Category Archives: Business

PokerStars, GVC, Paddy Power Betfair join US casino lobby

american-gaming-association-pokerstars-stars-groupAmerica’s top casino lobby group has welcomed six new members, including a company the group once called “a business built on deceit, chicanery and the systematic flouting of US law.”

On Thursday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced that it had added six new companies as Board-level members, including BMM Testlabs, Oklahoma-based tribal casino operator Choctaw Casinos and Resorts, Nevada’s Golden Entertainment, UK-listed operators GVC Holdings and Paddy Power Betfair, as well as The Stars Group, parent company of PokerStars.

AGA president/CEO Geoff Freeman said the newly “diverse membership reflects the interest of the casino gaming industry.” Freeman said the addition of these six “industry leaders” would allow the AGA to better serve as “an effective advocate for the industry as a whole.”

The AGA announcement is proof that, if you wait long enough, the world eventually turns on its head. In 2013, the AGA actively campaigned against PokerStars being issued a New Jersey online gambling license, marking the first time the lobby group had ever felt the need to intervene in a licensing process.

Stars, then under its original ownership, had sought to participate in New Jersey’s regulated online market after reaching a $731m settlement with the US Department of Justice to resolve its civil liabilities stemming from the 2011 ‘Black Friday’ online poker indictments.

That settlement stated that the DOJ saw no legal reason why Stars should be excluded from future participation in US regulated markets. But the AGA insisted at the time that the settlement hadn’t “altered in any way” the rank odor of criminality wafting off the Stars brand.

To be fair, the AGA was then under the command of Frank Fahrenkopf, who handed the reins of power to Freeman just one month after making those pejorative comments toward Stars. But it does vividly illustrate how much the US gambling landscape has changed since those days.

PokerStars did eventually get licensed in New Jersey (as did GVC Holdings’ PartyPoker brand) and the AGA has since reversed itself on a number of other positions, including its recent support for overturning the federal ban on single-game sports betting outside Nevada.

The AGA’s welcoming of online gambling operators into the fold will almost certainly revive concerns that Las Vegas Sands will withdraw its membership from the AGA. Sands boss Sheldon Adelson, who hates online gambling the way Donald Trump’s hair hates gusts of wind, previously threatened to withdraw his financial suppport unless the AGA reversed its position advocating for online legalization, which prompted the AGA to knuckle under.


Source link

Betfair Australasia begs Aussie states for tax relief

betfair-australasia-tax-relief-pleaBetfair Australasia is warning Australian state governments that their plans to impose online betting point of consumption taxes (POCT) are going to blow up in their faces.

On Friday, the Brisbane Times disclosed the existence of a report prepared by the Betfair Australasia betting exchange urging the state governments in South Australia and Western Australia to rethink their decision to impose a 15% tax on all online wagers placed by their states’ residents.

South Australia began collecting its POCT last July, while Western Australia’s new tax is set to take effect on January 1, 2019. Australia’s federal government is also mulling imposing a national POCT in order to harmonize the country’s online taxation system.

Betfair Australasia, which is owned by casino operator Crown Resorts and licensed in the Northern Territory, warned the states that the tax hikes would force it to hike its own commission fees, which will cause “leakage” of its customers to internationally licensed online gambling sites that aren’t subject to the states’ tax grab.

Betfair CEO Tim Moore-Barton claimed to have endured numerous instances of high-volume bettors who shifted their action off his site in response to previous fee increases and in search of better value for their wagering dollar.

Moore-Barton further claimed that this leakage will not only reduce his company’s revenue – which will in turn reduce both the states’ tax take and contributions to racing bodies – but will also create an integrity “black hole” through the inability of state gaming regulators to monitor real-time betting data for suspicious patterns.

As ever, the Philippine-licensed CITIbet betting exchange was singled out in the report as the most likely beneficiary of customers forced off Betfair by fee hikes. CITIbet is often cited as the bête noire of Australian betting operators and racing stakeholders.

Other NT-licensed Australian online wagering sites will also struggle under the weight of the new taxes, possibly leading to a wave of down under consolidation. William Hill recently put its Australian operations under review, citing the POCT as well as new restrictions on both online in-play and credit betting.

