CAP Online Gaming News Weekly – 07/08/08
[B][COLOR="Navy"]GUOCO TAKES ANOTHER BITE OF RANK PLC [/COLOR][/B]
Malaysian group now holds 16.13 percent of Brit gambling group
Guoco Group, a subsidary of the Asia-based investment group Hong Leong (Malaysia) Berhad run by Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan, has once again increased its stake in the British land and online gambling group Rank plc, raising the ante in what could evolve into a bidding war with Genting group in Malaysia.
Genting recently increased its Rank shareholding to 12.67 percent after several incremental purchases.
Guoco's latest move brings its interest in Rank plc to 16.18 percent. The voting rights in the shares are held by Asia Fountain Investment Company Limited ('AFI'), a controlled undertaking of Guoco Equity Assets Limited, which is a controlled undertaking of Guoco Group Limited ('GGL').
GGL is a controlled undertaking of GuoLine Overseas Limited which is a controlled undertaking of GuoLine Capital Assets Limited ('GCAL'), a controlled undertaking of Hong Leong Company (Malaysia) Berhad.
Goldman, Sachs & Co., acting as custodian for AFI, also has an indirect interest in the shares. 58 475 684 of the shares are registered in the name of Goldman Sachs Securities (Nominees) Limited and it is expected that the balance of 4 709 343 of the shares will shortly be registered in similar fashion.
Guoco has been gradually increasing its stake in Rank since January. The group has been looking to build a base in the UK casino market, albeit with limited success. BIL, its subsidiary, made substantial losses in the first six months of its Clermont land casino ownership and has won only four out of 19 licence applications to build casinos, mainly within its Thistle hotel chain.
Genting and Guoco are not the only companies interested in Rank; the Richardson family, whose businesses are in property and haulage, are believed to have an interest of about 11 percent through contracts for difference.
[B][COLOR="navy"]NEW ONLINE CASINO FROM PLAYTECH[/COLOR][/B]
UK Bookie opens new casino and poker website
The UK land betting company Corbetts Bookmakers has diversified into the online gambling environment with a new Playtech powered online casino and poker website at Corbett Casino.com and Better Bet Corbett.co.uk. The operational management is through Inside Gaming.
Corbett is a family-owned operator with over 60 betting shops in the north of England, which claims to be among the fastest growing betting companies in Britain. Founded in 1947 by Sydney Corbett and his son William Thomas Corbett, the company initially focused on telephone credit bookmaking with a starting capital of GBP 1 000. It has grown to 61 betting shops situated between Aberystwyth and York, and a host of prominent betting pitches on racecourses throughout the UK including the prestige meetings at Royal Ascot and Cheltenham.
[B][COLOR="navy"]UK PLAYER WINS FIRST EUROPEAN BINGO CHAMPS[/COLOR][/B]
Paddy Poker event attracts entry field of over 660 players
The continuing popularity of online bingo was illustrated this week when more than 660 entrants registered for Paddy Power's inaugural European Bingo Championships.
Robert Robinson from Nottinghamshire in England won the championship and a Chevrolet Aveo car, revealing that it had taken him two hours solid to slug it out and qualify for the final, but it was well worth it. "I'm glad England weren't in Euro 2008 [football championship) now or I might not have entered and won the car!" said Robinson.
Other prizes included a weekend in Paris, a home makeover, one year of free flights, one year of free bingo and laptops and flat screen televisions.
Paddy Power spokesmen said that the obvious popularity of the event means it will be repeated in the future.
[B]SHARPEN YOUR POKER SKILLS WITH NEW INTERACTIVE VIDEO PORTAL[/B]
Poker Stars.tv launched after successful beta-testing
With its construction and beta testing phases now complete, Poker Stars.tv – an interactive video portal from the Internet's biggest poker operation – has been launched.
With a host of useful free features and an emphasis on tuition through interactive video, the site is likely to attract plenty of interest among players seeking to hone their online poker skills. The content is among the best players are likely to see anywhere on the Web, with contributions from Team Poker Stars pros like Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Bill Chen, Greg Raymer and Dario Minieri.
A comprehensive search function helps users to find a wide range of topics and situations; as Negreanu explained: "Just enter a hand like 'Jack-Jack' or 'Ace-King' and you can find out how it's been played in all sorts of different situations by some of the world's great and not so great players! It's a terrific way to learn more about the game."
Additional information such as player profiles and promotional and news content includes video reportage on Poker Stars events or those in which Poker Stars has an interest, which covers an extraordinarily wide field.
Pulling it all together is Conrad Brunner, the head of TV and Digital Production for the company, who says, "Our goal was simply to build a site that allowed us to see our favourite poker clips at any time – and that's what PokerStars.tv allows you to do. There are some outstanding poker hands to watch and enjoy. With the excellent video blogs flooding in from the WSOP, there is new material being added every day."
[B]HENNIGAN WINS FOR CHARITY[/B]
"Ante Up for Africa" another success
The second edition of the 'Ante Up for Africa' charity tournament organised by Annie Duke and poker playing movie star Don Cheadle (see previous InfoPowa reports) took place last week in the Brasilia Room at the Rio in Las Vegas, making full use of the gathering of poker stars for the World Series of Poker.
Reprising the first of these worthy tournaments, this year's entry field saw a remarkable turnout of celebrities in the 88-strong field, providing funding and publicity for the Not On Our Watch (NOOW) project, which puts the world spotlight on the Darfur crisis and other humanitarian crises across the globe.
