iGB Diary: iGaming Super Show, Vantiv-Worldpay, Catena-Bettingpro, UKGC gets tough, Vegas still on a high

7 July 2017

Happy Friday igamers! Another busy Diary this week: iGaming Super Show. Amsterdam. Next week. See you there. Vantiv buys up Worldpay, EU poker, UKGC gets tough (or robust? Doesn't have the same ring), Catena-Bettingpro and Vegas goes high when stoners go commatose on the floor.       

See you in Amsterdam!
As you’re no doubt aware iGaming Business is hosting the iGaming Super Show in Amsterdam next week and it promises to be a good’un. There will be 4,500 + delegates visiting the Dutch capital to meet, make deals and catch up with new and old industry contacts. Registrations were up 8% year on year as of last week and as managing director Alex Pratt said, it’s great to see so many executives posting on Linkedin and elsewhere that they will be at the show. 

When it comes to content, iGaming Business will be treating you to the latest and most relevant insights, data, analysis and all round discussion on all the issues that affect your work. We have eight conference streams over the two days covering affiliates, payments, regulation and legal, high level executive, betting, innovation and loads more. In the meantime we asked some of those invovled in the event to tell us which sessions they’ll be making sure they catch. Check it out and hopefully see you next week!

Serious player
With JP Morgan reportedly having dropped out of the running US payment giant Vantiv’s £9.1bn bid puts it in the box seat to acquire former RBS-owned card processor WorldPay. The deal, if it goes through, will give it a serious foothold in the UK (and EU) online gambling payments space, as well as the opportunity to introduce the WorldPay platform and brand to the US. Vantiv is already the most influential payments company in regulated US igaming, being the signing bank in the most mature and significant intrastate market of New Jersey. This means that however players deposit there, whether via a wire transfer provider, credit card processor or eWallet provider (the likes of Optimal, Neteller, CAMS etc.), Vantiv basically underwrites and underpins all of these, as no other bank will currently take those deposits into their system. Given NJ is now held up as the model for intrastate US igaming, Vantiv has a strong case for reprising this role in other states as they come online, which they have undoubtedly been making to regulators in states such as Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois. 

EU liquidity to reset sector?
It may have taken five years to get it over the finish line, but yesterday’s signing of the cross-border liquidity sharing agreement by the regulators of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal is, as Global Poker Index boss Alex Dreyfus says, “the first good news in a while in the online poker industry”. Diminishing interest in the game and regulation and taxes strangling liquidity and rewards structures in ring-fenced markets has made it a dire few years for operators and networks alike. However, it could be argued that the hard times that followed the boom also forced them to address serious flaws in the underlying model and ecosystem (remember the rakeback battles anyone?). With listed operators such as Kindred and GVC now reporting growing revenues, albeit from much lower bases, there are signs that the industry is now able to firmly look to building for the future, rather than firefighting to stabilise and prevent further erosion of their poker businesses, which can only be a good thing for those operators and networks still involved. Reas the News Analysis (paywall). 

Not everyone's happy   
Catena Media’s purchase of Bettingpro for £13.9m is the latest major affiliate acquisition to hit the headlines and it certainly looks impressive, but not everyone is happy about it. Michael Keenan, owner of Australia-based affiliate freehorseracingtipsaustralia.com, didn’t respond kindly to a post praising the deal. He said: “Had a quick look at the sites and theirs (sic) no natural traffic its (sic) all paid traffic. 2nd the journalists are guys from Facebook racing groups and I could go on and on. Personally I think this story is fake and just done for the promotion of the website.” At which point the Diary’s wondered if Keenan has actually read the press bumph about the deal, as he would have realised that close to £14m for just promoting a website is a lot of money. We contacted Keenan to ask him where he got his opinion from and he replied: “I only had a 10 minute look at the website and picked up a dozen problems. The main one you should check into the the race fields data for Australian racing that is a licensed product issued by NSW racing under RISA and it seems the site is using unlicensed material so this opens a whole world of legal problems for the site. Basically from what I read the whole story smacks of bullshit and there is no way that revenue number is correct absolutely no way.” Mmh, RISA stands for Racing Information Services Australia so we're assuming Keenan is saying Bettingpro's Aussie site is using stats and data that it hasn't bought a license for? Blimey, good job he never looks at where the Diary gets its pictures from... or it could just be that Bettingpro is very active in Australia and Keenan has got the hump that a local rival will have even more financial muscle to compete on his turf. 

New ‘robust’ strategy for UKGC
When the going gets tough, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) gets... a new enforcement strategy. The new rules see alterations made to financial penalties, including the introduction of higher fines particularly for cases that involve systemic and repeated failings. Companies facing fines will have some respite however as time-limited discounts are also being brought in, which should create more of an incentive to settle cases earlier. Meanwhile all the tools at the UKGC’s disposal, including licence reviews of both the operator and personal management licences, are to be put on an equal footing, this will be achieved by removing the current bias in favour of settlement.  In the case of a settlement the Commission and the operator agree on a course of action which meets the Commission’s regulatory objectives without it having to use its regulatory powers, but now it may equally use its powers to impose a statutory sanction. Ladbrokes is the most recent in a line of bookies to come under the UKGC’s scrutiny. The bookie may be facing investigation from the UKGC over its data protection measures, after information about people suffering from gambling addiction was found in a bin bag outside one of its shops Scotland. Ladbrokes won’t be the only operator worried however, many will be concerned by the new strategy, especially seeing as the UKGC is now likely to use its powers to impose sanctions in a higher number of cases.

Let’s all get on the ‘Cannabus’!
Less than a month after we highlighted the curious decision of Wynn Resorts to ban the chief executive of a social media platform focused on the regulated cannabis industry due to the source of his wealth and whether it was “lawfully earned” comes the news that Sin City’s first weekend legally selling recreational marijuana was a roaring success, with some eager buyers waiting up to three hours to buy weed. Is it possible the Wynn execs didn’t know their state was shortly to become the fifth US state to allow the selling of marijuana legally? Plausible, given that although the public voted for the move late last year it was only a couple of weeks ago that the legislation allowing it to happen was passed. We doubt casinos will be so picky about whether or not their customers are into marijuana in future, particularly given it is expected tourists will make up two in every three customers – already there’s a “Cannabus” tour available. Users are only supposed to smoke weed inside a ‘private home’, but we suspect many will think this extends to their ‘home away from home’, aka their hotel room. Whether or not the casino floors realise much benefit from the liberalisation remains to be seen – after all while the nightclub scene and shopping malls of Vegas have drawn in many visitors in recent years the casinos haven’t always seen a resulting uplift from this. Then again, if the queues of this weekend at the dispensary on the Strip keep up they may well get lots of business from those who take turns waiting in line while their mates play a few reels.

Have a great weekend!