Betfair Australasia’s future is marked by other uncertainties, including how long its owner Crown intends to keep it in the fold. In December, Crown announced it was selling its 62% stake in the CrownBet online betting site, part of Crown’s ongoing effort to reduce the scope of its operations to just its domestic resorts.

The CrownBet sale reduced Crown’s digital division to just Betfair and a Texas-based social gaming operation, neither of which seems to qualify as a land-based casino.


Source link

Saudi Arabia to host first card-playing contest for cash prizes

saudi-arabia-card-contest-cash-prizesSaudi Arabians are simultaneously celebrating and bemoaning their government’s decision to hold the deeply conservative country’s first national card-playing tournament for cash prizes.

Last Thursday, the official Twitter feed of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority (GSA) announced that the country would hold its first card-playing national competition for cash prizes from April 4-8 at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in the nation’s capital Riyadh.

The contest, which will be overseen by the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, will be centered around Baloot, a wildly popular local trick card game with similarities to the French game Belote. Baloot is also available on multiple Android and iOS mobile apps, some of which are among the top game apps in Saudi Arabia.

The top four finishers of the contest will share a total prize purse of SR1m (US$270k), half of which will go to the overall winner. Many observers expressed surprise at the amount of the prizes, given the lack of precedent for the contest.

Predictably, news of the tournament has delighted the nation’s Baloot fans while enraging social conservatives, some of whom view even the game of chess as a waste of time that promotes forbidden gambling activity.

Those conservatives should brace themselves for even greater outrage, as one veteran Baloot player told Arab News that he expects women to take part in the contest. Assuming that’s allowed, it would mark another bold step forward for Saudi women, who will finally be allowed to drive cars starting this June.

The end to the female driving ban is part of crown prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program, which aims to reshape the national economy to create a more modern and secular country. Just this weekend, the government announced that women would be allowed to start their own businesses without the permission of a male guardian.

It remains to be seen whether the prince is pushing too hard on the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Many of the Twitter comments criticizing the Baloot contest half-joked that it wouldn’t be long before Riyadh started to resemble another desert city – Las Vegas – through the addition of casino gambling.


Source link

Delaware’s iGaming suffers double-digit decline in 2017

delaware-igaming-declineDelaware’s regulated online gambling market suffered a double-digit decline in 2017, reversing 2016’s double-digit gains.

Official figures filed by the Delaware Lottery show the state’s three gaming operators licensed to take online casino and poker action – Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway – earned combined online gambling revenue of just under $2.4m in 2017, down 18% from 2016’s total.

The state’s annual revenue is essentially a rounding error for many gambling markets, but such is the glacial state of US online gambling legalization that there are still only three active intrastate markets, so it is worth mentioning, if only to provide counterweight to New Jersey’s 2017 haul of $245m.

Video lottery games (slots to the rest of us) provided the bulk of the year’s iGaming revenue, but its $1.57m revenue was 10% below 2016’s $1.75m slots total. It was a similarly sad story for table games, which earned just under $559k last year, down 28% from $777k in 2016.

Leave it to poker to grab the most garish headline. Annual poker revenue hit a whopping $231k in 2017, down 38% from 2016’s $376k, possibly because one of the state’s 15 active players lost his phone or something. Bottom line, those plans to pool liquidity between New Jersey’s much larger (but similarly struggling) online poker sites and those of Delaware and Nevada can’t come soon enough.

Delaware launched its intrastate online gambling market in 2013, and while its population of less than 1m meant it was never going to produce mind-boggling revenue numbers, it at least appeared to be heading in the right direction. For instance, the 2016 annual haul was 62% higher than 2015’s result and represented a new record for the state.

The Delaware Lottery isn’t scheduled to release its final sports lottery numbers – which essentially dovetail with National Football League activity – until next month. However, the comparable figures available for the first three months of each season indicate that the state is well on its way toward exceeding last year’s total. Always leave on a high note, as they say.


Source link

Kenyan betting operators lose court challenge of new 35% tax

kenya-betting-tax-challenge-dismissedKenya’s betting operators will have to face their new 35% tax obligations after a court dismissed a challenge of the government’s tax hike.

