May 19, 2015

The Online Gambling Battle For Bwin.Party

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Online Gambling firm 888 Holdings is making a run at buying Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment, the Gibraltar-based online gambling company. There are reports that Amaya, the world’s biggest publicly-traded online gambling company, is joining tiny GVC Holdings to try to buy and carve up Bwin.Party. Playtech, the gambling software developer, has not emerged as a potential bidder, but has shown interest in Bwin.Party in the past.

The sale of Bwin.Party may still not happen, but negotiations for the company have reached their most serious stage since activist hedge fund manager Jason Ader’s SpringOwl Asset Management struck a deal with Bwin.Party last year that seemed to put the company in play. The details of the bids have not been disclosed and remain murky.

A deal for Bwin.Party would be a big moment in the online gambling industry. Bwin.Party was formed in 2011, combining Bwin’s sports betting business and PartyGaming’s online casino and online poker offerings. Before it chose to leave the U.S. market in 2006, PartyGaming was the most valuable online gambling company in the world.

What makes Bwin.Party valuable to other online gambling companies today, however, is its big sports betting business. Billionaire Denise Coates’ Bet365 is the world’s biggest online sports betting company, but Bwin’s sports betting business is one of the next largest. Bwin’s sport betting business in Europe might be bigger than Bet365.

Amaya, 888 and Playtech have been working on becoming big online sports betting players. For any online gambling company looking for a sports betting business, buying Bwin would be the quickest way to do it.

Amaya reportedly is bidding with GVC by creating a special purpose vehicle controlled by GVC that would hold the bulk of Bwin.Party’s assets. There is precedent for such a partnership. GVC, which focuses on so-called gray markets, teamed up with British bookmaker William Hill in 2013 to buy Sportingbet for $850 million. William Hill took Sportingbet’s online gambling operations in Australia and Spain; GVC took Sportingbet’s business in unregulated markets.

Bwin.Party is scheduled to host its annual shareholders meeting in Gibraltar on Thursday.

May 11, 2015

SNAI strengthens Italian market position with Cogemat merger

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Italian sports betting operator Gruppo SNAI has agreed to a corporate merger with Italian licensed gambling operator Cogemat, which will see the new company valued at + €145 million.

SNAI will incorporate all assets and business subsidiaries of Cogemat, including gambling technology and content provider Cogetech which services 9% of the Italian gambling machines market.

Italian news sources report that SNAI governance had concluded the merger deal with Global OI Games and Games 2 the majority shareholders in the Cogemat business. SNAI are believed to want to strengthen their position within the Italian gambling machines market, and further enhance its digital offering to the Italian market.

Gruppo SNAI released a short corporate statement detailing its intentions for the acquisition of Cogemat enterprises. The operator outlined the following

“The company will look to become the co-leader of the market with a share of over 15%” and will “strengthen the group’s leadership in the segment of horse betting and sports.”

“SNAI will further aim to strengthen its position in the segment of the gaming machines,” a market worth 48 billion euro in 2013”.
The merger deal will see Cogetech shareholders acquire 38% of the new company shares which are to be distributed under Gruppo SNAI terms and deal precedents.

May 06, 2015

Portugal opens up to online gambling

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Portuguese gamblers will soon be allowed to gamble online following the Council of Ministers in the country passing the Online Gambling Bill which will commence on the 28th June.

Following the passing of the bill all forms of gambling online will be legalised and the legislative framework and regulation will be passed to the Santa Casa de Misericordia de Lisboa.

With the bill the Ministers released a statement saying: “The bill will proceed with the regulation of online gambling in line with the recommendations issued by the EC on this matter and the international best practices. Licenses will be awarded to all the companies that will ensure the full respect of a set of financial, economic and technical requirements.”

The licensing for operators is now open and will be controlled by Santa Casa, advertising by operators will be allowed in approved media outlets which is not currently clear which those are. The government is hoping to raise some €25 million annually in online gambling taxes.

