March 26, 2015

Trial over suspected Levante-Zaragoza fix gets underway

The preliminary phase of the trial investigating the alleged fixing of the Levante vs Zaragoza match in May 2011 has kicked off. Judge Isabel Rodríguez has begun to hear testimony from the suspects.

The first person to go before the judge was Jaime Sanz de Bremond, the lawyer representing former Zaragoza left-back Iván Obradovic, who confirmed that his client could not testify at this moment because he is on international duty with Serbia.

Villarreal's Ikechukwu Uche was next to appear in the courtroom in Valencia, accompanied by his lawyer. The striker declined to make any comments to the media.

Then came ex-Zaragoza captain Javier Paredes, who is now with Albacete. The defender was also tight-lipped on his arrival and departure.

March 24, 2015

Vietnam football matches listed for betting by 79 foreign firms

Vietnamese football matches have been listed for betting by 79 international bookmakers across the world, said Julie Norris, head of Interpol’s integrity in sport unit, at the conference on the prevention of match fixing held in Hanoi yesterday.

The conference had the participation of officials from Interpol, AFC, FIFA, and Vietnamese representatives from the ministries of public security, justice, finance, and sports.

Ms. Norris stressed at the meeting that criminal rings often back the manipulation of football games and they have the involvement of thousands of bookmakers across the world.

Nicholas Raudenski of the FIFA security unit added that the criminal rings can even ‘control’ and force referees and footballers to help manipulate matches.

Le Hoai Anh, general secretary of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), told the meeting that Vietnam has conducted effective cooperation with AFC and FIFA in the prevention of match fixing and detected several cases in recent years.

VFF is planning to set up an integrity unit to promote transparency and prevent wrongdoings in the coming time, he added.

March 23, 2015

Gamblers in Unshuffled Cards Case: Let Us Keep the Money

Gamblers who have been ordered to return $1.5 million they won at an Atlantic City casino that unknowingly used unshuffled cards asked a judge on Friday to let them keep the money.

The 14 gamblers say they won the money through no fault of their own playing mini-baccarat at the Golden Nugget in April 2012. They say that if the ruling stands, it would send a chilling message to the gambling public that no jackpot is ever safe.

"By ordering the patrons to return the monies that were paid out by (the Golden Nugget) nearly three years after the game ended sends incredible conditional messages to the public: A win isn't necessarily a win, and that casinos will go after winning players who are without fault" if the casino or one of its agents were to blame, the gamblers said in a court filing asking the judge to reverse her February ruling in favor of the casino.

Steve Scheinthal, general counsel for the casino's parent company, Landry's Inc., said the judge got it right.

"The trial judge considered the law and made a very thoughtful and correct decision," he told The Associated Press. "We see no reason why she would change her mind."

The judge heard the motion Friday but did not issue a decision.

At issue were games of mini-baccarat using decks of cards the casino had paid a manufacturer to pre-shuffle but that hadn't been shuffled. Once players realized the pattern in which the cards were emerging, they drastically upped their bets from $10 a hand to $5,000 and won 41 straight hands.

Last month, the judge determined the games were illegal under state law because they didn't conform to gambling regulations specifying the way each game must be played.

The Golden Nugget bought what were supposed to be pre-shuffled cards from a Kansas City manufacturer, which acknowledged in court it failed to shuffle them. The casino said its litigation with the manufacturer has been resolved, but a confidentiality agreement prevents it from revealing details.

The judge's February ruling was the latest in a long series of decisions that have seesawed between favoring the casino and favoring the gamblers. The owner of the casino, Texas billionaire Tillman Fertitta, originally decided to let the players keep their winnings, but that offer was contingent on them dropping other claims they made against the casino, including illegal detention, which they declined to do.

The casino paid out about $500,000 in winnings for the disputed games. About $1 million in chips remains outstanding.

Optimal Payments strikes €1.1bn digital wallet deal for Skrill

Optimal Payments has expanded its digital wallet with the €1.1bn reverse takeover of rival Skrill in a move that will propel the combined online payments business into the FTSE 250.

