iGB Diary: 3-in-1 for Hills? ICE 2017: the Bard rocks!, FB-SportPesa, Urine luck with Paddy! and Fantasy Network v.s AlphaStreak in DFS row

29 July 2016

Happy Friday igaming people! A bumper crop this week as we look in no great detail but plenty of gossip at the 888-Rank approach for Hills, we have a humdinger of a preview for ICE 2017 (you'll like this one), Facebook in Kenya - SportPesa everywhere, coincidence? Paddy tells it straight when it comes to doping in athletics and Fantasy Network pulls up a classic cut and paste job from one of its competitors.     


Three into one?
Can 888 and Rank pull off a major coup and acquire William Hill? The UK's largest bookmaker doesn't seem enthused by the idea (out of pride?), saying it wasn't sure it could see the strategic benefit to the potential deal. Hills has experienced a torrid 24 months and it was only a matter of time before it became a takeover target. Could a consortium made up of 888 and Rank bring it back to its former glory? Hard to tell and any deal to come out of the talks would surely be very complicated. What's sure is that Rank chief executive Henry Birch knows the bookie insinde out, having been chief executive of William Hill Online for four years following the Hills-Playtech partnership. Speaking of Playtech, some mischievous souls have suggested that it all started going 'Pete Tong' for Hills when it bought out its joint venture partner for £424m back in 2013, thus taking over the running of all the group's online marketing. In other words, it stopped having Playtech's expertise working directly on its online business; and following the at times acrimonious relationship between the two JV entities, the Israeli group would have been in no mood to help out its former business partner. Anyway, here's hoping Hills gets out of the doldrums. We may resent some of the giants of our sector (whether it be Ladbrokes, Hills, Playtech et al), but the industry does need its biggest operators and platforms to be doing well to drive us onwards and upwards.     

ICE 2017 - Shakespearean glory, Elisabethan drama 
It’s summertime in the UK, well, all things being relative that means days at 20C with outbursts of rain, so the silly season is upon us on the news front. No, not ‘Playtech ate my hamster’-type news (we can always try but the lawyers will have us for barbecue…). Rather the ICE 2017 marketing ramp up is already underway. To be fair it is the biggest trade show in the business so one can understand the marketing team getting its prep in early. And boy have they done us proud this year. The theme for the 2017 edition is ‘The world theatre of gaming’ and with it being the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (or is it birth?), the team have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Clarion Gaming managing director Kate Chambers makes a great London cabbie, head of content Ewa Bakun looks lovely in red, although she does seem to be wondering: “What is it with Brits and dressing up in weird outfits?” Meanwhile operations manager Susan Miller looks very stately; but our favourite has to be the look on event director Greg Saint’s face. You can see him thinking: “Alright it was a bit of fun but now I’m getting really bored with it. And what am I doing in these tights anyway??” Meanwhile the whole ICE team is looking at them from the windows three floors up. Kate Chambers commented that visitors had said ICE should be an international theatre of gaming, so “using William Shakespeare, whose work has been translated into 100 languages, was a perfect fit". Hear hear to that Kate. "Being true to our brand values, we wanted to deliver Shakespeare with a 'twist', hence the contemporary, graffiti-style treatment”. The design team has done a good job of producing a 2017 logo that is colourful and lively, but we can’t wait to see Greg wonder the halls of Excel in tights next February! 


Facebook in SportPesa tie up!
There has been a lot of noise recently about Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s project to beam down internet connectivity to Africa - with the focus this week on Kenya.  From an igaming perspective, this has also coincided with the announcement from Kenya-focused sportsbook SportPesa that it had become the official betting partner of Premier League clubs Southampton and Hull City. It already added Arsenal to its roster in February. What has the world’s largest social network got to do with this online bookmaker? Well, just take a look at Google’s search trends for the term ‘football tips’ in Kenya below. The spike in volume on the right of the graph tells its own story. What does this mean? Is it more than a coincidence? As the old saying goes, it’s not because you’re paranoid that they’re not out to get you. Zuckerberg has a stake in SportPesa of course! Ok ok we’re joking (the lawyers are wiping their furrowed brows now). Affiliates, get onto that traffic!      

Urine luck!
It’s always good to see the great sporting institutions of the world singing off the same hymn sheet. The International Olympic Committee has, once again, surpassed itself in its duty to guard and apply the highest possible moral and ethical standards when it comes to doping in athletics. State-sponsored doping programmes in Russia? No worries! Russian officials swapping positive samples with ‘clean’ ones during the 2014 Winter Olympics? Nae bother Russia, you can take part in the Olympic jamboree! But the athlete who brought much of the scandal to the attention of the world? No way, she was banned back in 2013 so can’t take part. We’re very strict about these things you know. It’s weird how the IOC and FIFA, or as a contact joked, FI-anyone fancy a Qatar World Cup in 2022 in 50C heat?-FA; resemble each other in their pomposity and lack of self-awareness. Anyway, good job Paddy Power’s there to bring us all back to down to earth with its ‘Urine luck’ promo for this year’s event. But really Paddys should have offered markets on the alternative games set up by some of the Russian athletes in response to being banned from Rio… 

Fantasy world set to 
Finally, hell hath no fury like a DFS provider scorned. Tim Solomon of Fantasy Network last week highlighted the ‘similarities’ between his company’s website and that of competitor AlphaStreak. Whether it is the design, pitch or content of the site, Solomon was scathing about it not even bothering to change the text or very little of the design and, to be fair, he does have a point, as the picture below shows. We also liked the headline he used on his Linkedin post: “Would You Work with a Company that Can't Even Write Their Own Content?” We're going to be anal journos now, but Tim, it should be ‘its own content’ and apart from the word starting the sentence, the others should be lower case.     

Have a great weekend!