April 29, 2015

Three players jailed for match-fixing in Norway

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Three Norwegian third division players were among five men jailed on Wednesday after they were found guilty of fraud and corruption in the country's first match-fixing trial.

The trio -- Drin Shala and Formose Pape Mendy of Follo and Alban Shipshani of Asker -- were charged with accepting money to fix results. Two other players were acquitted by Oslo's District Court.

After a three-week trial in which the court heard secret recordings of telephone conversations and details of illicit meetings in Sweden where offers were made to fix results, Shala and Shipsani were handed prison sentences of eight months each, with Mendy receiving six months.

All three players have said they will appeal the verdicts.

"This judgement sends out an important signal that you do not fix matches in Norway unpunished," Norwegian FA (NFF) general secretary Kjetil Siem said in a statement.

"We are pleased that the police have taken the matter very seriously, while I commend the clubs, with Follo FK leading the way, for the way they have handled this difficult case."

The charges related to games played by the Asker and Follo clubs in the third tier of Norwegian football in 2012.

In one of the games that came under scrutiny, Follo had led 3-0 against Ostsiden only to lose 4-3. That shock result caused Follo to report their suspicions of match-fixing to the Norwegian FA, and a police investigation was launched.

In another game Asker were hammered 7-1 by Frigg, and the Norwegian FA also took the unprecedented step of postponing a game between Ullensaker/Kisa and HamKam amid concerns that the match had been fixed.

Gaming agents infiltrated Bitcoin poker site to bring criminal case

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A special agent with the Nevada Gaming Control Board infiltrated a Bitcoin-fueled poker website to help launch what authorities on Tuesday said was the first state-level criminal prosecution of illegal online poker.

“The industry must be licensed and controlled,” Attorney General Adam Laxalt said at a news conference, while flanked by A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, and Tony Alamo, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

An arrest warrant was issued against Bryan Micon, 36, in Las Vegas Justice Court on Monday on one count of operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system.

Laxalt added that the charge, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, marks the first prosecution of a poker site that used the digital currency.

“Defending Nevada’s worldwide reputation as the gold standard of gaming integrity is a paramount concern to tens of thousands of Nevadans employed by the industry and the 41 million tourists who visit the state each year,” Laxalt said.

Court papers filed Monday state that Micon operated Seals with Clubs, which accepted Bitcoin digital currency, between March 1, 2014 and Feb. 9, 2015 “without first procuring and thereafter maintaining in effect the required licenses.”

The Gaming Control Board first learned of Seals with Clubs in August 2013, when a Belgian resident complained about the site, according to an affidavit for arrest.

In Skype conversations observed by gaming agents, Micon estimated that Seals with Clubs earned $10,000 to $12,000 profit each month. Authorities at the news conference declined to say how much of the digital currency was regularly wagered on the site.

Agent Ricardo Lopez created an account on the site in early February 2014 and used digital currency to start playing poker on the site the next month.

“I placed bets using my chips, and won some hands while losing others,” Lopez wrote, noting that the site had taken a rake, or a percentage of the pot from certain hands. “I had successfully purchased Bitcoin using U.S. currency and then gambled the Bitcoin on the website on two separate dates for a total of 30 hands of poker.”

Lopez compared the Bitcoin transaction to purchasing chips at a casino cage and gambling with the chips at a poker table.

The agent conducted surveillance on Micon’s home, then collected information from his social media accounts, learning that he identified himself as the “chairman” of Seals with Clubs.

In YouTube videos the agent observed, Micon offered instructions on how to load the “crypto currency” onto the poker site.

Micon was “prominently displayed in the ‘Teampro’ section of the site,” the agent wrote. “The narrative states that Bryan Micon’s team, ‘Seal Team 6,’ had worked hard to develop an Android application for Seals with Clubs. Much of the website page appears to be comedic narrative mixed in with funny photos, but it is clear Bryan Micon is not just a patron of the site but actually operates” Seals with Clubs.

When gaming agents raided Micon’s home on Feb. 11, they found that he was logged into the poker site and was editing one of the pages.

