iGB Diary: Lottoland's good cause, Sagi sells up, Paddy's kiss, NJ-US Supreme Court

30 June 2017

Happy Friday igamers! Your Diary this week: UKGC must have had a right ol' bubble with it fined Lottoland to donate fine to good causes, Sagi sells up, Paddy seals with sh*tty kiss, NJ-US Supreme Court hearing good surprise, EU regs to sign poker sharing agreement. 

Our intentions were good, we promise
There’s a strange irony in the Gambling Commission’s announcement this week about the penalty it dished out to Lottoland. Rather than issue a fine for the secondary lottery provider’s failings, as is typical, the parties agreed Lottoland would pay £150,000 to good causes. The lack of contribution to good causes is one of the key arguments used by the monopoly operators when complaining about Lottoland, the UK’s Camelot being one of the most vocal. Lottoland’s response historically has been largely dismissive — just last month it pointed out to iGB that “like all other betting companies, Lottoland is not required to give funds to good causes". Fair point, but what the Commission seems to have taken issue with is the fact Lottoland wasn’t being clear enough that it wasn’t a lottery per se and was, potentially, trading on the good intentions generally associated with lotteries. Really? Is that what lottery players think when they buy their tickets? Other European lottery operators have been more blunt and accused Lottoland of ‘parasitism’. In a statement the Commission said: “If consumers do not understand that they are betting as opposed to playing a lottery they might wrongly assume that rules in place for lotteries also apply to the betting product, such as the requirement for a percentage of proceeds to be given to good causes.” We wonder if there was a hint of mischief afoot in the Commission’s enforcement team. Perhaps one said: “Lottoland's a lottery betting company, not a lottery; so it's breached its licence, we should fine them.” To which another replies: “You know what would be funnier, let’s make them give the money to good causes instead!”

Monitoring the monitor
We've just published the latest iGB Market Monitor (paywall): as ever it's an excellent analysis of key markets, this issue we've run the rule over the UK, Spain and Denmark. Check it out for all the nuggets and breakdown.     

Teddy getting out of gambling?
Playtech founder Teddy Sagi added another US$430m to his already considerable pile this week, reducing his stake to 6.3%, meaning he’s no longer the largest shareholder. Adding this to Forbes’ current net worth estimate, his  now US$4bn fortune leaves him snapping at the heels of Bet365’s Denise Coates, the second richest online gambling billionaire behind Mark Scheinberg (US$4.5bn), son of  PokerStars founder Isai. Explaining his decision in a statement to the FT, Sagi said: “I still believe in the long-term success of Playtech, [but] I want to further develop my property portfolio, not only in London but also in other European capital cities, and be in the vanguard of the co-working revolution.” Which begs the question: is Teddy getting out of gambling because igaming growth has topped out? Naaaah, the more likely ‘push’ factor was investor pressure that has been building over some time with regard to his influence on Playtech and a string of related-party transactions.

Supreme surprises
This week something happened that not many thought would happen, or at least happen so soon, (and no it wasn’t Theresa May finding £1bn in her back pocket). The US Supreme Court agreed to hear New Jersey’s case calling for the overturning of PASPA, the US law that essentially means sports betting is only allowed in Nevada and a few other states. The case follows a federal appeals court ruling last year that the 2014 New Jersey statute that permits sports betting at casinos and racetracks in the state violated a 1992 federal law prohibiting such wagering activities in all US states, with the exception of Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. The Supreme Court has now agreed and arguments are set to be heard in the court’s next term, which begins in October. Timeframe is still unclear as to when a decision could be expected, but if it was a positive one for the sector, it would also open up so many questions, such as:

  • state or federal regulation? 
  • who would be allowed to operate: casinos only? Tribes? Off track/ontrack? Racinos? 
  • would it focus only on land-based or would online be included? And so on.

The news was unexpected and welcome and reveals how far the debate has moved stateside, not long ago the likelihood of a Supreme Court hearing would have seemed impossible. Along with that of the state of New Jersey, it also shows up the good work the American Gaming Association has been doing in raising the issue and putting the issues into context for the US lawmakers and the general public. 

Sharing is caring
You no doubt saw our news this morning that EU regulators will (finally) be signing the poker liquidity sharing agreement next Thursday in Rome. But why isn't the UK involved in this project? After all it is the biggest igaming market in Europe. To be fair, it never really took part in the discussions, nonetheless we asked the Gambling Commission for a comment, which it provided: "Due to uncertainties about the future relationship that Britain has with the European Union our participation in the shared liquidity arrangement for poker is on hold. We remain open to engaging with other European regulators on a whole range of issues." Anyway, good on the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, let's hope the measure helps the sector.         

Paddy Power: sealing it with a sh*tty kiss 
The ‘mischief makers’ at Paddy Power have been on overtime this week. They  produced this classic (is it?) picture of UK PM Theresa May necking Northern Ireland's DUP leader Arlene Foster to ‘celebrate’ the deal that keeps the current UK government in power. UK papers apparently refused to run the advert on account of it being in bad taste, oh the irony. At the same time the bookie was enticing punters to its betting shops by promising not ‘to sh*t in your coffee’. There’s a chat up line if we’ve ever seen one. Why the scatological reference? Apparently faecal matter has been found in the ice used by major coffee shop chains Starbucks, Nero and Costa. Grabs attention that's for sure. Then again, it's also enough to put you off your lunch. 

Have a great weekend!