Eye on Europe - Feb. 16, 2006

16 February 2006

Party Time -- After learning about the judgment in its case vs. the Norwegian government, Ladbrokes can finally hold a small company party. The case, concerning the rejection of Ladbrokes' application for a betting license in Norway, was referred to the EFTA Court in Luxembourg, and that was Ladbrokes' goal. The EFTA Court fulfills the judicial function within the EFTA system, interpreting the Agreement on the European Economic Area with regard to the EFTA states party to the Agreement. At present, those EFTA states are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (none of which are EU member states). The EFTA Convention established a free trade area among its member states in 1960. Additionally, the EFTA states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with a number of countries worldwide. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway entered into the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1992, which entered into force in 1994. The current contracting parties are, in addition to the three EFTA states, the European Community and the 25 EC member states.

Money, That's All I Want -- A consortium led by former Camelot chief Tim Holley is set to launch Chariot UK, an Internet-based charities lottery that promises greater return to charities than the National Lottery. The launch will be backed by a £10 million budget. The reaction of Boudewijn Poelmann, who introduced the successful National Postcode Charity Lottery in the Netherlands (and recently also in Sweden and in parts of the United Kingdom): "In those days you can hardly do anything with £10 million. To start up a lottery you need 'just a little' more!"

Splitting and Knitting -- The Board of Sweden-based Cherryföretagen has selected Handelsbanken Capital Markets exclusively as financial advisor in connection with the previously reported plans to split Cherry into three separate listed companies: Betsson, Net Entertainment and Cherry Casino. The proposal will be structured so that Betsson will continue its operations under the listed holding company, Cherryföretagen AB, and it will be proposed that Cherry changes its name to Betsson. The business divisions currently operate independently, which has limited synergy effects. The cooperation between the business areas is carried out under general market terms and is regulated by contracts. Cherry Online operates Internet gaming on a global market, e.g. via Betsson.com and CasinoEuro.com. This includes poker, casino games and sports betting. Additional products are in the pipeline. The company is run out of Malta and the United Kingdom.

Net Entertainment develops gaming software, which is in turn licensed out to a customer base that today consists of over 30 gaming companies, including: Unibet, Gamebookers, Ongame, Bet24, 24hpoker and Betsson. Revenues are generated through royalties and other sales proceeds. Cherry Casino offers traditional gaming products (blackjack, roulette, etc.) at restaurants, on vessels in International waters, via gaming machines and at other traditional gaming operations. Cherry Casino has approximately 700 employees. A split requires shareholders' approval. Notice of the general meeting will be provided as soon as detailed plans have been determined by the board. The proposal is supported by shareholders representing more than 70 percent of the votes.

Quoteworthy -- "It's the best example of using technology to have public aid that I know about."

    - Former U.S. President William J. Clinton, referring to the Dutch charitable National Postcode Lottery. The comments were made at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

French Invasion -- Publicly listed Groupe Partouche, the leading French casino operator, and Probability Games Corporation (UK), a British designer and operator of mobile casino games, are partnering to offer a mobile-phone gambling service. Probability Games' mobile casinos are compatible with all color Java mobiles, and have been tested on current devices by Nokia, Samsung, Siemens, SonyEricsson and other major manufacturers and are compatible with T-Mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone and all other British mobile networks.

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.