iGB Diary events special: WrB, BOF, GVC-bwin follow up, OLBG first ad

11 September 2015

Happy Friday! Wrb, BOF, GVC, OLBG... we're full of acronyms this week. We've rounded up some of the best snippets for the World Regulatory Briefing and Betting on Football events (two events in one day, don't say we don't put in the miles to bring you the news), reckon the scrutiny will only increase on GVC and OLBG produce their first TV advert.



Taking responsibility 
PR spin or a real desire to make responsible gambling a key component of operators’ strategies? The question, as expected, kept cropping up during the World Regulatory Briefing yesterday. The venue was Millbank Tower, which provided stunning views of London, but also caused some anti-gambling advocates to go into overdrive on Twitter. Talk of ‘dealing with a life of misery’, ‘the industry patting itself on the back’ from its ‘ivory towers’ clearly illustrated the disconnect between the industry’s attempts at pushing responsible gambling as part of a sustainable business model and some of the pressure groups opposing it (no matter what).

What’s clear is that (constructive) communication with critics should be encouraged and hopefully will happen more frequently. As moderator, Malcolm Bruce, former director of the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, played devil’s advocate. He kicked off his panel by saying he wanted to be able to let his hair down when he had a bet and not have to worry about spending limits. To which Fiona Thorne of Gala Coral responded that gambling “should be fun and you should be able to let your hair down but only if operators provide a safe and responsible environment”. She added: “It’s not easy, but the business case is absolutely clear, if not it will lead to more regulation and restrictions” on operators. Many of the panelists also talked about responsible gambling simply being the right thing to do, which no one can argue against, but the key point is that the industry has been too slow in addressing all the criticisms about FOBTs or responsible gambling over the past 10 years and is now playing catch up, which also explains some of the cynicism surrounding it. Better late than never in any case and industry action must be meaningful, but there’s no doubt it will be a long game.

"Livelier than an Arsenal crowd"
Following on from the WrB it was on to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for the Betting on Football Conference. The old joke about "the event being livelier than an Arsenal crowd" of course got an airing, but it was interesting to hear about industry execs’ views about betting on the beautiful game: betting sponsorship has had a positive impact, offer punters markets and they will bet on them, double check your Twitter account to make sure you delete anything disparaging about the a club’s player just after you’ve announced a sponsorship deal (always useful not to alienate the fans). One of the standout presentations though was that of Patrick Jay, former chief executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, on Asia and match-fixing. Jay revealed that NBA star Kobe Bryant has 240 million followers on Chinese social media website Weibo; the country’s legal betting offers are terrible and full of poor prices and payouts, but there’s a huge sports following there. This means the illegal market is massive, worth US$1tn according to Jay; and the aim of match fixing isn’t for criminals to win big by corrupting matches, but for international crime syndicates to transfer dirty money across the world. The easiest way for them to do that is not to influence some lower division player, but to set up the match themselves and carry out the transactions through (well known) bookmaking websites - that they own. As for the top western leagues football and the widespread belief that corruption levels are not huge, think again, Jay said. As for detection or warning systems, “your system doesn’t work” he added. “The (Asian) market is so big, the needle doesn’t move, you simply can’t monitor it” because the volumes are so huge. Striking words indeed and we’d apply a dose of healthy scepticism to them, nonetheless, it made for a great presentation and reminded us of the size of the market in Asia.

GVC scrutiny increase
Surprise and kudos at GVC’s takeover of bwin party seem to be widespread feelings among industry contacts. Why? GVC, via its brands Sportingbet in the UK, Spain and so on, Casino Club in Germany and Betboo in Brazil and Latin America, was doing very well, turning over good profits, without appearing on too many radars. For sure the bwin brand will give it serious scale and brand awareness, but that will also bring with it increased scrutiny. Of course we’re talking about Turkey and how GVC operates its business there. And even if Germany and Brazil are less risky than Turkey to operate in, they are uncertain markets and GVC is open to regulatory risk there. And as GVC boss Kenny Alexander said during the analyst call, the group will assess whether to pull out of regulated markets that are not profitable. So it has to be worth asking what happens with the likes of France, Italy; in fact many of the regulated markets bwin is currently operating in, since they don't generate the kind of margins GVC would be happy with. Then again, GVC has been doing fine so maybe everyone is being too gloomy, but there’s no doubt the scrutiny on GVC will only increase from now on.

It's Friday so here's OLBG's first TV advert "Let's Beat the Bookies", complete with well known football commentator Jonathan Pearce providing the voice-over. The bookies will be delighted at how they've been portrayed, then again if the site keeps sending them punters... 

Have a great weekend!