The heads up between John Hennigan and Michael Degusta saw the former take the honours and the $136 860 main prize after a lively several hours. Degusta's second spot was worth $85 536.
[B][COLOR="navy"]18 MILLION PLAYERS FOR NETENT[/COLOR][/B]
CasinoModule product ordered by King.com
Net Entertainment's online gambling games will soon be available to the 18 million players who regularly frequent the massive games website King.com, following an agreement on the supply of NetEnt's CasinoModule product this week.
King.com is one of the largest gaming sites in the world with over 18 million registered players, and handles over 150 million gamerounds a month with games of chance and games of skill in over 50 different countries, 9 different languages and 7 different currencies.
"Providing high quality entertainment to our players is imperative for us. We chose Net Entertainment's CasinoModule because we believe that their product best supports our continued expansion and the size of our business places quite stringent requirements on the platforms we work with" says David Blomquist, Director of Business Operations and Games at King.com
Net Entertainment will provide King.com with over 60 unique games and an extensive back-office system, with a launch planned for Q3 this year. The deal is the ninth CasinoModule licensee signed up so far this year, following a bumper 2007 for the product.
"King.com is a major breakthrough and needless to say I am very pleased that they chose Net Entertainment as their strategic partner," said Johan Öhman, CEO of Net Entertainment.
[B]BET365 LAUNCHES NEW ONLINE BINGO SERVICE[/B]
Virtue Fusion chosen to power betting companies latest venture
The major Brit online gambling group Bet365 has teamed with bingo software provider Virtue Fusion to launch a range of new online bingo games.
Players can try Bingo at bet365.com with a GBP 10 free bonus with no deposit required, with games available 24/7, company spokesmen confirmed this week. Popular slots and casino games, such as Ladies Leisure, Cleopatra's Chest and Crystal Balls, are also available, creating good cross-marketing and entertainment opportunities.
Steve Ibberson, bet365's Managing Director – Gaming, says: "We are all very excited about the arrival of Bingo at bet365….we are confident bingo players at bet365 will enjoy the most entertaining and rewarding online bingo available today, in addition to being part of the one of the friendliest bingo communities."
The new service will also be offering regular promotions such as Penny Bingo, BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free), chat games, and bonus Jackpot games. Every bingo prize pool is guaranteed to ensure value and entertainment.
Bet365 is one of the UK's major online gambling groups with over 1.5 million customers in 140 different countries. The Group employs over 812 people and is the UK's 16th largest private company (see previous InfoPowa report). The company's casino, games, poker and bingo operations are licensed and regulated by the government of Gibraltar.
Bet365 almost doubled revenues to GBP 1.81 billion in the year to April – just short of the GBP 2.12 billion sales by mobile phone giant Caudwell Group in 2006. It represents an 84 percent rise in revenue thye comparative period in 2007. These revenues delivered profits of GBP 36 million to the family business, which is chaired by Peter Coates.
Chief operating officer Denise Coates said the firm has enjoyed further success during the Euro 2008 football tournament: "We have been very fortunate to experience substantial growth every year since our launch in 2000, and last year was just another year where this was achieved. The great challenge for us is to make sure the growth continues."
Coates revealed that an international marketing campaign was being planned to push the new Bingo service. "We think it has potential," she said.
Bet365 was founded in the 'seventies as a chain of high-street betting shops, but focused on online sales in 2000 and sold its betting shops to Gala Coral in 2005.
The latest survey report by research organisation Screen Digest predicts that consumer spending on Internet gambling in Britain is set to rise to GBP 1.6 billion by 2010 – a three-fold increase in five years. This will be the result of a growth in player numbers from 1.1 million in 2005 to 2.1 million by 2010.
[B][COLOR="navy"]ONLINE LOTTO ACTION FROM THE MIRROR[/COLOR][/B]
German lottery specialist to power new service for major British media group
The convergance of betting, media and entertainment continued this week with the announcement that the UK media group The Mirror has signed a deal with MyLotto24 for the provision of online games to readers of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, who will be able to take part in daily lotteries from across Europe, including MyLotto24's EuroMillions.
MyLotto24 is part of the German Tipp24 group, a highly experienced online service for state-run lotteries in Europe. Founded in 1999 by Marc Peters and Jens Schumann, the group boasts over 2 million customers and operates in four countries (Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK), is listed on the German stock exchange and handles online transactions worth over Euro 340 million every year.
Launch dates for the service are yet to be announced.
[COLOR="navy"]MORE FINANCIAL VEHICLES FOR AFFILIATES[/COLOR]
New deal will make Mastercard transactions possible for affiliates
Marketing affiliates working through the Income Access program will have additional payment options via Mastercard following a deal signed this week with Intercash and TransSend.
The Intercash payment solution will be integrated with Income Access' affiliate network, making it the first of its kind. This way, Income Access affiliates will be able to have payments from multiple merchants deposited in one, convenient place with withdrawals possible through international ATMs.
With the initial launch, the TransSend payment solution will also be available to Income Access white-label software partners.
"With Intercash fully integrated into our software, our white label clients will be able to distribute monthly affiliate payments in a quick and easy manner, and without the costly transaction fees associated with wire transfers and cheques," said Daniel Bakerman, Chief Operating Officer of Income Access.
