March 31, 2014

Ed Miliband promises to ban FOBTs

Labour leader and hopeful new Prime Minister in 2015 Ed Miliband has promised that should he get into power that he will promise to remove Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from high street bookmakers.

He has also offered to give local councils more powers to stop what he called “clustering” of betting shops on town and city high streets.

Mr Miliband also said that he would change the 2005 Gambling Act to give councils the power to review betting shop licenses in their area in hopes that it will help to reduce the negative impact that gambling and betting in bookmakers may have on communities.

It is clear that the Labour leader sees the FOBT issue as a vote winner is areas of the country that FOBTs have been criticized for problem gambling, however the bookmaking industry says that without the machines many of their local high street businesses would go out of business as horse and dog racing betting declines with the move to online gambling becoming more popular.

March 28, 2014

Paddy Power Wants You To Bet On Copenhagen Zoo “Dead Animal” Prop

Paddy Power just can’t seem to get out of its own way these days, can it? Maybe it’s become trapped by the identity it has created, or it’s just lost any semblance of sensitivity to certain things that need to be taken with utmost seriousness.

The Irish bookmaker already received a huge backlash from its ill-fated Oscar Pistorius murder trial prop bet ad to the point that even the Advertising Standards Authority got involved, reprimanding Paddy for bringing “advertising into disrepute” after the ad became the most complained-about UK advert of all time, drawing a record 5,525 complaints from readers.

Well, Paddy better get ready for a fresh batch of complaints after it opened yet another prop that a lot of people, especially animal lovers, will find as absurdly insensitive. Murder is again a central theme of the prop, although except instead of people, Paddy posted new prop on “which animal will be killed next at Copenhagen Zoo”.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you might have seen, read, or heard about the controversial things happening in the Copenhagen Zoo these days involving the euthanizing of healthy animals because of so-called “breeding procedures”.

Earlier this week, the Danish zoo became the subject of massive criticism when it killed four healthy lions, which was actually preceded by the intentional popping of a healthy giraffe weeks ago. The particular incident with Marius the Giraffe became ridiculously morbid when zoo officials shot the poor animal in the head and then dissecting him in front of a public crowd that included horrified children, after which they fed him to the zoo’s lions.

Apparently, that was all Paddy Power needed to decide to open a prop bet on what animal will be killed off next at the zoo. A zebra was earmarked as the favorite at 5/1, followed by an antelope at 6/1, a polar bear at 8/1, a tiger at 14/1, and a hippopotamus at 40/1.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Paddy Power tried to negotiate buying any remaining lions and attempted to “save” Marius, offering to rehouse him in Ireland where he would have taken on a new life as a “racing giraffe”. Neither of those offers were reportedly accepted by Ulrich Lindegaard Christensen, the zoo’s sales manager.

So Paddy did what it believed was its version of a public service announcement, opening betting on the prop because it wanted to help “draw further attention on the zoo”.

We’re calling “lame reason” on that one, and quite frankly, and quite frankly, it’s an embarrassing affront on another publicity to stunt to draw further attention to its own company.

If Paddy really had the strength to put weight on those sentiments, it could’ve done so in other ways, and not by using murdering animals as a reason for people to bet on its site.

In a lot of ways, this is worse than the Oscar Pistorius murder trial prop. We’re not jut talking about murder in the past tense as it relates to a current trial, but a the possibility of another innocent animal getting killed for reasons that are, in itself, absurd.

March 27, 2014

Russia blocks online gambling firms

Russian authorities have made Internet Service Providers (ISP) in the country block online poker websites from offering their services to Russian players.

Although it was back in late 2012 that the Russian government said that ISPs should block online gambling sites it was mainly online casino sites that were blocked and not online poker, now with the latest move many in the online poker industry both players and companies are concerned about the latest developments, with Russian players making up a large portion of the online sectors players.

The Deputy Head Maxim Ksenzov said that the blocking of the online sites has occurred at the request of the prosecutor’s office based on these court decisions in 2012, why they have only just decided to get round to it now is not clear.

Of the big online operators that have now been affected they are Ladbrokes, Sportingbet, PokerStars, Betway and Unibet among many others.

PokerStars released a message to all players that had concerns about the latest blocking by Russia saying that their deposits were safe and can be withdrawn as normal, as well as saying that the company will continue to offer online poker to Russian players along with operating under several licenses issued to PokerStars in various jurisdictions and that they always abide by all relevant laws and regulations.

How if any way PokerStars and the other online operators will overcome the latest attempt by Russia to block their services is unclear at present and will continue to cover this story on any future developments.

