STRONG FIRST HALF SEES LOTTOMATICA'S REVENUES UP 18 PERCENT TO €1.1B.

Strong growth in its sports betting, gaming solutions and interactive business segments, particularly in its home market of Italy, lifted Lottomatica to first-half revenues of €1.1 billion, an 18.4 percent increase year-on-year.

The company achieved EBITDA of €430.6 million during the period with a 4.5 percent increase in operating income to €261.3 million.

Lottery contributed revenues of €766.6 million, up 7.2 percent year-on-year. Gaming solutions’ contribution was up 60.3 percent to €137.4 million. Sports betting enjoyed a 37.1 percent increase in revenues to €96.4 million. The interactive segment - consisting of Boss Media, St. Minver, Finsoft and Dynamite Idea - was up 247.7 percent to €52.1 million. Commercial services contributed €46.2 million in revenues, up 10.7 percent year-on-year.

“Governments are seeking increased revenues from gaming, and we have positioned Lottomatica Group to take advantage of these expanded opportunities across our worldwide customer base and particularly in Italy,” said CEO Marco Sala. “We are also seeing the positive impact of our investments in new delivery channels and games. All in all, we had a good first half, and are encouraged by our prospects for the second half of the year.”

The company also said it has entered into a memorandum of understanding to participate in bidding for the Italian Scratch and Win lottery concession.



LADBROKES JOINS HILLS IN EXODUS FROM BRITAIN

Bookmaking giant Ladbrokes confirmed that it will join rival William Hill in relocating its online gambling operations from Britain to Gibraltar in a move that will cost the UK Treasury millions of pounds.

The company confirmed this morning that it will defy a “gentlemen’s agreement” to keep running its Internet operations in the UK. Chief Executive Christopher Bell blamed “intense competitive pressures” for the decision, which industry experts said was inevitable following an earlier decision to relocate out of the country.

“Operating from the UK has become unsustainable and we will relocate by the year end,” Bell said in a statement.

Ladbrokes also admitted that trading has become tougher since May, with less money being wagered at its high street shops. Pre-tax profits for the first half of the year fell by 3.9 percent to £131.3 million. Ladbrokes said it was cutting its interim dividend by almost a third to 3.5 pence, but said it still expects to meet City expectations.

The company did not reveal how much it expects to save through the move but said it would “materially improve the competitiveness and operating margin” of its e-gaming business.

Analysts have estimated that William Hill will save upwards of £7 million a year through its offshore shift.

In 2001, UK bookmakers agreed to move their Web gambling operations back to Britain in return for the government abolishing a levy on bets.



ONLINE GAMBLING NEXT ON RUSSIA'S HIT LIST

Sergei Mironov, speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, has called for a crackdown on Web gambling in the country.

“Our next task is to drive gambling businesses out of the Internet,” Mironov said, according to a report by ITAR-TASS.

Mironov claimed the online industry has been booming since land-based casinos were banned from major population centers beginning July 1.

Under a federal law signed in 2006, all gambling establishments in Russia were to be restricted to four gambling zones starting on July 1. The zones were expected to be located in the Altai, Primorsky and Kaliningrad regions and along the border of the Krasnodar and Rostov regions. However, regional authorities failed to prepare the zones by the deadline, triggering uncertainty over the future of the Russian gambling industry.

“The gambling restrictions are a test for our state’s strength,” Mironov said. “If we waver and condone gambling businesses’ attempts to find all possible loopholes, all our achievements in strengthening the state that we were so proud of are useless.”

The Federation Council is the Russian parliament’s upper house.



DUTCH POKER MONOPOLY UNDER MINISTRY REVIEW

Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin wants to increase the number of places where people can legally play poker for money in the Netherlands in an effort to meet growing demand and reduce illegal gambling.

According to research, around 575,000 Dutch citizens, mainly men aged between 15 and 34, play poker illegally, either on the Internet or elsewhere. This could be because they live too far from a Holland Casino property or because they prefer smaller venues such as cafes.

In response, Ballin said in a recent letter to parliament that he wants to experiment with allowing venues other than state-owned Holland Casino to run the games. Currently, Holland Casino has a monopoly on the poker market.

Under the new scheme, Holland Casino will work with the ministry on setting up local poker facilities on an experimental basis. Holland Casino could, for example, set up a poker table within other existing gambling halls.



ITS ONLINE HOPES BUSTED, SPORTINGBET OUT OF ITALY

Sportingbet has sold its SportingBet Italia online division to an Italian management team for a “nominal consideration”.

The London-based bookmaker acquired SportingBet Italia in 2006 in anticipation of a major liberalization of the Italian online gambling market. The company said it had expected an increase in the maximum payout from 10,000, a relaxation of the stipulation to use specific software, and the provision of in-running betting. These changes did not materialize. Instead, the Italian government focused on land-based betting, tendering more than 13,500 competing shop-based licenses.

“Consequently, the combination of this new alternative channel for the Italian customer, together with the lack of operational synergies with the rest of the group’s European business, has meant SportingBet Italia has been loss-making since acquisition,” the company said.

SportingBet Italia generated wagers of US$23 million for the first 11 months of the current financial year, revenues of $3.3 million and an operational loss of $2.5 million.



THREE SUBMIT BIDS FOR CASINO IN MALTA

Three companies, including the current operators, have submitted bids to run the Dragonara Casino in Malta.

Submissions were made by Dragonara Casino Ltd., Tomino Ltd. and a consortium known as Novomatic Peninsula.

The island’s Department of Information said the government is seeking applications from bidders experienced in casino management to make a substantial capital investment in the refurbishment, upgrading and modernization of the property.

“The Government also aims to ensure that the Dragonara Casino will provide an upscale and unique gaming experience, backed-up by leading-edge gaming equipment and technology and excellent customer service,” the department said.



ESTONIA SETS UP RULES FOR WEB GAMBLING

Estonia’s parliament has passed regulations governing the operation of online casinos in the country.

The Estonia Gambling Act, scheduled to take effect in the new year, recognizes the licenses of Internet gaming operators based in other EU countries, but it requires one of several options to permit legal operation in Estonia: for example, foreign operators will be required to apply for a license, but those already licensed elsewhere also may subcontract with a licensed state operator. For unlicensed operators without an Estonian partnership, Internet service providers will be required to block access if it is determined a site is operating illegally. Money transfers with that entity also would be forbidden.

To obtain a license companies must show themselves to be properly incorporated and capitalized and must submit to background checks. Online casinos must have age verification and responsible gaming programs in place.

Finally, the law requires that servers determining game results must be on Estonian land and accessible to regulators or independent auditors.