Earnings are loaded instantly onto the card providing customers with quick and easy access to funds. The card offers the same functionality as any Mastercard branded prepaid card. Users can withdraw cash at a million ATMs worldwide, make point of sale payments at over 25 million accepted locations or use the card to make secure transactions online. Affiliates will also be able to choose to have their earnings deposited to the card in one of three currencies: USD, GBP, and the Euro.
"We are delighted to be providing Income Access with our Intercash affiliate card product," said Richard Jones, CEO at TransSend. "It is very pleasing that the first rollout of the Intercash affiliate product will be to such a great company with such a strong network in the gaming industry."
[B][COLOR="navy"]VOTES THAT COULD HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE ON HR 5767[/COLOR][/B]
In a dead tie, these politicians could have achieved a positive result
HR5767, Rep. Barney Frank's attempt to halt the implementation of the UIGEA regulations until a clear definition was available, and a subsequent amendment calling for more clarity, were defeated last month when a 32-32 vote failed to pass the proposal through the House Finanacial Services Committee (see previous InfoPowa report).
CardPlayer.com revealed this week that the difference between success and failure in such a close-run vote could have been in the hands of four Democrats who voted against HR5767, the Payment Systems Protection Act. The same might be said for the three Republicans who voted against the measure, too. And there were several members of Congress absent from both sides of the 70-strong House Financial Services Committee.
CardPlayer points out that the defeat of HR5767 is not the end of the road in the search for a solution to the confusing and largely negative American legal situation regarding online gambling.
Still in the wings is Frank's HR2046 Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, empowering individual states to regulate and tax online gambling. With 48 co-sponsors across party lines so far, this measure is currently before Congress's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Nevada Representative Shelley Berkley's HR2140, which has the support of the AGA, is before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at present and has attracted 73 co-sponsors. Berkley's proposal is for a thorough and independent study of the online gambling scene by the National Academy of Sciences to help define the pros and cons of regulating the pastime.
HR2610 is a proposal introduced by Florida politico Robert Wexler that seeks to classify poker and certain other games as games of skill rather than chance, thus exempting these from the UIGEA. It, too currently rests in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and has 22 co-sponsors.
Finally, HR2607 is a bill launched by Representative Jim McDermott last year wants to change the tax provisions of the Internet Revenue Code in order to regulate online gambling, and is identified strongly in some quarters with HR2046. This has the least support at 1 co-sponsor and is in the Ways and Means Committee of the House.
[B][COLOR="navy"]GAMEACCOUNT GETS BLUE SQUARE DEAL[/COLOR][/B]
Top sportsbetting site to carry GameAccount skill games
Rank Group's popular online sportsbetting website Blue Square.com has launched a selection of skill games from UK provider GameAccount. The multi-year deal enables Blue Square's online customers to get some action on quality skill games such as Poker Dice, Gin Rummy, Multiplayer Blackjack and Backgammon.
All GameAccount person-to-person skill games offer multi-table tournaments – a first for skill-based gaming – together with head-to-head cash games.
"GameAccount's games broaden the demographic appeal of our online games offering and provide proven marketing opportunities in fast-growing markets within continental Europe. GameAccount was chosen after an exhaustive process investigating the potential for these emerging games, the player liquidity levels already present, the experience of potential suppliers and the technical capabilities of their respective platforms." said Angus Nisbet, Head of Gaming for Blue Square.
Blue Square becomes the third licensee sportsbook operator in 2008 to join the GameAccount Network following membership in 2008 by bookie websites Stan James and Gala Coral. These blue chip companies join existing network members William Hill, Boylesports, Paddy Power and Sportingbet Europe.
All GameAccount licensees enjoy the benefits of GameAccount's recent launch of Poker Dice together with various software upgrades including navigation enhancements for the games lobby, moderated chat rooms, more information for tournament players and brand new side games.
"We are delighted to welcome Blue Square into our fast-growing Network, which has experienced explosive growth in player numbers and staking activity," said Kevin Dale, Chief Executive Officer at GamingAccount. "Our blue-chip corporate customers benefit from unique skill gaming software in attracting new players – reducing the dreaded churn and driving meaningful revenues comparable to poker."
[B][COLOR="navy"]FRENCH REGS PROGRESS[/COLOR][/B]
Practical requirements a feature of new approach to online gambling
Since agreeing with the European Commission to liberalise its gambling markets (see previous InfoPowa reports), France is making steady progress in drafting proposed regulatory requirements for submission to the European Commission, local media reported this week.
Apparently a major contributor to the process has been the French National Crime Commission headed by Alain Bauer, which has helped the drafters with guidelines that include the creation of a suitably staffed and empowered regulatory and enforcement body with access to licensee gaming servers to facilititate monitoring and professional auditing.
Licensees will be required to provide information on demand to regulators, and precautions against "insider trading" will be incorporated in the requirements.
It is understood that another requirement before experienced licensees will be accepted will be a documented and confirmed track record of at least seven years as a corporate entity, and that full and complete disclosure on management, investors and shareholders will be mandatory. Owners and operational management will also be subjected to stringent background checks.
Following what are believed to be similar requirements being framed by the South African regulators, players will have to pre-register with official personal and banking identification, and will only be able to play after providing a personal identification number. Strict anti-underage or problem gambling access will be a priority.
France has undertaken to work with the European Commission in framing and introducing the regulations next year.
[B][COLOR="navy"]PARTY GAMING Q2 SOFTER [/COLOR][/B]
But online casino operations go well
The London-listed online gambling group Party Gaming plc released Q2 results this week, showing a softer financial performance, but confidence that full year 2008 will still be attractive to investors. The market's reaction was an almost 8 percent drop in the share price to 234.25p, valuing the group at approximately GBP 1.98 billion.
