Eye on Europe - 9 May 2007

9 May 2007

Plus or Minus 400 million Euro? -- According to two studies paid for by Austrian monopolies Casinos Austria and Österreichischen Lotterien and executed by the Institute for Higher Studies and the Institute for Economic Mathematics in Vienna, a liberalization of the Austrian gambling market will result in a yearly loss for the Austrian tax office of around 400 million euro; and the above mentioned operators would experience a 1 percent setback in net income. I would bet that other academics can prove the exact opposite--400 million in extra annual income for the Austrian tax office--if liberalization takes place.

888 Exposure -- The 888.com World Snooker Championship took place April 21 through May 7 in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, England. The BBC was the home broadcaster, and nearly all daily matches were also aired via Eurosport, the Pan-European broadcaster, established in Paris. 888.com, the main sponsor of the event as well as sponsor to most of the players, got great airplay, and CEO Gigi Levy should be very happy. There were no problems with the French authorities . . . and that is not always the case.

Not Welcome -- Another international operator, Unibet, hasn't had as much cause for celebration. The organizer of the most famous cycling event in the world, the Tour de France, wants to block participation of Unibet professional cycling team, which has already been banned from five spring races by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO). The organization is trying everything in its power to prevent Unibet from starting in the Tour de France, which happens to begin this year in the Valhalla of free gambling market: London. The team is, however, getting a helping hand from Charlie McGreevy, Europe's Internal Market Commissioner. McCreevy is backing participation of Unibet and he can now show his muscles more because it is an international event that passes through England, Belgium Spain and France. In the meantime Unibet's team has changed its name to Green Cycle Associates, but one should doubt that the change will help to enter the race of all races. Française des Jeux, the French National lottery, owns a professional race team, and another state monopolist, the Belgium National Lottery, is a 50 percent owner of the Lotto team. Above that, PMU, the French pari-mutuel organization, is one of the main sponsors of the event and organizes a prognostication on the riders' arrivals, without having a sports betting license.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.