March 25, 2014

NJ now open to overseas online gambling operators

New Jersey Senator and pro-online gambling proponent Ray Lesniak who introduced a bill allowing overseas online gambling operators to be based in New Jersey and offer their business internationally has had the bill approved by the Senate.

Any overseas operator once approved and licensed would have to join forces with a land based casino operator based in the state will then be allowed to offer online gambling to any country where online gambling is legal.

“This could help make New Jersey the leader in online gaming, across the country and around the world,” said Lesniak. “We could be the Silicon Valley for high-tech gaming.”

The tax for operating such a business based in New Jersey would be the same for existing operators offering online there at 15% along with any taxes payable to the country the operator supplies their products to.

New Jersey have had to lower their forecasts in tax revenues from online gambling, the initial expectation from Chris Christie the Governor of New Jersey was once as high a $1 billion annually, this has now been lowered to $34 million.

March 24, 2014

Bingo tax cut hits jackpot with punters

It had been a good afternoon for Thomas Fielding. Just after George Osborne announced he was halving bingo duty to 10%, the 71-year-old got a full house and scooped the £130 jackpot at Mecca on the Hyde Road in east Manchester.

Bingo, said Fielding, was one of the few small pleasures left in life. "Breaks the monotony," he said gloomily, saying he planned to feed his winnings back into the £1 slots in the hope of winning bigger again.

Unlike most punters at the bingo in Manchester on Wednesday, he had paid keen attention to the budget. "I taped it. I like to keep a record of what he says now so he can't deny it later." He took credit for the chancellor's move to cut the tax bingo halls have to pay on their profits. "I signed a petition. We all did," he said, gesturing to the pink and purple neon-lit hall as it filled up for the evening's session.

Fielding's signature joined 330,000 others on a petition that was delivered direct to Osborne's door last month. Currently bingo halls pay 20% tax on their profits – compared with the 15% levied on sports betting operators and casinos – an unfair anomaly blamed, along with the smoking ban of 2007, for drastic closures in bingo halls across Britain. Eight years ago there were 600; now 380 survive, according to the Bingo Association.

Bingo halls insist they will pass on the duty cut to customers, perhaps slashing entry prices or beefing up prize pots.

But Osborne's move had gone unnoticed by most of the pensioners in the Hyde Road Mecca, who – contrary to the assessment of most Westminster commentators – didn't see the budget as a boon for them. The increase in the Isa limit to £15,000 was no use, said Carol MacCarroll, 64, "if you haven't got any money to save".

Marjorie Lowe, 67, who ran a fish and chip shop in Stalybridge before retiring, said there was little point saving in a tax-free Isa at the moment – "the interest rates are pathetic".

And anyway, she said, she couldn't afford to save: "We're not on the breadline, but we are just about keeping our heads above water." The increase of the personal allowance to £10,500 made no difference either, she said, because she and her husband received less than that with their combined pensions.

Lesley Rowbottom, a 33-year-old care assistant at a local hospital, was rather more impressed. She works 30 hours a week and earns £12,000 a year, currently paying around £150-£160 a month in income tax, which would decrease drastically under the new measures. But her approval is unlikely to result in an extra vote for the Conservatives in 2015, she explained: "I see David Cameron on telly and I just think, 'what do you know about real life, with your private schooling and posh upbringing? I've worked every day since I left school. Didn't go to college, it wasn't for me. I've never had a sick day, never been out of work either. And what do I earn? How can he possibly understand?"

Robert Halfon, the Harlow campaigning MP who successfully campaigned to freeze fuel duty, was singled out by George Osborne in his budget speech. "Now fuel duty is frozen, my honourable friend for Harlow has turned his talent and energy into a vigorous campaign to cut bingo duty," the chancellor said as he announced a halving of the duty to 10%.

Halfon is regarded as something of a folk hero by Tories in the 301 group of modernising MPs, who believe that the party can only ever hope to win a majority by tackling the cost-of-living crisis rather than talking about Europe.

The former Central Office staffer has maintained a high profile since his win in Harlow in 2010 by campaigning solely on bread-and-butter issues. He is interested in international affairs and once served as president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. But his website highlights his campaigns on helping people to buy their council houses and cutting the lower rate of tax to 10p.

While Halfon would like to see himself as the ultimate pavement politician, he is also the ultimate insider with both new and old Tories. He once served as chief of staff to David Cameron's policy chief Oliver Letwin, giving Halfon an inside track to the highest levels of government.

