December 18, 2014

Czech Republic gambling operators brace for tax hikes

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Gambling operators in the Czech Republic could see their tax bills nearly double by 2016 if Finance Minister Andrej Babis (pictured) gets his way. Babis is set to present a new gambling tax proposal on Friday and a Czech newspaper reported that the plan includes rate hikes that would boost the government’s annual tax haul from CZK 8b (US $359m) to CZK 14b ($629m).

The newspaper claimed the current 20% tax on gross gaming revenue would be raised to between 30% and 40%, with fixed-odds sports betting coming in somewhere at the low end of that scale and slot machines at the high end. That’s on top of the 19% corporate tax that licensed gambling companies are required to ante up. The newspaper didn’t cite its sources for the figures and Babis declined to comment when queried by Reuters.

The Czech government is in the process of overhauling its gambling laws to allow online casino and lottery products in addition to sports betting. The legislation, which the government hopes to approve early in the new year, would also open the market up to international operators, although how many would find those tax rates appealing remains to be seen. The Czech Republic was one of several nations whose online gambling regimes were scolded by the European Commission last November as too restrictive.

The legislation is also intended to rein in the number of gaming machines currently entertaining gamblers in pubs, bars and other small-scale venues. There are currently 7.5 gaming machines for every 1,000 Czechs, twice the number in Slovakia and 25x the number in Austria.

On Monday, Czech national anti-drug coordinator Jindrich Voboril revealed that the government had approved a new national strategy that lumps gambling in with alcohol and drugs as targets for further restriction. The Ministry of Health has been tasked with preparing a plan of action by the end of March, which will remain in place until March 2019, after which the results will be evaluated and a new plan formulated.

December 17, 2014

Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen asked for a $50 million bribe from Fenerbahçe chairman Yıldırım

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Chairman of the Galatasaray Football Club, Duygun Yarsuvat has claimed that Pennsylvania-based imam Fethullah Gülen asked for a $50 million bribe from the former chairman of Fenerbahçe Football Club, Aziz Yıldırım, and after he refused, began the match-fixing which led Yıldırım to prison.

"Fethullah [Gülen] asked for $50 million from Aziz Yıldırım. Neither Aziz Yıldırım nor Fenerbahçe paid the money. A well-known process started after all of this. … This process has not ended yet," Galatasaray Chairman DoygunYarsuvat told Turkish daily Milliyet on Wednesday.

In the summer of 2011 a comprehensive investigation was launched into allegations of match fixing and organized crime networks in Turkish soccer circles. More than 60 people, including Fenerbahçe club chairman, Yıldırım, were taken into custody. On July 14, 2011, Hüseyin Gülerce, a senior journalist associated with the Gülen Movement, wrote about the match-fixing arrests in Today's Zaman, the English language version of Zaman daily. In an article titled, "Second breach in Ergenekon's fortress," Gülerce described the match-fixing investigation as part of a concerted attempt to destroy the same people who had been targeted in the Ergenekon investigation. "As they fail to understand that their resistance is futile, they will be eliminated faster," Gülerce predicted.

On July 2, 2012, Turkey's now defunct Specially Authorized Courts convicted and sentenced Yıldırım to six years and three months in prison for match fixing. On June 7, 2014, the newly assigned prosecutor of the match-fixing scandal demanded a retrial for Yıldırım from the 13th High Criminal Court, which is the newly assigned court for the match-fixing scandal. Immediately after his release from jail on July 2, 2013, he spoke to Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök and said that the Gülen Movement was responsible for all of these matters.

Furthermore, on January 20, 2014, Yıldırım claimed to The Wall Street Journal that the evidence of the match-fixing case was fake and unstable and that the Gülen Movement was behind it. "The match-fixing case was a political trial with a political verdict. I don't respect the decision of this judiciary," he said. He had been the head of Fenerbahçe since 1998 and won five Turkish league titles.

"Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his statement on December 17, said that a parallel structure exists. This parallel structure is run by Gülen and his community. All those prosecutors, judges and police officers were removed from office because they are Gülenists. … So, it means that all those operations in the past, including the one against us, were the work of the Gülen Movement. I cannot be sure now whether the Appeals Court judges [who upheld my sentence] are in the service of the parallel structure or the Republic of Turkey. The justice minister should make a statement to shed light on the situation," Yıldırım said.

On June 7, 2014, the newly assigned prosecutor of the match-fixing scandal demanded a retrial of the case, which was accepted by the court and will lead to all those convicted, including Yıldırım, to have a retrial.

Herrera denies match-fixing claim

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Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has denied being involved in a match-fixing scandal surrounding a Levante-Zaragoza game in 2011.

Anti-Corruption prosecutor Alejandro Luzon is claiming that €965,000 was paid to Levante players so they would lose the game, which the Aragones club won 2-1 and thus claimed the three points needed to avoid relegation.

However, Herrera, who is one of 41 players, Coaches and club officials named in the investigation, issued a statement via his Facebook account denying he had anything to do with rigging the game and helping his former club retain its top-flight status.

