January 30, 2015

Minnesota Lottery online scratchers targeted by new legislation

The Minnesota Lottery’s first-in-the-nation online scratch tickets appear headed for a fall after state legislators advanced bills intended to bring the lottery offline. On Wednesday, the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform committee approved two bills that would kill the online scratchers and scuttle another lottery program allowing ticket sales at automatic teller machines and gas station pumps.

Neither bill would affect the Lottery’s ability to sell online tickets for draw games such as Powerball or MegaMillions. But state pols believe the online scratchers, which debuted last February, represented an overreach by lottery officials. Rep. Tim Sanders, who authored one of the bills, said the online launch was the result of a “lottery-gone-wild” and those damnned uppity officials “need to have authorization” in order to offer new products.

Lottery director Ed Van Petten has always maintained that launching the scratchers was within his mandate. But he struck a more conciliatory tone on Wednesday, telling legislators his office had “learned our lesson” and that he wanted to “work with this legislature” to avoid future squabbles. Van Petten proposed alternative language that would require legislative okay for future launches of new products.

But Van Petten remains opposed to ending the online experiment, saying cancelling the online scratchers would cost the state sorely needed revenue. There’s also the issue of compensation for technology provider Scientific Games Corp, who have said they would likely sue for over $4m in unrealized revenue if the state prematurely scrapped the scratchers.

Van Petten said online sales accounted for about 1% of total lottery sales, while the ATM and gas pump options have brought in less than $50k. There are 135 locations offering ATM sales and 58 gas stations currently pumping out lottery tickets.

Politicians passed similar legislation by wide majorities last year but Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill once the legislative session had concluded, leaving politicians with no recourse but to wait until 2015. Dayton believed Van Petten deserved the opportunity to prove his case that the online scratchers were a promotional tool that would boost, not cannibalize, retail sales. Shortly before Christmas, Van Petten offered evidence that backed up his predictions, but legislators aren’t listening and Dayton is powerless to stop them this time.

Minnesota is one of just four US states currently offering some form of online sales. Illinois went first, followed by Georgia, while Michigan went live last year. Kentucky is promising to launch its own iLottery this year.

January 26, 2015

UK’s betting firms implement self-policing problem gambling

UK’s biggest gambling companies implement self-regulation, protecting customers in danger of developing gambling problems.

Betting companies will put mandatory time limit on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) into place, which is described by campaigners as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

At the start of a session on a terminal, players will be prompted to set their own time or money limit. Even if they choose not to do so, the machine will show a short warning after 30 minutes of use or once a play racks up losses of £250. The companies will also will also cover 8,000 betting shop with messages about betting responsibly as part of an industry-wide “gamble aware week.”

Betting companies have launched a new £2m responsible gambling campaign intended to remind punters to curb their impulses when gambling. The new watchdog named the Senet Group, whose ranks include Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill, have debuted a pair of new TV adverts centered around the message that: “when the fun stops, stop.”

“75% of customers, when hitting a limit, stop immediately or don’t put any more money into the machine. But not enough customers are setting limits.” said Carl Leaver, chief executive of Gala Coral.

“Campaigners would say that problem gamblers were our best customers, actually the reverse is true – they are our worst customers,” he added. “We want people who continue to have fun for month after month, year after year. Our hope is that in introducing these measures, customers will manage their own spending better.”

According to the Responsible Gaming Trust after it took its first in-depth analysis at FOBT that average player loses £6 per session after playing for 11 minutes and the average stake doubled after 10pm and 3% of sessions involved the maximum £100 bet, a ceiling that was set in 2005.

After several campaigns aimed at curbing the use of these machines, The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has announced a partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK in order to ensure that local councils are confident that their concerns over gambling are properly acknowledged.

Paddy Power’s Ginola FIFA bid in breach of FIFA candidate rules

Former French international footballer David Ginola’s Paddy Power backed attempt to take over as FIFA president from Sepp Blatter could be scuppered by the sporting body’s election candidate rules.

Ahead of Thursday’s presidential election candidate deadline, FIFA issued a candidate guideline and ethics code for entry.

One regulation, designed to protect the integrity of football, states: “Persons bound by this code shall be forbidden from taking part in, either directly or indirectly, or otherwise being associated with betting, gambling.”

Ginola’s campaign is being organised by the bookmaker Paddy Power, which is paying the former France international £250,000 to seek the FIFA post.