Kenya’s government approved a new uniform 35% tax on all gambling products this summer, despite protests from operators that the new rate made their businesses unviable. The new rate, which kicks in on January 1, 2018, marks a significant rise over the existing rates, which for betting operators had been a mere 7.5%.

In October, the Pambazuka National Lottery filed a lawsuit alleging that the tax hike was unconstitutional., given that parliament approved the hike as an item in the national budget, rather than subjecting standalone legislation to greater public scrutiny.

The suit also accused President Uhuru Kenyatta of exceeding his authority in signing the legislation, and argued that the tax imposed an unreasonable and excessive burden on the industry.

On Thursday, Kenya’s High Court rejected the challenge, saying it was within the National Assembly’s authority to approve the budget without the Senate’s involvement. The Court similarly ruled that Kenyatta had acted according to the law and that the challengers had failed to prove that the new tax lacks a public purpose.

The government justified its tax hike as a means to deter youth from getting involved in gambling. Kenyan-licensed operators countered that the new tax will ultimately be passed onto bettors, who will then transfer their betting activity to internationally licensed betting operators, thereby decreasing the government’s share of betting revenue and eliminating the government’s ability to oversee betting activity.

Justice John Mativo described taxation as “a way of apportioning the cost of government among those who in some measure are privileged to enjoy its benefits hence must bear its burdens … its imposition does not necessarily infringe on the citizens’ rights unless it is demonstrated to be outrightly arbitrary and unconstitutional.”

The Court also chided the appellants for failing to disclose that the law was the subject of a separate challenge. SportPesa filed the first lawsuit against the law in October, one week before the PNL suit.

While the suits were later consolidated into a single proceeding, Mativo claimed the “multiplicity of actions on the same matter between the same parties” was “regarded as an abuse,” since the parties “had a duty to bring such information to the court so as to help it avoid rendering conflicting decisions on the same subject.”

SportPesa is Kenya’s leading betting operator and a major financial supporter of local sports teams and associations. The company previously warned that it would be compelled to significantly reduce its sponsorship budget if the new tax was imposed. SportPesa also threatened to scrap its entire Kenyan operations if the tax went through, although it later walked back these threats. The company has yet to publicly comment on the ruling.


Source link

Delaware silently preparing for US sports betting D-day

Aside from New Jersey, other states are gearing up to cash in on legalized sports betting, assuming the U.S. Supreme Court decides to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Professional Act of 1992 (PASPA).

Delaware silently preparing for US sports betting D-dayDelaware is preparing to roll out its professional and out-of-state college sports betting offerings should the high court decide in favor of New Jersey’s petition, Delaware Online reported.

State Finance Director Rick Geisenberger said Delaware may be able to introduce single-game betting on professional sports within weeks after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, which could come as early as June.

At the moment, Delaware’s offerings are limited to parlays or multi-game betting on football.

“If we can get to market faster than some of our neighbors there could be some real upside,” Geisenberger said, according to the news outlet. “We’re working to roll it out as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, state lottery director Vernon Kirk said the tentative plan of the Delaware Gov. John Carney’s administration is to initially confine betting on NFL, NBA, NHL, major league baseball and out-of-state college sports teams to the state’s three casinos.

Unlike New Jersey, Delaware doesn’t need legislative action to begin offering sports betting since the state is one of the four states exempted from the 1992 nationwide ban on sports gambling.

Kirk, however, said they will let their lawyers have a second look at the law even though they believe that the state “doesn’t need to return to the [General Assembly to institute full scale sports betting].”

If the Carney administration’s plan pushes through, sports betting will provide a much needed financial boost to the struggling Delaware Park, Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, and Harrington Raceway, according to the report.

New Jersey wants to allow sports gambling at its casinos and race tracks, and to collect taxes from it. At least 10 other states say they’re ready to allow sports betting if New Jersey wins.

The push for legal sports betting in the United States received a boost during an early December hearing after a majority of the Supreme Court justices appeared to agree with New Jersey that PASPA violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection of state’s rights.


Source link

Brazil senate committee delays gambling vote (again)

brazil-online-gambling-legislation-delayBrazil’s agonizingly slow path to liberalizing its gambling market took yet another detour to Tardy Town this week, but politicians promised that forward progress is just around the corner.

