September 26, 2017

Dubai investor accuses ex-Amaya CEO David Baazov of fraud

Former Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov is being sued by a Dubai investor who claims Baazov fraudulently used the investor’s name to build support for an Amaya takeover bid.

On Friday, La Presse reported that KBC Aldini Capital president Kalani Lal had filed a lawsuit in Dubai in January accusing Baazov and his longtime financial services partner Canaccord Genuity of fraudulently using Lal’s name and signature to boost Baazov’s late-2016 bid to acquire Amaya.

Last November, Amaya announced that Baazov, who had parted ways with the company several months earlier to defend himself against criminal charges of insider trading, had made a C$24 per share offer to buy a controlling stake in Amaya and take the company private.

To support his bid, Baazov filed papers with the US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) stating that he’d lined up $3.65b in financial commitments from four investment firms, including the Dubai-based KBC Aldini Capital.

However, within a week of Amaya’s announcement, Lal informed that “neither KBC Aldini nor any of its related entities are involved in this transaction.” The following day, Baazov retracted his claim regarding KBC Aldini’s involvement, and Baazov’s proposed Amaya acquisition quickly fell apart.

Knowledge of the KBC Aldini lawsuit came via Quebec securities regulator Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), which brought the insider trading charges against Baazov and two other Amaya-connected individuals in March 2016.

Last December, an AMF investigator contacted KBC’s Lal, who repeated his claim to have never heard of Baazov or Amaya prior to the SEC filings. Lal apparently asked Cannacord to provide him with a copy of the letter allegedly sent by KBC pledging its financial support, but Lal never received a copy.

The AMF report indicates that “KBC’s clientele is predominantly Muslim, meaning that KBC will never invest in a gaming business, otherwise it will lose all its customers.” Lal reportedly received many calls from KBC clients who’d heard about the alleged Amaya connection, and this had caused Lal “a lot of worries.”

Earlier this week, La Presse reported that the AMF’s raids on individuals connected with their Baazov investigation had uncovered a document in which Baazov allegedly agreed to hold the majority of his Amaya shares on behalf of his brother Ofer aka ‘Josh’ Baazov and Ofer’s longtime online gambling business partner Craig Levett. The AMF also claims to have email communications in which Ofer is referred to as Amaya’s real owner.

Baazov’s criminal trial is expected to get underway in November, but if this week is any barometer, we can expect a steady drip of damning information to leak out of the AMF offices in the weeks to follow.

Amaya, the parent company of online gambling giant PokerStars, rebranded as The Stars Group earlier this year, in what was widely viewed as a means of distancing the company from the increasingly negative media narrative surrounding its former CEO.

Labour Plan to Levy Tax on Gambling to Fund Treatment of Addicts

The United Kingdom has witnessed a significant rise in the number of problem gamblers in the recent times. According to a report published by the Gambling Commission, more than 2 million people in the UK are addicted to problem gambling or are at a risk of developing an addiction. The report reckons that the number of ‘above-16’ problem gamblers has increased by a third in the last three years, indicating that nearly 430,000 people are victims of this serious addiction.

This certainly suggests that the government isn’t doing enough to tackle the issue. The pace of change has been slow, and the government needs to be more proactive in addressing the issues. The risk of men becoming problem gambler is 7.5 times more than women. In the light of such rising gambling addiction, the government has finally taken a significant step to address the problem of problem gambling.

U.K. Labour plan’s tax

U.K.’s opposition Labour Party has now decided to impose a compulsory tax on gambling companies for the treatment of gambling addicts. Gambling companies are failing to favor a system that calls for 0.1 percent of profits as voluntary contributions. This amount should be utilized in helping people who bet in an uncontrollable manner. The deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson, will tell delegates about this levy at its annual conference on Tuesday in Brighton, southern England.

Mr. Watson believes that “gambling addiction is an illness” and it’s time to take the issue seriously. The party’s review will also look into the ability of NHS to provide the required mental health services to problem gamblers who have become prey to this addiction. The Gambling Commission’s report defined gambling addiction as “gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits”.

The Association of British Bookmakers expressed that it supports an approach that is based on evidence, thus facilitating the idea of Mr. Watson. Labour also says that the extra sum will be required to boost the capacity and infrastructure of hospitals. Moreover, the NHS also requires funds to hire extra staff outside the agency and extend social care to patients.

