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long overdue industry update

Haven't written one of these for a while, so a lot to catch up on, and probably plenty I've missed!

News today that several big wagering companies have to pay back taxes in Spain. Nothing they've been asked for previously, but conveniently at the same the country is flat broke and are in the process of awarding new gaming licences. Purely above board of course, but I doubt the chances of any firm trying to acquire a licence are any better than 50/1 without paying a wad for their earlier business in Spain. Bwin and Sportingbet are the two firms in the news as having to cough up, expect Betfair and numerous others to be tied up in this.

The washup from the Racing NSW court win over Betfair (and subsequent decision by Racing Victoria to follow suit with a turnover-based fee for wagering operators) in Australia has forced Betfair to raise their commission rate for all codes of racing in Australia and New Zealand to be increased to 6.5%. I have also heard unofficially they are discouraging traders from playing on those markets, which makes sense. With racing authorities deeming every wager as a part of turnover, then the customer who trades $1000 to win $5 just costs them money. If they (traders) stay in the market, then the true commission rate is applied in current form would need to be at least 10% to pay their costs. Alternatively, they'd have to bring in an unpopular fee for each bet.

In the States, Betfair appear no closer to emerging with an exchange licence in California or New Jersey, despite government approval. Betfair branding over Hollywood Park racecourse in California is certainly getting their name out there but will the stubborn Horsemen's Group budge in their resistance to the platform? Will they eye the new fee regimes in Australia and demand even more money? Betfair are throwing resources at it, sending racing marketing folk over to do battle, leaving quite a decent job at Hammersmith if anyone is looking...

William Hill chief exec Ralph Topping had to sweat on a very tight shareholder vote on a retention bonus of £1.2m. Perhaps those shareholders would rather hand their money over to those jolly JP Morgan traders who blew £4.4bn recently, further backing up the theory that financial traders deserve no more credibility than the average punter. Yet try telling that to your bank manager when you want to get a mortgage...

Betchoice has now disappeared, Unibet Australia has taken over, and Scandinavian rival Betsson is in the process of acquiring Nordicbet. The big firms continue to get bigger and the smaller ones disappear quickly. Is the only hope for the small book these days to be bought out for a juicy sum?

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