Halfon, who turns 45 on Saturday, is also at the heart of a trio of Conservatives who are playing a key role in shaping the party and may even assume its leadership in the next political generation. Halfon attended Exeter University at the same time as Sajid Javid, 44, the treasury minister and former banker, who is the rising star of the Osborne circle as the son of a bus driver. Tim Montgomerie, 43, the founder of the ConservativeHome website who is one of the most influential Tory thinkers, is the third member of the Exeter group. Halfon and Montgomerie will be key advisers to Javid if he ever contests the Tory leadership.

William Hill says budget would cost us £22 million

The UK’s largest bookmaker William Hill says that the recent UK budget announced by Chancellor George Osborne would have damaged the companies profits by 40% if the new levy on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) had been introduced last year, hitting the firm with a drop in profits by £22 million.

Previously the bookmaker had said it would have impacted by £16 million but following discussion with the treasury the online and land based bookmaker increased its projections.

The new tax on FOBTs comes along at the same time as the online gambling tax increase to 15%, hitting William Hill both in their betting shops and their lucrative online operation.

Following the budget announcements William Hill shares slid 7%.

March 20, 2014

Paddy Power Oscar Pistorius ‘money back if he walks’ ad broke rules and brought UK advertising into disrepute, ASA finds

A Paddy Power advert that offered a “money back if he walks” guarantee for betting on the Oscar Pistorius murder trial broke rules and brought the UK’s advertising industry into disrepute, the regulator has found.

In a ruling issued today against the bookmaker, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad had amassed 5,525 complaints – a record in Britain.

The ASA had already ordered Paddy Power to withdraw the ad pending the investigation, after complainants said it trivialised domestic violence towards women and made fun of double amputee Pistorius’ disability.

The regulator ruled that those who saw the advert would interpret it as a reference to someone who had died and to the Paralympic athlete as a double amputee, the BBC reported

“Given the content of the ad, and the prevailing circumstances at the time of its publication, we concluded that it brought advertising into disrepute,” it said.

Paddy Power appeared aware at the time the advert was published, in the Sun on Sunday newspaper on 2 March, that it would prove controversial.

The company also offered odds on the outcome of the murder trial of 7/4 for a guilty verdict and 2/5 for not guilty, in an offer branded “vile” and “disgusting” by social media users.

Writing in a blog post at the time, the firm said: “Global media attention, bar-stool conversation and pillow talk will shift from the Oscars on Sunday night to Oscar on Monday when the Blade Runner straps on his prosthetic limbs for the long walk to the high court.

“As an international media circus descends on South Africa, Paddy Power's marketing department has entered the fray.”

Today the company defended the reference to Pistorius’ disability on the grounds that it was “subtle”, and a spokesperson told the BBC: “It was one ad in one newspaper on one day. I don't think there's an apology coming - criticise us for bad taste, which is fine.”

Bulgaria Grants Sports Betting Licences to Betfair & Eurofootball

Bulgaria’s State Gambling Commission (SGC) has granted approval to sports betting operator Eurofootball and betting exchange Betfair to allow Bulgarian betting transactions and promotion of betting services to Bulgarian citizens.

The SGC will allow both operators to promote sports betting services through .bg access url’s. The license further grants the operators will the inclusion of promoting online casino and poker services to Bulgarian residents.

Betfair and Eurofootball join a select group of igaming operators who have been granted licenses by the SGC, the other operators granted approval to promote igaming services are – Pokerstars, and Bulgarian sports lottery operator Sports Toto.

Industry analysts believe that the Bulgarian Government is likely to issue further approval to new operators seeking entry into the market. The Bulgarian Gambling restructured proposed igaming taxes to 15%. Additionally all operators who wish to enter the market must also by an entry levy of €35,000 to the state in order to gain a license.

In the past six months the SGC, have blacklisted sports betting and igaming operators that have not complied with regulations, enforcing site access restrictions from Bulgarian regional internet IP’s.

OPAP deal Validates GTECH online credentials

GTECH Interactive CEO Walter Bugno has shown his full support for the recently agreed software supply partnership with Greek licensed gambling operator – OPAP, stating it represents a major coup for GTECH Interactive and that it validates the company’s online capabilities.

OPAP selected GTECH Interactive as its supplier of igaming inventory, in a closed tender that saw 888 Holdingss, Playtech and Openbet bid for the suppliers contract . Furthermore GTECH Interactive announced that it would supply OPAP with a new online sportsbook, which will be launched at the end of the year.

