Eye on Europe - Jan. 31, 2007

31 January 2007

Turkish Miracles -- Inteltek, a joint venture between Athens-based Intralot and Türkcell, Turkey's biggest mobile phone operator, must cancel its sports betting operation. According to Eko Türk News Agency, non-government companies suspended the contract because Turkish law does not allow operations of games of chance. The parties have the right to appeal. Intralot has a 45 percent stake in Inteltek, while Türkcell owns the majority 55 percent. The 18 teams of the Turkish national soccer Super League, halfway through the current season, have shared US$31 million paid through an agreement between the league and Sportoto/Inteltek.

The Italian Aftermath -- Following the issuing of thousands of betting licenses--over 6,000 for sports and over 10,000 for racing--in Italy, certain matters remain unclear. For starters, the future for Internet betting is up in the air. Yan Pecoraro of the law firm Portolano Colella Cavallo in Rome and Milan says the number of licenses for online activities to be issued in the next year is unknown "It is extremely unlikely that licenses for casinos are going to be issued since, in Italy, the existing casinos, are established under ad hoc laws," Pecoraro explained." And for many people in this industry, it was unclear when the current Lottomatica license would expire. According to Pecoraro, it will be June 8, 2016. The license was granted to Lottomatica by the Ministerial Decree of March 17, 1993. It was granted for nine years and is automatically extended, absent of a written notice of non-renewal to be sent by AAMS no later than six months before the expiration of the first or subsequent term of the license.

Hot in the Czech Republic -- Nightclubs are hot in the Czech Republic--this is known throughout the world--but even hotter now is "tele-gambling." The Prague Post recently reported on the growing trend of "phone gambling and other 'fast-win' games of chance" airing on Prima TV nightly after midnight. Such offerings, the paper reported, are on the rise. According to Finance Ministry spokesman Marek Zeman, to get a license, a phone gambling provider must guarantee that 22 percent of the placed bets is paid out in prizes. The first phone gambling company on the scene in the Czech market was Erika, whose 2006 revenue amounted to 9.8 million USD; half of that sum was attributed to phone betting revenues.

Ladbrokes' Nordic Ambitions -- Ladbrokes has continued its European expansion by acquiring Sponsio, an online gaming firm with a presence in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. The British bookmaker, which already had a partnership deal with Sponsio, says the £36 million purchase will bolster its position in the region. London-based KL Capital AB, which is 88 percent owned by Sponsio Ltd., has a bookmaking permit in the United Kingdom and already had a partnership with Ladbrokes Plc. The aim of the partnership was primarily to recruit customers to Ladbrokes and obtain betting licenses for sports betting and interactive gaming in the Nordic countries. Sponsio recruited over 300,000 (15 percent) of the 2 million customers of Ladbrokes.com. Spending on gambling per capita in the Nordic area is among the highest in Europe, Ladbrokes said. The group has also made moves in the Spanish and Italian markets within the last month.