House of Cards Putsches, legal spats and acquisitions - they're all here in this week's round-up of the online gambling scene. Read on:
A New Dehli accountant cum Nepalese casino baron, Rakesh Wadhwa, has worn out his welcome in the Himalayan kingdom, according to an Indo-Asian News Service report out of Katmandhu.
Wadwha rose to prominence in Nepal after partnering up with an American expatriate, R.D. Tuttle. The casinos they ran under the umbrella of the Nepal Recreation Center had enjoyed a monopoly on the Nepalese gaming market, and proven to be one of Nepal’s biggest tourist attractions. The seven casinos operated by the NRC have also been quite the revenue stream for the Nepali royal family, providing an estimated 15 million Nepali rupees each per year to the royal coffers.
Their most recent venture, the enticingly named Casino Shangri-la, even had a Bollywood star, Urmila Matondkar, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Not a bad idea, since Indian tourists make up most of the customers at the Nepali gaming tables.
However, the Maoist uprising that removed King Gyanendra seems to have taken another scalp- that of the aforementioned Mr. Wadwha, who found himself between the proverbial rock and hard place. Once the Maoists realized how much money was being funneled to the palace, they demanded that the payments cease. Mr. Wadwha responded by reducing the royal tithe, only to infuriate the deposed king, who in turn pressured Mr. Tuttle to give Mr. Wadwha the heave-ho.
The casino unions then sided with Mr. Wadwha against the Royals’ and Mr. Tuttle’s putsch- which pretty much leaves Mr. Wadwha in no man’s land.
Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd’s casino partnership with Melco in Macau recently sold 9 mil new shares in Melco PBL Entertainment and raised $1.6 billion on the Nasdaq market to finance three casinos in Macau, the first of which is slated to open in the middle of this year. Melco PBL is spending $3.3 billion on the developments, one of which, the City of Dreams hotel venture on the Cotai strip, includes an underwater casino.
In other developments, Leisure and Gaming scored another 47 licenses in the recently liberalized Italian gaming market. Leisure and Gaming bought Betshop last summer, which includes Betshop.com as well as retail gambling outlets across Italy.
Ladbrokes, the number #1 casino operator in the UK, has entered a joint venture with Cirsa Slots to secure gambling licenses in Spain. According to a Ladbrokes press release, the joint venture is also seeking licenses outside the Madrid area as well, although as yet only the Madrid area is releasing new gambling licenses.
Malta stuck it to the French the other day.
The ever controversial online horse racing scene scored a rare victory, as a Maltese appellate court refused to enforce a French judgment against Malta- based online gambling outfit Zeturf.
The horse racing business has been particularly resistant to online wagering, regardless of nationality- Western Australia has been engaged in an ongoing fight for over a year now with Betfair.com over the betting exchange’s trades on the Western Australia ponies, the US specifically exempted horse wagering from the UIGEA passed last summer, and in Ontario, authorities have shown no interest in strong-arming the Woodbine Entertainment Group monopoly to allow their citizens to access such online horse racing sites such as Youbet.com (which itself is the subject of a WTO dispute between the US and Antigua).
The operators of horse tracks claim that betting exchanges like Betfair get a free ride on the backs of the tracks, which have to contend with the overhead of operating a horse track, raising thoroughbreds, etc.
How that is different from the overhead of a typical bricks and mortar casino job, which now cost billions, isn’t immediately clear to us here at the Reg, but emails from readers might be able to fill us in on that one.
Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the French horse racing monopoly, sued Zeturf back in 2005 to prevent it from taking bets on French horse races. Not surprisingly, they won the initial ruling, and won again on appeal. The Maltese rather cleverly decided that they didn’t really have jurisdiction over the case- since PMU is a government run monopoly, the Maltese court argued, it is a matter for the European Commission to decide.
Playtech, a casino software supplier, has signed on to a four-year deal with industry leader Partygaming.com. Partygaming went on a holiday buying spree, and Playtech has been chosen to furnish the software for the new purchases. Playtech’s stock rose 3.7 per cent on the news. Playtech offers online pachinko and mah jong, and the partnership is expected to focus on Asia, the new hotspot for global gambling.
Playtech also indicated that an acquisition or two might be in the works in the coming months.
England’s #2 bookmaker William Hill announced that it expects to meet its 2006 forecasts, and is optimistic about 2007 as well. Much like rival Ladbrokes, William Hillhas has established a joint venture with a Spanish company, Codere, to take advantage of the opening of the Spanish sportsbetting market. Expanison in Italy is also in the cards.
Pinnaclesports.com announced on its website that it will no longer be accepting bets from American patrons. 1/11/07, was the last day for American customers to withdraw their funds.
E-gaming software leader Cryptologic jumped on the acquisition bandwagon last week, too, taking over Swedish online poker room Parbet, according to a Cryptologic press release.
Cryptologic plans to license the Parbet brand, software, and support to third parties, much as it has done with its successful Interpoker brand.
Under the agreement, Cryptologic subsidiary WagerLogic will pay €9m for the brand and assets, and potentially additional amounts up to a maximum amount of €4m, contingent on improved performance of the assets over a six-month earn-out.
According to Cryptologic, the Parbet assets currently generate approximately US$7m in revenue annually. CryptoLogic expects the licensing arrangement to add approximately US$2m to 2007 earnings.
Cryptologic’s partnership with Playboy, PlayboyPoker.com, also is expected to go online this month.
Doyle’s poker room is offering a chance to turn $55 into $50,000. The $55 buy in allows players the chance to play three of the room’s resident experts, including the man himself. If a player can beat all three, he takes home $50,000.
Now if only the Poker Player’s Alliance can convince Congress that poiker should be classed as a game of skill, rather than luck, it might actually be legal.
The Gutshot Private Members Club in London is arguing that very point as it seeks to defend itself against charges that it operated an unlicensed gambling parlor.
Club owner Derek Kelly denies two counts of contravening the 1968 Gaming Act by organising poker games at his club in January 2005, according to a BBC report.
The act says a licence is needed to host games of chance such as blackjack and roulette but not games of skill, like chess and quiz machines. ®