The online casino operations of the group delivered a sterling performance during the quarter, but slower than anticipated business in the online poker and sportsbetting sectors detracted from that to some extent, the company advised in a trading update.
In April, the company announced that Quarter 1 sales rose 21 percent after gamblers made more bets on roulette and other casino games. Casino sales jumped 45 percent, while revenue from poker, the main contributor, advanced 13 percent.
The current trading statement revealed that the strong performance in casino operations was achieved through increased players, cross selling from the poker operations, the growing popularity of bingo and the introduction of two new slot machines branded "Mission: Impossible" and "Saturday Night Fever." There are plans to roll out further movie-themed slots in the second half of the year.
"We have a deal with Paramount and are launching "Top Gun" and "Godfather" machines next and will also be announcing a tie-up with another movie studio in due course," PartyGaming's Director of Communications John Shepherd told Reuters news service.
First half 2008 results are due for release at the end of August, and are expected to show higher margins.
Analysts polled by the firm delivered a consensus that EBITDA should come in at around $156.9 million for full year 2008 (FY 2007: $112 million)
A slower poker scene was attributed to stronger performance by rival poker sites that, unlike Party Poker, accept American action. This resulted in the need for better player incentive promotions, and cost cutting on the loyalty scheme. Sportsbetting results were impacted by a run of adverse events – especially in international football – where players were more successful, but betting volumes were growing at an encouraging rate.
The statement did not shed any further light on Party's reported negotiations with US authorities regarding its liability in respect of pre-UIGEA activity in the USA.
Special mention was made of a one-off $4 million charge associated with the change in CEO from departing Mitch Garber to new arrival Jim Ryan.
[B][COLOR="navy"]SPIDERMAN AD PULLED AT LITTLEWOODS[/COLOR][/B]
Banner based on popular Cryptologic game banned by Brit Advertising Standards Authority
The use of online banner advertising featuring Marvel comic characters to promote slots with a similar theme has come under the microscope this week following a ban by the British Advertising Standards Authority on a Littlewoods ad produced by Future Publishing.
Spiderman, a themed video slot game from Cryptologic, was at the centre of the dispute which motivated the ASA decision due to its potential appeal to children. The advertisement featured the Spiderman superhero to promote the Spiderman 25-line video slot machine. The banner had in any case been pulled by Littlewoods after other complaints.
The ad featured the strapline ‘The Amazing Spiderman 25 Line Jackpot Slot GBP 50 Sign Up Bonus’, and Future Publishing stressed that it was not targeted at children because the average age of the gambling website was 41 years. In addition, both firms emphasised that strict procedures are enforced to obviate underage gambling.
Littlewoods revealed that it has been using characters from Marvel Comics in its advertisements since 2005 and that this was the first time there had been any problems.
[B][COLOR="navy"]CANTOR TAKES ORDER FOR ON-PREMISES MOBILE GAMBLING[/COLOR][/B]
$1 billion Vegas resort wants server-based gaming system on its premises
Years of development, testing and lobbying the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Control Board could be about to bear fruit for Cantor Gaming and its hand held, on-premises remote gaming products following a deal with the $1 billion M Resort, Spa and Casino property in Las Vegas this week.
The deal requires Cantor to provide cutting-edge mobile gaming technology to the casino floor and race and sports book of the M Resort, Spa and Casino, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2009 on South Las Vegas Boulevard.
While still subject to approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Control Board, the agreement stipulates that Cantor will be the exclusive provider of mobile gaming service to the M Resort and will operate the M Resort’s race and sports book.
Cantor Gaming will deploy a server-based gaming system, with full back-office infrastructure and an extensive portfolio of games. Mobile gaming will permit the play of familiar casino-style games, such as slots, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and poker, within the casino property, yet away from the confines of the traditional casino floor.
Utilizing Cantor Gaming’s advanced mobile gaming technology, guests at the M Resort will not only be able to play on hand-held devices in designated areas throughout the resort but will be able to bet in unique ways in the resort’s race and sports book.
“We want to provide our guests with the best overall gaming experience available. Cantor Gaming is an industry leader in the mobile gaming market and shares in our commitment to provide guests with an unparalleled gaming experience,” said Joseph A. Magliarditi, M Resort Executive Vice President and COO.
“We are excited to have entered into a long-term partnership with the M Resort, Spa and Casino,” said Lee Amaitis, Cantor Gaming President. “Cantor has long been committed to developing and delivering state-of-the-art technology to enhance the gaming experience. We are looking forward to bringing this advanced gaming technology to the M Resort.”
Cantor Gaming was granted the first ever license as a manufacturer, distributor and operator of mobile gaming systems by the Nevada Gaming Commission in May of 2006 (see previous InfoPowa reports). The company was instrumental in the adoption of Nevada legislation permitting wireless gaming on hand-held, mobile devices in public areas of a resort casino.
M Resort, Spa and Casino is located on approximately 90 acres of land at the southeast corner of St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard. Situated higher in elevation than other resort-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, the M Resort will provide optimal views of the world-famous Las Vegas skyline from its guest rooms, suites, conference centre and restaurants, and features 390 guest rooms and suites, over 92 000 square feet of gaming and more than 60 000 square feet of meeting and conference space.
