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The regular industry roundup

A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks...

In a ruling that can only be filed under 'useless government officials trying to justify their own meaningless existence', French gambling regulator ARJEL has announced that local betting companies will not be allowed to offer markets on matches with nothing at stake - title, European qualification, relegation etc, in several sports - football, basketball, handball, rugby and volleyball. Sounds good in principle, the right intentions, stopping people from being caught out/defrauded by a fixed game...but ARJEL have no criteria set up to determine which games have nothing at stake, and they won't be making the decision. So by the statements they have made, a match of 1st vs 2nd in Ligue 1 in the final week of the season will have no betting available if the title is already decided. I'm reliably informed the rules only apply to French domestic sport, but imagine if it was extended abroad. For several teams, half of the NBA season would be off-limits.

Not only that, ARJEL seem to forget that bookmakers are in business to make money, not give it away. Monitoring systems for fixed games and sporting fraud amongst licensed betting firms are very sophisticated. They'll soon know about it and word spreads like wildfire amongst punters and bookies alike. The PMU were caught out by a handball scandal last year - very sloppy, bets were in cash and made by people related to the players. The technology is out there, surely it's easier to bring the PMU up to speed than affect the business of every locally-licensed firm, for one match in 100 that might be affected? Almost certainly, but it's just another way the French government can protect their (former) monopoly despite having opened the country up to private operators. This week 888 became the latest international gambling firm to hand their French licence back, the ridiculous restrictions on trading there simply make business unviable unless you have the exclusive rights to betting shops throughout the country....

In Norway, you may remember this match-fixing scandal. The investigation into the match turned up repeated breaches of Norway's tight player protection regulations. This week the local betting monopoly Norsk Tipping suspended several of their agents for repeatedly allowing players to bypass maximum bet limits over several years.

Bwin have solved the problem of getting their CEO arrested when visiting Belgium by partnering up with a local land-based casino in order to acquire a Belgian gambling licence.

The Reid-Kyl online gambling bill in the US looks dead in the water. Americans have got too many other problems to worry about than to allow citizens what is almost considered a basic right in the rest of the world. Also in the US, the New Jersey assembly is set to vote on the sports betting bill this week. And that's when all the self-righteous sports bodies will jump all over it and claim all sorts of rubbish that it will cause the demise of sport, yada yada yada. Again - logic and Americans don't go in the same sentence. Unlicensed betting is where 99% of match-fixing/sporting fraud occurs, where regulators and authorities have no access to betting records and accountholder information. The unlicensed betting market in the US is huge, but bringing that onshore in a regulatory framework which will bring in huge tax revenues for the states sets off all sorts of pitiful arguments. Bibles, or more correctly, ridiculous interpretations of the Bible, and automatic weapons are perfectly fine, but having a $5 bet on the SuperBowl, or playing poker online for 50c chips should be off-limits to consenting adults. Farcical.

Betfair's new CEO Breon Corcoran made his first address to the stock market last week and virtually declared an end to the company's pioneering days. No longer will Betfair pile money into regions of unclear regulation, their investment will be focused on core, licensed markets. Governments around the world are effectively ganging up on Betfair and either blocking them, or taxing them out of the market. There's only so long that fight can continue, and nations like France, and possibly Greece, have successfully forced them out. International growth for Betfair is virtually over, the bubble has burst. Corcoran also acknowledged that Betfair can no longer expect customers to adapt to them, they need to develop products that the customer already wants. Unprofitable areas will be cut (investments in LMAX and a social gaming firm have been sold off), other products may follow. Corcoran was very highly regarded at Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker who have expanded significantly onto UK High Sts in recent years. Online margins have always been tight, and at Betfair even more so due to the nature of the exchange. All this appears to point toward Betfair moving into betting shops on the High St sooner rather than later. The sportsbook is already there, the online business is already offshore, all Betfair need to do now is start buying up shops and acquiring as many of those evil FOBTs as they can. Despite technology moving on, the retail market is where the profit lies in the UK. It might be a complete paradigm change for the firm, but none of the old guard are still there and shareholders just want to see secure, legal profits and growth prospects.

Cricket Australia have done their impression of the French gambling regulatory body by getting unnecessarily involved in sports betting affairs. Australian sports betting legislation gives sports bodies the authority to control the markets offered on their sport by locally licensed bookmakers. CA thought they needed to interfere by banning batsman's runs markets - eg over/under 44.5 runs for Michael Clarke in a specified innings. CA's logic was that this particular market can be influenced by just one person, which is fine. But, just like ARJEL in France, they forget that the bookmakers offering these markets are in business to make money. It's not a market you can have large bets accepted on - $500 would be high on the scale unless you have a big losing account. Bookies watch these markets very closely, the chances of corruption happening on one of these markets with wagers placed locally with licensed bookies is extremely slim. Offshore firms aren't as restricted, and that's without mentioning the massive illegal market in India....

And finally, the Irish and UK governments are still working on bills to tax online betting at the point of consumption, in order to bring offshore bookmakers back into the tax net. The Irish reform isn't expected before late 2013 while the UK bill might take even longer. Time and resource is being invested into making the proposal as watertight to the inevitable legal challenge from UK bookmakers as possible.


  1. Excellent post. I have posted a link to your blog, on my blog .. .. hope thats ok.


  2. About to interview for a bookmaker very nice primer.

    ta Jon

  3. he chances of corruption happening on one of these markets with wagers placed locally with licensed bookies is extremely slim.


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