Eye on Europe - Feb. 5, 2007

5 February 2007

Dutch Bible Power -- The Dutch Ministry of Justice will start to act versus banks, credit cards and other payment services that are still facilitating gambling from the Dutch territory and the buying of online gambling products outside the Netherlands. The delivering facilities will also be punished. The intended new ChristianUnion (CU) party is already proclaiming that the Dutch should follow the new American Internet gambling regulations. The CU is a Dutch conservative Protestant political party, with six of the 150 seats in the Parliament.

New Italian Strategy -- Lottomatica Group's 2007-2009 strategic plan was presented last week to the financial community. The key strategic goals are: Maintain global leadership position in the public gaming markets through growth in same-store sales, distribution and content; pursue global value-accretive growth opportunities; and continue to return cash to shareholders. Fiscal 2007 revenues are expected to be in the range of 1.65 billion euros to 1.75 billion euros, with an expected annual average growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent. "Our strategic goals over the next three years are to drive growth and maintain our global leadership position in the public gaming markets, to pursue international and domestic value-accretive growth opportunities, to maintain our investment grade credit rating and to continue to return cash to our shareholders through dividends," Lottomatica Group CEO W. Bruce Turner said. By 2009, net debt is estimated to be in the range of approximately 2.2 euros to 2.4 euros. In addition, the company expects over 500 million euros in cash balances by the end of fiscal year 2009.

French Numbers -- Sophie Royer of La Francaise des Jeux (FdJ), the French gaming monopolist, recently reported that lottery and sports betting sales for fiscal 2006 were 9.5 billion euros, up 6.1 percent compared with 2005. Turnover of Internet gambling was 106 million euros, amounting to 1.1 percent of the total turnover. Like so companies in the industry, FdJ does not distinguish between Internet and mobile betting in its reporting. The daily total spending for PMU, casinos and the French lottery was 55.6 million euros. The Euro Millions lottery saw a growth of 80 percent, 1.3 billion euros over the 2006 total.

Cold Bribery Got Warm Again -- Would you believe that in Finland--yes, the country that is the proud leader of the 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index--match fixing takes place? And it is not just one case; there are several cases in Finnish style baseball and soccer. According to Veikkaus' eNews, a suspected bribery case in Finnish football came up first in the autumn of 2005. It recently gained more publicity, as the police have progressed with their preliminary investigations. The topic of heated debate concerns a few football matches played in the summer of 2004. It has been claimed that one of the main suspects would be a Veikkaus retail agent. However, the suspect is not an actual retailer, but a minor shareholder of one of Veikkaus' points of sales. At the present stage of the investigations, Veikkaus does not have access to all the material related to the cases.

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.