smirking when Panama drew with Canada and Uruguay beat Chile in the early hours of Wednesday morning: those were the last two result that Karla needed to scoop her returns of £50,354.

The other picks in her epic bet, as she shared on Twitter, were wins for Brazil against Austria, Estonia against Jordan, Italy against Albania, Portugal against Argentina, Germany against Spain, France against Sweden and England against Scotland.

All 10 of those predictions came true.

She said on Wednesday: “This is a life-changing win for me. Being an MSC student, I’m not entitled to any Student Loan. I want to continue my studies and do a PhD in Sports Psychology and this will enable me to realise my dream.”

“I was going to go to sleep before the final results came in but I was just too excited so I carried on refreshing the scores in bed. I only started to really believe I would do it with about 10 minutes to go of the Panama vs Canada game. I still can’t believe I have won!”

BetVictor’s Director of Public Relations, Charlie McCann said: “Karla acknowledged on Twitter that she faced a sleepless night on Tuesday knowing that eight of her ten selections were winners but she need not have worried. Few football fans will remember the goalless draw between Panama and Canada with quite the same affection as one lucky Sheffield student and it is a fantastic story that her win will enable her to continue her postgraduate studies and long term objective of being a sports psychologist.”

Not only that, but suffice to say at least one young athlete won't be scrabbling around trying to find the money to get to international meetings over the next year or two. Well done!

Betsson invests in Rush Sports app

European sports betting operator Betsson AB has invested in the Swedish startup-company Rush Sports AB, which has developed the first true app for event-driven real-time betting – Rush Football. The founders of the company are also behind the successful apps Forza Football and Forza 90′.

Rush Football aims to be the first app to fully integrate a live score service with real-time betting, allowing users to follow matches and place bets based on match events; not just in a single app, but also in the same view.

“The investment in Rush Sports AB is part of Betsson’s investment strategy, in which Betsson continually evaluates opportunities to strengthen the company’s position in the market. We believe in this investment and look forward with enthusiasm on the development of Rush Sports AB and Rush Football” says Magnus Silfverberg President and CEO of Betsson AB.”

“We want to develop the best products within mobile sports betting” states Martin Lindau, CEO Rush Sports AB. “With help from Betsson, Rush Football has all the possibilities of becoming another success.”

Rafa Nadal triumphs in grudge match against Ronaldo as SportStars duel

Tennis: Former World No.1 and 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has beaten the Football legend Ronaldo (Brazilian) in the challenge game of Poker.

Nadal and Ronaldo had met in the Poker tournament last year, when the Spaniard had won. But this year Ronaldo wanted to take a revenge, so he challenged Nadal back in September.

Ronaldo had said he had learnt more tricks and techniques, but those could not help him, as he lost. Nadal posted the photo with Ronaldo and wrote on his Facebook account, ''I won #theduel!! A great game of poker with Ronaldo! The benefits will be donated to charity''.

The 28-year-old Mallorca resident had recently undergone a surgery and he is expected to start training for Tennis in December. Nadal has set his sight on playing in Doha and Abu Dhabi at the start of the next year.

November 18, 2014

French football rocked by match fixing scandal

olice carried out raids on numerous homes on Tuesday and arrested the presidents of two clubs, who are suspected of fixing or attempting to fix football matches in France’s second division.

Among those arrested according to Le Parisien newspaper was the president of Caen, Jean-François Fortin and the president of Nîmes Olympique, Jean-Marc Conrad.

In all there were around ten arrests made, all related to the suspected fixing of matches in the 2013-2014 season.

The two men arrested are suspected of rigging a match between their two clubs in May 2013, so that it ended in a draw.

That result ensured that Caen would be promoted to France’s top division and Nîmes Olympique would avoid relegation to the third tier.

According to Le Parisien, French police are looking at several games played by Nîmes last year, suspecting that they too may also have been rigged.

Police suspicions were first raised when they were investigating a separate case against former Nîmes shareholder Serge Kasparian and his casino empire Cercle Cadet.

In a separate case, three of the directors of the club Olympique Marseille have also been arrested on Tuesday, accused of misuse of company funds in relation to the transfer of striker Andre-Pierre Gignac from Toulouse to Marseille in 2010 for €18 million.

Current club president Vincent Labrune; Jean-Claude Dassier, who held the post from 2009 to 2011 and current CEO Philip Perez are under police investigation, suspected of paying kickbacks to middlemen.

Amaya to focus on sports betting product development amid takeover rumours

Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov, outlined the importance of sports betting for his company’s future growth strategy. Speaking to investors after reporting Amaya Gaming’s Q3 results, Baazov confirmed that the operator would continue to “invest heavily” in developing a proprietary sports betting product.

Baazov outlined that Amaya would look to launch a sportsbook for its Full Tilt brand in the coming months. The CEO confirmed that Amaya would look to utilise third party technologies for non-differentiating components of the products development.

Amaya sports betting products will differentiate from competitors by building certain player mechanisms in-house, such as loyalty programs and customer services.

Baazov confirmed that Amaya sports betting products will be primarily attached to acquired poker brands PokerStars and Full Tilt. The brands will begin to operate sports betting verticals in select licensed European markets.