[B]CHINESE ONLINE GAMBLING RINGLEADER SENTENCED[/B]
15 years imprisonment and a $5.8 million fine for Yang Xu
The People's Court of Shuncheng in Fushun, Liaoning province in China was the scene this week for an enforcement sequel to police raids earlier this year on an Internet gambling ring. And the court imposed fines totalling 150.55 billion yuan on the 42 ring members convicted in the case.
Given the heaviest punishment was alleged ringleader Yang Xu, who was convicted of operating an illegal business and running a gambling house and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of 40 million yuan (about $5.8 million).
The other accuseds, many of whom were relatives of Xu, included workers, bank clerks, businessmen and unemployed people ranging in age from 24 to 61. The court ordered the confiscation of the operation's gambling money and devices.
The Shenyang-based newspaper Chinese Business Morning View quoted an unnamed judicial worker in the case as saying 25 of the 42 accuseds were convicted of both operating an illegal business and running gambling operations, whereas they would not have likely faced both charges in the past.
"It is a signal the nation has strengthened punishments for online gambling," he said.
Liaoning's police received reports alerting them to the illegal online gambling ring on June 16. Yang had apparently founded the 5.8 billion yuan online gambling group with his wife in 2005.
Zhu Chuang, vice-procurator-general of the Shuncheng Procuratorate, told the court that online gambling causes greater harm than ordinary gambling, because it often involves larger sums of money. And as many gambling websites' servers are in foreign countries, a large amount of gambling money flows out of the country through illegal financial institutions, creating a serious threat to the nation's financial security, he said.
[B][COLOR="navy"]POLITICS AND GAMBLING[/COLOR][/B]
Poker and craps becoming an issue in US presidential campaigns
American publications from the venerable Time Magazine to political blogs have been examining the pros and cons of the different gambling styles of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama recently, contrasting the more "cerebral and skill-based" gaming around poker tables associated with Obama with the bigger spending and fortune oriented action allegedly favoured by McCain.
Obama's rather more modest admissions of enjoying a good game of low stakes poker attracted rather less attention than anecdotes protraying McCain as an avid craps player prepared to spend long hours at the table, not so much to make money as to revel in the excitement of winning, depending on the capricious nature of luck.
One blog is even investigating whether the Republican candidate has filed proper tax forms after allegations that McCain spent "a few thousand dollars at a time" on crap tables in Vegas and New Orleans. One Republican quoted in a Time piece said: "He clearly knows that this is on the borderline of what is acceptable for him to be doing. And he just sort of revels in it."
Back in 2005, an article on McCain in The New Yorker quoted a supporter, Wes Gullett as claiming that they used to play craps in Las Vegas in 14 hour stints, often on fifteen dollar minimum tables, whilst Time outlines a gambling career over the past decade that has seen McCain play "on Mississippi riverboats, Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip."
"Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John's life," John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino told Time. "Taking a chance, playing against the odds."
Aides told the magazine that McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. "He never, ever plays on the house," Mark Salter, a McCain adviser, said, adding that the goal is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table.
Time claims that McCain's aides are now urging him to distance himself from gambling, and the magazine reveals that they vetoed his suggestion to set up a game in a private room.
Taking the politics of gambling to ridiculous lengths this week was the state of Minnesota, which is apparently reviewing a funding appeal to raise campaign finances for Obama, which has been seen in some quarters as a possible violation of state gambling laws.
The Obama campaign's national website calls for donations of $5 maxed at $2 300 from supporters, with the incentive that ten supporters could win an opportunity to meet with the Democrat presidential candidate in Denver, the Star Tribune reports.
But the head of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, Tom Barrett, has requested the state Department of Public Safety to investigate whether the offer constitutes an illegal raffle. Raffles, which take payment in exchange for prizes awarded by chance, are legal in Minnesota only by non-profit charities….and the board's website specifically forbids political campaigns from conducting a raffle of any kind.
The reaction from the Obama campaign was fast, with spokesmen vehemently denying that the offer to meet the Senator was a raffle, and claiming that the ten winners would be chosen by "judgments involving their individual histories and stories, not by chance."
Barrett said the contest could be made legal either by stating it was void in Minnesota, or by opening the offer to any who wished to participate, removing the contribution qualification.
[B][COLOR="navy"]CAMELOT BINGO AD BANNED [/COLOR][/B]
Images implied that bingo clubs were closing down and the industry was dying
The UK lottery provider Camelot and its advertising agency AMV BBDO had to withdraw a provocative advertisement after a finding by the Advertising Standards Authority that it implied that bingo clubs in general were closing down and the industry was dying.
The Bingo Association lodged a complaint about the ad., which showed a woman on an electronic scooter driving past a drab-looking bingo hall with the doors padlocked. The ad, which promoted Camelot scratch cards, then erased the image in a scratchcard-like dynamic before switching to a view of the woman driving along a beachfront on a flashier vehicle, wearing designer gear and jewelry after scoring on the Camelot scratchcard product.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the Bingo Association complained to the ASA that the ad was both misleading and "denigratory," implying that bingo clubs were closed and that the industry was dying.
Camelot argued that the ad depicted an early morning scenario when most bingo clubs were closed, so it was possible that the woman depicted had bought a scratchcard because her bingo club was not open. They added that the advert showed a bingo club that was closed, not shut down in a business sense, and was intended to show that a scratchcard winner could upgrade his or her life.
However, an ASA panel rejected the argument, commenting that it was not clear from the ad what time of day it was, and the image of a padlock and chains, the "aged drab look" of the bingo hall and the disappointment of the woman gave the impression that the bingo club was "permanently closed".
