iGB Diary: Lads update, The Sun in Cheltenham promo cock up, Dress down - sort of, Blast from the past

22 April 2016

It's Friday, it's the Diary and it's been a busy week: from the All Party Betting and Gaming Group seminar to Lads results and war of words with Hills to 'Dress down GiGSE' and our Blast from the past featuring John Anderson in pre-IPO 888 interview. 

Hills and Lads on war of words footing -  bring it on 
Good to see UK bookies doing what they do best: keeping cool about England’s prospects at this year’s football Euros in France. During Ladbrokes’ trading update yesterday chief executive Jim Mullen said punters had been encouraged by the England team’s recent results and had been backing the Three Lions for the Euros at 9-1. However, he then added that he expected “to be giving away money in the first half of the tournament and hopefully making it back in the second”. Looks like another quarter final exit then (let's get out of the group first? Good idea). More to the point, he also criticised bookmakers for “the race to the bottom” offers they marketed during this year’s Cheltenham festival in a bid to attract punters via ridiculously generous bonuses and free bets. “There were some real race-to-the bottom offers which was a race we were not going to get involved with. The difference in offers between Cheltenham and Aintree highlighted the fact that some of the sector lost their mind during that festival,” he told the Daily Telegraph. Interestingly this point was also mentioned by Anthony Werkman, marketing and operations director at Betway, at this week’s All Party Betting and Gaming Group seminar on Tuesday. He said “free bets and bonus wars are like a race to the bottom and they can’t last. The operators that hold out and offer value will win out.” The likes of 138, TLCBet, Fun88 and 12bet should probably nod in recognition: they refused to pay out punters' Cheltenham winnings, claiming they had abused their bonus rules (what a surprise). Only an outcry by punters and some critical press coverage pressured them into paying out. Compliance and CSR costs are increasing all the time and barriers to entry are rising, “a good thing”, Werkman said, “because it means more serious operators coming to market”. Meanwhile it was good to see the Lads-Hills rivalry coming back to the fore (should make great copy) as former William Hill boss Ralph Topping posted that he was perplexed as to why there was no change to consensus following Lads’ update as happened to Hills with the impact of self-exclusion and timeout measures. For Mullen, it was because they had “all been fully blended into our numbers, that’s why we don’t talk about it. It’s well within the plan and we’ve managed the business accordingly”. Ouch. 

Cry me a river Jim
Staying with this year’s Cheltenham, the ‘worst-ever’™ according to the bookies, it even had Mullen “crying” over the results. Mind you, when it comes to Ladbrokes, Richard Glynn’s five-year tenure at the helm must have had a few investors spilling tears into their G&Ts whenever results came out (very funny, Ed). Anyway, did anyone spot the Sun’s promotion blunder just before the festival? With “Just one day to go “ it offered a £1 free bet courtesy of long time horse racing sponsor William Hill, “to the apoplectic fury of rival bookmakers Coral, who were in fact sponsoring the Sun’s Grand national promotion” recounts Private Eye. Classic cock up if ever we’ve seen one. Anyway, all the Diary will say is that it’s good to see it’s not just us lowly trade titles who occasionally mess things up (not that we're smug or anything).  

Dress down - but nothing too casual ok?
This year's GiGSE show in San Francisco will be a, drum roll please... "dress down GiGSE"! Apparently, this is because "Millennials all like to dress down" (do they?). Aah, but of course, as the show organisers explain “dress down can mean different things to different people, so we’ve put together this handy guide so everyone is on the same page next week!" We're still trying to work out what they mean. As an attendee you can dress down, and therefore wear what you want, but nonetheless here's a "handy guide so everyone is on the same page". So nothing too out there ok? The chap in the picture below will be relieved to know that 'beards are fine' and we have no idea who wrote the pithy line for the lady, but it's quite brilliant; in an existential-to-the-point-bluntness that Sartre would have been proud of... (or whatever).      

30 slots - biggest in the market
This week's Blast from the past goes all the way back to 2004 and an interview with 888 chief executive, John Anderson, although back then the company was still called Casino-On-Net. The interview is pre-IPO when the group was still private and Anderson has been recruited “to bring the company to a floatable standard”. He explains how a float is definitely on the cards, although it also “depends on the American situation and deregulation in the UK”. Well, it's taken 12 years or so, but 888 kind of got there in the end. You'll notice that production standards are also out of this world: the section heading is 'Have you heard?' while the headline is 'Executive insight'. Really flows don't you think? Anyway our favourite quote from the article is about how Casino-On-Net is the largest online casino in the market and it has recently upped its “number of slots to something like 30”! Oh for the good old days when 30 slots products made you the biggest in the market!

Have a great weekend!