Eye on Europe - June 12, 2006

12 June 2006

Random? -- A French businessman, Robert Riblet, is convinced that La Française Des Jeux, the National Lottery, is cheating. The lottery states in its official information that the scratch cards with prizes are printed on a random basis, but Riblet claims he can prove that this is not the case, and he referred to the statement as "veritable fraud." The affair took a fresh twist this week when the newspaper Le Monde was handed documents supposedly substantiating Riblet's claim that La Française Des Jeux had tried to settle with him out of court, a settlement he says he refused. The case has sparked an extraordinary legal and media battle amid allegations that French television stations have censored some of the allegations for fear of losing 56 million euro of national lottery advertising revenue. Riblet is suing La Française Des Jeux for 2 million euro after discovering what he claims to be an attempt to trick the country’s 29 million regular scratch card players. He has invited other players to file lawsuits as well.

Welcome to the Club -- The executive committee of the World Lottery Association (WLA) has approved three new members: Loterija Slovenije as a member of the association and two lottery suppliers, Ace Interactive (formerly EssNet Interactive) and Miller Insurance Services. On a side note, it is striking that the WLA publicizes the addition of new members but not cancellations.

WLA Certification -- Germany's Nordwest Lotto und Toto Hamburg and ONCE of Spain have achieved WLA certification for their security and risk management systems. A total of 23 operators now officially comply with the WLA security control standards, the worldwide security management baseline for lotteries. The certifications are based on the recommendations of BSI, one of two official certifying bodies appointed by the WLA to manage the certification process. The processes and business areas assessed by BSI include physical and information security management, risk assessment and management, production, sales and marketing, logistics and distribution, warehouse and print operations, central services, human resources, finance, legal and internal audit.

Cross-Border -- Greece-based OPAP reported turnover in 2005 of 3.7 billion euros against 3.18 billion euros in 2004--an increase of over 16 percent--but it is still looking for international growth. The Hellenic operator in 2006 will develop new games and re-design the existing ones. Above that, it will continue the expansion of investment opportunities in the segment of betting games abroad. OPAP, an EL member, also operates in Cyprus. The group is heavily interested in acquiring casinos and/or lotteries. CEO Vasilios Niadas says the company could seek to expand its operations both in Greece and abroad as part of its five-year business plan. Niadas is interested in acquiring the Turkish National Lottery via privatization. OPAP will also target tourists on cruise ships and in holiday resorts.

No German Prosecution -- With its decision on June 6, 2006, the county court of Ravensburg, Germany refused to open main proceedings against an agent for transferring sports bets to an operator licensed in another EU member state. The agent, who is represented by attorney Martin Arendts, was accused of aiding and betting illegal gambling. According to the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, the requirements set up by German Constitutional Law and those set up by the European Court of Justice had to be regarded as concurrent. The existing state monopoly for sports betting was not consequently aimed at limiting betting fervor and fighting betting addiction, but rather fiscal interests were prevailing. These valuations were determining whether the state monopoly was compatible with the requirements set up by Community law. Therefore, the accused was not subject to criminal prosecution.

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.