Walter Bugno believes that the partnership represents a validation of GTECH’s online gambling services. OPAP holds exclusive rights to offer online gambling services in Greece. In 2012 the ex-state owned betting operator renewed terms with the Greek Government that would see the operator maintain its betting monopoly in the region until 2020.

Bugno commented in a corporate statement ”This decision is a validation of the successful ongoing performance and cross-channel capabilities of GTECH’s online portfolio, which we are providing to World Lottery Association customers, including the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Norsk Tipping in Norway, and Veikkaus in Finland,”

OPAP are set to integrate GTECH’s player management system and sports betting services. Bugno further added “This will fulfill OPAP’s online betting strategy by reliably driving program growth as technology and player preferences evolve. In addition, the open architecture of the Player Account Management system will enable OPAP to implement its preferred strategy for a single view of the player through the creation of a single player account across multiple games and gaming channels.”

OPAP had operated as the state owned igaming operator previously using GTECH software, in 2013 the Greek Government would sell all shares in its asset to the EMMA DELTA consortium for €625 million. The consortium consists of Lottomatica (owner of GTECH), Czech investor Jiri Smejc and Greek shipbuilding giant the Melissanidis Group.

The OPAP represents good news for the GTECH Corporation, last week it announced that it had seen a fall in net revenue of 23%. GTECH Interactive have been effected by the loss of key clients, and its failure to release product inventory into the igaming market. The software provider announced the closure its poker network - IPN, earlier this year.

March 19, 2014

Betfred to Refund All Bets on Manchester United Winning the Title

Manchester United fans have had a torrid season, but one bookmaker is giving those die-hards who backed the Red Devils to retain the title a touch of relief.

Betfred owner Fred Done has said that any punter who had a bet on United to win the Premier League will get a full refund.

The Manchester Evening News said it will cost the bookie £200,000.

Done infamously paid out early on United winning the title in 1998, only for Arsenal to overtake Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

He was quoted in the paper as saying:

"These loyal fans never had a chance of winning with United. This season the Reds have been useless, hopeless and meaningless. One of the reasons I’m doing this is, and becoming the first bookmaker ever to do so, is because of the way the fans were still singing for their team even though we were losing 3-0 to Liverpool. I couldn’t believe it and they deserve a team much better than that put out by David Moyes."

Trouble is we fear that most United fans ripped up their slips many months ago.

March 14, 2014

Betfred get Tote rebate of £32m after an early payment clause allowed them to reduce the original bill of £265m to £233m

The Mail Online has revealed that the UK bookmaker Betfred managed to acquire the Government-owned Tote for a mind boggling £32m cheaper than was originally thought to be the case.

The process to acquire the seven-year license to operate the Tote began in Nov 2010 and ended when Fred Done and his team were awarded the contract in June 2011.

The fee was said to be £265m with £90m going towards horse racing and £90m being returned to the taxpayer. Additionally, Betfred would commit to paying the racing industry £11m up to March 2012 and payments of £9m per year for the next six years. The Tote’s 517 Retail outlets were rebranded in Betfred livery and they were soon managing the pool betting at 60 UK racecourses.

The story claims that Betfred actually paid £233m after cutting a deal with the government for paying the fee early, saving £25m in scheduled interest payments, and earning a £7m early-payment rebate.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) told the Mail Online: “The sale of the Tote to Betfred was about getting the best possible deal for racing. The Government has begun discussions with racing on the arrangements for paying their final share of the net proceeds, after Betfred’s early completed payment on the deal.’

Betfred’s main rivals at the time of the tender were Sport Investment Partners, a consortium led by the former Chairman of Liverpool FC Sir Martin Broughton. Speaking from the Cheltenham Festival Broughton said: “I feel aggrieved because I’ve always considered we had the best bid.”

The current license for the Tote ends in 2018 but as Fred Done said at the time of the initial announcement, “there’s no reason why this can’t go on forever.”

March 11, 2014

Holland Casino workers to go on strike

Workers at Holland Casino are going on strike this Friday 14th March to demand a better social plan for those being made redundant due to the companies financial crisis. Several hundred casino workers are losing their jobs in the companies efforts to reduce cost but Trade Union leader Huug Brinkers of Unie says that Holland Casino is doing better now financially and they should be treating their personnel to an improved social plan.

Brinkers said “The personnel are sick of it and that’s why we are not going to work on Friday.”

Holland Casino is trying to reduce their operating costs by 36 million Euros and have made the decision to lose several hundred of its workforce in an attempt to stem continued operating losses. The casino operators businesses in both Utrecht and Rotterdam are being targeted by the union and believe that both operations will have to close during the strike.