June 26, 2015

William Hill exits Portugal and Estonia markets

In accordance with “recent regulatory developments”, William Hill has confirmed that it will exit its betting and gaming services from Estonia and Portugal markets.

The operator send email communications to its affiliates and media partners stating that its services for the markets would end on 28 June.

Affiliates and media partners have been instructed to remove all William Hill marketing inventory

William Hill has further instructed Estonian and Portuguese players to withdraw any existing funds

A William Hill communication read

“We would like to inform you that following recent regulatory developments in Estonia and Portugal, with effect from June 28th 2015, William Hill will cease to accept business from customers in Estonia and Portugal,”

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your efforts and our joint work together over the past years in the Estonian and Portuguese markets.

“We value your cooperation and contribution and, though William Hill is obliged to cease to accept business from customers in Estonia and Portugal for the time being, we are confident that we will have the opportunity to work together in the future.”

June 23, 2015

Bwin.Party sells poker tournaments business for $35m

Bid target Bwin.Party has sold its televised poker tournaments business to a Chinese gaming company for $35m (£22.1m).

The online gambling firm is offloading World Poker Tour (WPT) to Ourgame International, a Hong Kong-listed developer of internet and mobile games.

Loss-making WPT broadcasts high-stakes poker tournaments in more than 150 countries, and Bwin.Party will remain a sponsor of its shows and events until December next year, with first refusal over other deals beyond that date.

Dave "The Devilfish" Ulliott, Britain’s best-known professional poker player who died earlier this year, is one of WPT's past champions.

The sale comes as Bwin.Party itself considers two competing takeover approaches, one of which is understood to value the company at €1.5bn (£1.1bn). Martin Weigold, finance chief of the FTSE 250 group, said the WPT disposal was “consistent” with its plan to sell non-core businesses.

“We believe that now is the right time to release that value for shareholders so that we can focus our efforts on our core real money gaming and technology business,” he added. Shares in Bwin.Party were up 2.9pc in afternoon trading on the sale.

WPT, which holds tournaments in cities such as London and Las Vegas, posted an adjusted loss of €4.1m last year on revenues of €10.4m. PartyGaming, which merged with Bwin in 2011, bought the business for $12.3m almost six years ago. Beijing-based Ourgame, the new owner, agreed a licensing deal with WPT covering a number of Asia countries in December.

Bwin.Party made no mention of its potential takeover in Monday’s announcement.

Amaya, the Canadian giant behind Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker, has teamed up with GVC for a €1.5bn approach for the company, while online gambling group 888 Holdings has also made a rival takeover proposal.

Shares sales earlier this month by the two founders of PartyGaming rattled investors by sparking concerns that a deal for Bwin.Party might not materialise.

Ladbrokes admits merger talks with Coral

Ladbrokes has revealed it is in shock merger talks with fellow bookmaker Coral as CEO Jim Mullen aims to make immediate progress in catch up with rival William Hill.

Ladbrokes has issued a statement to the stock market, responding to press speculation about a merger, in which it admits to having talks. It said: “In response to recent press speculation, Ladbrokes Plc confirms that it is in discussions with the board of Gala Coral Group Limited regarding a possible merger of Ladbrokes and Coral Retail, Eurobet Retail and Gala Coral’s Online businesses, to create an enlarged business which would be listed on the official list of the UK Listing Authority and traded on the main market of the London Stock Exchange.

“Shareholders are advised that there can be no certainty that the discussions between Ladbrokes and Gala Coral will lead to any agreement concerning the possible merger or as to the timing or terms of any such agreement and there can be no assurance that, even if reached, any such agreement would be completed. Ladbrokes also notes that, in the event that such a transaction proceeds, it may undertake a non pre-emptive equity placing to strengthen the balance sheet of the Combined Entity.”

Ladbrokes is also considering postponing a planned Business Review presentation scheduled for 30 June which it says may now be re-scheduled depending on how discussions progress.

It is certainly one of the most stunning potential mergers in the UK gambling industry, the nearest in scale being the merger between bwin and Party Gaming which hasn’t been an overwhelming success. It certainly represents a bold piece of corporate maneouvering from Jim Mullen. He commented:

“Since becoming CEO my focus has been on a more aggressive plan to build digital scale and grow our recreational customer base across all channels, which is key to creating a more sustainable and growing Ladbrokes. My plans are well advanced and I look forward to presenting them to shareholders.

“A merger with Gala Coral could create a combined business with significant scale and has the potential to generate substantial cost synergies, creating value for both companies’ shareholders.