On Wednesday, the Constitutionality and Justice Committee (CCJ) was scheduled to vote on PLS 186/2014, the Senate’s version of the perennially delayed gambling legislation that has been trying to drag Brazil’s market into the 21st century for several years now.

However, in the days before Wednesday’s vote, several senators put forward controversial new amendments, including one that would require gaming operators to enter into partnerships in which local companies would hold at least a 30% stake, while another amendment proposed a blanket 30% tax on all land-based and online gambling revenue.

Thankfully, neither of those amendments appear to have been incorporated into the bill, although the CCJ did agree to include a prohibition on slots and video bingo machines outside of casinos, while also handing control of the jogos do bicho (animal game lottery) to the federal government rather than the individual states.

Due to the revisions to the legislation, the CCJ postponed its vote on PLS 186/2014 due to the need to hold a hearing to discuss the amended text. The CCJ now intends to vote on the revised bill next Wednesday (13), although it should be noted that this Wednesday’s scheduled vote was itself delayed from the previous Wednesday.

It’s unclear whether the legislation has the 14 votes needed to clear the 27-member CCJ, with at least 12 votes said to be firmly in the ‘no’ camp. While a negative vote next Wednesday wouldn’t necessary spell the death of the bill, it would inject further delays into an already drawn-out process.

The Chamber of Deputies has its own gambling bill, PL 442/91, and the recent establishment of a pro-gaming parliamentary front indicates there is sufficient support to pass their bill if they just schedule a damn vote. Brazil’s President Michel Temer has indicated he’s prepared to sign gambling legislation into law assuming it ever reaches his desk.

In the meantime, international gambling operators will go on salivating at the thought of accessing Brazil’s massive market. Last month, the Remote Gambling Association released a KPMG report that claimed Brazil’s regulated online gambling market could generate annual revenue of R6.7b (US $2.1b), putting it second only to the UK in terms of scale. That is, assuming Brazil’s politicians finally succeed in pushing this lame runner across the finish line.


Source link launch brings first int’l online betting brand to Russia

bwin-russia-online-betting-sergeyevGVC Holdings’ flagship betting brand Bwin has gone live in Russia, marking the first entry of a western bookmaker into the country’s licensed online betting market.

This week witnessed the launch of, the joint venture of GVC Holdings, Russian-licensed bookmaker Digital Betting LLC and online technology firm Rambler & Co. The latter two firms are controlled by A&NN Investments, which is owned by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.

The launch was somewhat overdue, coming over five months after the joint venture plans were first announced, and the company originally targeted a September launch, which was later pushed back to October, and eventually to November. Regardless, becomes the 15th officially approved online bookmaker to launch in Russia’s regulated market.

Digital Betting CEO Dmitry Sergeyev (pictured), who also serves as’s CEO, has set a goal of capturing 10% of Russia’s online betting market within three years. The deep-pocketed Mamut has promised to spend up to €10m per year boosting awareness of Bwin’s Russian site.

As with all Russian online bookmakers, customers will have to register both via the site and with a TSUPIS online payments hub. Digital Betting belongs to the First Self-Regulatory Organization of Russian Bookmakers, and all First SRO members funnel their payments through the First TSUPIS hub.

The registration process involves both online registration and physically presenting one’s identity documents at a retail venue. Digital Betting lacks a retail bookmaking presence, so punters will have to traipse down to their local Mobilnaya karta money transfer outlet to complete their transaction.

And just because got the green light from Russian regulators doesn’t mean other Bwin domains are welcome in Russia’s ring-fenced betting-only (no casino, no poker) market. In June, the Roskomnadzor telecom watchdog had blacklisted 118 Bwin-related domains. As of Tuesday, that number had risen to 126.

Russia’s parliament is currently mulling legislation that would clamp down on financial institutions processing payments for unauthorized online gambling operators. Last week, Sergeyev told Bookmaker-Ratings that the legislation was “a good bill” but he wondered if unauthorized operators “will find options for circumventing” its restrictions.

