Gaming industry news from Europe

HOLLAND'S DE LOTTO SURVIVES CHALLENGES IN EU'S HIGH COURT

In a blow to Europe’s online gambling operators, the EU’s highest court has upheld Dutch laws that restrict foreign competition on the Internet.

The European Court of Justice, turning to its landmark ruling in the 2003 Gambelli case, found against UK-based operators Ladbrokes and Betfair, stating that while Holland’s restrictions do, on their face, hamper the right of EU-based companies to cross borders to do business in other Member States, they are justified if they prevent fraud and crime and protect citizens from gambling addiction.

The court decided, also in line with Gambelli, to leave it to the Dutch courts to ensure the country’s state-sponsored gambling monopolies uphold those aims and that gambling licenses are awarded fairly and transparently.

Holland permits lottery and sports betting but only through De Lotto, a non-profit that uses the income to promote sports, health and culture in the country.

The case against Ladbrokes arose when De Lotto complained that Ladbrokes was offering gambling over the Internet to Dutch citizens in violation of the law.

In a related case heard simultaneously, betting exchange giant Betfair complained that the Dutch ban on Internet gambling violated its right to provide its services anywhere in the EU.



PIECES OF OCTAVIAN MOVE OVER TO AGI



Austrian Gaming Industries, the international subsidiary of the Novomatic Group of Companies, has purchased various assets of Octavian International, the UK-based games and systems provider that went into administration in May.

AGI is adding the assets, acquired from the administrator, KPMG, to what the company describes as other “core intellectual properties” previously ascribed to AGI.

No purchase prices were disclosed.

 “Many AGI customers were also Octavian customers, and it is to safeguard their requirements and to exceed their expectations that we have taken the decision to acquire these assets and intellectual properties,” said AGI Managing Director Jens Halle. “By extending our focus to now include system solutions we further enhance our core business.”



AMERICANS BULLISH ON MEGA-CASINOS; LOCALS SKEPTICAL



Not everyone in an economically hard-pressed region bordered by Slovakia, Hungary and Austria think the development of a couple of multibillion-dollar Las Vegas-style casinos is a good idea.

According to opponents, residents in and around the Slovak capital of Bratislava recently gathered 110,000 signatures to force a debate in the national parliament over plans by U.S.-based casino giant Harrah’s Entertainment to build a €1.5 billion (US$1.85 billion) casino with a hotel, entertainment facilities, shopping and convention and meeting facilities.

The resort would stand about 20 kilometers on the Bratislava-Budapest highway from U.S.-based Hard Rock International’s proposed €5 billion EuroVegas gambling and leisure complex in Hungary.

“It will be a huge catastrophe,” one resident told Bloomberg.

“A mega-casino doesn’t have a place in Europe,” said Viera Kimerlingova, deputy mayor of Bratislava’s Petrzalka district, which lies along the southern edge of the city and is one of the capital’s poorest neighborhoods.

Others say the massive investments would be good for the region. Eastern Europe’s economic output lags behind the European Union average, and governments there are eager to promote tourism, jobs and investment to help mitigate the worst economic climate since the Iron Curtain came down 20 years ago.

Gabor Zaszlos, head of the Slovak unit of TriGranit Development Corp., the developer for Harrah’s, said he hopes local government opposition will wane.

“We are not giving up on this,” he said. “This is all about nerves and endurance.”

The Americans, looking abroad to overcome a two-year slump in consumer spending at home, remain hopeful.

“You just have to look at Eastern Europe,” said Jan Jones, senior vice president for government relations at Harrah’s. “It has hundreds of millions of people, but little gambling product. Their casinos are small, so we have an opportunity.”



ALLIANCE AIDS FIFA IN BATTLE AGAINST CROOKED GAMBLING



The European Sports Security Association has renewed a cooperation agreement with Early Warning System, a subsidiary of international football authority FIFA, to support the monitoring of betting activities related to the World Cup and other FIFA tournaments.

The mission is to bolster FIFA’s efforts to identify attempted match-fixing by linking up ESSA’s Early Warning System - a platform launched in 2005 to monitor, report and track suspicious betting activity both online and off - with FIFA’s own Early Warning System GmbH.

FIFA implemented its system at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and “has made great strides in preventing criminal elements from being able to alter the outcome of football matches,” said Wolfgang Feldner, FIFA’s head of strategy.

He added, “With its excellent reputation for monitoring betting activity across a whole range of sports, we view our partnership with ESSA as an important element in making sure we maintain this outstanding record.”



SCIGAMES IN NORWAY WITH NEW CONTRACT



U.S.-based Scientific Games Corp. has been awarded a contract to provide a central system for pari-mutuel and odds-based numbers games for Norway’s state-owned lottery operator, Norsk Tipping.

Scientific Games will deploy its state-of-the-art Lottery Central System technology and provide ongoing service and maintenance support for the life of the contract, which is expected to commence in 2011 and run 12 years.

The contract was awarded through a competitive procurement process.

“Our objective was to select a long-term partner that could build and support a dynamic central system for the most important segment of our business,” said Norsk Tipping CEO Torbjorn Almlid.

Michael R. Chambrello, CEO of publicly traded Scientific Games, said the deal “solidifies our company’s position as a leader in lottery systems development and as a provider of unparalleled customer support.”

TST, GLI Europe and GLI Italy will work in close concert under the management of Barow and Martin Britton, director of operations of GLI Europe and GLI Italy.