“In an on-going legal process involving Real Zaragoza (Spain), the club I was honoured to play with from 12 until 22 years of age, there are 41 people mentioned, of which I am one.

“I have never had and will never have anything to do with manipulating match results. If I am ever called to testify in any judicial hearing, I’ll be happy to attend, as my conscience is totally clear.

“I love football and I believe in fair play, both on and off the pitch,” it read.

December 12, 2014

Gambler wins case against Novomatic

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Novomatic have lost a court case involving a gambler who says he was not responsible for the huge losses he accumulated playing slot machines in Vienna.

A local court in Vienna ruled that the un-named gambler who lost a total of €800,000 over a 4 year period from 2006 to 2010 should have €400,000 of that amount paid back by the slot manufacturing giant.

The gamblers lawyers had the gambler take a psychiatric evaluation which supported his case that he was not responsible for the losses, the court agreed that his gambling ”contracts” for the period should be annulled.

“Unlike in casinos, it’s not possible in Vienna to ban somebody from a slot machine room. And you find these machines in many places, including petrol stations,” the gambler’s lawyer Christoph Naske told AFP.

Novomatic which operates the slot machines has appealed the ruling.

Skrill adds 1-Tap to SBOBet verticals

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Online payment processor Skrill, today announces that it has integrated its 1-Tap payment system with SBOBET desktop and mobile verticals.

Skrill 1-Tap connects with Skrill’s Digital Wallet to offer quick and easy mobile payments to merchants and customers. By using Skrill 1-Tap, SBOBet customers can make payments in ‘one tap’ on any device, rather than having to repeatedly enter their login details or sensitive credit card information. Customers’ card details are securely saved after the initial payment made via Skrill, so the one tap functionality is enabled next time they log on to SBOBET.

Paul Barclay, VP of Gambling and FX, Skrill commented:“We developed Skrill 1-Tap following in-depth consumer research, so we are delighted to see this innovative solution quickly becoming the preferred option for mobile and desktop payments in the gaming sector. SBOBet customers can now make seamless payments in a secure way wherever and whenever they wish.

“The future is mobile and Skrill’s focus on innovation means we are able to meet customer’s changing needs, delivering an enhanced, more convenient experience and a product that suits them.”

Bill Mummery, Executive Director, SBOBet added: “Adoption of Skrill 1-Tap means a significant reduction of ‘friction’ for our customers when placing their bets. This is particularly important for in-play betting, which now forms a major part of our gaming activity. We have been particularly impressed by Skrill’s innovative technology-led approach to digital payments.”

December 11, 2014

ICSS and Sorbonne release match-fixing report

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A 700-page report into the manipulation of sports results has been released and is available for download.

The report is the result of a two-year long cooperation between the Sorbonne University in Paris, France and the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS), during which a total of more than 80 researchers and experts have been contributing to the report entitled 'Fighting against the Manipulation of Sports Competitions'.

According to the press release, the joint project initially set out to map the different forms of sports corruption and to provide a set of recommendations that sports’ stakeholders could use in their work against match-fixing. Match-fixing is an area whose recent developments are worrying, says the press release, with 300 to 700 sports events suspected of being fixed each year since 2010.

The report estimates that the yearly amount of bets is between 200 and 500 billion euro and that up to 80% of this amount is placed on illegal bets. The report also assesses that organised crime launder up to 140 billion dollars each year through sporting bets.

Although states are beginning to understand the scale of this threat, their tools to fight it vary a lot from nation to nation. But according to the report, it should be possible “to establish a classification of the countries according to their policy on sport integrity”, and “to measure their degree of implication and their responsiveness in the face of this scourge”.

The three most important recommendations to be found in the report are, according to Laurent Vidal, Director of the Sorbonne-ICSS Research Programme on Ethics and Sport Security:

  • The urgent need for an effective cooperation between all stakeholders without ulterior motives
  • The introduction of a subtle balance between the protection of public order, sport autonomy and the functioning of the markets of sports bets and sports spectacles
  • An uncompromising fight against organised crime and illegal bets

December 04, 2014

CVC takes control of £800m Sky Bet

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CVC Capital Partners is to spend a potential £720m to buy a controlling stake in online bookmaker Sky Bet. Under the agreement, Sky will receive £600m on completion of the deal, and further deferred and contingent payments of up to £120m, while Sky will retain an equity stake of 20% in Sky Bet, with which it has entered a long-term brand licence agreement.

The broadcaster said that the sale ‘crystallises value’ for Sky that has been created in Sky Bet, while the price represents a multiple of approximately 15x EBITDA for the 12 months ended 30 June 2014, reflecting Sky Bet’s record of strong growth and high cash generation.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “In the last ten years, we have successfully grown Sky Bet from a start-up to one of the leading online betting and gaming companies in the UK. This transaction will allow us to focus further on the substantial growth opportunities in our core international pay TV business while realising significant value for our shareholders.”

The acquisition includes Sky Bet, its sports betting business; Sky Vegas & Sky Casino, its casino gaming businesses, Sky Poker and Sky Bingo, and Oddschecker, the UK’s leading odds comparison site. The deal is subject to regulatory clearances in the UK and Ireland and is expected to be completed in the first three months of 2015.

