iGB Diary: Results special, Qatar's winter wonderland, are eSports er.. sports?, Benham's magic numbers, Mitch Garber enters le dragon

27 February 2015

Happy Friday igaming peeps! This week we thank Playtech, Hills and Lads for ruining our lunchtime pub visits, can't wait for Qatar winter World Cup, are eSports sport?, Matthew Benham revolutionises football and Mitch Garber gets ready for le dragon's den

Follow the leader
Thanks to Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes for publishing their full-year results in the past two days (what about going to the pub at lunchtime eh… is nothing sacred anymore?!). Those three major igaming companies have experienced vastly differing fortunes in the last few years. Hills and Playtech, good, Ladbrokes, not so good, to paraphrase a famous ex-England manager. And while Playtech and Hills have had positive coverage, overall Ladbrokes's coverage and more specifically outgoing chief executive Richard Glynn's has been neutral. On the whole, it’s not been that negative as to his performance over the last five years. Should it have been? Not for us to say, but whether a company is doing well or not, everyone looks to its leader.

Winter World Cup wonderland? 
Anyone following the 2022 Qatar World Cup farrago might have been tempted to have a bet on the tournament being switched to the winter season. Or not. Bookies are not stupid and would have expected such a change. Of more interest could be the odds being offered on the compensation figures Fifa will have to pay to European clubs for interrupting their domestic seasons. No one knows how much Sepp Blatter’s private piggy b…, err sorry, world football’s governing body will end up forking out to Europe's major football clubs, but one thing is certain: European clubs will continue to vent their opposition at the winter move so it’s on the record at all times, but have been expecting it since the announcement was made in 2010. Expect some hard bargaining between them and Fifa in the coming months.  

Qatar's Al-Gharafa stadium: the arts & crafts crowd went crazy on the new design

eSports: a sport or not a sport? 
Should esports be considered a sport or not? Honestly we have no idea, but if darts, snooker and golf (we're joking, sort of) are classified as sports, then why not some skill-based electronic gaming? And you can bet on it too. What is undeniable is that esports are big business in the US and have been huge across Asia for some time now. The continuing rise of fantasy sports betting also shows that time waits for no one and the pressure is on. Something US proponents of online poker (especially) and sports betting must be clocking with increasing anxiety as potential players are attracted to other legal forms of gaming. 

Magic numbers
Matthew Benham is serious about betting. Having made his name and fortune through the appliance of stats and data to sports betting, he also owns a couple of football clubs (as well as Smartodds and the betting exchange Matchbook). Both clubs are successful and have a good chance at honours this season. Brentford FC in west London is chasing promotion to the Premier League, while FC Midtjylland is currently top of Denmark’s Superliga, ahead of more established clubs such as FC Copenhagen and Brondby. One of the reasons for the success of those clubs is the analytical approach Benham is implementing as part of their work practices according to the Guardian. Midtjylland chairman Rasmus Ankersen promised to challenge the conventional ways of running a football club. The manager and players are judged on key performance indicators (KPIs) and the club pays particular attention to stats such as shots in the ‘danger zone’ – the area between the six-yard box and the edge of the penalty area, set pieces and even what the coaches say to the players and the press. There is no guarantee either club will win a trophy this year and the Danish football league is very different to the English game, but for Ankersen the reason Midtjylland has a lot to do with the betting sector: “In the past year I have learned that the brightest guys in football work in the betting industry, because they are much more rational and less biased.” An interesting statement considering the tortuous relationship sport has with the betting industry.

Enter le dragon
Congrats to Caesars Interactive Entertainment chief executive Mitch Garber for agreeing to take part in Canada’s version of Dragon’s Den. His success, apparently he is worth US$200m, and know-how in online gaming mean his advice will be imbued with the experience he earned during some of the industry’s most momentous events: UIGEA when he was chief executive of PartyPoker and more recently igaming regulation in Nevada and New Jersey. But of course the ultimate prize will be hearing him speak the language of Molière since, you guessed it, the show will be in (Canadian) French. Get those Youtube highlights clips ready! As Private Eye would say: “Let’s parler franglais!” (Just don’t tell French-speaking Canadians they have strange accents, a touchy subject for some reason).  

Have a great weekend!