It's a couple of weeks old now but Bwin chief Manfred Teufelberger was detained for questioning in Belgium recently, whilst speaking at a conference. The validity of Belgian gaming legislation is disputed by most leading firms as being in conflict with EU legislation. Questioning is said to have related to Teufelberger's comments that some business from Belgium was still likely to be occurring on bwin as blocking is rarely 100% effective.
Breon Corcoran has had plenty on his plate at Betfair since he joined, with having to pull the company out of Germany (exchange only, £6m annual profit) due to the imposition of a flat 5% tax on stakes a few weeks ago, soon followed by withdrawal from Greece, removing a further £7m of profit from this year's financial report. Add to that, a new American CFO has been brought in, replacing Stephen Morana, one of the few Betfair members of staff to have reached 10 years of service (very few from the good old days left!). Corcoran also took an axe to the international side of the business, trimming the number of languages offered and up to 50 translation staff with it - only logical given they are being forced out of various foreign markets. No doubt there will be more to come...
News across the desk this morning of some blood-letting at Corals this week. A 'trading consultant' was engaged by the company to revive its fortunes and as a result at least seven traders have been given their marching orders. Some of them quite highly regarded too I'm told. Reasons behind the carnage are yet to be confirmed but could be any of shift in the business to Gibraltar, cost-cutting or moving towards an automated trading system as many bookmakers do these days.
The Racing Post reported this week that Ladbrokes are nearing a decision to acquire Betdaq. This baffles me, it really does. Betdaq are a complete and utter lemon. Their only rival in the market has kicked so many own goals over the years with the premium charge, followed by an increase in the premium charge, cost of API and data use, customer service standards which have fallen faster than Facebook share value, site crashes and various other faults. So many pissed off Betfair customers, yet Betdaq are still tailed off with a lap to go. Around the world, Betfair is losing favour. Across Europe, they are being kicked out of countries on a regular basis. Growth for the exchange just isn't there, hence they've had to push hard into other products - casino, arcade, sportsbook etc. Ladbrokes online division continues to spend vast sums of money for poor return on investment. So now they want to purchase Betdaq to fix that, when the exchange honeymoon period is well and truly over? You couldn't give the purple mob away. As I said to a mate on Twitter the other day - if you offered them a carton of Foster's for the business, you'd expect change. So many poor decisions made there over the years, they've blown their chance to be a real player in the market.
ADDENDUM - 30/11/12 - Betdaq have started contacting Australian clients to notify them their accounts will be closed. This either means Betdaq are intending to gain an Australian licence and wish to obey local laws, or, more likely, Ladbrokes, as a PLC, do not wish to break any local Australian laws - they have already closed all their Australian-registered accounts. Sources tell me Danish clients of Betdaq have received a similar email recently.
Australian racing has had its share of scandals over recent weeks, none smaller than the Damien Oliver/Miss Octopussy case. Everything which has come out stinks of a nice, cosy arrangement between stewards and the jockey to structure the case. To be fair, the evidence upon which Oliver was convicted was not under the jurisdiction of racing, it was inadvertently gathered by police in a murder investigation. But, once stewards are aware of such evidence, they must be empowered to stand the accused down immediately. The innocent before proven guilty mantra has to stand aside when matters of integrity which have the capability of severely tarnishing the industry are involved. This was not just a jockey placing a bet, it was a jockey placing a bet on another horse in a race he was riding in, creating the natural inference that the jockey might not ride his mount to the best of his ability. Whether he did or not is completely irrelevant. The image of the industry MUST come first. For allegations of the bet to come out in early October, then stewards claiming that they didn't ask Oliver if the accusation was true until weeks later is a farce. The jockey made no effort to deny the allegation publicly, he simply kept quiet and was allowed to carry on riding. It is rumoured that he admitted the bet behind the scenes but not publicly. And then conveniently, the stewards hold the inquiry after the Cup carnival is over, allowing Olly to earn as much money as he could before taking the 10-month penalty handed out... conveniently timed so he can return for next spring carnival! It beggars belief. The stewards MIGHT have acted accordingly within the limits of their powers - but their poor communication process throughout the saga points sharply in the other direction. The Australian Racing Board has responded by recommending minimum penalties for offences such as jockeys placing a bet, not allowing a horse to run on its merits, trainers administering medication to a horse on raceday etc. Sounds like a step in the right direction but having the proposals adopted is always the hardest part. I like the quote from the Australian Racing Board chairman, words to the effect of "Racing has a customer and if that customer does not have full confidence in the integrity of the sport, he will not bet". Would be nice to see that recognised elsewhere - sure people still bet in the UK amid corruption allegations against jockeys occasionally. Just imagine how much could be bet if the perception of the industry was clean (i.e. crooks like Barney Curley booted out of the sport!) and if the industry's ultimate funders (bookmakers, via punter losses) weren't so defensive against providing punters with information widely available in the rest of the world - like sectional timing!
Match-fixing in football is never far away from the news. Firstly, something good to report - a key player behind organising corrupt matches, Almir Gegic, has turned himself in after a year on the run. Some good coverage there of how the money flows and what they are looking for.
And the bad - the Italian justice system continues to let people off on appeal, defeating the purpose of trying to stamp the malpractice out and providing no deterrent whatsoever to corrupt parties.
A few tennis players having a moan this week about being drug tested out-of-competition. First they moan about lack of prizemoney (or poor distribution of it), next they complain about efforts to improve the perception of the sport and ensure that the sport is clean. In the aftermath of cycling's debacle over Lance Armstrong and corruption within the UCI, tennis should be making every effort to ensure the same does not happen to them - by being as transparent and open as possible. Some of the same doctors involved in widespread doping in cycling have been linked to tennis players, and the game has developed in recent years into a power and endurance game more than anything else - allowing the influence of performance-enhancing drugs like EPO and steroids to have a marked effect. There have long been rumours of a few players being on the juice, and testing at tournaments is a waste of time - it's the arduous training schemes which need to interrupted for testing. If you want the big bucks tennis, then prove to us you are clean. Don't just declare it's not a problem because only a pitiful number of tests are taken each year and they all come back clean, except for some sacrificial lamb ranked #483 in the world.....
Rant over :)