The Sky Bet management team, under the leadership of managing director Richard Flint, will remain with the business under the new ownership structure with all Sky Bet’s employees moving across into the new entity. The business will remain headquartered in Leeds.

Flint said: “Over the last 7 years, Sky Bet has grown rapidly to become one of the UK’s leading online betting and gaming operators, achieved through the hard work of our employees and the valuable support of Sky and Sky Sports. Looking forward, we have exciting growth opportunities, both in the UK and internationally. Today’s transaction brings in CVC as a new majority investor who will support us in the exciting next phase of our development, and retains the benefits of Sky’s and Sky Sports’ continuing involvement. CVC brings a broad international network, has an excellent track record of building businesses, as well as valuable experience in the betting & gaming sector, through previous investments in companies such as William Hill and IG Group.”

Rob Lucas, managing partner of CVC, said: “We are delighted to have agreed to acquire a controlling stake in Sky Bet. Richard Flint and his team have built a fantastic business, which is a leader in the fast growing mobile and online, betting and gaming markets. The partnership between CVC and Sky will provide a strong platform to support SkyBet’s ongoing success at this exciting point in its development.”

Betradar enters Nigeria with 1960bet

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Betradar, supplier of sports and betting related data has announced the launch of its Live Channel products with Nigerian bookmaker 1960Bet. Betrader will roll out its Live Channel Retail across 5,000 stores by using a local satellite distribution provider and will implement the Live Channel Online into its sports betting website

In addition, 1960Bet has also signed up for Betradar’s Managed Trading Services, a new business concept that allows sports betting operators to externalise their labour intensive risk and liability management to Betradar’s proven industry expertise. Combined with the live streaming services Live Channel Retail and Live Channel Online, 1960Bet is strengthening its live betting offering significantly in retail outlets and on their website, to provide their clients with a new level of entertainment and bet stimulation.

1960Bet CEO, Dotun Ajegbile stated: “We at 1960Bet have had a strong and trusting relationship with Betradar since we launched in 2012, and the quality of their services have gone a long way in driving the growth of 1960Bet. We now look forward to taking advantage of the growing interest in live betting by rolling out the Betradar Live Channel in 5,000 of our 1960Bet shops and agents. Together with this,we have entrusted our day to day risk-management to the Betradar Managed Trading Service, and weare confident this is a great step forward in securing our future growth in the market.”

Sportradar’s Sales Director for the African region Gregory Parsons had this to add: “We are very pleased to see the Betradar Live Channel make its first entry into the Nigerian market with 1960Bet. We expect live betting to begin to gather significantly more traction in Africa in the very near future,particularly in Nigeria. 1960Bet will be looking to capitalize on this great opportunity by leveraging localsatellite distribution technology to make rapid and significant in-roads into the market. Through the
Betradar Managed Trading Services, we will now offer even more of a comprehensive range of meaningful, and growth-driving, services to 1960Bet and together we are very excited about what the future holds.”

December 03, 2014

Polish government threaten online gamblers

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The Polish government has issued a warning to online gamblers in the country that they could be prosecuted should they play online using offshore unregulated online operators. The announcement by the government is the first ever move to prosecute players instead of operators for unlicensed online gambling.

A statement on the website of the Ministry of Finance’s website says it has proof of more than 24,000 gamblers playing online within the country using unlicensed online gambling sites from outside the country. It also says they have started criminal investigations against some 1,100 players.

Polish gambling law states that any online operator wishing to offer services in the country must have their servers based in the country and have to carry the domain ending .pl.

It also states that all money transactions would have to run exclusively through Polish banks, with the tax rate was set at 12% for operators.

There have been many objections to the Polish regulations and the government has said it will consider in the future that operators only need to have a local branch not all the servers based in the country.

Richard Glynn steps down as Ladbrokes chief

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Ladbrokes today announced the departure of their Chief Executive Richard Glynn after almost a year of the axe hovering over the boss of the second largest UK bookmaker since investors threatened him with removal if results and business did not improve.

Mr Glynn joined the company in 2010 when he was poached from Sporting Index, however over the last two years with the rise of William Hill their main competitor in the online business Ladbrokes started making noises earlier this year with announcing that the football World Cup would decide the Chief Execs fate. Although results for the company were good for the summer overall it was not enough to keep Glynn in his role.

Peter Erskine, chairman of Ladbrokes said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Richard for his leadership of the company and his considerable achievements in delivering a new digital future for Ladbrokes. He has devoted enormous energy and dedication to securing the transformation of the company and the benefits of that work are beginning to be seen.”

“I have always said speculation comes with the turf and my focus is on what needs to be delivered,” said Mr Glynn in October when asked whether he had done enough to satisfy investors.

However, this morning Mr Glynn said that it was the “right time for Ladbrokes to identify my successor”.

It is understood that Mr Glynn has a bonus related pay structure worth £12 million when he leaves which he stated will be once the company has found a suitable replacement whether that be internal or external.