Wednesday, March 18, 2020
By Andrew Tottenham
Managing Director, Tottenham & Co

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I would write about numbers.

Most people think they understand numbers and how they work. As children, we are taught to add, subtract multiply and divide. Some go on to study more advanced mathematics, but as a whole, humans are not very good about understanding numbers.

Certainly, we know that ten is double five and a piece of wood five centimetres long is half of a piece of wood ten centimetres long. We can even measure a line and imagine reasonably accurately what double or even three times the size might look like. Our brains are fairly good at figuring out linear problems. We are not bad with volumes either; we can look at a glass with some water in it and estimate what double the amount of water would like. We’d probably just estimate in one dimension, how much higher up the side of the glass would the surface of the water be, but wouldn’t be so good at determining how much water there would be if each dimension were doubled.

By Richard Williams
Partner, Keystone Law

t’s difficult to write an article assessing the potential impact of COVID-19 on the gambling sector when international events are moving at such a rapid pace.

Only last week, 251,684 race goers attended Cheltenham Festival for the National Hunt Festival. The Festival was a commercial success, though attendance was down by 5.5% from the record attendance in 2019. The risk of contracting coronavirus clearly had only a marginal impact on spectator numbers. This may prove to be the last hurrah for racing and many other sports for some time to come.

Even by the time the Cheltenham Gold Cup was run on Friday afternoon, Spain had already suspended its football league, the Australian Grand Prix had been thrown into chaos by COVID-19 and the Irish Prime Minister had announced the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland, together with a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people. Even the teetotal racegoers woke up on Saturday morning with a severe hangover!.

The Euro News Revue
by Hannah Gannagé-Stewart and Andrew Tottenham
iGaming Business - 13 March 2020
The spread of coronavirus across Europe has rapidly taken its toll on various aspects of the industry over the last week. In Demark, the gambling regulator Spillemyndighedens was forced to send all staff home after the government decided that non-critical public sector staff should work from home between March 12 to March 29. Meanwhile, Latvia’s Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Authority is shut to visitors in person from 13 March until 14 April and the Lithuanian Gambling Supervisory Authority has said self-exclusion can only be arranged online until 27 March. Elsewhere, land-based and sports betting operators are anticipating dramatic losses as the sporting calendar sees wall-to-wall cancellations and public spaces go into lockdown.   (HGS)
iGaming Business - 12 March 2020
Italian sports betting technology provider Newgioco has issued a warning about the potential impact of the country’s Coronovirus lockdown on its business. As an online business, the closure of its offices does not pose a threat however the moratorium on sporting fixtures does. Newgioco chairman and chief executive Michele Ciavarella said: “Along with our management teams in Italy and Austria, we remain in close contact with local and national health authorities and have implemented notification and prevention procedures at our administration offices and physical locations.” Despite the current uncertainty, Ciavarella indicated that moves to expand the business were still in motion, citing “planned investments” such as development of a US betting platform.   (HGS)
iGaming Business - 13 March 2020
German heads of state have approved regulations to legalise online casino and poker games as of 1 July 2021. The new gambling laws will include the creation of regulation authority based in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt rather the perhaps more widely anticipated Schleswig-Holstein, which was the first German state to legalise online gambling in 2011. Restrictions remain part of the treaty, including limits to in-play betting, a €1 per spin stake limit on slots and an advertising ban between 6am and 9pm. The new laws still need to be ratified by each state parliament and approved by the European Commission before they can be brought into effect.  (HGS)
iGaming Business - 3 March 2020
Turkey has finally gotten around to closing a loophole that allows sports betting sites to “legally” target Turkish residents. Previous legislation gave the right to the government to block the IP addresses of sites offering casino games, but this time sports betting has been included. Many online bookmakers offering bets to Turkish residents are located in Northern Cyprus, where the land-based casinos catering to Turks are located. Users of these sites can receive their winnings in Turkey in U.S. dollars if they wish and with a highly favourable exchange rate. This makes me think that the government might not be able to block all of these sites so easily.   (AT) - 20 February 2020
Last year, Irish property and hotels group, The Comer Group, acquired some of the debt the Loutraki Casino owed the Greek banks at quite a steep discount. It has been reported that their plan was to use the debt to get control of the poorly performing business, invest in the hotel asset, downgrade the casino and market the property as a resort with a casino. However, their plans have hit a snag. Comer is steadfast that it wants to own the property before it can make the investment, without which the resort will likely close. But the property is part-owned by the municipality. A condition of the original concession was that the municipality would increase its ownership, without any payment, during the life of the concession. Legal analysis says that without a change to the concession agreement, which is not easily made, it is not possible for The Comer Group to own the property. The best laid plans …  (AT)
The Guardian - 12 March 2020
The Gambling Commission of Great Britain (GC) has dished out its biggest fine to date, handing Betway an £11.6m penalty for a series of social responsibility and money laundering failings linked to seven high rollers. The fine breaks down into £5.8m to paid to in compensation to victims of crimes committed by its customers and a further £5.8m paid to the GC. Despite the scale of the fine relative to those the GC has handed down in the past, the regulator has already come under fire for not suspending the operator’s license. Betway CEO Anthony Werkman has responded by blaming a “small number of historic cases” for the regulatory breach and saying the company had improved systems and shut down its VIP programme.  (HGS)
Intergame Online - 12 March 2020
Enlabs has been warned it could lose its license in Sweden if it does not roll out operations in the country by July. Enlabs was known as Nordic Leisure until 2018 when it was also awarded its Swedish license. It is headquartered in Stockholm but is also regulated in Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The company’s president and CEO George Ustinov has said it still intends to roll out in the market. “We believe the authority’s assessment is reasonable and we will offer games under our Swedish license no later than June, 2020, and thus retain the licence”, he said.  (HGS)
SBC News - 13 March 2020
The UK Gambling Commission has put some process around which donations from gambling companies to particular organisations are allowed as part of their Research, Education and Treatment (RET) funding. UK licensed operators are expected to donate a proportion of their revenues to RET. Some organisations have chosen to give to GambleAware, an organisation that commissions work according to the strategy laid out by the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG, formerly RGSB). Others give directly to organisations that perhaps were not receiving funding from GambleAware. UKGC wanted to ensure the donations were going to bona fide organisations and so there is now an approval process in place and Bet Blocker has joined five other charities on the approved list. 

I can see the merit of allowing donations direct to charities, but it does make a bit of a mockery of the AGSB’s strategy. What happens if the industry donates a large portion of its RET funding to organisations that do not fit within the AGSB’s strategy? Either there is a strategy which the industry is expected to fund or you allow the industry to donate to those organisations it wants to. A hybrid approach could get messy.  (AT)
This report is edited by Andrew Tottenham and Deke Castleman
Tottenham & Co
232 Cranmer Court
London SW3 3HD, UK