A year in review. Online casinos and Gambling Nov – Dec 2006

Part four in a series of news reviews covering the online casino and gambling sector.

November was a busy month for Ladbrokes, with talk of takeovers and joint ventures rife. Ladbrokes confirm they are in the early stages of serious discussions about the possibility of buying 888 Holdings. They also confirm they are interested in part of the betting empire owned by Irish entrepreneur Dermot Desmond, including the betting exchange, Betdaq. Then Desmond is linked to a possible bid for NETeller, with who he currently has a ten per cent stake in.

Later in the month, Ladbrokes lose a suit against the Ministry of Taxation in Denmark, claiming that the monopoly that exits for Denmark’s lottery and other betting sectors ignores a ruling by the European Community Court of Justice to promote a free market. Ladbrokes also announce their plans to enter the Italian and Spanish markets in the coming months.

At the end of the month, Ladbrokes announce they are eager to join up with Merlin Entertainment in a bid to operate a super casino at Blackpool.

Gala Coral reiterate their desire to buy Tote from the UK government, offering £325 million for all its betting shops.

Interactive Gaming Holdings (IGH), headed by former Tote boss John Heaton, declares its interest in the state-owned bookmaker. With doubts over IGH’s ability to fund a deal on its own, analysts suggest any future bid would have to be a joint venture.

BetOnSports agree to a permanent injunction set by US authorities, meaning they must close down their Costa Rica and Antiguan offices as well as returning all outstanding accounts to its US customers.

Bwin deny they are talking with PartyGaming about a sale. However, they do confirm that they are talking to PartyGaming about showing a united stance for the industry in the European Union.

After six years, Tom Singer, William Hill Chief Operations Officer and Executive Director, resigns following a company review of its executive roles. David Harding takes over Singer’s old post.

Playtech agrees a deal to buy online poker rival Tribeca Tables for a figure between $75 and $139 million. The deal makes Playtech double the size of its nearest competitor and provides access to a fast number of licensees on other casino platforms.

The Casino Advisory Panel, the body responsible for choosing the location of the UK’s first super casino, again defends its impartiality and independence from any outside interests.

888.com report a 20 per cent rise in non-US third quarter revenues, with CEO John Anderson remaining optimistic for 888’s future. Later on in the month, 888.com begins steps to launch their mobile-gaming platform.

A Nielsen/NetRatings research indicates that web traffic to the top ten popular online gambling websites was down 56 per cent in October.

The UK Government looks into legalising poker games in pubs, with proposals to limit player losses to £10 in a night.

The world’s largest casino operator, Harrah’s Entertainment, confirm they are considering a bid from Penn National Gaming after rejecting a bid of $15.5 billion from private equity firms Apollo Management Group and Texas Pacific Group.

William Hill consider a move for the leisure company, Rank Group PLC, owners of the Hard Rock Café business and join interest from Ladbrokes and other American ventures.

Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd and Melco International Ltd plan to raise as much as $1.1 billion from selling new shares as it aims to acquire funds for its new casinos in Macau.

Las Vegas Sands sign a deal with Cantor Gaming to open an online casino and poker website in the UK. The rest of the gambling industry frowns on such an audacious move. Many mock the inability of Cantor as an online gaming operator.

Genting Bhd is confident of winning Singapore’s second casino licence but face competition from Las Vegas-based Eighth Wonder.

Rank Group finally sells their Hard Rock Café chain to the American Indian tribe, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, for £490 million. The move ensures Rank can now focus entirely on their gaming businesses.

Malaysia’s Genting Bhd’s optimism earlier in the month of gaining Singapore second casino licence was well placed, as they win the right to build a casino on Sentosa Island.

Ladbrokes look close to agreeing a takeover deal with 888.com after being negotiations since early November. There is also speculation that Ladbrokes is in discussions about a venture with Arena Leisure to operate a casino at Wolverhampton racecourse, with many dubbing the project a ‘racino’. Clever.

Avi Shaked, one of the millionaire founders of online casino 888.com, offers $1 billion for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The UK government rule out the possibility of foreign investment for its state-owned bookmaker Tote, making Australia’s Tabcorp Holdings and South Africa’s Phumelela interest short-lived.

Some German states look into the possibility of banning internet gambling in an attempt to protect the monopoly currently enjoyed by its state lotteries.

32Red warn of poor operating performance results for this year, following a bad year for Bet Direct, the sports betting business it bought from Littlewoods in June for £12 million.

Sportingbet announce they are performing in-line with market expectations, despite the £252.4 million hit it took after leaving the US market earlier in the year.

The government invites a bid from the racing industry for Tote. However, the benefits of selling to the business to the industry are deeply questioned since any bid from a racing consortium would be funded by a large amount of debt and borrowing.

Talk of private equity firms, Apollo Management and Texas Pacific Group, taking over the world’s largest casino operator Harrah’s Entertainment heightens. By the end of the month, Harrah’s accept a deal of $90 a share from the firms

The joint venture between Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd and Melco International Development Ltd, Melco PBL Entertainment, exceeds expectations and collects $1.14 billion to help fund its new casinos in Macau.

Editor, Jackpot.co.uk - 2006-12-30 08:37:26

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