GAMBLING IN MOSCOW: SURVIVING, THRIVING

Authorities in Moscow are concerned about an increase in lottery machines, online wagering sites and other “surrogate” forms of gambling in the aftermath of an almost total ban on the industry in Russia.

Since July 1, casino-style gambling has been outlawed in the country’s major cities and exiled to four outlying “zones” - in the East European enclave of Kaliningrad, in the south near the Sea of Azov, in Central Asia and in the Far East - although no operators have relocated yet.

Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov said about one-third of the capital’s 525 casinos and slot halls have opened “lottery parlors” selling instant tickets, while the number of Internet cafes providing access to online gambling has risen threefold since the ban went into effect.

“We are seriously concerned about the rise of surrogate technologies,” he said at a recent news conference. “They are the byproduct of imperfect legislation.”

Officials have said that city and federal authorities would close the legal loopholes that allow online gambling and the unrestricted sale of lottery tickets. In the meantime, authorities in Moscow continue to pursue illegal casinos and slot machine halls. Police have shut down 35 underground casinos since the legislation passed, according to a high-ranking police official in the capital.

The crackdown on gambling began in 2006, when then-President Vladimir Putin pledged to root out the largely unregulated industry, whose effect on Russians he compared to mass alcoholism.

CHARITY SEES SPIKE IN BRITS WITH PROBLEMS

Britain’s Gamcare reports that the number of people seeking help from the problem gambling charity was up 20 percent last year.

Nine thousand more people contacted Gamcare in 2008 than in 2007, and a spokesman for the industry-funded counseling and treatment service said more than one-third of those making contact were between 18 to 25, many of them students.

“They gamble away their grants,” he said. “They start stealing from friends or borrowing from friends. They steal from the family. They get into so much difficulty that in the end they’re losing so much they might have to give up their study.”

The charity said it is concerned that students are increasingly encountering problems with online gambling to try to pay off their loans, according to a recent news report published by BBC Radio.

GamCare says its counselors are now dealing with around 100 callers a day. Calls answered on its help line, NetLine, were up 300 percent last year, from 1,407 to 4,729, and the number of counseling sessions were up by 30 percent.

The Gambling Commission, the UK industry’s government-sponsored regulator, says there are as many 300,000 problem gamblers in the country.

CIRSA, PARTY GAMING JOIN FORCES ON WEB

Spanish gaming giant Cirsa is entering the online market via a partnership with Party Gaming.

The three-year agreement will see the two companies sharing software and networks and working together to cross-promote tournaments and other operations and events.

“Our agreement with Cirsa is part of our strategy to develop strong B2B operations through alliances with leading companies worldwide,” said Party Executive Director Jim Ryan. “We believe that the combination of Cirsa assets with our online gaming experience will originate a big opportunity for both companies, specially in the Spanish-speaking world.”

Real Madrid's €69 million shirts

Online gambling operator Bwin Interactive Entertainment and Spanish football giant Real Madrid have extended a sponsorship deal for three more years.

No official price was reported for the partnership - which has the nine-time European champions sporting Bwin’s name and logo on their shirts and training equipment and includes other lucrative cross-promotional ties - but reports are that Bwin is paying the club €23 million a year, a substantial premium over the €15 million to €20 million the club reportedly earned from the partnership in its first three years.

As the world’s most popular team sport, football (or soccer, as it is called in the United States) represents a huge piece of Bwin’s betting business. The Vienna-based bookmaker boasts more than 20 million registered customers. Basketball is another big game for the company, which has sponsored every European and world championship since 2006 in collaboration with the International Basketball Federation. Bwin has also invested heavily in motor sports through its sponsorship of MotoGP.

“International football needs partners like Bwin, globally renowned for its experience and its involvement in sports sponsorship,” said Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid. “We are very pleased with this fruitful collaboration, and with this alliance we can strengthen our links with leading international companies.”

SPORTINGBET'S RESULTS LOOK BETTER THAN EVER

Online bookmaker Sportingbet reported a full-year profit of £22.3 million, up from £1.2 million last year, largely on the strength of its European business.

Operating profit was up 26 percent to £31.1 million on a 17 percent jump in wagers to more than £1.57 billon.

Fully diluted earnings per share were 6 pence, a 41 percent increase.

The company has proposed an annual dividend of 1p per share.

The company said the current year had commenced in line with expectations, with sports betting and casino and other games doing well in Europe. Poker remains difficult, however, and the company said it has suffered a bit in Australia, where an unexpectedly large number of favorites have won events.

The shares, which are traded on the Alternative Investment Market, are expected to be granted a full listing on the LSE early next year.

Sportingbet, headquartered in London, is heavily touted in the City as a takeover prospect, although most observers believe no bids will be forthcoming until the company settles with U.S. authorities over its former activities in that country, where operating online gambling is a violation of federal law and the laws of several states.