The company said the “transformational” deal would broaden its exposure to the “rapidly expanding online gaming sector” as well as the wider e-commerce world

The group has developed a payments technology system allowing gamblers to transfer winnings and place stakes across a range of gaming websites at the touch of a button, as well as enabling rapid-fire payments for live sports betting.

Skrill’s paysafecard brand is one of the largest pre-paid online voucher providers in Europe, enabling consumers without a bank account or credit card to purchase goods and services online.

“We thought they were out fishing for sprats and they have landed a whale,” said Ivor Jones, leisure analyst at Numis. “At a stroke, it brings a major competitor on board, sharply reduces [Optimal’s] exposure to Asia and brings credible venture capital investors on to the share register.”

Shares in Aim-traded Optimal were suspended on Monday morning after it announced the proposed acquisition, to be financed by a fully underwritten £451m rights issue plus existing cash and debt facilities, after which it will relist on the main market.

Skrill, which shelved plans for a £160m listing in 2011 and was once chaired by the former investment banker Bob Wigley, is majority owned by CVC Capital Partners. The private equity firm acquired a majority stake in the business for €600m from Investcorp 18 months ago.

“PayPal is the 800 pound gorilla in this industry, and while I’m not sure we’re in their rear view mirror yet, there’s room for a number two,” said Joel Leonoff, Optimal’s chief executive, adding that the deal was “a very significant acceleration of our business plan”.

As well as online gaming, the group has ambitions to target a greater share of the mobile payments market, although it faces stiff competition from tech giants Apple, Samsung and Google.

The space is rapidly consolidating as payment providers try to scale up as quickly as possible in the heavily regulated space. Last November, Skrill itself announced that it was acquiring another competitor, Ukash, in a deal that is yet to be completed.

Beneath it all is the growing dominance of smartphones in ecommerce and online gaming. “It actually sits on something more fundamental, which is the move towards mobile commerce. It’s the mobile ecosystem that’s emerging here,” said Robin Speakman, analyst at Shore Capital.

Digital wallets are an increasing necessity for online gamblers, who tend to play across multiple sites. Customers in “grey” markets, where online gambling is not formally regulated, also use wallets as a way of moving their money to gambling websites.

“In certain jurisdictions Visa and MasterCard are not available for online gambling,” said Gavin Kelleher, analyst at Goodbodys.

Mr Leonoff said that customers used their wallets as a “hub” to move money between websites like PartyGaming, PokerStars and 888.

Higher transaction speeds offered by digital wallets were crucial for live sports betting, he added: “If you’re watching a tennis game, you can bet whether a serve is going to be in or out, so it has to be really fast.”

The combined business would be well placed to target demand from emerging markets and the rapidly evolving mobile payments market, he said.

“We also cater to a very significant proportion of the world that is unbankable and doesn’t have the facilities to provide credit cards. We have helped the online gaming companies gain access to customers in South America where US-verified credit card payments were hard to obtain, which has greatly facilitated approval ratings.”

Optimal said it would acquire the entire listed share capital of Skrill for €720m cash and 37.5m new ordinary shares, after which parent company Sentinel Group Holdings would own nearly 8 per cent of the group.

Optimal said the deal had an enterprise value of €1.1bn, valuing Skrill at a multiple of 9.3 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the 12 months to September 2014, adjusted to reflect ongoing annual cost saving synergies of $40m, plus net debt of €256m.

The combined group would have annual revenues approaching $700m, and ebitda of $175m, Optimal said, diversifying its geographic exposure and customer base, offering over 100 payment types in 41 currencies and 22 languages. This would enable Optimal to “capitalise on expected growth in the North American regulated online gambling market,” the company added.

Optimal’s full-year results, released in tandem with its announcement on Monday, showed an 83 per cent increase in profit after tax to $57.7m on revenues that increased 44 per cent to $365m in the year to December 31.

The results were boosted by the acquisition of the Meritus and GMA businesses in the US last summer, plus a “significant” contribution from the World Cup.

