Eye on Europe - Aug. 15, 2006

15 August 2006

Becoming a Payment Center -- The Czech Republic's largest lottery operator, Sazka a.s., plans to allow its clients to withdraw cash from several thousand lottery/betting terminals. Sazka clients can use the terminals for betting purposes, to recharge their prepaid mobile cards or buy sports and concert tickets. Since July, they have been able to pay bills at the terminals, which has been the domain of the Czech Post Office, Ceska posta. Sazka's revenues in 2005 reached US$423.5 million, while its net profit was $70.1 million. The country has a population of just over 10 million. On the Corruption Perceptions Index 2005, Czech Republic's is ranked 47.

Tipsy -- Tipsport, the odds market leader of the Czech Republic, has bought a 100 percent stake in Slovak firm DOXX-SK, which operates odds betting in Slovakia. DOXX-SK was renamed "Tipsport SK" and simultaneously separated from the DOXX Group following the new owner's entry on Aug. 1, 2006. Founded in the Czech Republic in 1991, Tipsport controls about 45 percent of the Czech odds betting market, which is run out of 1,030 branches. Czechoslovakia became free from Soviet influence in 1989, and the Slovaks and the Czechs agreed to separate peacefully on Jan. 1, 1993. Slovakia's population is 5.4 million. On the Corruption Perceptions Index 2005, Slovakia is ranked 50.

Neelie is Watching -- U.K. authorities on July 5, 2006 withdrew the EU investigation (article 8§2) into the planned sale of the Tote to a racing trust, believing that it may contravene U.K. state aid rules. Now, the minister for sport, culture and gambling, Richard Caborn, has to privatize the Tote at a "fair market price," which is expected by the ministry to be around £400 million. A racing consortium, comprised of the Racecourse Holdings Trust, Arena Leisure and Northern Racing, has sent a proposal to the responsible minister. Analysts, however, say that the Tote would rally between £500 million and £550 million at an auction. And if the sale prize is too low, Neeli Kroes, the European commissioner for competition, will again knock on the door of the U.K. government.

MP Watchers -- For the watchers of the possible privatization of the Turkish National Lottery, Millil Piyango, here is the latest information: According to the Turkish Telecommunications Authority, the number of GSM subscribers in Turkey increased by a factor of 550 between 1994 and 2005, reached 43.6 million this year and is projected to increase to 53.5 million in 2011. The number of Internet users in Turkey, which stood at 2.5 million in 2000, exceeded 16 million at the end of 2005, a 640 percent increase. In 2004, the number of Internet subscribers was 10.2 million. The number of ADSL subscribers, meanwhile, increased significantly from 3,000 in 2002 to over 1.54 million subscribers by the end of 2005. The number of inhabitants in Turkey is 70 million. On the Corruption Perceptions Index 2005, Turkey is ranked 69.

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.