iGB Diary: It's Friday 13th and the igaming world throws up its usual lot of weirdness

13 December 2013

It’s Friday the 13th so be careful where you tread. We’ve avoided anything really unusual in the Diary this week, well, that’s if you think FDJ taking three years to develop a mobile app is normal, that the ICE trade show should have a “brand scent”, that Germany’s lotteries live on the same planet as the rest of us, and, actually, the same goes for those Treasury bods who came up with the POCT.


Sweet smell of ICE 

As journos working in the weird and wonderful world of igaming, we see our fair share of strange PR stunts and this week the award goes to our good friends at Clarion, who have outdone themselves. The organisers of ICE are continuing on their ‘Sensational’ theme by creating their very own scent. Yep, you read that right, Clarion asked a company called Scent Air to come up with a “signature aroma” for ICE. “The sense of smell is the most direct and memorable of the five senses, and is an extremely crucial way to deepen ones (sic) brand with their clients,” says the press release in finest sensational marketing speak. We called the PR for details and sure enough many land-based casinos use it, so does the Apple Store and loads of other big brand retailers. Meanwhile London Excel, the venue for ICE 2014, will be ‘scented’ with ICE’s “fresh, clean and sophisticated floral aroma, with warm, citrus-based notes”. We had a few, ahem, 'sensational suggestions' of our own not too long ago but funnily enough Clarion never got back to us. Anyway, look out for the “ICE brand scent” before the Xmas break, as “postcards immersed in the smell of ICE will land on desks as part of the event's extensive visitor direct mail campaign”. But the final word goes to the PR, who told us: “It’s not a spoof!” Quite, actually thinking about it you couldn’t make it up. 

FDJ: Three years to launch a betting app, three years to close a poker site

Good to see Française des jeux moving into the 21st century with the launch of its Parionsweb mobile app, but why the wait? Developed by FDJ’s tech subsidiary LotSys in partnership with LVS, the online betting software firm FDJ bought in 2010, it seems hard to conceive that a company of FDJ’s size and means (€10bn in revenues etc.) needs three years to launch a betting app. Mind you, with FDJ in effect an extension of the French state, politics are never far off the surface. Its first deal with poker platform CyberArts in 2009 was gazumped after it was ‘advised’ to partner up with luxury casino chain Groupe Barriere to create and launch Barriere Poker... which closed in September after trying (gamely but in vain, to be fair) to make its mark on the French online poker sector. In fact, rumour has it that the deal happened when FDJ head honcho Christophe Blanchard-Dignac went looking for support from the government to be re-appointed as FDJ boss. He was put in contact with Barriere and the poker project was born. But who happens to be an old friend of Barriere boss Dominique Desseigne's? One Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom Desseigne celebrated his presidential victory at the Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees in 2007... now we’re not suggesting anything underhand but a few choice words with the right person always help don’t they?

Affiliates to feel the sharp end of the POCT

Fair to say there isn’t much love, none at all actually, from UK bookmakers for the Point of Consumption Tax set to come into play next year. Off the record, industry contacts are pretty vehement in their opposition to the tax but as they will have to pay for it, the search is on to reduce costs and expenses. Marketing is one obvious area where money can be saved, the other is affiliates. One well-established affiliate told the Diary: “We are worried, it (the cost cutting) will have to go somewhere and it certainly won't go through their prices if they want to stay competitive. We’re hoping it will affect new entrants more than existing longer-term contracts.” There will always be some losers when new legislation is introduced and unfortunately it looks like some affiliates will be among them when it comes to the POCT. It’s just that sometimes it would be nice if the UK government was a bit more upfront about its reason for introducing it. It’s got nowt to do with consumer protection and everything to do with raising more tax revenues for the Treasury. At least some of our EU neighbours don’t hide that fact.

German sponsorship exclusivity 

Not content with already running lottery monopolies throughout the country, Germany’s state-owned lottery operators want to create new ones (or as close to as possible) online when igaming regulation comes into play. Their recent open letter to the federal government, asking for a guaranteed role in the country’s regulated online betting market (as if they wouldn’t have one), is classic monopoly speak for “allow as little room as possible for private operators”. Meanwhile their demands for legal statutes ensuring they get first dabs at promotional activities for sporting events means “we want advertising and sponsorship exclusivity for the national team’s football games and other high profile sports and won’t allow any of the private companies to have a brand presence”. Thing is, it might work for them in terms of dominating the German market but when it comes to stopping more savvy punters betting on unlicensed sites in search of better odds or wanting to play unregulated poker and casino games, it will be a monumental disaster, as other EU regulated markets have found out. Oh, and we nearly forgot, never mind offering punters some competitive igaming products.