Eye on Europe - March 10, 2006

10 March 2006

Well Informed -- The Guardian reported this week, that the European Commission is set to block attempts by the government to transfer the UK Tote to a trust run by the racing industry. A final decision is expected in six weeks, but government sources and Tote executives have admitted that the sell-off plan is in serious trouble. Europe's Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, believes that the envisaged sale to the Racing Trust might involve substantial state aid to the sport. Critics have long held that the sale price of £200 million represented half of what the Tote would fetch on the open market and that the taxpayer would be shortchanged. Given the popularity of betting, some individuals speculate that the Tote could garner as much as £600 million. The transfer of the Tote to the Racing Trust is a Labour manifesto commitment. Without a discounted price, racing would not be able to amass the finance to pay for it. Alexandra Antoniadis, the spokes woman of Neelie Kroes told IGN, "As you know, the Commission opened the formal investigation procedure concerning the envisaged sale of the Tote to the Racing Trust in June 2005. The Commission's concerns about the compatibility of this transaction are explained in detail in this opening decision." The opening decision was published on 8 July, 2005. The Commission has received comments from third parties as well as the UK Government and is now in the process of finalizing its assessment. A final decision in this matter can be expected in a couple of weeks.

Well Delayed -- The privatization of Turkish National Lottery Authority(NLA), Milli Piyango, is still not in sight. The date for discussion of a bill that would split the NLA into a pure lottery and an independent gaming board is still not known. In the meantime the NLA is busy planning to impose discipline on lotteries organized by private persons and establishments, including GSM operators. The principles and procedures applicable to privately organized lotteries will be changed entirely by the "Regulation regarding Lotteries Not Organized Against Cash". By virtue of the Draft Regulation, which has been drafted in response to the concerns regarding private lotteries organized by persons operating as Solution Partners, who, against fees, organize the lotteries of private establishments. The main establishments themselves will be responsible for organizing their lotteries. The contests on television are excluded from the scope of the Draft Regulation, which intends to bring a safer and more appropriate system for private lotteries, while the National Lottery Authority intends to impose new regulations regarding Internet betting. As far back as the 1980s the Turkish Government started to discuss the privatization of the Milli Piyango. Well delayed I should say. Perhaps in 2007 it will be privatized. I put my money on that...

Well High-Performance -- Leading Turkish operator Türkcell announced that it had increased its subscriber base to 27.9 million at the end December 2005. Consisting of 5.4 million postpaid and 22.5 million prepaid subscribers at year-end. Telsim serves another 7.5 million mobile users and Avea more than 5 million. Turkey, with a population of 74,709,412 has 10,220,000 (13.9 %) Internet users as of Sep. 2005. Ericsson will provide Türkish Telekom, Turkey's biggest fixed operator, to provide microwave transmission, to meet demand for voice and data services at lower cost and with increased network control. With this solution Türk Telekom gains the ability to provide microwave transmission at 500 different locations in Turkey: 400 in rural areas and 100 locations complementary to the long distance SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) microwave systems. One of the key targets of the project is to provide transmission for broadband connections, especially in rural areas.

Well Many Articles on Romanian Lottery -- In the continuing story on the National Romanian Lottery, Compania Nationala 'Loteria Romana', I have to inform you that new developments have emerged since IGN published an article titled "Episodic Privatization of Romania's National Lottery - A Literature Study." On Mar. 7, 2006, the Romanian Competition Council started an investigation to find out if the financial support the lottery gets from the state is compatible with the current legislation. Above that members of the Senate's Abuses Committee who are to discuss the law on the lottery asked the Finance Minister to explain why the government completed an emergency ordinance that allows employees of the company to buy shares if the government is not planning to privatize the national Lottery Company. And now all of a sudden Finance Minister Sebastian Vladescu says that the government is not planning to privatize the National Lottery company for the time being. On Mar. 8, 2006, Romania's Ministry of Finance, ordered a General Stockholders¹ Meeting of the Romanian lottery to decide if its President and Board of Trustees should be dismissed. And watch this one: The Romanian social democrats, in opposition, said they disagreed with the lottery¹s privatization plans as long as it stayed a monopoly. I'm sure this will be continued. Sorry!

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.