Amaya Gaming’s recent igaming technology acquisitions and its corporate strategy set on expanding its services for the US igaming market, have led financial news sources to speculate that the Canadian Gambling operator is preparing a $1.2 billion takeover of Gibraltar based

Last Friday Financial Times Alphaville Editor Paul Murphy reported that Amaya Gaming and igaming technology provider Playtech were the two rumoured parties bidding on acquiring

November 12, 2014 in takeover talks

The Board of Directors at were forced to issue a statement to the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday as speculation about a possible takeover bid boiled over and became public knowledge.

The statement reads:

“Further to recent media speculation regarding a possible bid for, the Board of confirms that it has entered into preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties regarding a variety of potential business combinations with a view to creating additional value for shareholders.

Such discussions may or may not result in an offer being made for the Company. However, as all such discussions remain at a preliminary stage, there can be no certainty as to whether or not they will result in any form of transaction with any party.”

According to an article on the Financial Times Alphaville, it is Amaya Gaming Group who the potential buyers of what was once the largest publically traded online gaming company in the world. Amaya, of course, are the owners of's partypoker's rivals PokerStars and Full Tilt.

Paul Murphy of the Financial Times wrote in his article, “We believe the bidder here is Amaya Gaming Group” and the potential price would be 145p per share, valuing the company at around £1.19 billion.

However, an article appearing in the London Evening Standard claims it is Playtech who are looking to acquire after it announced it was raising a €315 million war chest for acquisitions and “organic opportunities.” have so far declined to comment on who preliminary talks are with, but Amaya is set to publish its financial figures on November 14 so if it is one of the potential buyers we would expect an announcement before then.

It will be interesting to see if it is Amaya or Playtech looking at the buyout and what plans each company would have for

The stock market reacted positively to the news and's share price rose 12.52% to 121.3p.

November 10, 2014

Boylesports seeks CEO for UK expansion

Irish businessman John Boyle, the founder of Boylesports, is ready to step back in as Chairman of the betting operator, as the company looks to expand its presence and operations in the UK betting and gaming market.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Boyle stated that he would return to managing Boylesport governance if the company could find a Chief Executive Officer to take management operations.

Boyle further stated that the operator needed to expand its operations and presence in the UK betting market, as it had reached peak expansion within Ireland were it operators 198 retail betting outlets.

Speaking on corporate strategy, Boyle detailed that the operator may look undertake a major betting acquisition in order to establish its presence in the UK betting market. Boylesport senior management were currently in the process of identifying potential targets.

“A big push into the UK would be one of the next steps for the business. And if it happens it will be done in scale. Now that we are debt free we would have backing from the banks,” Boyle commented.

The privately owned operator is in the process of moving its operational base to Gibraltar, which it believes will help it expand in the UK market. Boylesport is seeking acquire a top Chief Executive to undertake ambitious growth plans and execute dynamic strategies for its business divisions.
Speaking on the matter Boyle commented: “I was always looking for someone to come along and take my role, always looking for a good CEO. But to get someone who would have that passion and care, not just do the job, that’s the challenge.”

November 07, 2014

French Internet Poker Market Falls To €57m In Q3 2014

French online gambling regulator Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne (ARJEL), has released its third quarter results for the country’s gambling industry and while sports betting gross gaming revenues were up by a massive 94% to €60 million, online poker continued its dramatic decline with revenues shrinking by 2% to just €57 million.

Poker Declines For Third Consecutive Quarter

In the third quarter, ARJEL reported a 2% fall in the country’s online poker market to €57 million, and while cash games noted a turnover drop of €59 million to €1.040 billion, tournament entries actually improved slightly by €2 million to €354 million.

Earlier this year, ARJEL President Charles Coppolani declared that poker was a losing proposition, and issued a public statement saying; “The fad is over. Basically, the online poker market may be mature.” Unfortunately, France’s quarterly results seem to be leaning in that direction, and the country has now experienced three quarters of declining revenues.

Nevertheless, while Coppolani has dismissed poker as a “fad” and “too complicated for a young audience”, the ARJEL President seems to be overlooking what is likely to be the real root cause of the problem, namely a ring-fenced market with a lack of liquidity, and a French government which has placed too high a tax burden on online poker operators.

Unappealing French iPoker Market

French online poker operators are currently subjected to an extortionate 37% tax rate, and also find themselves further disadvantaged by an estimated 45% of French players preferring to play on unlicensed sites, representing a considerable drain on France’s online poker industry. While ARJEL’s current President Coppolani seems to have overlooked just how significantly these factors have affected online poker in France, ARJEL former President Jean-François Vilotte,at least seemed to have had a better grasp on the situation and previously warned:

“Poker is going through a difficult time, but this is not something that is happening only in France, as Spain and Italy are experiencing a similar trend as well. Seen from a broader perspective, this is a problem of legalized markets competing against non-legalized ones. If legalized markets won’t learn how to become more flexible and adjust themselves quicker to what people want, they will keep doing the work for illegal websites and help them to win against their legal competitors.”

In addition, this uncompetitive situation has recently affected the country’s players and on September 26th, officially shut its doors leaving between €300,000 and €500,000 of customers’ bankrolls and bonuses stuck in their online accounts.

Signs That ARJEL May Finally Be Addressing Shortcomings

However, there are at last signs that France’s regulator is beginning to see the need to improve the condition of its online poker market, and Coppolani recently met with a select group of French players and journalists in an effort to improve communication between ARJEL and the players in the future. Amongst a number of issues he has promised to consider is the need to introduce more poker games to the French online poker community, to reduce tax for online poker operators, and to share liquidity with other European countries, such as the UK, Spain and Italy.

