iGB Diary: ARJEL's slumber, money for nothing, Hot Rod and Gazza in strike shock!

31 January 2014

France caught on the hop
We know, you can barely contain your excitement as you wait for the announcement of the name of the next top civil servant to succeed Jean-François Vilotte as head of the French igaming regulator ARJEL. The French want to make the announcement before ICE so we should know by next week at the latest. The two front-runners, Charles Coppolani and Maurice Meda, are heavyweights. The former heads up the financial and economic control body for France’s Ministry of Finance, while the latter sits on the Conseil d’Etat, the body that advises the government on super important things such as new laws or, err, draft bills to regulate online gaming... The serious point is that the current government really doesn’t have much love for igaming and the industry is just hoping the new ARJEL president is at least open-minded and willing to look at new proposals and amendments to move it forward. The signs aren’t great it has to be said, what with Vilotte allegedly leaving ARJEL fed up at another of his proposed amendments (to open up European poker liquidities) being turned down, yet again (he refused to comment when we contacted him for feedback). The lack of a ready replacement shows the authorities were caught unawares, never a good sign. Mind you, the new appointment has to be signed off by President Hollande and he’s been somewhat busy scooting around town of late, actually more like round the corner from his presidential pad, which might explain the delays.      

Money for nothing
Figures released this week show that the US state of Delaware,  population: 900,000, which for some reason regulated online gaming in 2013, is predicted to generate approximately US$5m by the end of this year. Everyone knew it was going to be a minnow of a market but seriously, is it worth all the effort? Take out rev share numbers, consultancy and lobbying costs, overheads, lawyers’ fees, etc. and there can’t be much more left than to buy 10 online scratch cards and hope for some kind of profit. I know it’s a slow burn but with little to no sign that any other states are preparing to join Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, we’re not getting overly excited at the prospects of a booming US igaming market.

Hot Rod
Staying stateside (we love our alliterations here), the Diary was saddened this week to see that Senator Rodney Wright, who has been trying to regulate intrastate online poker in California for many years, has been convicted of perjury and voter fraud. He was very likeable and gave some sterling speeches on why online poker should be legalised in a highly divided state. As we’ve seen recently, several bills have fallen by the wayside due largely to the significant differences of opinion between the 100-plus Native American tribes, card rooms and aggressive entertainment and casino groups. No doubt some form of legislation will break through in the next few years, but without someone like Wright at the helm, however controversial or flawed he might have been, it’s even more unlikely that we will see any short-term success.

Paper downed
Who knew Italians could get so hot under the collar about something like online gambling? This week saw the country’s biggest sports newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport, temporarily shut down due to its journalists walking out over the imminent launch of its online sportsbook, the brilliantly titled Gazzabet.it. Firstly, we’re assuming they sought permission from former England footballing legend Paul Gascoigne for the use of his nickname, and secondly, why get so worked up? We know Italians are passionate and a number of its politicians and leaders have got up to no good (or just got found out), but surely they should be rejoicing at having their own integrated online sportsbook just a few months ahead of the World Cup? The journos claim it would damage editorial independence… but when has that ever bothered anyone there, or anywhere else for that matter? Speaking of editorial independence, doesn’t a certain former PM famous for his Bunga Bunga parties already own most of the country’s TV stations, many newspapers and some football club in Milan? Mind you we shouldn’t be too smug, we have plenty of dodgy publishers in the UK with skeletons on their voicem... err sorry, in their cupboards.