When asked if the betting rule applied to presidential campaigns, a FIFA spokesman said: “It will be part of the eligibility assessment of prospect FIFA presidential candidates by the Ad-Hoc Electoral Committee in accordance with the electoral regulations.”

Ginola’s activities would only fall under the code if he gained five nominations from FIFA’s 209 national federations by Thursday.

A statement from the bookmaker read: “Both the heading and the content of the rule clearly relate to the integrity of football matches and competitions.”

January 24, 2015

Slot machines coming to Hawaii’s airports if local pol gets her way

Slot machines are coming to Hawaii‘s airports if a local politician gets her way. State Rep. Cindy Evans has introduced a bill to allow passengers flying out of Hawaii the option of spinning a few reels after their planes are delayed.

HB 91 authorizes “the implementation of amusement concessions to provide slot machines at state airports for departing passengers.” Basically, duty-free slots. To play, you have to provide evidence that you’re over 21 years of age and scheduled to fly beyond US borders within the next 12 hours.

Interested operators have to apply for an ‘amusement concession’ license for an as yet undetermined fee. The state gets an 86% chunk of net revenue – gross revenue minus taxes, winnings, salaries, airport fees and rent – or a minimal annual guarantee, whichever’s bigger. The state’s cut would go into an airport improvement fund.

The bill expressly does not authorize online gambling, electronic bingo or other forms of gambling. Slots it is and these slots will be limited to secure areas of the airport. No slots can be visible to airport passers-by and operators aren’t allowed to advertise their wares in Hawaii by any means. Presumably the designated area will be labeled as such on airport maps.

If passed (doubtful), the act would take effect on July 1. Hawaii and Utah are the last bastions of non-gambling in the United States but Evans said this was a “very unique and different” way to help the state’s aging airports, an “out of the box” proposal.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has already said it won’t support any gambling measure. The HTA issued a statement saying gambling “would not enhance our destination brand, but rather dilute it and distract from” the state’s traditional charms.

Evans has voted against previous gambling proposals but said this plan mainly targeted departing tourists and was therefore “not about gambling in Hawaii.” Evans told HawaiiNewsNow her bill would allow visitors to Hawaii “in their last few hours, spend their money in Hawaii and leave their money in Hawaii.”

Vietnam bust bnline gambling rings linked to 12bet

Online gambling was a hot topic in Vietnam this week as Ho Chi Minh City police shut down an illegal gambling ring linked to online betting operator 12Bet. On Friday, police detained 10 people, including To Cong Hung, the owner of the Vietnamese version of gay lifestyle magazine Attitude.

Police say the ring operated a website that connected local gamblers with the Philippine-based 12Bet. Hung reportedly ran the website, while his sister and other agents controlled bank accounts through which money was collected from and distributed to gamblers. Police had monitored the site for months, during which time the operators handled over VND 1t (US $46.8m) in wagers.

Friday also saw police commence legal proceedings against 36 individuals arrested in July as part of the 2014 FIFA World Cup betting crackdown. This ring was linked to another Philippines-based site, M88.com, considered one of the predominant sites catering to Vietnamese punters. Before police swooped in, the site handled over VND 1.4t in wagers.

Also on Friday, police in Ba Ria Vung Tau province deported six South Korean nationals for operating an illegal betting site out of a rented villa in Vung Tau City. The operation catered not to locals but to gamblers in South Korea, who set up around 4k accounts with the site and wagered over KRW 20b ($18.6m) before police moved in on Wednesday.

Thanh Nien News reported that local police detected signs of illegality in the villa then took their findings to South Korean police, who confirmed the interaction with local gamblers. The arrested individuals claimed they had been dispatched to Vietnam by another Korean named Choi Hojun. Vietnam deported 33 other South Koreans for much the same activity last July.

January 23, 2015

Stanleybet loses EU suit over Italian licenses appeal

Stanley International online betting subsidiary Stanleybet Italia has lost its European Union (EU) lawsuit against Italian authorities regarding the assigned length of gambling licenses.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of Italian gambling regulators, dismissing that betting licenses for new market entrants lasting 40 months were not unfair in comparison to established Italian gambling firms that had gained 12 year licenses in the jurisdiction.

Stanleybet had registered its legal actions against Italian gambling authorities on the grounds of unfair business practices and the regulator creating uneven market conditions.

However the ECJ deemed that Italy’s regulator could issue different license expiry dates in order to create a coherent national gambling policy and reduce gambling opportunities.