Sports Betting The Outstanding Performer

While online poker continues to struggle from a number of factors, France’s gambling regulator ARJEL had nothing but praise for the country’s sports betting industry, which reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of €60 million, up by 94% compared to the €31 million generated in Q3 last year.

Helping France’s sports betting balance sheet was the country’s promising performance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which saw the national team reach the Quarter-finals before losing 1-0 to eventual winners Germany. While French bookies took €47 million from punters during the World Cup, French sports betting in general was up by 34% to €245 million in Q3, with football betting the most popular attraction with 63% of the action. Tennis proved the next most popular sport with 24% of total sports wagering, while horse racing continued to wane, falling by 7% in GGR to €238 million.

Russian Online Poker To Be A Victim Of Ukraine Conflict?

In June 2009, the Russian Federation ordered the Sports Ministry to remove poker from its national sports registry, and since then the government has intermittently ordered Internet Service Providers to block online gambling websites from the country. Recently, however, Russian authorities signaled a U-turn in its negative approach towards iGaming after it requested the Russian Ministries of Finance, Economics and Justice to prepare a report on possible legalization, but now the prospects for online poker regulation appears to have dimmed once more following the heightened tensions between Russia and The West following the Ukraine Crisis which began on 21 February 2014.

Russian online poker a $150m industry

Russia is a country heavily reliant on the revenues generated from its energy sector, and in 2012 oil and gas accounted for 16% of the country’s GDP, around half its federal budget, and 70% of total exports. Therefore, its not difficult to see how online poker regulation could significantly impact the country’s economic outlook, especially with the industry predicted to generate up to 3 billion roubles ($87 million) in its first year of operation, rising to 5 billion roubles ($146 million) by year four.

With proposed amendments to the law suggesting a competitive taxation regime of 20% on a company’s gross gaming revenues and 13% on withdrawals made by poker players from their accounts, the government could stand to collect more than half a billion dollars in tax revenues over the next five years. Interestingly, chief researcher at the Centre for Tax Policy Research Institute of the Ministry of Finance, Vladimir Bauer, has indicated online poker would likely be categorized as an “intellectual and commercial game” so that it could be taxed as an electronic service.

Online poker legalization essential

Last month, a government ministries meeting concluded legalization of Russia’s online poker market was essential, with all arguments related to security and public safety subsequently dismissed. It was then decided the country’s interests could best be served by opening the industry to Western iGaming operators, and introducing a system whereby operators were required to store their customers’ personal data on servers hosted within Russia.

The country currently restricts all its gambling activities to five established gambling zones where casinos are permitted, but legislators even seemed positive towards allowing online poker to be offered outside of these far flung corners of the federation.

Online poker a victim of geopolitics?

While the Ukraine Crisis has been raging since February, recently the conflict involving Russia and The West has heightened following the introduction of a wave of sanctions against Russian individuals and businesses designed to impose a high cost on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
Given the current climate with The West, which threatens to draw a cold war era type “iron curtain” across Europe, it has become increasingly unlikely the Russian parliament will react positively to any new bill which would give Western businesses access to Russian online poker players. A more likely scenario may now involve legislators restricting online licenses to just existing domestic casino operators already operating inside Russia.

No real alternative to Western poker rooms

Although sending a strong message out to its political opponents, the move to exclude Western operators from Russia could ultimately be self-defeating in the absence of any real home grown competitor. Outside of the country, ex-Soviet Republic, Georgia, may represent the best option to bring online poker to Russia, with its poker site Adjarabet currently ranked on PokerScout‘s ‘Online Poker Traffic Report’ in 10th place with 1,000 cash game players over a seven-day-period, and Europe-Bet in 22nd place with 350 players.

Just like Ukraine, however, Russia has extremely hostile relations with Georgia and in 2008 it invaded South Ossetia in the north of the country, and has continued to occupy the region ever since. Creating “frozen conflicts” is widely seen as a tactic Russia employs in order to destabilize former USSR neighbors and keep them in its orbit of influence. Therefore, it’s anyone’s guess how long the stand-off between the West and Russia will last, and at which point a regulated online poker market may see the light of day in Russia.

November 04, 2014

Japan casino bill now set aside

Japan is now almost certain NOT to have casinos before the 2020 Olympic Games, says sources close to the bill in pushing it through parliament and there are now questions if it ever will be passed into law to permit casino resorts in Japan.

According to reports in Japan newspapers quoting sources close to the government who are supporting casino resorts, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is struggling to hold on to any majority support for the casino bill following months of political scandals and the coalition government fracturing to the point where any consensus is unlikely to happen.

The source is quoted as saying that the casino bill will now be set aside to at the earliest beginning of 2015 and maybe not even then. The current parliamentary session ends on the 30th November and the source says; “That if they can’t pass it now, I doubt whether they’ll ever be able to pass it.”

The news will be a major blow to international casino operators that saw Japan as possibly the second largest gambling hub after Macau, but with the lack of support for the bill amongst parliamentarians now, any casino bill in the future is unlikely to happen as the major driving force was the 2020 Olympic Games.

Spain re-opens licensing window for new online gambling applicants

Spain’s gambling regulator La Direccion General de Ordenacion del Juego (DGOJ) has re-opened its online gambling licensing window, in a move to create new market entrants for the Spanish online gambling market.

The DGOJ will review new business submissions of online gambling operators who wish to participate in Spain’s regulated online gambling market. The regulator confirmed that the window would be opened from the 1November until 8 December.