Optimal intends to raise £451m through a five-for-three rights issue priced at 166p per share, a 60 per cent discount to Friday’s closing price of 419p, which has been fully underwritten by Canaccord Genuity, Deutsche Bank and BMO Capital Markets. Lazard additionally advised Optimal on the transaction.

Optimal said it had received “significant” shareholder support for the rights issue, including its largest shareholder Old Mutual which holds an 11.3 per cent stake.

If shareholder approval is granted at a general meeting on April 16, the new shares are expected to start trading on Aim a day later, with the acquisition expected to complete “in the third quarter of 2015”, the company said.

March 18, 2015

Poland to relax strict online gambling laws

Poland are moving to more liberal online gambling laws after the European Commission approved the countries plans to allow overseas online gambling operators into the country. It is planned now that Poland will allow foreign operators to offer their services in the country without having to locate a base within the country.

Following a review of its current law, Polish ministers have lifted operator requirements to be partnered with a local partner.

It was last year that the EU Commission criticized Poland for its ruling that only online operators based within its borders were allowed to offer online gambling.

Currently only four online operators have been granted licenses to offer their services to nationals, they are Fortuna Entertainment, Milenium, STS and Totolek. A timeframe for the new laws is not known but it is expected to be changed this year.

March 17, 2015

Manchester United launch gambling App with Bwin

Bwin Stadium the sportsbetting platform from digital has launched a new exclusive real money app for Manchester United which will be fully managed by Bwin.

Richard Arnold, Manchester United Group Managing Director commented on the launch of the app

“The launch of the app is an important milestone in our partnership, and is yet another exciting platform to bring the Club closer to its fans,” he said.”

Sam Sadi, Director of bwin White Labels, said:

“Our aim is to offer sports fans unique gaming experiences anytime, anywhere”.

“Working with the club, we have used our partnership to create something entirely new and standout in our industry that will appeal to both Manchester United fans and casino players looking for superior graphics and gameplay.”

Bloomberry to buy south Korean casino resort

Bloomberry Resorts the Philippine gaming compnay said it would be acquiring a South Korean Casino Hotel in its first ever venture overseas. The company said it had purchased 92% of Golden & Luxury Co. Ltd the owning firm on T.H.E Hotel & Vegas Casino on the southern island of Jeju.
T.H.E Hotel & Casino is one of seven casinos located on Jeju island a popular vacation destination for Chinese.

Bloomberry chairman and chief executive Enrique Razon said in a statement. “This is our first venture outside of the Philippines, and the possibilities for expansion in this country are promising.”

Bloomberry owns and operates the $1-billion Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila Bay that the government hopes will rival Macau and Las Vegas. “Solaire is on a trajectory of growth and we are now slightly shifting our focus to other destinations,” said Razon.

Safecharge reports “outstanding” year

Safecharge had an outstanding 2014 said Chairman Roger Withers after the payment services provider announced their first annual report as a public listed company.

Revenues stood at $76.9 million for the year compared to $43.2 million in 2013, representing a rise of 78%. Profits jumped 79% for 2014 to $44.5 million for the year.

The payment services firm said that its cash balances at the end of the year totaled $146.5 million, which represents huge growth on the $11.8 million in 2013.

“It is a privilege to present such an outstanding set of results in our first year as a public company,” Withers said

“I congratulate David Avgi (chief executive officer) and the whole of the SafeCharge team, for an excellent performance during a landmark period for the group.

“We entered the year trading strongly with financial strength to pursue our stated M&A strategy.”

March 11, 2015

Rome police arrest managing director over €300 million of undeclared monies that were traced to Malta and the Isle of Man

The managing director of PokerStars, a leading online poker brand, has been accused of fraud and tax evasion of some €300 million by Rome’s finance police on Wednesday.

Investigators analysed the real value of transactions linked to Halfords Media Italy, the Italian branch of the group, and tracked down €300 million of undeclared revenues.

