January 30, 2015

Minnesota Lottery online scratchers targeted by new legislation

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.