CENTURY CASINOS SHEDS SOUTH AFRICA BUSINESS

Century Casinos has obtained the last outstanding approval for the sale of its South African subsidiary, Century Casinos Africa.

The KwaZulu-Natal Gambling Board approved the sale last month, and a final 98.8 million rand payment to Century was expected to follow. The publicly traded, U.S.-based operator received 253.5 million rand at closing at the end of June. Another 17.3 million rand has been released and 3.2 million rand was paid to the company at the end of September.

Total cash proceeds from the sale amount to US$48 million.

Century’s co-CEOs Erwin Haitzmann and Peter Hoetzinger professed themselves “delighted” at the sale’s completion and said the money will be used to reduce debt, help fund new developments and/or acquisitions and possibly buy back stock.

Century owns and operates two casinos in the U.S. state of Colorado and a casino in Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta, operates casinos on five luxury cruise ships and holds a 33.3 percent stake in Casinos Poland, which runs seven casinos and a slot hall in that country.

LATVIAN CLUB BANNED AFTER PROBE INTO SUSPICIOUS BETTING

One of the top clubs in the Latvian football league has been banned for the rest of the season after the club’s president and head coach were alleged to have placed bets on the outcome of the team’s matches.

The Latvian Football Federation took the action against FC Dinaburg following an investigation conducted in conjunction with UEFA, the governing body of European football, whose Betting Fraud Detection System uncovered suspicious betting patterns involving the team, according to a report by Gaming Intelligence.

Dinaburg’s president, Oleg Gavrilov, and head coach, Tamaza Pertia, have been permanently barred from Latvian football.

UEFA has been operating the Betting Fraud Detection System since the start of the current season following a decision by the association’s executive committee last year to tackle corruption in football. The system monitors all UEFA-organized games and games taking place in the top two domestic divisions and cup competitions of its member associations. An estimated 29,000 matches a year are scanned for potentially suspicious betting.

888 AND TSOGO SUN PARTNER IN S. AFRICA

888 Holdings’ Dragonfish subsidiary is joining with South Africa’s Tsogo Sun Gaming Group on a licensed and regulated online betting partnership in the country.

Dragonfish will provide TSG with game technology, payment processing systems, customer relationship management, online marketing and business analytics. The partnership will move forward with the launch of a casino, poker and bingo once a more developed regulatory regime is in place in South Africa.

TSG represents a powerful brand in the country, operating seven casino that generate more than 20 million annual visits, and the joint venture will look to integrate member data bases for joint marketing purposes and integrate payment methods between TSGs land-based casinos and the new online service.

“Dragonfish’s technology infrastructure provides an excellent platform for partnerships with land-based casinos,” said Dragonfish Managing Director Gabi Campos. “This partnership is the first of many targeted at regulated markets.”

UK REMOTE GAMBLING VALUED AT £854M.; LICENSEES GROW TO 328

Remote gambling in the UK was valued at £854 million last year, according to statistics complied by the country’s Gambling Commission.

The commission used a variety of sources in reaching its estimate: industry trade bodies, the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, tax collections and the returns that licensed operators must submit to regulators.

There were 16 million customer accounts in the country last year, holding about £248 million. Of these, 6.2 million were active accounts and 4.9 million were new players.

The sector, including casino gambling, betting and bingo, employed 7,800 people last year.

The number of remote gambling licenses issued increased, from 300 to 328, in 2008.

However, “The majority of gambling sites accessible to British citizens are regulated overseas,” the commission stated.

“In many cases an operator is licensed by the Commission for remote betting but (for fiscal and other operational reasons) its remote casino and poker operations are licensed overseas. The main European overseas jurisdictions regulating remote gambling are Alderney, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and Malta.”

IOC KEEPING CLOSE EYE ON OLYMPIC BETTING

The International Olympic Committee is setting up a new system to watch for corrupt betting practices linked to Olympic competitions.

The monitoring program, which will be in place for next year’s Vancouver winter games, is part of broadening efforts, most of these emanating from Europe, to tackle the menace of corrupt and irregular betting and match-fixing.

A new Swiss company, International Sports Monitoring, will monitor betting on the Vancouver games and the 2012 London Olympics for the IOC. It will get information on betting patterns from hundreds of bookmakers, betting operators and lotteries and flag any irregularities for investigation.

Athletes at Vancouver will be educated about the new program. All those accredited for the games, including athletes, are barred from betting on Olympic competitions.

The IOC first noticed Internet bets being offered on Olympic competitions at the 2004 Athens games. It formed a group to study the issue and in 2006 formalized rules banning all those with accreditation from betting on Olympic competitions.

For last year’s Beijing games, the IOC used a system set up by FIFA for football to watch for irregular betting. None was found, the committee said.

UEFA, the governing body of European football, is investigating 40 cases of suspected match-fixing in the Champions League and UEFA Cup, mostly involving Eastern European clubs. UEFA has beefed up its early warning system as a result and has started a special investigation to clamp down on the problem. Tennis also has a unit to investigate suspected corruption.