The party has vowed to increase spending on the NHS by hiking income tax by 5% for people who earn the highest. A winter bailout is also proposed to be funded through this. Gambling companies target low-income people or those who have quit gambling because it proves profitable for them. The new tax proposes to stop this abuse of power and trust.

September 25, 2017

How to fix match-fixing

In 267 AD Nicantinous and Demetrius, two teenage wrestlers, had reached the final bout in a prestigious competition in Egypt. Their fathers struck a deal. For the price of a donkey, Demetrius would “fall three times and yield”. The signed contract is the earliest surviving record of a sporting competition being stitched up for financial gain.

Today, match-fixing is a vast global enterprise. The pickings are rich. Around $2trn is wagered on sport each year, mostly with online bookmakers who enable punters to evade national anti-gambling laws. Around one game in 100 is thought to be manipulated across a range of sports.

Modern fixing is a more subtle affair than that of Nicantinous and Demetrius. It often involves manipulating the odds in live betting while a match is under way. Arranging for a cricketer to score poorly, say, or a footballer to be sent off at a certain point, or a tennis player to lose a particular game, allows bettors to predict how odds will move and lock in a profit much as insider traders beat the stockmarket. Athletes troubled by conscience can always tell themselves that a few wild swipes of a bat or a run of double faults are victimless crimes.

If punters willing to place illegal bets were the only victims, fixing might not matter so much. But they are not. Much of the profits go to violent gangsters. Among those defrauded are corrupt athletes’ innocent team-mates, legal bettors and ordinary fans, who pay to see a real contest, not a sham.

Sports administrators cannot be relied on to lead a clean-up. Some are themselves suspected of corruption—witness allegations of bribery in the choices of hosts for the football World Cup and Olympic games. And many seem to fear that revealing the scale of match-fixing would provoke a crisis of confidence. Little time or money is devoted to educating athletes about fixers’ methods, or to monitoring wagers to spot the suspicious betting patterns. Some of the cases that have come to light were uncovered by police investigating racketeering, not sports officials going after fixers. The governing body for tennis, dogged by suspicions of match-fixing, does not employ enough officials to have one at every professional event.

As more games are televised, more is bet on minor competitions, where players earn less and are therefore easier to corrupt. And as new sports gain popularity, the fixers will move in. They are already active in competitive video-gaming. Women’s cricket and football are likely to become targets, too.

Say it ain’t so
To squeeze the fixers, governments need to do two things. The first is to legalise gambling, which is banned in many countries. Fixers need deep, liquid betting markets to profit from their crooked bets. If honest punters turn to legal bookmakers, fixers will follow, and authorities will find it easier to spot them at their work. The second is to pass laws against match-fixing which recognise that the evidence may consist of statistical analysis. Many countries have no match-fixing laws at all. When one corrupt player is caught and banned, the moneymen simply move on to the next.

Billions of people follow sport for the pleasure of seeing skilled athletes strive for victory and to share in the thrill of a fair competition. If the fixers are allowed to run the show, it will cease to be worth watching.

September 15, 2017

Innovation and technology hub announced by Ladbrokes Coral

Ladbrokes Coral have announced plans to unite its sports and technology teams to bring customers an continually improved betting experience.

Named LC2 and located at Here East, which formerly housed the London 2012 Olympic media team, on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 140 staff of both brands are charged with delivering a range of products such as CRM, ePOS and digital sportsbook platforms.

Graham Calder, Ladbrokes Coral CIO said: “With the creation of LC2 our goal is to deliver excellence for our customers by leveraging the best digital technology, to hire the best digital talent to build the best digital future.

“With our passion for sports, we can’t help but be inspired by the great sporting legacy that comes with being a part of the Olympic Park.”

Gavin Poole, CEO of Here East, added:, “As Here East continues to draw in innovators from more and more sectors, Ladbrokes Coral’s new digital product development centre fits well within the campus.

“Their newly joined up sport-technology team builds on Here East’s reputation as a centre of innovation for established companies and start-ups to collaborate, test new ideas, prototype new products and learn from each other’s expertise.”