Interested operators have been asked to submit applications via the DGOJ’s website, the regulator stated that the process of issuing new operator licenses would take up to six months for applicants.

Spanish gambling market commentators have speculated that Spain’s regulated igaming market could see ten or twelve new betting operators enter the market.

Having reviewed its policies and frameworks in May, the DGOJ confirmed that it would approve betting exchanges and slots to be serviced by licensed online gambling and betting operators.

The DGOJ confirmed that licensed gambling operators would have to re-apply in order to provide slots in their product inventory.

The Spanish regulator had garnered pressure from igaming operators, who have felt restricted by regulations concerning product inventory for the market. The DGOJ further stressed that it would need a six month window to implement changes to current Spanish provisions in order to monitor and regulate the market.

November 03, 2014

Synot Group targets Spanish gambling market

Czech Republic licensed lottery and gambling group, Synot has announced its expansion into the Spanish gambling market. Synot Group will launch its Spanish gaming initiatives under the name Synot Gaming Spain SL.

Synot Gaming Spain will look to offer video lottery and gambling terminals to local gambling providers. Synot have chosen to enter the market, as Spanish gambling regulators allow for new gaming provision contracts to be permitted by Spain’s governing provinces.

Synot Group senior management confirmed that it would look to quickly establish set up Gaming Spain, and establish working partnerships with regional gambling operators. Synot Gaming Spain will look to become a market leader in gaming provisions for the region.

Neophytos Neophytou, Director of Synot International, said: “Spain means to us a great perspective. Local market is now opening to video lottery terminals that enable thorough and transparent supervision of bets, wins and revenues by the state supervisory authorities.

At present Spain has seventeen self-regulated provinces, each of which serves its own individual lottery and gaming legislations.

October 27, 2014

China Online Gambling. Illegal But Everywhere.

Media reports state that online gambling in China soared during the recent World Cup. Interest was so intense that gambling income in Macao significantly declined, causing a major blow to the bottom line of major casinos that normally rely on a steady flow of high and low rollers from mainland China. The punters seem to have put their money into online gambling on the World Cup, with revenue at the People’s Republic of China (‘PRC’) government run lottery site increasing by over 80% during this period. Steve Dickinson and Arlo Kipfer of Harris Moure PLLC, China, explore the upsurge of online gambling in China during the World Cup given that gambling is illegal in China.

This then raises the big question: the Macao casinos exist because gambling is illegal in China. No substantial casino business exists in China, forcing punters to head to Macao. If gambling is illegal in China, how does online sports gambling work? If gambling is illegal in the PRC, how is it possible for the World Cup to have made such an impact? As always in China, the story is complex. It runs as follows.

The general ban on gambling in China is subject to one exception. The PRC government operates two legal lotteries: the China Welfare Lottery and the China Sports Lottery. The China Sports Lottery experienced its 20-year anniversary in April of this year. The sports lottery allows legal betting on all sporting events. By far the most popular is betting on football: both Chinese national football and the European leagues. As a result of this opportunity for legal gambling, China has become a nation of football fans. But these fans are bettors, not players.

At its inception, sports lottery tickets were sold at exclusive outlets found in all of China’s cities. The number of oudets has always served as a limitation in the number of potential customers. In order to expand access, the China Sports Lottery entered the online world in 2010. The new online rules allow licensed sports lottery vendors to partner with website providers to offer online lottery purchases. Such legal websites must be approved by government regulators and are subject to strict regulation. Due to the tight regulation, licensed sports lottery websites are still uncommon in China. As might be expected, the national lottery administration has monopolised access to its great profit.

During the World Cup craze in China, operators of the major retail sales websites in China saw an opportunity to cash in. These websites partnered with licensed local lottery vendors to offer their lottery products online through retail sales websites. The lottery sales were offered just like any other retail offering on the site. This form of lottery betting was technically in violation of the regulations. The website is licensed as a commercial website. The local lottery agent is licensed to sell lottery tickets. But, the regulations require specific approval to sell those lottery tickets online. No such approval was obtained, making sale on the major retail websites technically illegal.

However, there was money to be made and no one in China worried about the technical details. There is good reason for this. The major retail websites are well run, reducing to a minimum the chance of deceptive practices against the consumer. The government ultimately received a share of the proceeds through income earned by the local licensed vendor. The total income earned by the government was greatly increased due to the massive advertising power of the websites. In this setting, the government regulators had no motivation other than to say: send us the cheques.

It is not clear whether this very successful foray into the sale of sports lottery tickets on the part of the e-commerce giants will continue. The current feeling is that this was just a temporary event created by the unique interest of the Chinese people in the World Cup. However, the substantial income earned must be attractive to all involved and it is certainly possible that this semi legal sale of sports lottery tickets will continue.

But the story does not end here. From the gambler’s point of view, there is a major problem with betting in the China Sports Lottery: the payouts are low. The dedicated gambler is therefore provided with an incentive to seek a higher return. This higher return is offered by unauthorized online gambling websites. Take an example: a 100 RBM bet on Croatia to win its first game in the World Cup through the official sports lottery would have paid out about 8 RMB; the same bet made through an overseas online gambling site would have paid out about 60 RMB.