Stanley International said in a statement that while the court ruled in Italy’s favour on the length of licenses, the judges ignored other parts of the lawsuit, including Italy’s obligation to adjust to previous rulings from the court.

The case has been filed under C-463/13 Stanley International Betting Ltd vs Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze and Agenzia delle Dogane e Die Monopoli di stato.

January 21, 2015

Numerous buyers interested in failed Alpari

KPMG has been appointed administrator of failed online spread betting firm Alpari, sponsors of East London football club West Ham United.

The spread betting firm closed its operations this week, after it was severely hit by the Swiss Central Bank scrapping its franc’s peg to the euro currency. The decision by the Swiss Central Bank created volatile trading conditions, which left Alpari exposed to huge loses.

KPMG stated that Alpari client funds which were in the region of £66 million would be returned to customers.

The accounting and financial advisory firm further stated that it had received offers from interested parties with regards to acquiring parts of the Alpari business.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Monday that Australian foreign exchange firm, Pepperstone were interested in acquiring Alpari business services. The company’s interest was confirmed by Co-Founder Owen Kerr who told WSJ “Alpari is something we are looking very strongly at”.

IG Index and ETX Capital are also reportedly interested in Alpari, although there has been no confirmation.

January 19, 2015

Poker Cheat Darren Woods Sentenced to 15-Months Behind Bars

A former World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner has been sentenced to 15-months behind bars, and ordered to pay back £1 million to the organizations, and players, that he duped during his crimes, after being found guilty of fraud by representation, in connection to online poker scams, at Sheffield Crown Court last week.

Darren Woods, 29, pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud by false representation, after originally being charged, and maintaining his innocence, on 13 separate charges, and although 15-months is nowhere near the maximum sentence of 10-years, it’s still a victory for online poker.

The investigation into Woods behavior started in late 2011, when the Humberside Police’s Economic Crime Unit slapped a restraint order on him, and froze all of his assets. Woods, a one time 888Poker sponsored player, and Limit Hold’em coach on PokerStrategy, was in hot water after allegedly multi-accounting and creating bogus accounts to profit from affiliate payments.

Judge Paul Watson QC also ordered Woods to pay back £1m to those he had wronged, or else expect his jail sentence to be extended by a further six-years. Reports in the Grimsby Telegraph state £911,217 had been restrained, and Woods was ordered to pay £287,673 in compensation to an unnamed Gibraltar based gaming company, which would be used to pay back players that Woods had defrauded on their site. Police believe Woods made far more than the one million he is being asked to return.

Prosecutor Andrew West told the court: “At the moment, he has assets well in excess of £1.4 million.”

There is nothing, in either court reports of the Grimsby Telegraph reports that show any remorse coming from Woods, and the latter even ran with the headline: “Jailed Healing Poker Millionaire Darren Woods Insists: I’m Not the Criminal, I’m the Victim.”

Judge Watson told Woods: “You are an intelligent, able and even gifted young man but you turned your talents towards defrauding online gambling companies and cheating other players of online poker.”

He proceeded to chastise him and suggested that cheats like Woods affected the online gambling industry with people being ‘deterred if the system is unfairly balanced in favor of other players.”

The online poker players who were robbed by Woods may well be thinking: “When are we going to get our money back?”

Gordon Stables, who was representing Woods, had some good news for them: “All of those who feel they have lost out will be compensated, every last one,” said Stables before continuing to describe how his client’s name had been ‘effectively destroyed within the poker world’, and how, ‘he will not, in future, receive the sponsorship he once benefited from,’ and lastly, how his means of earning a living had been denied to him.

Woods father, Morteza Gharoon, was also sentenced. The 56-year old admitted possessing cannabis that was found at his home during the initial search, and admitted money-laundering charges. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence, with no conditions, and had £18,910 confiscated from his accounts.

January 17, 2015

Dutch football association investigates alleged match-fixing

The Dutch football association is opening an investigation and calling for a criminal probe into detailed allegations published Saturday of the alleged fixing of two matches in the top-tier Eredivisie.

Respected daily De Volkskrant reported that two matches involving Tilburg team Willem II — against Ajax and Feyenoord — were fixed during the 2009-2010 season by players allegedly paid by a Singaporean syndicate.

