A Tidbit from Ireland -- The ongoing feud between bookmakers and governments over the tax rates sports books should be assessed has escalated again. Bookmakers through Ireland are trying to have the betting tax abolished, so they can compete better with bookmakers in the United Kingdom. To drive their point home further, the Irish Times reported this week that some operators have installed phone lines and Internet terminals in their betting shops that connect the punters to tax-free services in the United Kingdom. England abolished the betting tax and installed a system that taxes bookmakers' profits instead. Irish bookies such as Paddy Power and Ladbrokes are campaigning for Ireland to follow suit.
Makin' Deals -- Northfield Park this week joined Beulah Park and River Downs as a partner in AmericaTab, an online wagering service in Ohio that operates through an Oregon hub. Northfield's executive vice president and COO, Tom Aldrich, said the track's domain names for Internet wagering will be betharnass.com and betrunners.com. Aldrich said the site will be operational soon. It will serve the Cleveland market.
BBC Worldwide is the winner of a contract with Attheraces--an interactive race betting venture made up of British Sky Broadcasting, Channel 4 and Arena Leisure--which will give it international broadcast rights for horse races at 49 British courses. Racecourses previously sold rights to their events individually. BBC is paying £300 million for the rights. The agreement spans two years and includes the rights to such races as the five British classics: the Derby, the Oaks, the 1000 and the 2000 Guineas and the St. Leger. BBC will split profits from sales of the races to international broadcasters with Attheraces.
Attheraces was given the green light this week to launch its pools betting service by the U.K. Tote. The official start date is Dec. 11. The site, which was supposed to go live in September, was forced to change its name from "Go Racing" upon discovering the name already belonged to two other racing companies. Domain name registration found the redundancies.
Racing group Arena Leisure is acquiring Internet betting company Gambling Insight. The U.K.'s Sunday Telegraph reports that Ian Penrose, Arena Leisure's chief executive, is in talks with Gambling Insight via an intermediary in London. Gambling Insight is estimated to be worth £30 million, although entrepreneur Nigel Robertson and the rest of the gaming site's stockholders are said to be in pursuit of premiums above the firm's current stock price. Gaming Insight owns the media rights to more than 100,000 greyhound races and operates several online casinos including the Harrods Casino. The purchase would boost Arena's attempts to assemble a broad-based media rights and wagering group. Trevor Hemmings, who, with a 40 percent stake in Arena is its largest shareholder, owns several gambling companies, including Sportech and Littlewoods. He also has a 10 percent stake in casino operator London Clubs International.
Boss Media this week announced an licensing agreement with Elcasino.com NV of South America. The resulting casino Web site will be launched in English and Spanish and will target South Americans. The license sale is a first for Boss in South America. "South America is a new market with a big potential where the common language is a drive to reach players fast," said Peter Bertilsson, CEO of Boss. The Sweden-based software company expects that Elcasino.com's site will be up and running by the first of the new year.
Poker.com signed an agreement this week to provide FocusNet Capital Inc. with a master poker room license. The card room, which will offer several varieties of poker as well as tournaments, is in beta testing and is scheduled to go live in a month and half. FocusNet Capital is an Internet consulting and marketing company; Poker.com sells and licenses Internet poker and casino games.
Tidbits from the UK -- Orbis is outfitting Ladbrokes' new digs in the United Kingdom with its OpenBet call center software that integrates telephone operations with an e-gaming portfolio that includes Internet, WAP and various digital TV betting platforms. Ladbrokes moved its call center from Gibraltar to Britain following the abolition of the 9 percent betting tax in the United Kingdom last month. The bookmaker had previously used Orbis' OpenBet Interactive Gambling System in its Gibraltar call center. With the U.K. move, Ladbrokes took the move as an opportunity to update the software. Nick Rust, commercial director of Labrokes, said, "Orbis has already proved its capacity as a key strategic partner for Ladbrokes and we believe that the new OpenBet telephone betting system will significantly reduce our costs as well as facilitate an increased ability to market to our own customer base." Orbis provides betting software for several prominent bookmakers including Blue Square, Littlewoods, the U.K. Tote, Paddy Power and Stanley Leisure.
