IPO SET THIS MONTH FOR ACCOR'S STAKE IN LUCIEN BARRIÈRE


French casino operator Lucien Barrière plans this month to list the 49 percent of the company owned by hotel group Accor in a move that would value the company at up to €702 million.

The company set a price range of €16.10 to €19.60 a share for the initial public offering after receiving approval from France’s AMF stock market regulator, according to a Reuters report.

The offer period was expected to close on September 29 and the price set on September 30. Talks with NYSE Euronext were due to begin October 1, the company said in a statement.

The IPO covers 15,227,587 existing shares in the company. The Desseigne-Barrière family will retain its 51 percent majority stake.

“This disposal is in line with Accor’s strategy to refocus on its hospitality business,” the hotel giant said in a statement. The move is also likely to enhance Accor’s efforts to cut its debt.

Lucien Barrière owns 37 casinos, 16 hotels and 131 restaurants and bars, including the famous Fouquet’s on the Champs Elysees in Paris. It had revenues of more than €1 billion last year.



ONLINE GAMBLING OUTSTRIPS FACEBOOK IN GROWTH IN UK


Online gambling grew faster in the UK last year than social networking sites such as Facebook.

According to data released by market research company Nielsen and reported in eGaming Review, an additional 3.2 million Brits visited online gambling sites last year, a 40 percent increase over the previous year, compared to the extra 2.2 million who accessed social networking sites such as Facebook.

Nielsen said nearly half of all online gamblers earned more than £30,000 per year. Middle-aged men predominated, but women represented 46 percent.

UK lottery giant Camelot also topped Nielsen’s chart of the fastest-growing companies online, increasing unique visitors by 4.4 million to 9.4 million between July 2009 and July 2010, an 88 percent increase.

Party Gaming ranked eighth on the list, increasing its customer base for Party Poker and Party Casino by 1.2 million to 1.9 million. Partypoker.com garnered an extra 870,000 visitors, increasing its audience by 174 percent.



NEW GAMBLING ACT SEEKS TO MODERNIZE INDUSTRY IN SPAIN



Spain’s Council of Ministers last month approved the draft of a new law to regulate all forms of gambling, especially newer technologies connected with remote gambling and related systems and software.

The legislation, known as the Gambling Act, is designed to enhance consumer protection and prevent crimes such as fraud and money laundering, according to Web portal Spanish Gaming News. It also includes a new tax regime for each type of game.

Significantly, the law will seek to modernize the current system by converting the Lotteries and Betting Agency of the State to a more entrepreneurial company and promote private-sector participation.

Ministers stressed at the press conference that although gaming regulation is a regional responsibility there is need for general rules to regulate the sector in areas that transcend local boundaries. For example, the law gives special emphasis to the protection of minors and responsible gambling and will also respond to the nearly 40,000 people who have voluntarily asked not to be allowed access to gambling. It also provides for the creation of new penalties for violations, with a view toward creating a single regulator similar to the current National Gaming Commission but with more representation from the autonomous communities.



SUN INTERNATIONAL NOTES CHALLENGES IN ANNUAL RESULTS


Revenue at South African casino giant Sun International declined 1 percent in the 2010 financial year.

Group revenue dropped to US$1 billion in the year ended June 30. But gaming revenue was in line with last year’s results at $843.5 million.

EBITDA was down 7 percent to $340.1 million, and the EBITDA margin decreased by 2.2 percent, which the company attributed to an increase in operating costs and lower revenues.

CEO David Coutts-Trotter said that while the popularity of Sun’s properties remains high and visitation is strong, spend per customer has declined across the board. Demand within the gaming and hospitality industries will remain weak in the year ahead, he said.





HUNGARY'S OPERATORS WANT PROTECTION FROM FOREIGN SITES


A trade group representing Hungary’s gambling operators is calling for regulations to keep foreign casino and poker Web sites out of the country.

Technically, it is illegal in Hungary to bet on a foreign Web site, but many Hungarians ignore the prohibition, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 regular users a year, a situation the trade group says is costing government more than US$60 million annually in lost revenues, according to a recent report in the daily Nepszava.

The position of the group is that gambling must remain a state monopoly, a situation they say is supported by EU convention.

The association has proposed also that only Hungarian companies with local management and in business for at least 10 years should be allowed to operate gambling services.



FIRST POKER NETWORK COMES TO FRANCE


Prima Networks and 888 Holdings have launched a joint-venture online poker network in France.

The network will host the first regulator-approved licensee, former state monopoly lottery operator La Société Française de Jeux. La Société Française de Jeux sur Internet, as the new entity is known, is a consortium of 40 of the country’s independent land-based casinos doing business as 200% Poker.

“We have proven that forming the right relationships in key markets is crucial, and we are fortunate to have the right team behind us to ensure we are able to provide exceptional service to operators,” said Loraine Schoevers, director of Prima Networks.

Prima Networks is powered by Microgaming Software Systems and is also AAMS certified to offer poker and bingo in Italy. The company also operates in Estonia.



BIG BOOKMAKERS EXPRESS INTEREST IN PENDING TOTE SALE<



The British government will try once more to sell state-owned bookmaker The Tote.

Unloading the company, which takes bets on horseracing, football and other sports, is part of a wider sale of government assets designed to help the new Conservative government deal with a gaping budget deficit.

Poor market conditions were blamed for the previous Labour government’s decision to cancel a sale. The Tote was thought to be worth upwards of £300 million at the time.

Betting giants Paddy Power and Ladbrokes have previously said they could be interested. William Hill more recently has expressed an interest as well.

Addressing current competition rules that might prevent a sale to Hills, Chief Executive Ralph Topping said, “We believe that the Office of Fair Trading needs to revisit the archaic competition tests which have looked at the market in terms of betting shops - the true market is a global one that includes online and betting exchanges.

He added, “We would be disappointed if the ‘open market’ sale was burdened with any onerous preconditions which might reduce the sale value of the Tote.”

Hills grew net revenue by 3 percent the first half of 2010, boosted by its “best ever” World Cup and a strong results from its online operations, the company said.

Net revenue rose to US$817.7 from $795.5 million in the first half of 2009, while William Hill Online enjoyed a robust 24 percent increase across all products, topping $191 million.

Bingo (up 52 percent to $15.4 million) and casino revenues (up 8 percent to $101.6 million) did well in the first half. Poker revenues, however,  suffered from a “seasonal decline,” down 5 percent to $16.3 million compared to last year, the company said.

Retail net revenue fell 1 percent to $601.5 million, with “outstanding football World Cup” results offset by “poor horseracing results”.