The Volkskrant identified former Willem II and Sierra Leone midfielder Ibrahim Kargbo as ringleader, an allegation Kargbo denied in an interview with the newspaper. Kargbo was suspended last year from international duty by his country's football authorities, along with three other players, over alleged attempts to fix a June 2008 qualifier against South Africa.

The Dutch football association called the detailed Volkskrant investigation "the most concrete case yet in the Netherlands" of alleged fixing.

"We will do everything in our power to get to the bottom of this," the association said on its website.

As well as handing the case to criminal investigators, the association says it will carry out its own probe by interviewing players, referees and club officials and analyzing video images.

In a written reaction, Willem II said it was shocked by the reports and pledged to cooperate fully with investigations.

West Ham United to play with sponsorless kit as shirt sponsor goes bust

West Ham United will likely sport a kit without a shirt sponsor in the next Premier League match against Hull City on Sunday.

Alpari, West Ham United's shirt sponsor since 2013, have entered insolvency on Friday after Swiss National Bank's surprise decision to decouple the Swiss Franc against the Euro yesterday. Originally, West Ham United and Alpari UK signed a 3-year shirt sponsorship deal in February 2013 worth £3m / season.

West Ham United will likely debut the sponsorless shirt against Hull City.

In 2008, West Ham United was already forced to remove the sponsor logo from their shirt after their shirt sponsor XL, a Britain holiday group, collapsed. At that time, the club had to suspend all sales of the West Ham United replica kits and lost approximately £4m.

West Ham later released an official club statement saying that they are saddened by the news about Alpari, but also state that the sponsor situation does not danger West Ham United's financial stability. English Premier League team West Ham United are already in talks to sign a new main shirt sponsor deal:

The Board would like to reassure supporters that Alpari (UK) Limited's situation will have no impact on West Ham United. The Club has received huge interest and is already in advanced discussions with potential new shirt sponsors for next year.

Alpari had been the West Ham sponsor since Summer 2013, while Adidas makes the West Ham 14-15 Kits.

South Africa governmentt says online gambling “must remain a banned activity”

South Africa‘s government has poured a great big bucket of ice water on a member of the opposition’s plan to promote the legalization of online gambling.

Earlier this week, Democratic Alliance shadow minister for trade and industry Geordin Hill-Lewis announced plans to reintroduce the Remote Gambling Bill he debuted last year. Hill-Lewis said he hoped the bill – which would expand the scope of legal online gambling beyond sports betting – would force the government “to engage properly around this argument.”

Well, sod that nonsense, says the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). On Friday, the DTI issued a statement saying it wanted to make it “publicly clear that there is no intention on the part of the government to propose the legislation of online gambling.”

The DTI insists that online gambling was “not desirable” due to “a number of social ills associated with gambling, especially online gambling.” The DTI believes “no amount of control will adequately curb the harm that may be caused” by online casino and poker games and thus “it must remain a banned activity.”

The DTI underscored its position by reminding everyone that offering anything online other than sports betting was against the law and “law enforcement agencies will act on this illegal activity with immediate effect.” The penalties for any operator offering illegal services or anyone “participating as individuals” include fines of up to R10m (US $865k) and prison sentences of up to 10 years. The DTI even offered a hotline number for finking on suspected illegal gambling.

South Africa has been flirting with the idea of an expanded online gambling market for years now but analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers sounded an extremely pessimistic note in November on the prospects of the government acting anytime soon. Seems about right.

January 16, 2015

Paddy Power supported David Ginola to stand against Blatter in FIFA election

David Ginola wants to challenge Sepp Blatter for the Fifa presidency in a campaign backed by a bookmaker. A spokesperson confirmed the former Newcastle, Tottenham and France midfielder was ready to oppose Blatter’s attempt to win a fifth term at the age of 79 and that he “will be looking for the full support of Uefa and five football associations”.

M&C Saatchi PR, acting on behalf of the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, told the Associated Press that Ginola will launch his campaign in London on Friday, but it is not yet certain he will be able to stand for election.

Ginola, who also played for Aston Villa and Everton before retiring in 2002 and has since moved into winemaking, has until 29 January to prove to Fifa he has played an “active role” in football for two of the last five years, while showing he has the support of five national associations. The election will be held in Zurich on 29 May.

Three other people have declared an interest in the job: The Fifa vice president Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan, the former Fifa official Jérôme Champagne and the former Chilean football federation president Harold Mayne-Nicholls.