"We also considered that those images implied that bingo clubs in general were closing down and the industry was dying," said the ASA. "We concluded that the ad was misleading and denigrated the bingo industry."
The ASA said the ad should not be broadcast again in its current form.
[B][COLOR="navy"]COACHING FOR THE WSOP FINAL TABLE?[/COLOR][/B]
Hellmuth training video launched at an opportune time
This year's radical departure from the usual World Series of Poker program, which will see the final table taking place only in November after the participants are decided in July, could have created a great opportunity for coaching deals that enable the nine players who make it to hone their poker skills.
And it appears that poker ace Phil Hellmuth, who has achieved 11 WSOP bracelets, could be among the first to seize the opportunity with his new video on poker strategy "How to Win the World Series of Poker."
The downloadable video series is available at Hellmuth's website for a limited time at almost $60 a pop, and is touted as being especially useful for the thousands of players competing for the top prize in the world's most prestigious poker tournament. It offers specific strategies for every day and every aspect of the poker tournament.
The series joins a list of other Hellmuth products such as Phil Hellmuth's Black Belt Poker – Complete Limit and No Limit Hold'em Poker Course; Phil Hellmuth's Black Belt Poker Course – No Limit Hold'em and Phil Hellmuth's Black Belt Poker Course – Omaha Hold'em.
Hellmuth knows whereof he speaks; he is the youngest player ever to win the WSOP Main Event in Vegas and he holds the record for most cashes in the championship at 67 – four of which have taken place already in this year's series.
[B][COLOR="navy"]U.S. INTERNET HORSE RACING PROGRESS[/COLOR][/B]
Sona Mobile completes Express Funding element in NYRA Internet betting project
U.S. horse race betting over the Internet, a legislated exception to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, added further functionality this week with the completion of an Express Funding phase for the New York Racing Association by Sona Mobile.
The secure software solutions provider announced that it has completed the Express Funding functionality of the Internet Wagering Application for the Association as part of Phase II of a contract between the parties.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sona Mobile was contracted to develop a web-based wagering platform for NYRA which allows racing fans to access real-time racetrack information and securely place wagers over the Internet on all races. Phase I of the project included online registration, access to track information and online wagering capabilities.
NYRA, which owns and operates the three largest racetracks in New York, will pay Sona Mobile the remaining 50 percent of the development funds following the launch of Phase II.
Express Funding is the new way for NYRA Rewards Program members to fund their accounts. Members making personal check deposits, including electronic funds transfer requests, will now receive immediate credits to their account. The new functionality is offered as part of the NYRA Rewards Program and is free to its members. The Express Funding program enables eligible users to have immediate access of up to $500 in any single transaction per day, which will be instantly available in their NYRA Rewards account.
Shawn Kreloff, chairman and CEO of Sona Mobile, commented, "The NYRA Rewards Program is arguably one of the country's most attractive account wagering programs with some of the best racing content in the industry. NYRA's use of Express Funding paves the way for Sona to continue to develop and release innovative enhancements to the system, and these enhancements are already being tested by our Research and Development team."
[B][COLOR="navy"]UK MOBILE PROVIDER UNVEILS RECORD REVENUES[/COLOR][/B]
Investors will probably be pleased with this set of results.
The UK mobile gambling provider Probability had good news for investors this week with a set of Q1 key performance indicators that augers well for the firm's continued success.
CEO Charles Cohen revealed that net gaming revenues grew by 7.5 percent on the previous quarter to a record GBP 1 247 641, and that the company registered 75 225 new customers in the reporting period, boosting its total customer base to 414 430. That's a 19 percent rise in customer acquisition over the comparative period last year.
Cohen also advised that the company is in the happy cash position of having GBP 3 million in the kitty at the end of Q1.
Commenting on the figures, Cohen said: “We are pleased to be able to demonstrate, once again, the strength of this fast-growing business, with record quarterly customer acquisition and net gaming revenues.”
Although it hasn't been confirmed by a formal survey, the anecdotal indications are that the increased interest in Probability's mobile gambling product comes at the expense of rival gambling activities such as lottery scratch card action.
Cohen again underlined the potential of his licensing deal with Paramount Pictures (see previous InfoPowa report) to develop mobile games based on three of the studio’s classic movies – King Creole, Grease and the Italian Job, from which it expects to see revenues during the second financial quarter. The 3Mobile deal to pre-install a link to Probability's flagship LadyLuck mobile gambling service on two million of its new handsets during 2008 was also emphasised.
The current economic slowdown in Europe seems not to faze Cohen, who commented: "Whilst others may be suffering from the economic climate and changes to regulations in other areas, our presence and first mover advantage in the mobile gambling market gives us many advantages that make us confident of achieving our near and medium term growth plans."
[B][COLOR="navy"]RTG CLOSURES CLOUDED IN MYSTERY[/COLOR][/B]
Are the closures of certain major brands connected with the recent death of a major operator?
The sudden death two weeks ago of one of RealTime Gaming's major online casino operators, Warren Cloud, could be connected with the mysterious and abrupt closure of several of his better known brands this week.
Without prior warning to players, the websites at Crystal Palace, High Rollers Lounge, Powerbet, Lucky Coin, Lucky Pyramid, Golden Nile, American Grand, Royal Circus and eGoli were closed, bearing a notice that advised: "This site is no longer available. Please check this space often for more information and updates."