Halfords is a wholly-owned member of the Rational Group which offers online poker to players through two of the world’s leading poker brands, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

In Malta, the Rational Group has several subsidiaries with beneficial ownerships also held in the Isle of Man. Rational was taken over by Canadian firm Amaya Gaming for $4.9 billion. Amaya also holds an Isle of Man subsidiary.

According to the finance police, Halfords hid its taxable income by decreasing the worth of services performed for its parent company Pokerstars and, by so doing, managed to move the taxable income produced in Italy to Malta, and then to the Isle of Man to benefit from a more favourable tax status. and operate worldwide under licenses from the Isle of Man and Malta governments, respectively.

The tax avoidance scheme is known as transfer pricing, and aims at minimising a company’s tax exposure by moving around revenues and profits to countries with favourable tax systems.

Transfer pricing is one of the most important issues in international tax.

Transfer pricing happens whenever two companies that are part of the same multinational group trade with each other: when a US-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola, for example, buys something from a French-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola. When the parties establish a price for the transaction, this is transfer pricing.

What makes transfer pricing illegal is if the price is manipulated so that costs are brought drastically down so that incur the least amount of tax possible.

March 04, 2015

Pinnacle Sports outlines strategic vision under new ownership

Pinnacle Sports CEO Paris Smith is excited to take the sports betting operator forward under new ownership, following its sale to undisclosed buyers.

Smith outlined that the new owners of the Curacao licensed sports betting operator had ambitious plans and a strategic visions for its unique business model which has proven a popular destination for high value sports betting consumers.

Last month Pinnacle Sports governance confirmed the sale of its majority stake holdings to undisclosed buyers, through a sale conducted by Las Vegas based M&A firm Alternative Trading Partners (ATP)

Speaking for the first time since the takeover of the new buyers, CEO Paris Smith commented “I am extremely excited about working with our new major shareholder to realise a shared vision for Pinnacle Sports, which includes significant product enhancement and expansion into regulated territories. Though this deal denotes an important change for Pinnacle Sports, our customers should rest assured that the fundamental principles that make the brand so unique will not be compromised.”

Smith concluded that it would be business as usual for the sports betting operator, as senior management looks forward to a successful and positive 2015.

March 03, 2015

Paddy Power to return 392 mln euros to shareholders

Paddy Power Plc will return 392 million euros ($439.28 million) to shareholders after the Irish gambling company said it had failed to identify any compelling acquisitions to spend its cash on following a year of record profit growth.

The decision to hand shareholders back 8 euros a share as well as a 13 percent increase in full year dividends will move the company from a net cash position to one of net debt of around one times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

Chief Executive Andy McCue, who took over in January after Patrick Kennedy's ten years in charge, will also review its Italian business, which is seeing slower than expected growth.

"We see further opportunities for efficiency by improving our investment discipline and leveraging scale and geographic synergies, which will allow us, crucially, to continue to invest in product and brand," McCue said in a statement on Tuesday.

Paddy Power, which has more than doubled its annual profit since 2009 through overseas expansion and a stronger online performance than its rivals, said its operating profit rose 19 percent to 163.8 million euros last year.

That was slightly ahead of the 162.3 euros forecast by analysts polled by Reuters and like British rival William Hill , represented a year of record profit growth, helped by last year's soccer World Cup -- the industry's largest event.

McCue said 2015 had started well, with sportsbook stakes up 18 percent online and 8 percent year-on-year in shops. ($1 = 0.8924 euros)

March 02, 2015

GTECH to call itself IGT following acquisition completion

GTECH has announced that following final completion of the purchase of International Game Technology (IGT) which is progressing swiftly say bosses the company will rebrand and call itself IGT.

“The combination of GTECH and IGT brings together two highly complementary legacy businesses to form the true blue chip company in global gaming. Marco Sala, chief executive officer at GTECH, said

“The new name and branding reflect this positioning. In addition, our two companies have similar core values; in fact, our respective names are derived from the same origin.

“Our new logo, marrying the IGT name and the iconic GTECH globe, draws upon the substantial brand equity of our two companies.”

The company also plan new headquarters in the UK along with establishing existing location in Europe and Las Vegas.