Amaya ahead of schedule for PokerStars sportsbook launch

In its consumer business update Amaya Gaming, parent company of PokerStars stated that it was ahead of schedule in the upcoming launch of its sports betting product. The operator expects to launch the product by Q1 2014

The sports betting product will initially launch within the PokerStars poker client within certain markets. PokerStars will gradually add more markets as well as web and mobile versions throughout the year.

The operator has chosen to build its sports betting product in-house, in November 2014 Amaya revealed that it had begun to construct its sports betting trading team.

Its planned expansion into the sports betting market, comes just months after the operator launched its casino product.

In December 2014 PokerStars completed the rollout of casino table games to players in eligible markets on PokerStars.com and certain domains sharing liquidity on the global network. The table games are available through the new PokerStars 7 platform, which is currently an optional download to players but which will become the sole poker client in the future.

PokerStars will also launch web and mobile versions of its casino in 2015, supported by an aggressive consumer marketing campaign. PokerStars announced the planned rollout of table games on its .com network in November, following a successful launch on PokerStars.es, the brand’s website in Spain.

The operator claims that it has witnessed a 30% cross sell for its casino table games to its its active player base in Spain.

Sportradar secures integrity partnership with Lega Serie B

Italy’s second division, Lega Serie B, signed an agreement with Sportradar Security Services, under which the betting fraud prevention specialists will provide both education workshops and e-learning packages to all 22 club teams for this season and the next two.

Under the terms of the agreement, the workshop and e-learning modules will be provided to the senior team and youth teams of each club. Workshops will help all participants understand why match-fixing is a growing problem, how fixers make their approaches and what the consequences of fixing are, using real-life case studies. The e-learning tutorials will support and supplement the workshops, ensuring that each participant understands what they have learnt and is comfortable with the information.

Speaking alongside Sportradar’s spokesperson, the Lega Serie B President, Andrea Abodi stressed not just their own commitment to fraud prevention and detection, but the whole of Italian professional football’s strong stance on honesty and integrity.

Mr Abodi made the following commitment: “The most important asset of football are its supporters. Deceiving football supporters means deceiving the whole football world. That is the reason why knowledge and training about match fixing is essential for Serie B‘s credibility, and is fundamental to ensuring our stadiums are full. I would like to underline how important teamwork is to ensuring the effective defeat of match-fixing, and our key ally is Sportradar, which already collaborates with many other football associations worldwide”.

Managing Director Integrity and Strategy at Sportradar Andreas Krannich, commented:

“Our market-leading Fraud Detection System already monitors every match in all five professional leagues in Italy. No other country has that level of coverage. Today successfully closes the circle. This exclusive agreement means that our unparalleled integrity education services will reach all 102 professional clubs in Italy. We could not be prouder that all of these stakeholders have shown this level of trust in us and we will ensure that professional football in this country gets the most informed, joined up and credible information and insight possible.”

January 12, 2015

SBOBet exit the UK market

Asian sports betting giants SBOBet has told its UK players their accounts will be closed as of Sept. 15 to accommodate the UKGC’s new regime. In an email to players, SBOBet said the “unfortunate circumstance” was a direct result of the UK’s new gambling laws.

“It’s a decision that we arrived at after a considerable discussion, debate and analysis. The fact for us is, as a major operator for the Asian handicapped system which is predicated on the value proposition. For every £100 we take as a stake, we pay £ out on the winnings. so we have a gross margin of 1%. The end of the day, we can’t run high-tech business like ours or any other iGaming company with these associated costs. Out of the 1% margin and then pay 15% gross tax. Simply doesn’t work,” said Bill Mummery.

SBOBet has quite a few Premier League sponsorship and following the rule changes, the UK Gambling Commission indicated in a letter sent to sports governing bodies: “We [the commission] are aware that in some cases commercial partnership arrangements [which include sponsorship] are in place between sports clubs or bodies and remote gambling operators who do not hold a commission licence. Those operators cannot, in our view, advertise their betting services without both making it clear in the product as advertised and in reality that betting is not available to those in Britain.

The body warned that clubs now risk prosecution if their sponsor failed to prevent gamblers in the UK accessing these sites or they were deemed to be failing in the “overall effort” to combat match-fixing through corrupt betting on “unlicensed operators in foreign markets”.

Following the rule changes another major operator, SBOBet, which has previously sponsored Southampton, Swansea City, Hull, Norwich and West Ham United, was forced to exit the Premier League this year.