The Chinese bettor is therefore obviously attracted to betting on the foreign site. The only problem is that the site is illegal in China. It is illegal to access the site from China, it is illegal to send funds to the site from China and it is illegal to receive funds from the site in China. The PRC government has the technical ability to enforce these rules. Using the great firewall, access to foreign gambling sites can be blocked. Domestic websites that provide access to the foreign sites can be located and shut down. The major search engines like Baidu and Sina can be instructed to filters search terms that allow Chinese residents to find gambling sites. Banks and online payment services can be instructed to deny all payments to gambling sites and to refuse to accept payments from gambling sites.

Even though all these techniques of control are possible, during the World Cup Chinese citizens found that they had almost completely open access to wagering on the World Cup. Access to foreign online gambling sites entirely focused on Chinese citizens was entirely open. While specific numbers are not known, it is generally understood that the amount of betting on the World Cup by Chinese citizens on foreign sites actually dwarfed the amount legally wagered on the World Cup through the China Sports Lottery.

So how does a Chinese citizen make a bet through a foreign online gambling site? First, the Chinese gambler has to find a betting site written in Chinese and focused on Mainland Chinese bettors. Serious gamblers will learn the names of the most popular sites through the Chinese online forums dedicated to gambling. For newbies, a search on a Chinese search engine will result in hundreds of hits for online gambling sites. Normally, the potential better will be led to what is known as a portal site listing hundreds of online gambling sites. Normally, the potential bettor will be led to what is known as a portal site listing hundreds of online gambling sites. One click on the portal listing and the gambler will access the site of choice. Several sites have become overwhelmingly popular in China.

After the bettor finds a site, the next issue is determining how to place the bet. The RMB is not a convertible currency and gambling online is not legal. Not a problem. The site will provide clear instructions to the bettor on how to proceed. The system is simple and direct. The site will provide a list of online payment service providers (PSP) that have been approved to work with the site. The customer contacts his preferred service provider and sets up an account. The betting accounts normally require payment of a minimum deposit the customer will normally fund the account using a standard Chinese bank issued debit card. The deposit is made in RMB and the PSP handles the conversion into foreign currency, payment to the online gambling website and collection and payout of winnings.

The website is accessed in China with all communication in Chinese. For the major sites, there is a Chinese speaking voice operator available 24 hours a day. Payments are made and payouts are received in RMB, collection and bank processing are all handled online by an experienced operator, relieving the bettor of any need to discuss the process with bank personnel. A certain amount of fraud protection is provided by the PSP. Where the website is located in a country in which gambling is legal and supervised, there is even more protection from fraud.

The only issue is that the entire program is illegal under Chinese law. So far, the illegality does not seem to have had an impact on the business. Websites are adept at dealing with being blocked by operating with a large list of revolving URLs. PSP’s come and go using the same revolving URL technique. Chinese banks are desperate for deposits and processing fees and therefore cooperate with the PSP’s in ways that are difficult or impossible for the government regulators to monitor. Individual gamblers are prosecuted only when they have committed some other crime such as embezzlement of the funds used to fund their gambling addiction.

The World Cup has not introduced online gambling to China. Both legal domestic and illegal foreign online gambling were already well established. The effect of the tremendous publicity surrounding the World Cup instead introduced huge sectors of the Chinese public to online gambling. The support of online gambling on football provided by the China Sports Lottery convinced the Chinese public that online gambling is a safe form of amusement. The danger of this is that in the pursuit of higher returns the Chinese public will gravitate towards online gambling sites that are illegal in the country. This type of site is not regulated or supervised in any way and is often in the control of criminal organizations.

Reports are now coming out of China about deceptive practices arising from such sites that are typically based in SE Asia. Legal and social issues arising from gambling on such sites may cause the Chinese government to take more aggressive actions against illegal online gambling. The current anti-corruption drive in china focuses on control of overseas gambling, which also may lead to an additional push for regulation. For this reason, though the business is now thriving, there is no certainty about its future in China.

October 26, 2014

Seven arrested in football match fixing claims in Latvia

Seven people have been arrested in Latvia over alleged match fixing claims in football.

Latvian police raided Daugava Daugavpils training ground on Wednesday over allegations key domestic and international football games had been rigged, LETA reports.

Responding to the police raid on the training ground, Daugava Daugavpils club director Edgars Limans said: "I believe that the raid was more of a shock therapy for the players before the actual interrogation took place, which lasted for about 40 minutes for each.

"The raid took place about ten minutes after we started training, therefore, the detainees should return to Daugavpils already by Friday," Limans believes, adding that the team should be back in its full makeup already by Sunday.

The arrests come after UEFA alleged a Champions League game between the Daugavpils side and Finnish side FC Elfsborg was fixed. The Latvian team lost the game last year 7-1.

It's not the first time match fixing allegations have been exposed in Latvian football.

Former Daugava striker Stanley Ibe from Nigeria caused uproar last year after saying that all the club players knew that several games had been rigged. Ibe said that the club's coach and players were paid for doing what former president Olegs Gavrilovs told them.

Gavrilovs was disqualified from Latvian football for life in 2009 and is believed to be one of the arrested, media reports say.

Dinaburg later merged with Daugava. Despite the ban, Gavrilovs can still be seen in the stands during almost every game Daugava plays.

Former Dinaburg head coach Tamaz Pertia was also disqualified in 2009 over corruption allegations. but his disqualification was lifted whilst he currently coaches Riga Skonto football club.

Meanwhile, it's believed police searches will be carried out other Latvian football clubs, reports. UEFA said it was investigating the conduct of Latvian football club FC Jurmala earlier this year.

Daugava is set to play its next Latvian Higher League match on Sunday against Daugavpils. The club became the Higher League champion in 2012.