Cloud's Mobile777.com and Silver Sands brands seemed to be still in business, however.
RTG's major licensor Hastings International has been asked for comment, but as we went to press no response had been received.
[B][COLOR="navy"]BETTER LATE THAN NEVER – CRYSTAL PALACE PLAYERS CONTACTED[/COLOR][/B]
But a better communications channel is essential
The abrupt closure of the late Warren Cloud's online casinos two days ago has, at last, been followed by a player communication.
"Oliver Curran" from Cloud's casino group contacted players Thursday morning with the following message:
"It is with great regret and a heavy heart that we announce that our Casino will be closing on July 31, 2008.
"If you currently have a balance with the casino, please either play out your balance or withdraw your balance before our closing date.
"Please note, if you have received a bonus, the wagering requirements are still in place for all bonuses as well as redeemed/comp points.
"As a matter of goodwill, all players that are not able to playthrough their credits or cash out their withdrawable balance by July 31 will still be able to contact our customer service center 14 days after the closing date to request credits to be cashed out, should they have met wager requirements.
"All funds remaining in casino accounts after July 31 will be retained by the casino. We hope that you have enjoyed your time with us as much as we have enjoyed having you."
With most of the casino websites closed two days ago, players may have a problem using the websites as suggested by Curran, although he signed off his email with a US toll free number at 1800 824 3175. What is required is a well publicised channel of communication for players to recover their monies from the group.
[B][COLOR="navy"]IRISH EYES COULD BE SMILING OVER U.S. INTERNET GAMBLING BAN[/COLOR][/B]
Irish review committee takes a pragmatic look at the advantages for the emerald isle
An Irish government committee set up two years ago to review the better regulation of casinos and gaming has taken a positive view on how Ireland could benefit from the restrictions in the United States on Internet gambling imposed by the Unlawful Internet Gamblikng and Enforcement Act.
This week the committee discussed the need for facilities by online companies impacted by the U.S. ban on financial transactions with Internet gambling firms.
"The recent United States prohibition of payment mechanisms for gambling online, presents a window of opportunity for Ireland," a Casino Committee spokesman said.
Ireland has a history of success through its ability to attract investment by foreign firms with the likes of Cryptologic, Google and Yahoo setting up European headquarters in Dublin. Ireland's low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent has helped broaden its appeal for foreign investors.
The committee has stressed the need for strict regulation to protect minors and the vulnerable, prevent criminals from entering the market and ensure the trust of e-gambling customers, but noted that following a similar course to that taken by the United States presented numerous difficulties for little reward. It has also suggested that interaction with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is necessary to negotiate competitive taxation rates if Ireland is to take advantage of the need for a secure and regulated base for online gambling companies.
The report noted: "Should this opportunity [to host regulated online gambling companies] be grasped within the appropriate timescale, Ireland, as a gaming friendly centre of excellence, can reasonably expect to attract a reasonable portion of this dynamic industry."
Turning to land gambling, the committee found that over 30 establishments were providing games such as blackjack and poker by operating as private members clubs under the present dispensation dating back to 1956, which makes casinos illegal. Should the government decide to legalise gambling, this should be done with respect for European Union laws and in compliance with international guidelines concerning money laundering, but through a restrictive licensing regime.
The committee recommended that gaming in casinos and betting on activities such as sport should be seen as distinct and kept seperated. And the committee recommended that legalised and licensed casinos should have to pay a higher rate of tax than the 1 percent of turnover currently applied to bookmakers.
[B][COLOR="navy"]NEW GAMES FROM CRYPTOLOGIC[/COLOR][/B]
Marvel super hero slot and 4 deck multihand BJ released
The Dublin-based online gambling software provider Cryptologic has released more new games, delivering a slot with an underwater adventure theme, and the latest intense blackjack action. CryptoLogic’s newest game pack features famed Marvel Super Hero Sub-Mariner and 4 Deck Multi Hand Video Blackjack, a patent-pending product developed exclusively by the company.
“At CryptoLogic, we know there are two critical elements to online gaming success: give players a compelling experience with a game or character they know, or design a fresh take on a familiar concept,” said Brian Hadfield, CryptoLogic’s President and CEO.
“Our relationship with Marvel has enabled us to create and deliver some of the most memorable online slots with some of the world’s most recognized characters. Coupled with our patent-pending gaming innovations, CryptoLogic has aggressively positioned itself as a leader in this highly competitive space.”
Sub-Mariner, one of the first Marvel Comics legends, makes his Internet casino debut with an action-packed 25 payline online slot game, joining other popular characters, including Spider-Man, The Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man and The X-Men. Watch as the game screen is flooded, leaving Sub-Mariner to swim through each level of reels. Sink submarines and destroy battleships to save the underwater world of Atlantis during rewarding and visually-stunning interactive bonus rounds for a chance to win 5000 times the line bet – all for as little as one cent.
Fans of blackjack are in for a real treat with the launch of the latest installment of CryptoLogic’s proprietary Multi Hand Video Blackjack game: 4 Deck Multi Hand Video Blackjack. A new twist in this iteration enables players to play up to five hands at a time, against up to 50 dealer hands. Player friendly rules, including four decks per shoe, dealer standing on 17 and a tutorial feature, give this game plenty of player appeal.
[B][COLOR="navy"]POKER ROBOT 3 HUMANS 2[/COLOR][/B]
University of Alberta software beats the coaches
The promised match between a University of Alberta poker program and seven human poker coaches from StoxPoker.com (see previous InfoPowa report) took place this week at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas…and the humans lost.