A joint sovereignty agreement between Britain and Spain may be in the works for Gibraltar. Jack Straw, U.K. foreign secretary, and Josep Pique, the Spanish foreign secretary, met this week to consider a new constitutional settlement for the peninsula. Gibraltar itself is said to be object to the idea, since it could jeopardize its tax status and economic base, making it little more than a Spanish province.
New Stuff -- The Racing Network said Tuesday that it will soon be offering live interactive betting from bookmaker Victor Chandler. The racing group reports that the service is planned to go live within the next few days.
Nintendo's Game Boy Advance will bring casino games to tiny hands and travelers alike when it hits store early next year. The hand-held video game console, which is marketed toward children, will offer play-for-fun versions of video poker, blackjack, slots, craps, roulette and keno. Virtual winnings will be password protected.
For the fifth time Global Player Casino and the GameMaster Online are teaming up to present a major blackjack tournament online where the winner could take home $2,000. The tournament's first stage, the Qualification Period, starts Saturday and will run until Tuesday, Nov. 27. The winner of the qualification phase will move on to the finals, on Friday, Nov. 30, where they will take on GameMaster, one of best and most famous blackjack players in the world. If the challenger beats the GameMaster, they will get $2,000 in prize money. If the GameMaster retains his title, the No. 1 qualifier will get a bonus of $300. The final round of the tournament will be webcast so any fan of the game can watch and chat while the action unfolds.
A Tidbit from the Far East -- A survey of Japan's governors found that 12 of them are in favor of legalizing casinos to attract tourists and 15 are against it. The poll, conducted by Kyodo News, covered all 47 Japanese governors, but only 27 of them stated a definite opinion on casinos. Ten governors, including Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo and Yasuo Tanaka of Nagano, support casinos unconditionally, while two volunteered conditional support. The Diet isn't examining gambling legislation, but some of the nation's prefectures are gathering support to introduce such a measure and get operators interested.
On the Move -- Australian bookmaker Con Kafataris is moving from Sydney to the Australian Capital Territory to avoid what he believes to be unfair gambling rules. SportOdds, his sports betting business, could increase its revenue to AU $50 million to AU $150 million by moving, Kafataris believes. SportOdds' staff will grow from eight to 30 during the move. Kafataris told the Canberra Times that New South Wales gambling legislation favors the NSW TAB. In NSW SportOdds can only accept off-course bets above AU $200.
Staying Put -- Lasseters Corp. Ltd. announced this week that its shareholders re-elected Allan Farrar as a company director. Farrar will remain a non-executive director with Fred Finch.
Names and Faces Changing Places -- Boss Media has a new executive director. Krister Bergström joins the company from Svenska Spel, Sweden's state-owned gambling operator, where he was responsible for strategic business development. Bergström replaces Joel Wikell and will assume the position in January.
Sportech has picked David Mathewson as the successor to Malcolm McIver. Mathewson was named as the company's non-executive chairman after McIver announced his retirement. The appointment takes effect on Dec. 31. Mathewson, 53, has been with Sportech since 1993 and is currently a non-executive director of the company, Mathewson, who is a chartered accountant by trade, is also a non-executive chairman of three trust companies, including Edinburgh UK Transfer Trust. He is also a consultant with Andersen Corporate Finance.
Quote Worthy -- "This is like a return to the cottage industry from whence we came. I'm very frustrated by all of this stuff. . . . You can't play in a national marketplace with a
-Tom Meeker, president of Churchill Downs, Inc., as quoted by The Washington Post, on the absence of a convenient, user-friendly interface for interactive race betting in California (which will commence at the first of the year).
"I think Leach is much more effective than (Virginia Republican Frank) Wolf because he is less radical, and Jim honestly is highly respected on both sides of the aisle. He has a tremendous amount of clout,"
-Frank Fahrenkopf, president the American Gaming Association, as quoted by Las Vegas Review Journal, on Rep. James Leach's, R-Iowa, ability to rally colleagues around his efforts. (Leach was the original sponsor, and remains a supporter, of a U.S. House bill that would abolish funding mechanisms for Internet gambling.)