“The Board has not yet concluded whether a transaction is strategically attractive and can be delivered to shareholders on appropriate terms.”
Coral’s bookmaking business has long been mooted for a stock market listing once the company had divested its bingo business, but few would have anticipated this route. A major hurdle for the deal would be the Competition and Markets Authority, whose predecessor the Office of Fair Trading frequently forced bookmakers to sell off any competing ‘local’ betting shops. The deal will likely see a huge number of beting shops from the combined group go up on the market to satisfy competition concerns, providing opportunities for a firm like Paddy Power to expand significantly and instantly.

June 19, 2015

Russian bookmakers slam government’s proposal to tax bettors’ winnings

Russia‘s bookmakers are protesting their government’s proposal to tax sports bettors’ winnings.

Russia is in the process of regulating its online sports betting market and its most recent draft decree was published in May. The Ministry of Finance’s latest proposal calls for bettors to be exempt from a 13% betting tax provided their winnings total less than RUB 4k (US $74).

But Russian bookmakers point out that the tax would apply if a player’s winnings top RUB 4k at any point during an as yet undetermined period of time – believed to be a calendar year – regardless of whether a player’s overall betting activity results in a net loss during this period.

Oleg Zhuravsky, president of the First Self-Regulatory Organization of Russian Bookmakers, told Bookmakersrating.ru that both bookies and bettors were opposed to the tax plan. Zhuravsky called the proposal “a complete misunderstanding” of the betting process that would only encourage bettors to seek out internationally licensed betting sites.

Konstantin Makarov, CEO of Russian lottery operator Bingo Boom and president of the rival Russian Bookmakers Association, warned that the proposal could result in bettors unintentionally opening themselves up to charges of tax evasion.

Makarov laid out a scenario in which a bettor had accounts with multiple betting operators, and his individual winnings at any one site might fly under the RUB 4k threshold while his overall winnings might exceed this amount. Similarly, bettors actively seeking to avoid taxation could intentionally break up large bets across multiple bookies.

Makarov also warned that, with one in 10 Russian adults enjoying sports and tote betting, both bookmakers and the Federal Tax Service would require significant boosts in manpower to track the individual wagering to ensure compliance with the proposed regime.

Public comment on the current betting regulatory proposal will remain open until August 8.

June 16, 2015

New player in Ladbrokes takeover?

As Royal Ascot begins this week the bookies will be hoping for a bonanza with William Hill alone expecting to turnover some £30 million alone over the next five days of racing.

Indeed there are two major racing calendar days the bookies look forward to, The Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. This year mobile gambling will be the enjoy the biggest increase in betting as the platform offers punters the quickest opportunity to place a bet.

With the new POC tax from the UK government and betting shops on the decline suffering from the huge increase in online betting companies such as Ladbrokes are hoping for a very good week. Also the latest rumours on Ladbrokes are that a private consortium for £1.6billion or Paddy Power will show their hand and make a formal offer some time shortly after the Ascot meeting.

Insiders believe that the private consortium could trump Paddy Power in acquiring Ladbrokes with a bigger offer and also at the same time a solid focus on strengthening its online presence. It is not clear who is leading the consortium bid but rumour has it that it is a former senior executive from Ladbrokes.

With new Ladbrokes boss Jim Mullen’s strategy for the business to be announced at the end of June which is likely to focus on its digital and online operations, this will be the time when an offer is most likely to be made.

June 10, 2015

PokerStars plans huge advertising campaign in NJ launch

Rumours swirl around PokerStars that the company is planning a huge advertising & marketing campaign to coincide with their arrival in New Jersey. CEO of Amaya Gaming David Baazov previously stating that he believes the online poker giant will finally receive its long overdue license to operate online poker in the state with its land based partner Resorts Casino within the next 90 days or less.

No exact figures are known but when the Golden Nugget launched their online gambling platform Thomas Winter their head of online gambling said the firm spent some $60 million in advertising & marketing in the first four months of launch. That number has now dwindled to about $1 million a month now.

However with PokerStars by far the most recognized online poker brand even thou they have been out of the US for some years now, the online poker giant wants to announce their new arrival with a bang. Some observers say the company will spend some $100 million in the early months ensuring all New Jersey online players now PokerStars is back.

With the massive budget PokerStars is believed to have on their launch in New Jersey not all online operators in the state are scared of the impact, in fact many hope that it will again liven up the market and get more players online because of the increased advertising.

