AS WORLD CUP NEARS, FIFA GETS TOUGH ON MATCH-FIXING

In advance of the World Cup, the Federation of International Football Associations has announced plans to establish a global task force to fight against “irregular and illegal betting activities in football”.

FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, indicated that Interpol would also be involved following reports of the existence of an organized criminal gang that allegedly made millions by betting in Asian markets on the results of European matches they helped to decide, according to a recent report in iGaming Business.

In November, police conducted raids across the continent in an attempt to smash a gang that bribed players, referees and coaches in nine countries. Interpol said that some 200 games played this season in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria were under suspicion, some of them Champions League qualifying matches.

“FIFA proposes to unify all football warning systems behind the new task force in order to better coordinate the fight against these activities and enhance cooperation with Interpol, national authorities and football authorities in this area,” the association said.

Interpol reportedly has assured FIFA of its strong support for the task force.

RANK ON THE MARCH WITH NEW ‘G' BRAND

Britain’s Rank Group was preparing last month to open its 10th G Casino, a US$8.2 million, 2,000-square-foot venue in the city of Sheffield with 24 slot machines, 33 electronic gaming terminals and 10 table games.

The G Casinos represent a rebranding of the company’s venerable Grosvenor chain with more emphasis on entertainment and non-gambling attractions, the aim being to attract a larger share of the British population, few of whom visit casinos.

“The G brand is all about giving people a great alternative for a night out, and the new Sheffield casino does just that,” said its General Manager Ian Turver. “This means the new venue will appeal to many different types of people, whether they’ve been to a casino before or not.”

The other G Casinos are located at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, at a 4,000-square-foot venue acquired from U.S.-based Isle of Capri Casinos for US$1 million, and in Manchester, Aberdeen, Blackpool, Dundee, Luton, Thanet and at London’s Piccadilly Circus.

PROBATION, FINE THE FINAL BLOWS FOR BETONSPORTS

Defunct gambling Web site BetOnSports.com has been sentenced in a U.S. court to five years’ probation and assessed a $28.2 million fine that lawyers on both sides say probably will never be paid.

BetonSports, which once ran one of the largest online sports betting operations in the world, says it has more liabilities than assets, and its lawyer says it still owes U.S. gamblers $7 million to $8 million in court-ordered refunds.

Founder Gary Kaplan, a U.S. citizen, was sentenced in November to 51 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, racketeering conspiracy and violating the U.S. Wire Wager Act. He also agreed to forfeit more than $43 million.

His brother and sister pleaded guilty in June to two felony conspiracy charges and were sentenced to 10 months’ house arrest. They agreed to turn over more than $6 million held in Swiss bank accounts.

The former CEO, David Carruthers, a British national, who has been under house arrest in the St. Louis area since his arrest at the Dallas airport in 2006, pled guilty last April to racketeering conspiracy and was awaiting sentencing.

In 2006, Kaplan, BetonSports and other employees were indicted in St. Louis on federal charges accusing them of running an illegal gambling operation. Prosecutors said the business handled more than $1 billion in wagers a year through Web sites and phone lines. In a civil settlement reached that year, the company agreed to stop taking U.S. bets. In 2007, the company pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge.

BRANSON TRIES AGAIN FOR LOTTERY LICENSE

Richard Branson has teamed up with People’s Postcode Lottery, a Dutch-owned group that runs charity lotteries, in a bid for control of Camelot, operator of the UK National Lottery.

A report in The Times said the entrepreneur has set up a consortium with PPL and an unnamed investment fund to buy 80 percent of Camelot with the intention of donating the dividends currently paid to its shareholders to charity.

Four of Camelot’s five shareholders - Thales, Fujitsu, Cadbury and De La Rue - have been considering a sale of their 20 percent stakes, which could fetch a combined £200 million to £250 million, according to experts cited by The Times. The remaining 20 percent is owned by the country’s Royal Mail.

Branson has twice lost out to Camelot in the bidding for the National Lottery license.

PPL is part of Novamedia, a charity lottery group founded by Dutch entrepreneur Boudewijn Poelmann. Novamedia has operations in the Netherlands, Sweden and Britain and claims to have given more than €3.5 billion (£3.1 billion) to charities.

PPL lotteries allow people to buy tickets based on their post codes and a unique three-digit code. In Britain, tickets cost £2, of which 40 pence goes to charity, and all players in a winning post code share the cash prize.

PLAYTECH EXPANDS, PURCHASES SOFTWARE INNOVATOR

Playtech has entered into an agreement to acquire Gaming Technology Solutions, a highly regarded software provider and one of the remote industry’s largest game aggregators.

The €10.8 million cash deal, which could climb to €21.6 million over the next two years based on profitability, delivers to Playtech agreements with 15 licensees - 10 of which are new for Playtech - and 30 Web gambling brands, including some of the better-known sports books, casinos and bingo operators.

Playtech also gets GTS’ EdGE open gaming platform, which provides access to products from a diverse range of game developers and content providers. The platform is renowned for its cutting-edge functionality and flexible connectivity, which make it an effective tool for operators to fully integrate a player’s wallet into one account across all games and products. EdGE also facilitates the rapid delivery of new content across multiple languages, currencies and domains and which are deliverable either as browser-based or downloadable products.

GTS has partnered with 19 content providers with a combined catalogue of more than 500 games.

Online gambling: How resilient (or not)?

In July 2009, Global Betting and Gaming Consultants issued a report outlining the problems first experienced in the United States with mounting personal debt on credit cards. The UK, the firm forecast, would experience similar problems as unemployment rose. Countries like France and Germany would not suffer as much because the credit card binge has been less prevalent.

In GBGC’s “Interactive Report,” released in October, the firm drew attention to the declining margins for the online sports books. Most seem to have lost 1.5 to 2 percent over the last 18 months. At the same time, the phenomenal success of in-play betting may have caused some substitution from higher margin pre-match (12 percent gross win) betting to lower margin in-play betting (5 percent gross win).

In addition, a comparison of LSE-listed company revenues for H1 2008 and H1 2009 have been selected to show how the recession is affecting different sectors of the British economy (see table).

As you’d expect, the home builder is down 38 percent. But the bank note producer DeLaRue is up 14 percent, and the pawnbroker is up 29 percent.



Online gambling revenues fell 5.9 percent on average, but that figure included software provider Playtech. Without Playtech the figure drops to minus-9 percent.

Gambling is resilient but not immune to the troubles in the larger economy and sits somewhere between supermarkets and retail jewellers. Not as resilient as food retailing but much more resilient than travel, retail and home building.


Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, based in the Isle of Man, are leading specialist advisors to the international gaming industry. The firm has worked with or supplied information to more than 400 clients in the fields of market research, business and facility planning, product evaluation, design and operational review, corporate strategy, license application, regulation and due diligence. GBGC’s publications include the Global Gambling Report, a comprehensive review of gambling markets worldwide. For more information, visit www.gbgc.com.