Seals with Clubs was promptly shut down in February after the raid, but Micon flew to Antigua the next day and later launched a new Bitcoin site,

Authorities said Micon’s last known whereabouts were in the Caribbean island nation.

On Tuesday afternoon, Micon Tweeted that he had launched a campaign to raise $100,000 for his legal defense.

“The price for representation will quickly deplete my funds, and I am asking for donations from anyone who feels like helping me,” Micon wrote on the site, which showed that he raised $1,000 in less than 20 minutes. “As a husband, father of a 2 year old girl, & outspoken Bitcoin advocate, I desire nothing more than to continue to be with my wife, raise my daughter, and continue to build layers on top of the Bitcoin protocol.

“The state of Nevada desires to take that away from me. Please help me fight.”

His lawyer, David Chesnoff, declined to speak about where Micon was living. No court date had been set as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Mr. Micon maintains his innocence, and we’re looking forward to litigating on what appears to be a case of first impression,” Chesnoff said. “We are going to advise our client that he’s been charged in Las Vegas and what his legal obligations are.”

April 28, 2015

Kahn versus Schmeichel TV Ads

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Sport betting site Tipico has recruited German and Danish star goalkeepers Oliver Kahn and Peter Schmeichel for their new advertising campaign and the result is awesome. Check the two out battling it out as to who was a more successful star in their day.

April 23, 2015

William Hill profits tumble £20m in new taxes

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UK-listed bookmaker William Hill reported Q1 revenue up but profits way down as punter-friendly sporting results and new taxes did a number on Hills’ numbers.

In a trading update released Thursday, Hills reported group revenue up 1% but operating profit down 19%. In addition to what Hills called its “largest ever loss-making week” – a £14m football shellacking in Week 3 – Hills booked £20m in additional costs thanks to the new 15% online point-of-consumption tax (POCT) and the March 1 implementation of the new 25% Machine Games Duty.

The POCT pushed William Hill Online’s cost of sales to 22%, up from 9% in Q1 2014, resulting in a 38% decline in online profits. Online sportsbook revenue (excluding Australia) rose 11% and betting handle rose 16%. Online gaming revenue was up 8% while mobile gaming revenue rose 48%. Breaking down the gaming chart, casino revenue was up 10% and bingo up 8% but poker continued its long slide toward irrelevance, falling 32% year-on-year.

William Hill Australia profits were down 39% thanks to higher marketing costs associated with its rebranding operation as well as the “reshaping of the client base following the increases in race field fees in July 2014.” Betting handle was down 22% but gross win margins rose 1.5 points, limiting the overall revenue decline to 8%.

Australian operating costs fell 4% on synergies derived from the integration. Hills says it successfully completed the migration of Sportingbet’s clients to and over 95% of Sportingbet’s VIP clients have placed a wager with the new site since it launched.

William Hill US enjoyed a 30% boost in wagering but gross win was flat as the Super Bowl headed a list of unfavorable sports results.

Retail profits were flat despite a 2% fall in revenue. OTC wagering was down 4% while machine gaming revenue rose 1%. Hills says it’s on track to complete the rollout of its new Eclipse gaming machines in Q2. Hills also launched its new ‘£50 journey’ project, which hopes to provide greater scrutiny of customer staking at higher levels on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Hills shares were down 3% to 361.2p on Thursday. Despite the profit carnage, Hills CEO James Henderson claimed his firm was “well positioned to benefit as the UK online market evolves.” Henderson said Hills was making good progress on Project Trafalgar, its in-house development of a responsive design front-end.

Hills also announced it had secured new football advertising contracts with BT Sport and Sky TV. When the new season debuts in August, Hills will have the right to air the first promos during BT Sport’s half-time break. The Sky deal also covers sports other than football. Hills offered no specifics on the cost of each deal although Henderson said the company “probably paid a little bit more to get those two packages but it was what we wanted.”

