Gambling Industry Review – November 2015
As we enter the final month of 2015, there’s been plenty happening in the gambling industry. On this page we’ve provided a summary of the main news stories from November.
Horse-Racing Levy Row Continues
The month started with a continuance of the on-going dispute between British horseracing authorities and the bookmakers who are so vital to the sport. The racing industry has long been claiming that they need higher levy payments for the sport to survive, but this is something that the bookies are doing their best to resist. The 55th levy scheme is due to apply from April next year, but the latest round of negotiations broke down in early November.
Chairman of the Bookmakers’ Committee, Mike O’Kane, warned that the racing industry had to “face-up to reality” and that racing and bookmaking would both “benefit from a period of stability”. A spokesperson for William Hill highlighted the fact that bookmaking industry had offered a significant amount of money to support racing over an extended period of time.
The British Horseracing Authority confirmed that it had rejected the proposal because it would have meant a decline in income from “an already challenging low level.”
It’s difficult to say which party is in the right here, but fans of the sport will surely be hoping that a resolution is found soon.
PokerStars Amends Rewards Program
Online poker giant PokerStars announced in the first week of November that the company would be making significant changes to its rewards program. This news was particularly interesting because it was made clear that the changes were being made with a purpose of attracting new customers and reactivating lapsed players.
The PokerStars rewards program has traditionally been primarily aimed at providing the high volume players with maximum value, but it appears the focus is shifting. A spokesperson said that the changes were being introduced “to move towards a more balanced long-term poker economy.”
The online poker industry has struggled for years to get the balance right between the rewards offered to high volume players and recreational players, and several sites have attempted to find workable solutions in recent times. It will be interesting to see what PokerStars has come up with when their new program goes live in January.
PokerStars also announced last month that their return to the United States is currently on hold. It had been expected that they would be operational in the state of New Jersey before the year end, but it now looks like it will be some time in 2016.
YouGov & Barclays Release Survey Findings
A survey of the UK bookmaking market provided some interesting results. Conducted jointly by YouGov and Barclays, the survey questioned over 1,000 consumers on their betting habits and their views on various aspects of the industry.
Here are some of the findings.
- William Hill was named as the most trusted brand.
- Betfair was judged to offer the best odds.
- 46% of respondents said that free bet offers are the biggest factor when deciding where to sign up.
- 27% of respondents said that favorable odds were also an important factor.
- Paddy Power was voted best at advertising and marketing.
FanDuel Plans UK Launch
Daily fantasy sports operator FanDuel applied for a license with the Great Britain Gambling Commission, in a move that confirmed the company is looking to follow DraftKings into the UK market. The CEO of FanDuel, Nigel Eccles, described the move as “an experiment”. He stated that a UK launch would take place sometime next year, but they were only looking to “test the waters” at this stage.
DraftKings, who have previously announced their intentions to target the UK market, entered a partnership with soccer stats provider Opta. The company stated that they were looking to provide a “more engaging” soccer product for their potential UK customers.
DFS Ruled as “Illegal Gambling” in NY
The New York Attorney General served cease and desist orders on FanDuel and DraftKings, commenting that the two sites “intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.”
Both companies released statements disagreeing with the ruling that daily fantasy sports are illegal, citing the fact that they are games of skill. In a further move, DraftKings filed a suit against the Attorney General, asking the courts to declare his ruling as unconstitutional. FanDuel subsequently filed a suit of their own.
A hearing has been held on the matter, but no conclusion has been reached at this time. DraftKings continues to operate in the region, while FanDuel have stopped taking deposits from New York customers.
Online Gambling Regulation in PA Moves Closer
Regulated online gambling in Pennsylvania seems likely to happen, with state lawmakers voting in favor of a bill to legalize online poker and casino games. HB649 was introduced by John Payne in February, and was passed with an 18-8 vote. There are still several stages left in the process before the bill can be signed into law, but all the signs are promising at this stage.
Betfair Gains NJ License for Exchange Product
The New Jersey Racing Committee has issued its first exchange services license, with Betfair being the recipient. The operator now looks set to launch a regulated exchange betting product in the United States for the first time. Betfair has been trying to gain approval for exchange betting in New Jersey for four years now, and it looks like they’ve now been successful.
Final approval is still required though, and Betfair has stated that they will not be commenting further until that is received.
AGA Calls for Change in Sports Betting Legislation
The American Gaming Association (AGA), had made calls for restrictive sports betting laws to be changed in the United States. They have formed a coalition, backed by the betting industry, that will attempt to prove the feasibility of legalizing sports betting at a federal level.
Geoff Freeman, CEO of the AGA, said that they were looking forward to “working with law enforcement, sports leagues and other interested parties to consider effective approaches to protecting consumers and the integrity of sports.”
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