The University has a strong background in developing poker programs as part of its development of artificial intelligence for computer applications. Poker apparently contains most of the challenge elements ideal for developments of this nature.
The man versus machine competition was held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and saw Alberta U's Polaris II post a record of three wins, two losses and a draw against the human poker players in heads-up matches.
The first man vs. machine competition in Vancouver last year saw predecessor Polaris I narrowly defeated by Phil Laak and Tony Esfandiari, two top poker professionals (see previous InfoPowa report). To prepare this year’s event, the Alberta scientists made modifications to the computer's ability to reason and also altered its capacity to learn and adapt to its human opponents.
IJay Palansky played in two of the matches and commented that that Polaris II made some bizarre moves that a human would never make. Matt Hawrilenko, who played in the final match, agreed but stated that Polaris II's win was scary for the future of head-to-head poker.
"For those of us who make our incomes largely from playing heads-up games, whether computers are ready to beat us or not, they're certainly ready to beat some of our opponents," said Hawrilenko.
[B][COLOR="navy"]AUSSIE LEGAL CHALLENGE BY ONLINE GAMBLING COMPANIES[/COLOR][/B]
Sportingbet and Betfair contest NSW gambling adverts ban
ABC Online reports that the international Internet betting companies Betfair and Sportingbet have launched a High Court challenge in Australia against legislation that prevents gambling companies outside New South Wales from advertising in the state.
Michael Sullivan, the COO at Sportingbet said his company is restricted from advertising in print, radio and television as well as from sponsoring sporting events in New South Wales, and that a unanimous High Court decision against the Western Australian government (see previous InfoPowa report) was the catalyst for the legal action.
"If you look at what the decision was in Western Australia in relation to Betfair, we think we've got a very good chance," he said.
"We are licenced in the Northern Territory and we're not allowed to advertise in New South Wales; that is a restriction of trade between states and territories, and we believe it to be unconstitutional."
A government spokesman said racing minister Graham West had no comment as the matter is before the court.
[B][COLOR="navy"]ASIAN ACTION A SUCCESS, SAYS INTERPOL[/COLOR][/B]
SOGA II detains 1 300 suspects, says international police body
The almost weekly news reports of anti-gambling busts across Asia Pacific countries (see various InfoPowa reports) were consolidated into a progress report from the International Police Association this week.
The Interpol statement to major news agencies noted that police across Asia have arrested more than 1 300 people and seized $US 16 million in major swoops on illegal football gambling networks. In May and June, police raided 1 088 illegal gambling dens across the region, many allegedly controlled by organised crime gangs.
Located across China, including in Hong Kong and Macau, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the dens are jointly estimated to have handled some $US 1.5 billion in bets, the statement claimed.
Codenamed Operation SOGA II – short for soccer gambling – the crackdown was timed to coincide with the Euro 2008 football championships and the finals of other football league matches around the world, Interpol said.
"The effect this operation has achieved is substantial," the international police agency's director of police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, said in the statement from Interpol HQ in Lyon, France.
Louboutin added that the operation, the second of its kind, "forms an excellent base for collective security efforts during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics," which kick off on August 8.
[B][COLOR="navy"]MORE ARRESTS IN SINGAPORE[/COLOR][/B]
22 picked up in police raids on a "funeral wake"
Channel News Asia reports that Singapore police arrested 22 people this week for illegal gambling in an apartment at Lorong 1 Toa Payoh. The gambling den was set up at the venue disguised as a funeral wake.
With the exception of two people from Malaysia and China, all those arrested were Singapore residents, the report said, adding that the police seized cash amounting to S$ 80 000.
Those arrested will be charged in court soon, and if convicted, may be fined up to S$ 5 000 or jailed for six months, or both.
The as yet unidentified operator of the illegal gambling den faces heavier penalties – a fine of between S$ 20 000 and S$ 200 000, or a five-year jail sentence, or both.
[B][COLOR="navy"]Asian briefings feature an impressive speaker list[/COLOR][/B]
This year's Asian Gambling Briefing, scheduled for 21 to 23 October in Singapore promises to be one of the best yet, and comes at a time when the Asia Pacific market is busting out all over.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Asia Pacific region, particularly Macau, Singapore, and Thailand, are expected to be the world's fastest growing gaming markets, with projected annual increases of 15.2 percent over the next five years. PWC forecasts that Asia Pacific revenues should mushroom from $18.3 billion in 2007 to $37.2 billion in 2012.
With the explosion in the number of casinos, integrated resorts, as well as betting sites, lottery operators and land-based tournaments, comes the need for regulation. Many Asian countries are considering legalising casinos but, even in the jurisdictions where it is currently legal, there are still many grey areas and uncertainties. This makes it difficult to ascertain where the true opportunities lie and what sorts of returns can be expected on an investment. AGB intends to dispel that uncertainty.
Organised by Clarion Gaming, the Asian Gambling Briefing brings together some of the top minds in gaming law and regulation, featuring prominent speakers ranging from eCOGRA's CEO Andrew Beveridge and legal expert Prof. I. Nelson Rose to Shi Yongyan of Anti-Money Laundering Bureau, People's Bank of China and Christopher Parker, CEO & Chairman, Asian Poker Tour. Many other senior company executives with experience in the region will share their knowledge and strategies.
Readers can get the full detail at: www.AsianGamblingBriefing.com