April 21, 2015

Playtech hire 600 global staff in Omni-channel push

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Playtech is adding a further 300 employees to its 4,000 strong global workforce in the next eight months as it prepares to undertake several large-scale omni-channel projects in the UK and emerging markets.

Playtech’s global headcount has grown by more than 600, or more than 20%, between January 2014 to March 2015 as a direct result of the company’s success and investment in Playtech ONE, the gaming industry’s leading omni-channel technology offering.

Playtech is currently concentrating its resources on several significant, soon-to-be-announced, global government and non-government omni-channel contracts. This has meant that a large number of developers, operational, product, IT and customer support staff specialists are required to ensure their successful delivery.

Sports betting will see the largest investment as part of the Playtech ONE strategic roadmap and is Playtech’s fastest growing product vertical. Ahead of a number of deals, and in order to strengthen support for existing sports-driven contracts, Playtech Sports has been reorganised with all omni-channel sports capabilities and technology efforts merged into, and operated as, one division. This gives customers one complete sports betting technology offering with full customer visibility across one system, all channels and all devices.

Playtech Sports will also be bolstered by a number of strategic bolt-on acquisitions with discussions currently ongoing, while in retail the team are in the latter stages of delivering a cutting-edge in-shop, EPOS management and registration system.

A large section of the current Licensed Betting Office (LBO) market uses legacy systems, however Playtech’s in-shop, cashier and SSBT retail management technology will enable it to deliver any, and every, element of a true omni-channel offering.

Playtech Sports offers state-of-the-art technology across all platforms and products. This includes back-end and front-end infrastructure and presentation layers, across any channel and any device. Its latest responsive and adaptive desktop and mobile solution has soft launched with Ladbrokes offering players the same view no matter on what device or screen size they play.

Coral Connect, Playtech’s pioneering omni-channel solution has been one of the industry’s biggest success stories since being rolled out a year ago across more than 1,800 nationwide shop estate, online and mobile. The operator has signed more than 200,000 new omni-channel Connect customers in 12 months.

April 16, 2015

Pinnacle Sports confirms Magnus Hedman as majority shareholder

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Touchbet ltd owner Magnus Hedman has been confirmed as the majority buyer of Pinnacle Sports, as his new enterprise looks to extend its presence within the European sports betting market.

Pinnacle Sports CEO Paris Smith revealed to industry news source EGR Magazine that Hedman had become the company’s majority shareholder. The CEO stated that the company felt no pressure to reveal its buyer, and that it had chosen to reveal Hedman at the appropriate time for its operations.

Smith has further credited Hedman with helping Pinnacle Sports’ gain it’s Malta Gaming Authority License. Pinnacle’s CEO said that she looked forward to working with Hedman who had big objectives for the operator.

Hedman who is the owner of B2B risk management supplier Touchbet, has further been identified as the majority buyer of UK spread betting firm Sporting Index for a reported £40 million from HgCapital.

The Sporting Index deal is pending approval from the Financial Conduct Authority. It is believed that Hedman beat-off competition from Betgenius and GVC Holdings for the acquisition of Sporting Index.

April 14, 2015

Dutch Minister promises movement on internet gambling regulation

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Following the resignation of Fred Teeven the former Nederland’s Secretary of State Justice in regard to allegations of misleading the parliament in a compensation claim in 2001 to a convicted drug trafficker the newly appointed replacement Klass DiJkhoff has promised to ensure that online gambling regulation and licensing will continue forward while he is in office.

Fred Teeven widely regarded as the creator of the Nederland’s online gambling bill retired following the allegations and fears amongst supporters for online gambling in the country were that it would now be stalled have be laid to rest following DiJkhoff’s announcement.

Speaking to Dutch media DiJkhoff stated that his office was committed to completing and processing the regulation of online gambling. The new secretary said that he supports all the provisions that have been put forward by his predecessor.

It is understood that some 200 online gambling operators have expressed interest in taking part in any legalised online gambling that is allowed in the country. Estimates say that over 1 million Dutch nationals play online with unregulated online gambling sites at present.