Sergeyev said much will depend on how the Federal Tax Service monitors and updates its funding blacklist. Russia blacklists over 1,500 gambling domains every week, a system that even Russia’s Communications Minister says is “not viable,” and Sergeyev has concerns that bookies will similarly shift their funding through different companies to evade the financial censors.


Source link

OPAP revenue jumps as pace of VLT rollout accelerates

opap-vlt-revenueGreek betting and lottery operator OPAP reported double-digit revenue gains in Q3 on strong growth in its betting and expanded video lottery terminal (VLT) divisions.

On Tuesday, OPAP reported that its revenue in the three months ending September 30 was up 12% year-on-year to €357.4m, while earnings shot up 49% to €93m and net income rose nearly two-thirds to over €48m.

It’s worth nothing that the earnings figure got a wind-assisted boost from a €14.7m reversal of litigation provisions, while Q3 2016 also suffered from €6.4m in one-off VLT arbitration-related costs. Absent those factors, earnings were up a more modest 13.6% to €78m. Similarly, adjusted net profits came in at €37.6m.

Delving deeper into the revenue numbers, OPAP’s betting revenue was up 21.4% to €112.3m in Q3, thanks in part to the ongoing deployment of its new self-service betting terminals (SSBT). The company’s virtual sports products were also credited with having a particularly strong quarter.

The mainstay lottery segment reported a modest 1.7% revenue gain to €193.9m while the Instant & Passive segment saw revenue fall 3% to just under €34.9m.

OPAP’s new VLT segment contributed nearly €16.3m, bringing the segment’s year-to-date contribution to €25.6m. OPAP had an installed VLT base of just under 5,300 at the end of Q3, up from 3,031 at the end of Q2.

OPAP says the pace of the VLT rollout has picked up in Q4 to date, with over 7k operational units as of November 15. The company expects to have around 10k VLTs in place by the end of the year.

On Tuesday, the Greek parliament approved legislation that will cap the total number of VLTs at 25k, a reduction of 10k from what OPAP was originally promised. To compensate, the new legislation frees OPAP from the requirement of subcontracting out a portion of its VLT business while also extending OPAP’s betting license by a further eight years.

Greek legislators have also promised to address two other gaming industry issues before the year is through. One bill would overhaul Greece’s land-based casino market, authorizing the relocation of the Regency Casino from its current spot on Mont Parnes while reducing casino gaming revenue taxes to something more compatible with operator profits.

The other piece of legislation would finally implement long-promised changes to online gambling regulations. The changes would include formal licensing of international operators, but questions remain as to whether the tax rates will be reduced to a level that would entice operators to submit applications.


Source link

Bank of America – Merrill Lynch: Time to bet on William Hill

It’s the time of the year for window dressing and the folks over at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (Merrill) are suggesting that the stocks of British bookmaker William Hill are already ripe for plucking.

Bank of America – Merrill Lynch: Time to bet on William HillThe international financial investment institution has given the stocks of William Hill a “buy” rating from “underperform,” its biggest upgrade in more than three months that helped propel it toward the top of the FTSE 250, according to The Evening Standard.

Most investors are wary of making a bet not only on William Hill but also on other bookies, especially after the British government launched a crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBTs).

The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is conducting its 12-week consultation on the sector and investors expressed fears that a potential reduction in maximum stakes to just £2 will cost the industry as much as £639 million a year and a whopping £5.5 billion over 10 years.

Merrill, however, urges investors to look way beyond the DCMS consultation since Hills’ shares have already priced in the worst-case scenario of a £2-per-spin cap on roulette machines.

The brokerage firm told investors to focus on the developments in the U.S., where the issue of the federal sports betting ban will now be tackled by the Supreme Court.

At this moment, only Nevada is allowed to offer single-game sports betting. The ban is currently being challenged by New Jersey before the high tribunal.

Should DCMS decide to impose a £2 cap on FOBTs, Merrill pointed out that the U.S. market could offer William Hill a lifeline. The financial investment firm pointed out that William Hill dominate sports betting in Nevada with a 55 percent share of the market and this will grow even bigger if the Supreme Court decides in favor of New Jersey.

“Even if William Hill lost market share it could prove to be a very large driver of growth,” the brokerage firm said.


Source link