“If there is one good thing that comes out from this is the timing was actually favorable; that we’ve been there for five years. We certainly had built the brand, built the recognition, built the trust. So we don’t have to act with haze. We have time to stand back and look at the alternatives. I guess the key things in Premier English football is, one it’s broadcast by 200 broadcasters every weekend so the global reach, more important to the player; it’s trusted. There isn’t another league in football, globally that is trusted as English Premier League, therefore if you’re betting on that product, you absolutely want to know that it’s clean as clean as it can be.”

January 09, 2015

Poker program Cepheus is unbeatable, claim scientists

It may not win every hand it is dealt, but over time, no one can beat Cepheus, a computer program that scientists claim plays a near-perfect game of poker.

Unveiled in Canada on Thursday, the researchers believe that Cepheus is so good that a seasoned poker star could spend their whole life playing against it and still not come out on top.

To learn the game, Cepheus spent two months playing the equivalent of more than a billion billion hands of Texas hold’em, which is more poker games than have been played in the entirety of human history.

The feat required the number-crunching power of four thousand computer processors, each handling six billion hands every second. With each game Cepheus played, the program built up a database of cards dealt, betting decisions and outcomes. At the end of the marathon training session, the database contained 11 terabytes of information on calls, raises and folds for every hand a player could have.

Cepheus learns from an algorithm that essentially minimises its regrets: the program reviews every decision made and then learns which moves paid off and which cost it the hand. “For every single possible situation you could get into, it has a description for how you should play,” said Neil Burch, a computer scientist who helped develop Cepheus at the University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group.

The program plays a variant of poker called heads-up limit hold’em, made famous by Michael Craig’s 2005 book, The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King. The game involves two players who bet fixed amounts with a limit on the number of raises allowed.

“Cepheus starts off with a strategy that’s quite terrible,” said Burch. “But every time it plays a hand it comes up with a better strategy.”

It is impossible to make a program that wins every hand, because an opponent can always be dealt a pair of aces or another lucky hand. Instead, Cepheus plays the hand it is dealt in the best way possible. Before every decision, it checks its cards against the database and uses probability to play the best possible game, whether that means calling, raising or folding its hand.

“Cepheus loses to no one over a long enough time. You just have to play enough hands so that luck goes away,” said Burch.

The scientists describe how they created Cepheus in the latest issue of the journal Science. The program can be played online at the University of Alberta’s website.

“I’m sure we’ll get plenty of emails from people who will play 20 or 30 hands against it, win a little bit, and then happily declare victory and say Cepheus must have a bug. But while a human or another program could get lucky and beat Cepheus in a short match, nobody could do it consistently over a long match,” said Michael Johanson, a researcher at the lab.

The program marks a milestone in artificial intelligence and game theory because it makes optimal decisions in a game where only limited information is available: a player’s own cards and those face up on the table (the flop, turn and river, in poker terminology).

Until now, all of the major games that have been “solved” by computers are “perfect-information games” such as chess and checkers where the full history of the game is known to each player.

Poker and other card games are known as imperfect-information games and are much harder for computers to master because each player has only a limited amount of information on which to base their decisions.

The parallels between poker and real-life decision-making mean that card-playing programs are far more than toys. John von Neumann, the father of modern computing, was inspired by bluffing in poker to develop game theory. Versions of game-playing programs can be used to find the most effective ways to patrol coastlines for drugs traffickers, or the best way to schedule sky marshals on commercial flights.

The Canadian researchers said they have been careful not to release information about Cepheus that could be used to win fortunes on online casinos. But other computer experts could potentially recreate the program and unleash it on the web. Even if that happened, Burch is not convinced it would make a fortune from hapless online human players. “It’s like being a really good poker player. If you start beating people all the time, nobody will want to play with you,” he said.

January 08, 2015

Gambling in sport: John Hartson on how betting nearly cost his life

A fearless and robust striker, John Hartson's forthright response to being diagnosed with cancer came as little surprise to anybody who knew him well.

But there was one challenge "Big John" repeatedly shirked, his life-threatening addiction to gambling.

"You never think you've got a problem," he explained. "You're a gambler, you enjoy it, you never realise the hurt you're causing.

"Your family know you're addicted, but I used to think they had the problem by questioning me."

Then the questions stopped. Hartson's wife Sarah had had enough of him coming in from trips away, ignoring her and the children, going straight to the TV and turning on a cricket match, golf tournament or horse race he had £5,000 on.

