German court upholds betting monopoly...and more EMEA news



GERMAN COURT UPHOLDS BETTING MONOPOLY

In a blow to the EU’s online free-marketeers, Germany’s Oddset sports-betting monopoly was upheld in an interim ruling by the country’s Federal Constitutional Court.

The court rejected the request of a betting shop operator for an emergency ruling, saying a “preliminary” assessment doesn’t indicate the monopoly is unconstitutional. The plaintiff had asked to be allowed to accept bets while a lawsuit against the monopoly restrictions is pending in a lower court. The state of Lower Saxony ordered him in 2005 to stop taking bets offered by a Malta-based gambling company.

“The new sports-betting rules have mended the deficits of the old monopoly,” the court declared, adding that the monopoly is constructed in a “consistent manner both in terms of law and fact to prevent gambling addiction.”

The impact of the ruling - typical of the conflicting and sometimes contradictory rulings issued by national courts in the ongoing battle between protectionist governments and pro-market advocates and their supporters in the European Commission - was uncertain. The same court in 2006 struck down the old monopoly, saying the rules were inconsistent. Germany’s 16 states then agreed on a new interstate treaty that restored the monopoly and banned foreign sites at the beginning of 2008.

A decision in the Lower Saxony suit was still pending last month in the country’s Federal Administrative Court.

SIX FOOTBALLERS CHARGED IN UK BETTING SCANDAL

An investigation in Britain has led to charges against five football players who allegedly bet thousands of pounds on matches involving their teams.

The Football Association, the sport’s governing body, had not brought match-fixing charges against the League Two players, but they could face lengthy suspensions and possibly lifetime bans if they are found guilty, according to a report in The Independent.

Five players were charged in connection with the 2007-08 season-ending match between Accrington and Bury. Four of the Accrington players allegedly bet on their club to lose. A Bury player allegedly bet on his club to win, which it did, 2-0.

The FA was alerted after bookmakers in the northwest reported unusual betting patterns leading up to the match, with higher than usual amounts being staked in particular areas of the country.

Two of the players also face charges in connection with other matches.

A sixth player, who was on Accrington’s roster at the time of the Bury game, was charged with failure to provide the FA with information requested during the investigation.

INTRALOT FLOURISHES IN '08: REVENUES TOP €1 BILLION

Intralot reported adjusted pre-tax earnings of €218.5 million for 2008 on a 28.9 percent increase in revenues to €1.07 billion.

Revenues for the parent company of the Greece-based lottery giant were up 12.5 percent to €198.1 million, resulting in €27.7 million in EBITDA.

The company said its board of directors would propose a dividend at the annual meeting this month of €0.22 per share, double the interim dividend paid in late 2008.

“In this very tough environment Intralot managed to grow its top line, which was due to the investments the company has made in the previous years and the promising prospects of the gaming industry in general,” said CEO Constantinos Antonopoulos. “We believe that this crisis will create new opportunities in the gaming industry as governments are looking for ways to fund their budget deficits and to contract illegal gaming.”

The company had €305.4 million in cash at the end of the year. Long- and short-term debt totaled €507.2 million.

POKER IN PORTUGAL GETS BIG TV BOOST

The Poker Channel has sealed new distribution agreements in Portugal with MEO and the largest digital cable network operator in the country, ZON.

Broadcasts will be available 24 hours a day to subscribers of both networks and will include: a “how-to” called Cash Game Master Class, the high-stakes Pokerheaven European Cash Game with featured professionals including World Series of Poker winner Peter Eastgate and action from the WSOP and the World Poker Tour.

Earlier this year The Poker Channel expanded into Eastern Europe, launching in Poland with the Vectra Group. It is now available in 18 European markets and claims almost 1 million unique viewers per month across the continent.

FRENCH PORTAL LAUNCHES IN BRITAIN WITH ÃäLAN

One of France’s leading casino and hotel operators is rolling out a massive advertising and marketing campaign in the UK to promote its new online gambling portal.

Lucien Barrière’s elegant Deauville casino is the model for the three-dimensional Web offering, LeCroupier.com, which allows players to adopt virtual characters for themselves from avatars available in the site’s “Dressing Room” before trying their luck at table games and slots designed as replicas of those on offer at the famed resort on the English Channel.

According to a report in iGaming Business, Lucien Barrière has budgeted a seven-figure sum to promote the site in the UK and has hired Skywrite Communications to head up the effort, which includes print, outdoor and online media.

The print campaign has targeted The Metro, a free newspaper distributed on public transportation routes, and Esquire, GQ, OK and Heat, among others. Outdoor advertising was scheduled to begin last month at major train stations such as London Victoria, Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central.

PARTNERSHIP DISSOLVED BUT CASINO PLAN STILL A GO AT LONDON'S HIPPODROME

The father-and-son team of Simon and Jerry Thomas have bought out their partners in a US$21.8 million scheme to convert central London’s historic Hippodrome into a casino.

Gaming Industry Media, citing a story in Property Week, said the Thomases bought out United Leisure Gaming Ltd. for an undisclosed sum and are determined to complete the casino.

“Having successfully developed the project to this stage as part of a consortium, and achieved all the necessary permits and licenses, my father and I decided that we would like to see through the redevelopment as the sole operator and launch what is destined to become one of Europe’s top entertainment venues,” said Simon Thomas, who formerly owned Beacon Bingo.

The Grade II-listed building, located on Leicester Square, will contain slot machines, table games, a poker room, a bar and a restaurant that will carry the brand of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, coinciding with the planned launch of a Hippodrome online casino. The land-based casino is expected to open its doors early in 2011.

The Hippodrome dates back to 1900 and originally housed circus and variety acts. In its many incarnations since, it has been a music hall, a cabaret-style restaurant and a nightclub. Currently, it is rented for corporate events.