Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Recent weeks have seen GVC, Svenska Spel, and number of other online gambling operators all calling for a total ban on broadcast advertising. Svenska Spel, the former gambling monopoly in Sweden (lottery and casino games), is owned by the state of Sweden and is being forced to compete now that Sweden has opened up its online gambling market to private operators. Sweden’s former monopoly operator went further and has announced it is stopping all advertising of its online casino games for the whole of 2019. Concern is rising over the increase in “at risk” players, with television advertising believed to behind this trend. No doubt, these actions to protect players are altruistic, but perhaps there are other motivations behind these declarations too.

Not surprisingly, despite the opening of the market to private operators Svenska Spel still owns the Swedish market with an approximate 50% market share of all regulated online gambling revenues. ATG, the Swedish monopoly sports betting operator, has a similar market share but is not having to share the betting market with new licensees.

It’s news to no one that the US betting market is about to explode, state by state, as betting on sports becomes legal. No doubt in-play betting will almost immediately be a hot potato. There’ll be scare stories, some justified, about how easy it easy for customers who display problem gambling tendencies to get in much deeper, in the heat of the action, than they intended.

One open question is whether betting exchanges, for which a huge driver of volume is in-play betting on a peer-to-peer basis, will be part of the picture in one or more states.

So what is a betting exchange? Around 20 years ago, some very smart people realised that the incredibly sophisticated market platforms available to traders in fields like commodities, forex, equities, and derivatives could be applied just as easily to what would traditionally have been considered to be sports betting markets. So, eventually, Betfair was born.

The Euro News Revue
by Hannah Gannagé-Stewart and Andrew Tottenham
The UK Gambling Commission has introduced new age-verification rules that require customers to verify that they are over 18 before they can deposit funds into an online account. Names and addresses will also have to be confirmed to help prevent betting by those that have been self-excluded. SBC points out that the moves are part of a raft of changes to the UK’s licence conditions and codes of practice to tighten up online gambling ID verification frameworks. This includes the expectation that operators ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains up-to-date and accurate. (HGS)
Germany has submitted its third amended State Treaty on Gambling to the European Commission as it seeks to extend a seven-year trial of open competition in the market. If passed, the treaty will remove the current 20-licence limit, and operators that secure a licence will have to pay tax at 5 percent of turnover. The Gaming Board of the state of Hesse will run the licencing process, with licences expected to come into force on 1 January 2020 and run until 30 June 2021. Schleswig-Holstein will continue to run its own liberal regulatory model over the same period. (HGS)
The complexities of expansion writ large. GVC has lately been on an acquisition spree, recently acquiring, among others, Ladbrokes. Ladbrokes was in a joint venture with CIRSA in Spain, a land based and online sports betting business. CIRSA recently changed hands, recently having been sold by the owner, Manuel Lao, to the private equity firm Blackstone. GVC operates several Spanish facing sites, not least of these being Private equity firms are not generally known for their generosity, and when an opportunity comes along, they will press their advantage. In this case, because Ladbrokes owners compete with Sportium, Blackstone is demanding Ladbrokes sell their 50 percent ownership of Sportium at a “fair price.” Fair to whom, one wonders.  (AT)
London’s Clermont casino, which has been closed for almost a year, has finally been sold. The Clermont was opened by John Aspinall in the late 1960s and quickly became the place for London’s socialites. It was initially sold to Playboy in 1982, who then sold it on when their suitability for holding a gaming license came into question due to a long running feud with Ladbrokes. In recent years, it has been owned by Quek Leng Chan, a Malaysian billionaire. The Clermont is very small and catered to the high-end Mayfair market, where fierce competition led to significant volatility and year upon year of losses. The new buyers are Christian and Vantham Huot of Mayfair Casino Ltd., who also recently bought the Napoleons Casino on London’s Leicester Square. (AT)
There should be another word for Italy: confusion. The implementation of the ban on advertising gambling is coming into force, and the advertising regulator, AGCOM, has been issuing rules about what will and will not be banned. Initially, the land-based casino operators had hoped that the ban would not apply to them. It now appears that it will. Apparently, however, information like quotes of betting odds and the size of jackpots will still be allowed., an Italian gambling news site, believes it will be unscathed by the ban. Looking at the site, if that is true, then Italian operators should not be too concerned. (AT)
The Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lottstift) has ordered Kindred Group subsidiary Trannel International to cease trading in the jurisdiction, saying it does not have permission to do so. The regulator argues that Trannel International brands Unibet, Maria Casino, Grand Piano and have all offered illegal gaming in Norway. However, Kindred maintains that there is no legal basis for the decision. “Norway does not have the authority to intervene against activities lawfully operated in other countries,” the operator told Gambling Insider. Lottstift is reported to have sent warning letters to Trannel International in February, followed by an additional notification last month. (HGS)
Four Swiss casinos - Grand Casino Baden, Casino Davos, Grand Casino Luzern and Casino Zürichsee - have applied for online gaming licences following the country’s legalisation of online gambling last year. The applications will be considered by both the Swiss regulator, Eidgenössische Spielbankenkommission (ESBK), and the Swiss National Council, the Bundesrat; the process is expected to complete in June. The Gambling Act includes strict limits on online stakes - for example, the maximum single-entry fee for poker will be CHF200 ($196) for small tournaments and the limit of total entry fees CHF20,000. Limits for lotteries and raffles will vary according to their size. (HGS)
Rob Wicks, commercial director of Aberdeen, one of Scotland’s top football clubs, has said the era of sponsorship by gambling firms in football is coming to an end. Talking recently to Scottish newspaper The Herald, Wicks said GVC boss Kenny Alexander’s voluntary decision to withdraw advertising from stadiums and shirts will be a “line in the sand” for the two industries. Football sponsorship has been under a harsh spotlight since last year’s World Cup, which led bookies to voluntarily ban adverts during sports events televised before 9pm in the UK. GVC’s Alexander has now gone a step further, pledging to curb all pitch side advertising.  (HGS)
This report is edited by Andrew Tottenham and Justin Martin
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