Friday, November 8, 2019
By Andrew Tottenham
Managing Director, Tottenham & Co

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an Ampersand Assembly, organised by Clarion Gaming, the behemoth behind ICE events and many other things. The idea behind such meetings is to bring together people from the gambling industry to discuss concerns and ideas that are affecting or could impact the industry. In this case, about 50 participants came from across Europe, including operators, regulators, suppliers, and, of course, advisors.

There was no pre-agreed agenda, as the organisers intended to promote open discussion. Participants were encouraged to put forward the issues they wanted to discuss. Unsurprisingly, many people wanted to discuss the poor state of public discussion surrounding gambling, the deteriorating relationship between the industry and the regulator, and how to improve those matters. I think the conclusion was that in the current political climate in countries across Europe, it is difficult to see any headway being made in the near or medium term.

By David Clifton
Director, Clifton Davies Consultancy Ltd

It is no longer the case, but there was a time – more than ten years ago – when a number of fundamental questions were raised in relation to the standards of the gambling licensing and regulatory regime established in Malta in 2001, when the regulator was known as the Lotteries and Gaming Authority.

Since that time, three successive CEOs of the regulatory body – rebranded in 2015 as the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) – have overseen substantial improvements to that regime.

Few would doubt that Joseph Cuschieri (appointed in 2013) achieved his ambition to make the regulator “more professional, agile, proactive and strategically driven”. His stewardship witnessed improving standards in consumer protection, greater levels of enforcement action, and a broadening of the scope of remote gambling regulation

The Euro News Revue
by Hannah Gannagé-Stewart and Andrew Tottenham
The Guardian - 4 November 2019
Over one billion pounds was wiped off the value of UK listed online gambling companies in the aftermath of the release of the report from the UK’s All Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm. GVC had the biggest loss in value, almost £600 million.

The group’s report proposes to cut the maximum bet for online slot machines to £2, versus no limit currently. Online slots, at approximately £2 billion, represent about one third of the GGR reported to the UK Gambling Commission. Obviously, not all this would disappear, since over 50% of the stakes placed are under £2 and would not be impacted. Bets which are only a relatively small amount above the proposed £2 limit, say up to £5, would likely find a suitable alternative. But it must be remembered that online slots are a high margin product and possibly more than 35% of EBITDA could disappear.

The Committee wants to bring online gambling into line with land-based FOBTs. But the most popular game on FOBTs were facsimiles of roulette, and, strangely, the proposal omits online facsimiles of table games. (AT)
G3 Newswire - 4 November 2019
Czech-based Sazka Group has acquired, through an open tender, a further 7.25 percent of OPAP, the Greek monopoly lottery, sports betting, and VLT operator, bringing the total owned to almost 40%. Despite the legal woes surrounding the roll out of VLTs and its online sports betting licence, OPAP has been a stellar investment for Sazska, showing a return of over 130% since the Sazka Group bought 33% of the OPAP in 2013. (AT)
SBC News - 1 November 2019
Sports betting data provider Sportradar is the latest gambling brand to find itself soiled by association with Italy’s massive money-laundering investigation, Operation Galassia. In late October a report published in Business Insider Italia linked the provider to the mafia’s money-laundering activities. Sportradar has rejected the article as “wholly inaccurate”, adding that it “completely rejects its content and the allegations made and is considering taking appropriate legal action”. Last month Planetwin365 operator SKS365 was drawn into the investigation via several former members of its board. SKS365 defended itself by saying the individuals in question were no longer with the company. (HGS)
iGaming Business - 30 October 2019
Swedish gaming regulator Spelinspektionen is being as tenacious as ever in the face of an ongoing dispute with Svenska Spel’s land-based subsidiary Casino Cosmopol. The regulator is appealing an administrative court ruling that reduced a regulatory penalty against the casino from SEK8m to SEK3m. The court upheld Spelinspektionen’s decision to fine the operator but found the violations deserving of a lower penalty. The operator was fined for failing to carry out adequate checks on high-rollers, which Spelinspektionen claims amounted to “serious and systematic violations of gaming regulations”. It may be that legal precedent is yet to catch up with Europe’s evolving attitude towards responsible gambling. (HGS)
Gaming Intelligence - 30 October 2019
An overhaul of Finland’s gambling regulations is looking ever more likely. The country’s competition and consumer authority has questioned current oversight of the state-run monopoly Veikkaus, albeit without going as far as to suggest all-out liberalisation. The authority’s first in a series of reports about the market points out that most European nations either operate a licensing system only, or work in tandem with a monopoly. Norway is the only other European nation with a gambling monopoly. Veikkaus has pledged to tighten responsible gambling controls, but a survey commissioned by affiliate Kasino Curt in September uncovered waning public support for the operator. (HGS)
Lexology - 28 October 2019
Recent changes in the law in Russia have clarified the legality of “Interactive Bets”. Online gambling was specifically banned in 2006, but in 2014 a concept of “Interactive Bets” was introduced; these were specifically excepted from the ban. Unfortunately, these bets were not well described, with some thinking that online betting might be allowed, but others viewing them more conservatively as only being financial bets.
In July, a law was passed that clarified that the term did refer to betting and stated that it was to be the only exception allowed to the general online gambling ban. Interestingly, the recent amendment described the identification required of customers: online betting operators only need to do a basic check, whereas land-based bookmakers are required to carry out a full check. (AT)
Gambling Insider - 28 October 2019
GVC Holdings’ bookie Ladbrokes has escaped a fine from Britain’s Gambling Commission (GC) after a customer stole a total of around £1m from five separate victims to fund his gambling addiction. The operator is understood to have reimbursed the victims to the tune of £975,000. Following an investigation, the GC reasoned that a fine was unnecessary as the operator had reported all details of the incident. However, The GC has provided Ladbrokes with advice on the use of NDAs after it was reported to have asked the victims to drop their complaints as part of the reimbursement deal. It feels like a softening of the GC’s stance after a slew of substantial fines. Perhaps it feels it’s made its point. (HGS)
Gambling Insider - 14 October 2019
Gambling companies, as well as tobacco and alcohol firms, have been ruled out of sponsoring West Ham United Football Club’s home ground, London Stadium, despite it suffering mounting losses of between £25m and £30m per year for lack of a sponsor. As part of the London 2012 Olympic site, the stadium is owned by the London Legacy Development Corporation. Vodafone had been lined up for a £20m six-year naming deal but pulled out in 2017. Weirdly, given the prominence of the site and its tenant, the stadium has remained unsponsored ever since. Meanwhile, this summer, Betway signed a six-year shirt sponsorship deal with West Ham. (HGS)
This report is edited by Andrew Tottenham and Justin Martin
Tottenham & Co
232 Cranmer Court
London SW3 3HD, UK