NETHERLANDS MAY OPEN TO ONLINE COMPETITION


The Netherlands is planning to license and regulate online gambling on a non-exclusive licensing basis, according to media reports in the country.

Newspaper De Telegraaf, citing sources in The Hague, said the government is dropping its longstanding opposition to commercial competition from foreign operators and will either sell licenses or establish some kind of competitive tender process.

The news follows an earlier recommendation of the Ministry of Justice that poker should be legalized under a non-exclusive licensing system.

It is not clear how land-based monopoly Holland Casino will be affected by liberalization. Currently, only the state lottery monopoly, De Lotto, can legally offer gambling online, a situation consistently upheld by Dutch courts, and more recently by the European Court of Justice, against challenges from Ladbrokes, Betfair and others. In 2008 the government went so far as to prepare a blacklist of foreign gambling sites and demanded that Dutch banks refuse to do business with them.



CAESARS GOES LIVE WITH UK CASINO SITE


Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment has followed up its launch of a branded online bingo site in the UK with the official launch of a Caesars-branded online casino.

Developed in partnership with Jackpotjoy owner Gamesys and available only to UK residents, the new CaesarsCasino.com site offers players a full complement of casino games, including slots, roulette, blackjack and baccarat, available both for real-money and free play.

Gamesys is providing the software platform to power the site, along with marketing, gaming operations, customer service and payment solutions.

HIE also plans to launch an online casino in the UK themed around the World Series of Poker in partnership with 888 subsidiary Dragonfish. Reports are this will be followed down the road by another Harrah’s casino site and a bingo site.





INTRALOT IN FRANCE: BETTING LICENSE SEEN AS FIRST STEP



Intralot subsidiary Intralot France has been awarded an online sports betting license by French regulator ARJEL.

The five-year renewable license allows the global lottery giant to focus on opportunities for deploying its sports betting solution in the country.

Intralot also plans to submit requests to ARJEL for online horse betting and poker licenses, and CEO Constantinos Antonopoulos termed the sports betting license “a very important step towards the implementation of our plans to capitalize on the major opportunity represented by the growth of the regulated European online gaming sector.”

He added, “With a population of 65 million and a strong tradition in the lottery and gaming industries, France will play a pivotal role for Intralot Interactive in the new era of regulated online gaming. We are looking forward to bringing our pioneering services and products, as well as exciting entertainment experiences, to the French market.”

France is the second major market on the continent (after Italy) to open its borders to commercial competition. The “ouverture controlee,” as it’s known, was formally launched earlier this year with establishment of a licensing regime. Currently, race betting, sports betting and poker are legal.

In other news, Intralot Interactive announced the signing of a contract with Lithuanian lottery operator OLIFEJA to supply an Internet platform. The three-year agreement, renewable for two extra years, includes a player management system, an application integration framework and a complete suite of games, including bingo, keno and poker and more than 40 online scratch and instant lottery games. The duration of the contract is for three years with an option to extend it for two additional years.



RUSSIAN LAWMAKERS DEBATE VIABILITY OF ROSTOV CASINO ZONE


Debate over the future of gambling in Russia’s new casino zones made its way to the lower house of the national parliament.

An Itar-Tass report said a bill was introduced in the State Duma last month to move the Azov City location in the Rostov Region to a location on the Black Sea coast in the Krasnodar Territory. Gleb Khor, first deputy chairman of the Duma’s Committee on Budgets and Taxes, introduced the measure, saying, “There is no full-fledged operation in the Azov City gambling zone.”

A senator from Krasnodar, Alexander Pochinok, also has suggested moving it, joined by Krasnodar officials, who first proposed the Black Sea location, an idea reportedly backed by local developers, businesses and investors.

Krasnodar has invested 1 billion rubles in developing infrastructure of the gambling zone and is home to two casinos to date, while the Rostov Region has invested only 170 million, according to Itar-Tass.

“The Krasnodar Territory is traditionally a centre of rest as well as tourism and possesses a great investment lure,” Khor said. “This will help to implement construction of facilities in the gambling zone, mostly thanks to investments flowing to that region.”

Rostov, however, opposes the move, and regional Governor Vassily Golubev has asked Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov to block it and retain Rostov on the list of zones, requesting that Gryzlov “clear up the situation”.

Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the parliament, also opposes the move, according to Itar-Tass. He said, “I have a negative attitude to this initiative, since the idea was quite correct from the outset: gambling zones should be ‘in a barren field,’ because any zone in a city is again a calamity; this is what we have escaped from.”

Concerns over a proliferation of casinos and street-level slot operations led the Duma back in the autumn of 2006 to pass legislation banning casinos from major cities and restricting them to four outlying zones: Altai in Central Asia, Primorye on the Pacific Coast, Kaliningrad in Eastern Europe and the Krasnodar/Rostov area near the Black Sea. The ban was strongly supported by Vladimir Putin, who was president of the Russian Federation at the time. Putin currently serves as prime minister.



SAZKA VOTED TOPS IN CZECH REPUBLIC


Sazka, the Czech Republic’s largest lottery operator, has again been named the country’s most valuable brand name.

The designation, bestowed annually by the European Brand Institute, a Vienna-based association of independent experts engaged in following more than 3,000 brands across 16 industries in 24 countries, is the second for Sazka, which is valued at €444 million.

Continent-wide, this year’s strongest growth in brand value was seen in the pharmaceutical, health and biotechnological industries, the institute said. By contrast, automotive brand values fell 14.1 percent on average, IT and technology were down by 14.5 percent, and financial services fell 10.8 percent.

The European brands designed by the institute as the most valuable in 2010 were: Luis Vuitton, Moët Hennessy, Nokia, Vodafone, INBEV, Unilever, Telefónica, Nestlé, Deutsche Telekom, SAB Miller and Mercedes-Benz.