Category Archives: GVC Holdings

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.

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Bwin.ru 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 Bwin.ru, 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, Bwin.ru becomes the 15th officially approved online bookmaker to launch in Russia’s regulated market.

Digital Betting CEO Dmitry Sergeyev (pictured), who also serves as Bwin.ru’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, Bwin.ru 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 Bwin.ru punters will have to traipse down to their local Mobilnaya karta money transfer outlet to complete their transaction.

And just because Bwin.ru 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.

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