So she packed her bags and told him she was leaving.

"I broke down and said I'd do something about this," the former Arsenal, West Ham and Celtic star remembered, his voice buckling with emotion and regret.

"When I was fighting for my life [with cancer], she was my rock. She was pregnant, she looked after the children, she was incredibly strong, and this scumbag here came out of hospital and carried on with the gambling, after everything she had done.

"I hit rock bottom and it takes that for you to realise - the penny dropped. I will never gamble again as long as I live."

Hartson's last bet was three years, three months and three days ago.

"Everybody is aware that cancer kills. It nearly took my life in 2009," the 39-year-old said, recalling the two emergency operations and more than 60 sessions of chemotherapy he needed when testicular cancer spread to his lungs and brain.

"Cancer takes good people away every day, but, for me, gambling also kills.

"There are four places you can end up as a compulsive gambler: out on the street, in jail, dead, or at Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

"I ended up at GA, thank the Lord, and it's not only saved my marriage and made me a better person, it's also saved my life. If I gamble again, I'll die. I'll lose everything.

"I'm ultra-determined. I don't think about gambling today. I don't buy raffle tickets, I don't buy lottery tickets, I don't go to race tracks - I go to GA twice a week.

"I'll be going until I'm 70. Why wouldn't I? It's my medicine."

Hartson sees a lot of different people walk through the doors of those meetings - there are an estimated 400,000 people in the UK with a problem - but most of them do not come back. They have not reached their nadir yet.

"You're very selfish as a gambler, very deceitful. Compulsive gamblers are compulsive liars - they're very good at covering things up," said Hartson.

So good, in fact, many can appear, swan-like, to be gliding through life, holding down jobs, living in nice houses, with loving families. And a disproportionately large group can feed this destructive addiction whilst playing professional sport.

Hartson's testimony came at a conference organised by the Professional Players Federation (PPF) at Edgbaston Cricket Ground last month.

An umbrella body for the players' associations in cricket, football, rugby union and other leading sports, the PPF wanted to share some research into an issue that has been the stuff of terrace legend.

From jokes about QPR maverick Stan Bowles' inability to pass a bookmaker as well as he could pass a ball, to guesstimates of how many millions golf's favourite rogue John Daly has lost in Las Vegas, the idea that sport's competitive and wealthy young men were cash machines for the gambling industry has been commonplace.

Now, thanks to a study of almost 350 cricketers and footballers, we know sportsmen are three times more likely to have a gambling problem than young men in the general population (6.1% versus 1.9%).

That equates to nearly 200 current professionals in British cricket and football with a serious issue, and another 440 "at risk".

The study had a few more punches to deliver. One in 10 said they gambled to "fit in", one in four said they were encouraged by team-mates to do it, and nearly one in three thought their team's links with the gambling industry "encouraged" them to bet.

For football, in particular, that should be alarming.

A quarter of the Premier League's clubs have gambling logos on their shirts, the Football League's 72 clubs play in competitions sponsored by Sky Bet, William Hill backs the Football Association and pretty much every club has its own "official betting partner".

Sporting Chance's chief executive Colin Bland revealed that seven out of 10 of the footballers that come to the Tony Adams-inspired residential clinic are there because of gambling.

But Hartson is not looking for excuses. He realises the vast majority of people gamble rarely, and when they do, they do it because it is fun.
While he may have been frittering away a reported £50,000 a week - he does not put a figure on it himself, as the amounts addicts gamble is relative to their earnings and it is always too much - his dad takes his business clients to Ffos Las racecourse once a year for champagne and £20 each-way punts. "Not everybody gets drawn in," he noted.

But some who do get it bad: gambling has the highest suicide rate of any addiction.

Sitting alongside Hartson during the conference's main session was Gaelic footballer Niall McNamee. He told a similar tale of the disease's progressive nature - moments of relief that became more fleeting as tolerance to betting's buzz builds.

But he also spoke about bad company, lies, stealing and, ultimately, despair.

"I remember waking up one morning with a knot in my stomach," said McNamee. "It was the most gut-wrenching pain. I had no money to go gambling with, or to buy drink to numb the pain.

"The thought came to me that if I jumped out of the window that would end it all. It terrified me. I have had friends who have died from this addiction."

Thankfully, this was his rock bottom, and he got help. McNamee, who is still one of the game's top forwards, is now a well-respected voice on problem gambling in Ireland, and at 29 is about to launch his own business.

