Weekly Poker Roundup: September 9, 2016
Betsson Acquires TonyBet
Swedish online gaming firm Betsson has acquired Lošimų strateginė grupė, UAB (no, I don’t know how to pronounce it, either), better known as TonyBet in Lithuania. TonyBet is a small, but solid gaming site that focuses on sports betting, but whose poker claim to fame is being the first “global Open Face Chinese Poker site.” It also has more than 20 physical betting shops in Lithuania.
Betsson has initially paid €4 million for Lošimų strateginė grupė, UAB, but if the company achieves certain undisclosed (to the public) milestones, another €2 million could be tacked on to the purchase price.
“This acquisition is a good strategic fit for Betsson Group as Betsson’s ambition is to increase revenue from locally regulated markets,” said Betsson CEO and President Ulrik Bengtsson. “We have now consolidated our presence in the Baltic region by ensuring local licenses in all three markets, and continue to pursue growth across Europe, organically and through acquisition.”
888 CEO Denies Rumors of 888/Rank Merger Interest
In August, 888 Holdings attempted to purchase top UK bookmaker William Hill by teaming up with fellow gaming company The Rank Group. The pair made two pitches to William Hill for over £3 billion, both rebuked. Shortly thereafter, Rank CEO Henry Birch said, “We have shown that we’ve got the confidence and creativity to participate, and the ambition. But we won’t do so at all costs.”
When asked about possibly merging with 888 without William Hill, Birch wouldn’t comment except to say, “I can see myself having lunch with Itai [Frieberger, 888 Holdings CEO].”
Of course, that fueled speculation that 888 and Rank might just decide to combine after all, William Hill be damned. Last week, though, Frieberger told UK media outlets that nothing like that is going to happen. “888 will continue to grow its business with or without M&A,” Frieberger said. “Right now the Rank standalone [deal] is not something that we’d like to do.”
Québec Online Poker Site Blacklist Deemed Illegal by Canadian Government
Online poker players in Québec have been fearing a possible ban on internet poker sites since Bill 74, the province’s budget bill, was passed in May. This was different than the usual “NO MORE ONLINE GAMBLING” laws passed in various jurisdictions around the world, though. Online poker is legal in Québec, but technically only through the licensed, government-run site, Espacejeux. What Bill 74 did was mandate internet service providers (ISPs) to block all unlicensed gaming sites included on a blacklist.
This has rubbed people the wrong way for three main reasons: 1) it is deputizing ISPs to play the role of law enforcement, b) internet censorship, and c) it totally looks like a protectionist play by the government to funnel online gaming money to its own site.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently sided with those opposing Bill 74, ruling that the blacklist ban is in violation of Canadian law. That law states, “Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.”
In a statement, the CRTC said, “Consistent with the above, the Commission is of the preliminary view that the Act prohibits the blocking by Canadian carriers of access by end-users to specific websites on the Internet, whether or not this blocking is the result of an ITMP (Internet Traffic Management Practices). Consequently, any such blocking is unlawful without prior Commission approval, which would only be given where it would further the telecommunications policy objectives.”
Authorities Seek Ted Forrest’s Arrest on Bad Check Charges
The Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that a warrant has been issued for poker pro Ted Forrest’s arrest for theft and bad check charges. The two felonies with which he was charged are specifically “drawing and passing a check without sufficient funds with the intent to defraud and theft.”
The complaint, filed a week ago in Las Vegas Justice Court (which sounds like the title of a fantastic court TV show), claims he tried to pass two checks at the Wynn totaling $215,000 between October 28th, 2012 and May 17th, 2013 without enough funds in his account.
Forrest did sign a confession of judgment (essentially a document in which he admitted that owes money) in 2013, confirming that he owed the Wynn $270,000. A payment plan was setup, but Forrest allegedly never made good on the debt.
His lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, feels this is all just a big shakedown, telling the Review-Journal, “We believe this is a long-standing civil dispute. And now that he’s in a dispute with them, they’ve moved to prosecute.”
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