October 23, 2014

Sochi to host Russian Gaming Week; Russia busts 72,000 illegal gambling dens in five years

Russian resort town of Sochi, home to the Winter Olympic Games 2014, would be hosting the Russian Gaming Week in November.

Sochi to host Russian Gaming Week; Russia busts 72,000 illegal gambling dens in five yearsThe decision to tab Sochi as the host of this year’s conference was to showcase the resort town to industry leaders after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in July officially designating Crimea and Sochi as new gambling zones.

The Sochi gambling zone is within the boundaries of the Olympic facilities with the hopes of turning the Russian Black Sea resort town into a popular tourist destination.

Next month’s RGW Sochi Expo will feature discussions regarding the town’s capacity to become a successful gambling zone, including debates on the possibility of foreign casino operators coming to Sochi and the level of competition these Russian gambling zones could have on each other.

Other designated gambling zones have attracted foreign investors, particularly Vladivostok, which has signed off on casino projects from Melco Crown Entertainment and NagaCorp. It remains to be seen whether Sochi will be able to get that kind of attention, although its safe to say that a lot will be learned when the resort town hosts the Russian Gaming Week next month.

Meanwhile, if there was ever any doubt about Russia’s rather overzealous approach in implementing its ban on illegal gambling houses, the number of illegal gambling houses it has busted in the past five years will squash those doubts away.

A report from Russian news agency TASS quoted the prosecutor general’s office saying that since the country enacted “Federal Law No 244” in July 1, 2009 banning casinos outside four gambling zones, authorities have done checks on over 108,000 facilities throughout the country. Of those checks, 72,000 illegal gambling houses and 822 underground casinos have been busted.

Furthermore, law enforcement authorities from Russia have also confiscated close to 1 million units of gambling equipment, on top of the 50 thousand chiefs of these gambling halls, all of whom have been fined a collective amount of $17.2 million.

Playtech has record Q3

Online gambling technology provider Playtech says its third quarter was a record breaker, putting the company on track to exceed current market expectations for full-year results. The company issued a Q3 trading update on Wednesday, showing a 28.6% year-on-year rise in revenue to €116.5m. The good times have continued into the first three weeks of Q4, with average daily revenue up 22% over the same period last year and up 2% sequentially.

Playtech’s mainstay casino vertical continued to earn the lion’s share of company revenue, rising 33% to €62.4m, while services revenue rose 19.3% to €34m. In fact, every vertical besides ‘other’ was in positive territory, but ‘other’ at least had the decency to remain flat at €1.6m. Sports betting posted the most dramatic gain, rising nearly 109% to €7.1m, thanks in part to the launch of an online sportbook for Italian media outlet Gazzetta dello Sport. Bingo rose 9.5% to €4.6m, land-based gambling rose 20.7% to €3.5m and even poker managed to improve 3.1% to €3.3m (although this was down 8.3% sequentially).

Playtech’s eastward shift continued in Q3, with Asia’s share of company revenue rising two points to 36% from Q2, while Europe and the rest of the world shed a point apiece to 56% and 8% respectively.

Playtech CEO Mor Weizer touted the number of deals the company inked in the quarter as evidence that the party is only getting started. Weizer noted that three licensees had shifted their UK-facing business to Playtech’s white label structure, “demonstrating the financial and operational benefits that can be achieved by using our turnkey offering.”

Weizer said Playtech would have big news sometime in H1 2015 regarding a major acquisition that would take the company “to the next level”. Weizer suggested the financial pressures about to be brought on UK-facing operators by regulatory changes would “put them in the right position to do a deal.” Playtech has been sitting on a massive cash pile for over a year after its former William Hill Online joint venture partner cut a check to acquire Playtech’s stake.

In even more good news, Playtech has triumphed in a French court case in which it had been accused of thieving the intellectual property of French online poker market leader Winamax. In August, Winamax had sued Playtech and several of its licensees over Playtech’s Twister sit n’ go game format, which Winamax believed infringed on its own Expresso three-handed ‘hyper-turbo’ lottery-style poker product. But earlier this month, the court rejected this argument, saying Expresso was “neither innovative nor original” and ordered Winamax to pay Playtech, Betclic Everest and Unibet €3k apiece.

October 22, 2014

Eurofootball signs deal with Bulgarian national team; Casino Technology inks with Bulgaria club powerhouse Ludogorets

Sofia-based sports betting operator, Eurofootball, signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Bulgarian national football team and the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU). The contract runs until 30th August 2016, taking the partnership beyond the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament for which Bulgaria attempts to qualify.

Eurofootball signs deal with Bulgarian national team; Casino Technology inks with Bulgaria club powerhouse Ludogorets“For us it is very important to sponsor BFU and the national football team through the long road ahead to the France 2016 championship,” Eurofootball CEO Nikolaos Arsenopoulos said in a statement. “We are proud to support the BFU and wish the national team the best of luck.”

The deal calls for the BFU and the national team to support Eurofootball’s charity drives, as part of the latter’s “Win and Help” corporate social responsibility program dedicated to encourage sports among Bulgaria’s youth. The partnership also comes at a good time for the national team in its drive to qualify for UEFA Euro 2016. “We hope that with good chance and Eurofootball’s support, we will succeed to qualify for the championship,” BFU president Borislav Mihaylov said.

The Bulgarian national team sits at fourth place with three points after three qualifying matches in Group H, behind of Croatia, Norway and Italy, and ahead of Malta and Azerbaijan.

