iGB Diary: GVC-bwin party, Betfair bonus, Trading places, Diary clash, US events

4 September 2015

Go on admit it, you've been pining for your iGB Diary instalments this past month while we were sunning ourselves on a Spanish beach. Fear not, we're back, (kind of) refreshed and marvelling at the coup GVC pulled off with the bwin party takeover.

GVC to (bwin) party all weekend   
So finally it’s GVC that came out on top in the bwin party takeover battle. 888 conceded this morning and in the end there wasn’t much it could do to stop GVC’s final offer. For GVC and its management team the takeover is a major coup. It gives it significant scale in the European sports betting arena, even if many issues will need addressing. In no particular order: can the cost synergies be achieved? Can it keep large parts of the bwin workforce motivated while it organises redundancies? Will it achieve the returns it is looking for in regulated markets while it reduces marketing spend? Can it reconcile regulated and unregulated markets into a coherent corporate entity? Speaking of regulated markets that are not producing returns, the Diary particularly liked Kenny Alexander’s comment about it not being “difficult to see which regulated markets we’re talking about”.

Because you're worth it
It was interesting to read about investor advisory group PIRC trying to pressure Betfair shareholders into not signing off chief executive Breon Corcoran’s pay packet and bonus arrangements. Corcoran is on a basic salary of £528,000 with an annual bonus of £953,000 and is due to receive a total of £11.6m this year once share options are included as part of his joining Betfair in 2012. Eye-watering sums indeed, but are they excessive? Not for us to say, and at least Corcoran has added value to Betfair, £750m worth of it in fact since joining in 2012 (current market cap: £2.3bn). His heading up of the future Paddy Power Betfair group brooks no argument and one simply has to compare (and contrast) his performance with that of other recent chief executives of major gambling companies to see what he has accomplished.

Anyone for trading places?
Speaking of big names and wages, the Corcoran story reminded the Diary of an event it covered some years ago in the presence of many industry bigwigs. During an informal chat one of the top execs present mentioned the dreaded 50% tax bracket for top earners and how it was ‘killing him’; prompting the journalists in the group to look at each other and knowingly joke that it wasn’t a problem they ever faced (or were ever likely to). Cue classic blank look from said top honcho, who clearly had no idea what the journalists were talking about.

Diary clash
Next Thursday promises to be busy as we dash from the World Regulatory Briefing near Westminster to the Betting on Football conference at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium organised by our friends at Sports Betting Community. Two events on the same day clearly isn’t ideal and discussions between the interested parties made that much clear. But to be fair to SBC, its event was originally scheduled for 9 September but was moved by Arsenal without any other option being made available. And to top it all off next Thursday is also a Gamcare training day. Sometimes the stars just aren’t aligned.      

US events shake up?
Staying on the subject of events, congrats to ICE organiser Clarion Events for taking a majority stake in US events company Urban Expositions. The news came out this week and for those who are not aware of Urban Expositions, it organises the Native Indian Gaming Association’s (NIGA) events. To be fair NIGA’s events may not have as much of an online focus as GiGSE, G2E or iGaming North America (the best of the lot, you know it is ;). Nonetheless, Indian tribes, as shown by regulatory updates in California, are serious players on the US gambling scene. The American Gaming Association, which organises G2E in partnership with Reed Exhibitions, will also be looking on with interest. It’s not harsh to say that the US market has not taken off in the manner that was hoped; but there is business to be done there while stakeholders also wait for further flexibility from regulators and lawmakers. And of course the illegal market continues unabated and without too many obstacles. But in terms of igaming events and the spread of the regulated sector, it will be interesting to see if Clarion’s or the industry’s profile in the US improves or changes significantly following the deal.

Have a great weekend!