Betting kiosks may bedevil Glazer

The NFL team owners' finance committee is expected today to discuss Man U's takeover by the Bucs owner.
By Louis Hau / St. Petersburg Times

When fans of Manchester United attend matches at the English soccer team's home stadium of Old Trafford, concession stands cater to their every need.

There's team merchandise. Chips and mushy peas, a traditional snack. And kiosks taking bets on the day's game.

That last item could create some complications for Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer, who recently acquired a controlling stake in the soccer team. The National Football League bans team owners from owning stakes in casinos.

The kiosks at Old Trafford are operated by Ladbrokes, a leading British gambling company. Manchester doesn't own any portion of the business, nor does it share in the betting revenues generated at the stadium.

Still, the onsite betting and the team's recently announced plans to build a casino complex near Old Trafford could end up becoming topics of discussion during the NFL team owners' meeting this week in Washington.

Manchester has had gambling kiosks at Old Trafford since the 1990s, part of the gradual mainstreaming of British bookmakers, according to team spokesman Phil Townsend.

"The demographics of the people who attend betting shops is probably similar," Townsend said. "It's a natural, captive audience."

Ladbrokes, Man U's "official betting partner," pays a sponsorship fee to Manchester but doesn't share its gambling revenues with the team, Townsend said. The London company dubs itself "the world's largest bookmaker" and allows its customers to place bets on everything from sporting events (including NFL games) to political elections and beauty pageants.

Two weeks ago, Manchester said it was considering another foray into the gambling business, an agreement with Las Vegas Sands Corp. to build a casino and entertainment complex near its stadium.

Townsend said he didn't know if Man U would get a cut of the casino complex's profits but confirmed that the team would not own a stake in the facility.

"The plan is that Las Vegas Sands would run and own it," he said. "We would provide the land on which it would be built and in return for that, we would get a revenue stream from LVS."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello declined to comment on whether Manchester's ties to gambling operations would leave Glazer in violation of league policy, saying it was a matter for the NFL team owners' finance committee to consider.

The finance committee is scheduled to meet this morning in Washington.

Although Glazer owns a controlling stake in Manchester, he is required under British law to launch a formal buyout offer to the team's remaining shareholders. He did so Monday, via his investment vehicle Red Football Ltd., which provided details on how he is financing the takeover.

Red Football, which owns a 76.2 percent stake in Man U, plans to delist the team's shares from the London Stock Exchange on June 22 "or as soon thereafter as is practicable."

Red Football's purchase of the team is being partly financed by the investment funds Citadel Horizon, Perry Capital Ltd. and OZ Management LLC, which have agreed to buy 275-million pounds ($503-million) in preferred securities from Red Football. The offer document also lists 373.9-million pounds ($683.9-million) in debt financing arranged by JPMorgan. About 265-million pounds ($484.7-million) in term loans would be secured by Man U's assets.

In a response to the formal buyout offer, the Manchester fan organization Shareholders United, which has fiercely opposed Glazer's takeover, said it was alarmed by the amount of debt the Bucs' owner was taking on to finance his acquisition of the virtually debt-free team.

"Manchester United is in peril as never before," Shareholders United said in a statement. "No other football club has ever had a debt burden of this size and there is no real prospect of clearing this debt for many years to come."

This article is a reprint from the St. Petersburg Times. To view the original article, click here.

Original News Article

Bookmakers Reviews - 2005-05-25 22:45:06




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