The country’s preeminent club team PFC Ludogorets Razgrad finalized its own sponsorship deal with Bulgarian casino games developer Casino Technology. The deal allows the game developer to attach its brand to the three-time, defending Bulgarian football league champions and promote its newly launched online casino platform. The partnership will give Casino Technology access to its club’s media sites as well as prime ad placements inside the Ludogorets Arena.

“As a company that managed to break into the world market thanks to its own efforts, hard work and policy for selection and training of staff, we are pleased to support FC Ludogorets in which we see the same qualities and momentum,” Casino Technology Founder and President Milo Borissov said in a statement.

Ludogorets sits second in its domestic league behind leaders CSKA Sofia. The team also competes in the Champions League where it’s been grouped with football powerhouses Real Madrid and Liverpool FC.

October 16, 2014

Finding a Video Poker Bug Made These Guys Rich - Then Vegas Made Them Pay

John Kane was on a hell of a winning streak. On July 3, 2009, he walked alone into the high-limit room at the Silverton Casino in Las Vegas and sat down at a video poker machine called the Game King. Six minutes later the purple light on the top of the machine flashed, signaling a $4,300 jackpot. Kane waited while the slot attendant verified the win and presented the IRS paperwork—a procedure required for any win of $1,200 or greater—then, 11 minutes later, ding ding ding!, a $2,800 win. A $4,150 jackpot rolled in a few minutes after that.

All the while, the casino's director of surveillance, Charles Williams, was peering down at Kane through a camera hidden in a ceiling dome. Tall, with a high brow and an aquiline nose, the 50-year-old Kane had the patrician bearing of a man better suited to playing a Mozart piano concerto than listening to the chirping of a slot machine. Even his play was refined: the way he rested his long fingers on the buttons and swept them in a graceful legato, smoothly selecting good cards, discarding bad ones, accepting jackpot after jackpot with the vaguely put-upon air of a creditor finally collecting an overdue debt.

Williams could see that Kane was wielding none of the array of cheating devices that casinos had confiscated from grifters over the years. He wasn't jamming a light wand in the machine's hopper or zapping the Game King with an electro­magnetic pulse. He was simply pressing the buttons. But he was winning far too much, too fast, to be relying on luck alone.

At 12:34 pm, the Game King lit up with its seventh jackpot in an hour and a half, a $10,400 payout. Now Williams knew something was wrong: The cards dealt on the screen were the exact same four deuces and four of clubs that yielded Kane's previous jackpot. The odds against that were astronomical. Williams called over the executive in charge of the Silverton's slots, and they reviewed the surveillance tape together.

The evidence was mounting that Kane had found something unthinkable: the kind of thing gamblers dream of, casinos dread, and Nevada regulators have an entire auditing regime to prevent. He'd found a bug in the most popular video slot in Las Vegas.

As they watched the replay for clues, Kane chalked up an eighth jackpot worth $8,200, and Williams decided not to wait any longer. He contacted the Silverton's head of security, a formidable character with slicked-back silver hair and a black suit, and positioned him outside the slot area. His orders: Make sure John Kane doesn't leave the casino.

Kane had discovered the glitch in the Game King three months earlier on the other end of town, at the unpretentious Fremont Hotel and Casino in downtown's Glitter Gulch. He was overdue for a lucky break. Since the Game King had gotten its hooks in him years earlier he'd lost between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands annually. At his previous haunt, the locals-friendly Boulder Station, he blew half a million dollars in 2006 alone—a pace that earned him enough Player's Club points to pay for his own Game King to play at his home on the outskirts of Vegas, along with technicians to service it. (The machine was just for fun—it didn't pay jackpots.) “He's played more than anyone else in the United States,” says his lawyer, Andrew Leavitt. “I'm not exaggerating or embellishing. It's an addiction.”

To understand video poker addiction, you have to start with the deceptively simple appeal of the game. You put some money in the machine, place a bet of one to five credits, and the computer deals you a poker hand. Select the cards you want to keep, slap the Draw button, and the machine replaces the discards. Your final hand determines the payout.

When the first video poker machine hit casinos in the 1970s, it was a phenomenal success—gamblers loved that they could make decisions that affected the outcome instead of just pulling a handle and watching the reels spin. The patent holder started a company called International Game Technology that debuted on the Nasdaq in 1981.

IGT's key insight was to tap into the vast flexibility offered by computerized gambling. In 1996, the company perfected its formula with the Game King Multi-Game, which allowed players to choose from several variations on video poker. Casinos snatched up the Game King, and IGT sold them regular firmware upgrades that added still more games to the menu. On September 25, 2002, the company released its fifth major revision—Game King 5.0. Its marketing material was triumphal: “Full of new enhancements, including state-of-the-art video graphics and enhanced stereo sound, the Game King 5.0 Multi-Game suite is sure to rule over your entire casino floor with unprecedented magnificence!” But the new Game King code had one feature that wasn't in the brochure—a series of subtle errors in program number G0001640 that evaded laboratory testing and source code review.

The bug survived like a cockroach for the next seven years. It passed into new revisions, one after another, ultimately infecting 99 different programs installed in thousands of IGT machines around the world. As far as anyone knows, it went completely undetected until late April 2009, when John Kane was playing at a row of four low-limit Game Kings outside the entrance to a Chinese fast food joint at the Fremont, smoke swirling around him and '90s pop music raining down from the casino sound system.