For Hartson, the first symptoms appeared as an 11-year-old potboy at a social club in Swansea. Fascinated by the fruit machines, he memorised the reels and was called over by the adults whenever they had a few nudges.

It sounds innocent enough, but before long he was pouring his money into those machines and begging for money for match fees at the weekend. A decade later he would have accounts with all the top bookmakers and was so consumed by gambling that he would struggle to hold a serious conversation.

"I can concentrate now and focus on what people are saying, but five years ago I couldn't," he admitted. "My life is so much better now. I'm a better husband, a better father, and I've got money coming out of my ears!"

And just as his cancer foundation is helping people deal with that affliction, he now hopes he can persuade a few footballers to think about their futures.

"I was in a lot of trouble physically and mentally when I quit," said Hartson, who went out with a whimper at West Brom.

"I should be living in a £4m mansion on the edge of the Vale of Glamorgan but I'm not because of all the money I wasted. I've got a nice house in Swansea, and it's paid for, but that's what I should have when you think about the money I earned.

"I would like players now to aspire to the big house."

Betting is an integral part of our culture - three quarters of the UK's adult population have gambled, most likely on the National Lottery, in the past year - and betting companies have moved into the sponsorship space vacated by tobacco and, to a lesser extent, alcohol. Without them many sports would struggle.

But listening to the speakers at the conference, it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that British sport needs to look again at its relationship with gambling.

More must be done to protect the vulnerable, identify problems earlier and make sure gambling is a happy mug's game, not a debilitating illness.

Simon Barker, the assistant chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, notes that prevention through education is cheaper than emergency interventions. His counterpart at the Professional Cricketers' Association, Jason Ratcliffe, said sport was only "scratching the surface" in terms of what was needed.

The Responsible Gambling Trust's chief executive Marc Etches has managed to persuade the gambling industry to donate more than £6m of its profits to fund education and treatment, but he knows it is not enough.

"We're at a tipping point," said Etches. "The industry needs to recognise that it's in the business of risk, and it needs to take more responsibility."

Sportradar enters prediction partnership with Kicktipp.de

Sports and betting data provider Sportradar has entered into a partnership with online prediction game operator Kicktipp. The deal with the German based company includes the implementation of Sportradar Media Service’s Live Scores and Statistics solutions starting from January 1st 2015.

With coverage of over 100 countries, 240+ soccer leagues and 40 languages, Sportradar provides the broadest soccer coverage in the market. From now on the online tipping game provider incorporates Live Scores and Statistics via XML feed into their website www.kicktipp.de and also into the Kicktipp app. This will enable Kicktipp to provide their users with the fastest information available.

“We look forward to this partnership and are delighted that Kicktipp has chosen Sportradar Media Services for the data integration on its platforms. With our high quality data we are confident to provide all the necessary information needed to make this a successful partnership and help Kicktipp to strengthen its position and improve their business”, commented Andreas Meyer, Sales Director at Sportradar.

Kicktipp CEO and founder Janning Vygen stated: ”For our customers it is particularly important to have lightning fast and reliable Live Scores as well as Statistics. We are now able to provide an even betterservice and to deliver data to all of our users quickly and accurately for all available leagues. An addition to that the quality, speed and reliability were the reasons why we decided to join forces with Sportradar Media Services.”

January 06, 2015

Unibet acquires Bingo.com

Unibet completed the acquisition of Bingo.com domain and its related European operations and customer base.

Unibet acquires Bingo.com; NYX Gaming launches Sit & Go tournamentsThe $8 million total value deal will see Unibet to pay Bingo.com $2 million in cash for its brand and operations.

Bingo.com Ltd will further gain a redemption of Unibet Plc shares in the company, which are valued at $6 million and will also change operating name to Shoal Games Ltd.

Jason Williams, Bingo.com Ltd CEO, stated that the company would solely focus on the development of its social gambling products.

“The online gambling industry as a whole is experiencing conditions of maturity where smaller firms are finding it increasingly difficult to compete. Bingo.com’s European gambling business, built with the www.bingo.com brand and URL, has therefore found it difficult to compete effectively with larger operators.” Williams said. “In response to these facts, the Bingo.com management team decided it was in the best interests of the Company to sell the online gambling business; the associated brand and URL and determined the offer negotiated with Unibet, the company’s own online gambling partner and technology provider, was fair and the best offer available to the company for those assets.”