NetEnt signs agreement for bwin.party & Borgata brands in NJ

NetEnt has signed its first US customer agreement for the delivery of a full suite of multichannel online casino games to bwin.party and Borgata brands in New Jersey. bwin.party operates New Jersey’s market leading online gaming platform, which supports the Borgata Casino, Borgata Poker and PartyPoker brands.

As the Company has already announced, NetEnt has applied for a license to offer its games in New Jersey, and is awaiting approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to commence operations, while its application for a full license is under review.

Björn Krantz, Managing Director of NetEnt Americas LLC, comments: “We are very excited and proud that Borgata and bwin.party have selected NetEnt for the delivery of premium multichannel desktop and mobile games in New Jersey. I am confident that we will be able to support Borgata and bwin.party in their ambitions to provide the very best experience to their players. Subject to approval from the Division of Gaming Enforcement, all parties are now collaborating closely to secure a successful integration and preparation for a commercial launch.”

Jeffrey Haas, Group Director, Poker & Director, USA at bwin.party, comments: “It is our goal to deliver the best online casino experience to our customers throughout New Jersey. The addition of premium and inventive gaming content from the renowned NetEnt stable is another significant step in helping us meet that objective”.

Steve Nathan, Vice President of Marketing for Borgata, comments: “We are very impressed by NetEnt’s performance in Europe, and their ability to deliver the highest degree of portfolio innovation and creativity. We are excited to bring that experience to our customers, and look forward to the day we can go live with the first set of NetEnt multichannel games.”

Austrian government to ban poker outside casinos

The Austrian government will ban all forms of poker games from outside of licensed casinos from 2020 it said in a statement, however Casinos Austria wanted the ban to be enforced as early as 2017 but has welcomed the new measures

In the statement the government plan to limit poker to licensed casino operators or electronic lotteries like win2day and WINWIN machine operators.

The law will allow for poker games to be played in pubs across the country but with limits such as a maximum of 100 players who pay €10 or less and those tournaments in pubs can only be held once in each quarter of the year. The new ruling will mean clubs such as the Concord Card Casinos will be outlawed which is welcomed by Casinos Austria and the casino giant also called for stricter prosecution laws for those who continue to ignore the new rules when they become law.

June 05, 2015

Japan 50% chance of passing gambling bill this year

Japan has a 50% chance of passing a bill this year legalizing integrated resorts in the country, says Managing Director of Morgan Stanley Asia Praveen Choudhary. The comments were made at the recent G2E Asia conference and in the same week

Fitch said in another report on the prospect of Japan passing legislation “We think there is a better than 50-50 chance that an IR [integrated resort] bill passes this year; however, we do not think an IR can open by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We think the most likely scenario is that gaming regulations look similar to Singapore’s, with limited licences and an entrance fee levied on locals.”

The firm also said it expected there to be only two licesnes issued which could generate a combined revenue of $6 billion annually.

“This assumes 500 table games and 3,000 slot machines each and respective win per day rates of around US$14,000 and US$600. This is above roughly US$5.5 billion being generated by Singapore’s two IRs,” said the Fitch report.

Playtech releases slot games to Spanish licensees

Playtech will extend its dominance of the Spanish casino market by supplying all existing local licensees with access to its extensive, industry-leading slots portfolio.

Playtech’s existing licensees will offer the company’s industry-leading online and mobile slot content from today – the official date set by Spanish regulator La Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) for the allowance of casino slot games.

As a result, each licensee will offer Playtech’s best-performing slot content including locally themed in-house and premium branded games from major studios such as Paramount and Universal and popular land-based titles, giving them access to the most complete Omni-Channel offering available within the Spanish market.

The Playtech offering in Spain is unrivalled delivering cutting-edge, profitable Omni-Channel gaming solutions to leading online, mobile and land-based brands across all verticals via Playtech ONE.

Playtech’s pioneering ONE technology allows players a seamless, anywhere-anytime gaming experience across any product, channel and device all using a single account and single wallet.

The Spanish gaming regulator approved slot games in July last year and re-opened its licensing window in November, the first time this has taken place since the market regulated in June 2012.

Shimon Akad, COO, Playtech, said: “The inclusion of online casino games and slots in Spain is a major breakthrough and will serve to increase our market share there.

“Our licensees and their players can now enjoy a complete Omni-Channel gaming solution online, on any mobile device, in-venue, and in retail outlets, across casino, bingo, poker, sports, virtual, live, and social, casual and fixed-odds games.”