He'd been switching between game variations and racking up a modest payout. But when he hit the Cash Out button to take his money to another machine, the candle lit at the top of the Game King and the screen locked up with a jackpot worth more than $1,000. Kane hadn't even played a new hand, so he knew there was a mistake. He told a casino attendant about the error, but the worker thought he was joking and gave him the money anyway.

At that point, Kane could have forgotten the whole thing. Instead, he called a friend and embarked on the biggest gamble of his life.

Even before the phone rang in his suburban Pittsburgh home, Andre Nestor had a gut feeling that everything was about to change for him. Superstitious and prone to hunches, he'd felt it coming for days: April 30, 2009, would be exactly 15 years since Nestor ignored an urge to play a set of numbers that came up in the Pennsylvania lottery Big 4.

That was the story of his life—always playing the right numbers at the wrong time. Games of chance had been courting and betraying Nestor since he was old enough to gamble. In 2001 he'd moved to Las Vegas to be closer to the action, answering phones for a bank during the day and wagering his meager paycheck at night. That's when he met John Kane in an AOL chatroom for Vegas locals. Though Nestor was 13 years younger than Kane and perpetually flirting with poverty, they developed an intense addicts' friendship.

Nestor's records show he lost about $20,000 a year for six years before he gave up, said good-bye to Kane, and moved back to the sleepy Pittsburgh suburb of Swissvale, Pennsylvania, in 2007. For about two years he had a stable life, living off public assistance, gambling infrequently, and playing the occasional lottery ticket. Then Kane called to tell him about a bug he'd found in video poker. Nestor drove to the airport that night and camped there until the next available flight to Las Vegas.

Kane picked him up at the curb at McCarran airport. After a quick breakfast, they drove to the Fremont, took adjacent seats at two Game Kings, and went to work. Kane had some idea of how the glitch operated but hadn't been able to reliably reproduce it. Working together, the two men began trying different combinations of play, game types, and bet levels, sounding out the bug like bats in the dark.

It turned out the Game King's endless versatility was also its fatal flaw. In addition to different game variants, the machine lets you choose the base level of your wagers: At the low-limit Fremont machines, you could select six different denomination levels, from 1 cent to 50 cents a credit.

The key to the glitch was that under just the right circumstances, you could switch denomination levels retroactively. That meant you could play at 1 cent per credit for hours, losing pocket change, until you finally got a good hand—like four aces or a royal flush. Then you could change to 50 cents a credit and fool the machine into re-awarding your payout at the new, higher denomination.

Performing that trick consistently wasn't easy—it involved a complicated misdirection that left the Game King's internal variables in a state of confusion. But after seven hours rooted to their seats, Kane and Nestor boiled it down to a step-by-step recipe that would work every time.

Nestor and Kane each rang up a few jackpots, then broke for a celebratory dinner, at which they planned their next move. They would have to expand beyond the Fremont before the casino noticed how much they were winning. Fortunately, Game Kings are ubiquitous in Vegas, installed everywhere from the corner 7-Eleven to the toniest luxury casino. They mapped out their campaign and then headed back to Kane's home for the night.

Kane lived in a spacious house at the far northeast edge of town. His Game King was in the foyer. A spare bedroom down the hall was devoted entirely to a model train set, an elaborate, detailed miniature with tracks snaking and climbing through model towns, up hills, across bridges, and through tunnels, every detail perfect. The home's centerpiece was the living room with its three Steinway grand pianos. Kane is a virtuoso pianist; in the early 1980s he was a leading dance accompanist in the Chicago area, and even today he sells recordings under the vanity label Keynote Records. He left the professional music world only after failing to advance in the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Now he ran a manage­ment consulting practice that claimed one-third of the Fortune 100 as clients.

Kane's business was lucrative, so he was accustomed to handling money. But now that they were on the verge of a windfall, he was worried about Nestor; he could see his younger friend returning every cent to the casinos at the roulette tables or blowing it all on frivolities. “If you had a million dollars, what 10 things would you do?” Kane asked him. He wanted Nestor to make a list and really think through his priorities.

Nestor started a list, but it would prove unnecessary. After another day at the Fremont, they branched out. To their surprise, the button sequence didn't work. Over the following days, they explored the Hilton, the Cannery, then the Stratosphere, Terrible's, the Hard Rock, the Tropicana, the Luxor, and five other casinos, drawing the same dismal results everywhere. For some reason, the Game King glitch was only present at the Fremont.

At the end of a frustrating week, Nestor headed to the airport for his return flight with just $8,000 in winnings. As a final insult, he lost $700 in a video poker machine while waiting for his plane.

Kane decided to wring what he could from the four Fremont machines. He learned to speed up the process by using the Game King's Double Up feature, which gave players a chance to double their winnings or lose everything. Respectable payouts that might once have satisfied Kane were garbage now. After five weeks using the new strategy, Kane had pocketed more than $100,000 from the Fremont.

Unsurprisingly, the Fremont noticed. In modern casinos, every slot machine in the house is wired to a central server, where statistical deviations stick out like a fifth ace. The four machines under the Chinese food sign shot to the top of the Fremont's “loser list” of underperforming games: They'd gone from providing the casino a reliable $14,500 a month to costing it $75,000 in May alone.

On May 25, a slot manager approached Kane after one of his wins and announced that he was disabling the Double Up feature on all of the Game Kings—he was aware that Kane used the option copiously, and he figured it must have something to do with his run of luck.