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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Macau visitor numbers continue to rise

Gambling Insider
Macau visitor numbers continue to rise
Macau is seeing increasing amounts of visitors, with over 3

NetEnt celebrates classic Fruits and Fanfare with Double Stacks

Gambling Insider
NetEnt celebrates classic Fruits and Fanfare with Double Stacks
NetEnt is paying tribute to the timeless “fruity” slots with its new game release, Double Stacks

Monday, September 24, 2018

Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric

Casino News Daily
Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric

Rodrigo Duterte is more than two years into his presidential tenure and it has been an eventful two years. Among other things, President Duterte’s past two years will be remembered for the top Philippine official’s continued war on gambling, which has most recently manifested itself in a moratorium on the construction of new casino resorts in the country.

President Duterte’s latest wave of rage against gambling was unleashed in the beginning of 2018 with the above-mentioned moratorium. The official ordered PAGCOR, the country’s gambling regulator, to stop issuing gaming licenses to interested parties in a bid to prevent the proliferation of gambling in the Philippines.

The moratorium was imposed in mid-January. In comments to local media, PAGCOR Chief Andrea Domingo said that the regulator had stopped accepting applications for the issuance of gaming licenses and that only applications submitted before January 13 would be considered. Several interested developers had managed to submit their applications before the above date. And two particular casino resort projects received provisional approval from the country’s regulator.

However, their approval turned into a widely publicized manifestation of President Duterte’s rage against gambling and vows that he would make sure to prevent the materialization of the two casino plans as well as of any other gambling project that might emerge in future.

Why did the two integrated resort schemes gained so much public attention and why did they spur President Duterte’s anger in the first place? Here is a little bit more about the most recent and most publicized events in the Philippines gambling industry.

The Two Failed Casino Resort Projects

News emerged last year that Macau gaming and hospitality company Galaxy Entertainment Group has partnered its Philippine counterpart Leisure & Resorts World Corporation to develop a $500-plus-million integrated resort on the Boracay Island. With its white-sand beaches and its tropical climate, the island is a popular hub for tourists from the Asia-Pacific region.

However, business and development activity on the island drew quite some ire from President Duterte in February. Following the publication of an environmental review of the popular tourism draw, the fiery leader announced that it would be shuttered for a cleanup as it had been turned into a “cesspool” by local businesses. Generally speaking, the environmental review found out that a number of businesses operating on Boracay had been discharging waste water directly into the sea for years. In addition, it turned out that a number of buildings on the island had been constructed without obtaining all the necessary permissions.

President Duterte vowed to make sure that all illegal operations would suffer extreme consequences and that plans for the new gambling operation would fail. The official has repeatedly pointed out over the course of the past several months that casino gambling beyond the existing businesses is something he would not support and that he would do whatever is necessary to prevent Boracay from becoming home to the Galaxy integrated resort.

Despite President Duterte’s comments, Galaxy and its local partner announced that they had managed to acquire a 23-hectare portion of land on Boracay before the island’s closure where the resort would be constructed. Representatives of the developers have pointed out that they believe the hotel and casino complex would be completed by 2021, despite the closure of the popular tourism hub and the Philippine President’s vows to block the scheme.

One more casino resort project has drawn the ire of the country’s top official in recent months. Hong Kong-based developer Landing International Development announced earlier this year a plan to build a $1.5-billion casino resort in the capital Manila.

The company broke ground on the mega-complex on August 7. However, President Duterte announced only a few hours later that the project would be nixed, once again reiterating his hatred for everything gambling. It is also important to note that the official sacked the whole board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation on the day Landing broke ground on its resort.

Landing planned to build the resort on a portion of land that had previously been occupied by the Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park. The Nayong Pilipino Foundation agreed to lease the site to the Hong Kong-based company. President Duterte and his administration said that the lease contract, penned in March, was flawed and put the government at a significant disadvantage as the agreed rental payment was “unconscionable”. Earlier this month, the Philippine Department of Justice supported the top official’s claims and recommended the cancellation of the project.

The future of both the Galaxy and the Landing casino resort plans is quite uncertain at this point. President Duterte has vowed to prevent both projects as well as any other proposals of this kind and it seems that his stance on the matter is not likely to soften.

President Duterte Bans Casino Workers from Gambling

In a new rollout of casino-related regulations, it became known earlier this month that casino staff would be banned from gambling in the country’s casinos. In a notice dated September 6, the local gambling regulator, the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), said that all employees at gambling establishments will be included in the country’s National Database of Restricted Persons. The computerized database contains the names of all individuals who are restricted from gambling at all local casinos licensed by PAGCOR.

The Philippines is apparently looking to avoid Macau’s mistakes where casino employees have long represented the largest portion of the local register of problem gamblers.

The country’s top official is clearly getting tough on land-based casinos and the scope of his crackdown is growing. It is yet to be seen what his next actions toward restricting the construction of new casino properties will be, but judging by his consistency, we will certainly see more of President Duterte and his anti-gambling rhetoric.

The post Philippine President Wages War on Gambling with Fiery Rhetoric appeared first on Casino News Daily.

FanDuel Sportsbook Changes Its Tune, Pays Out ‘Erroneous’ NFL Tickets

FanDuel Sportsbook Changes Its Tune, Pays Out ‘Erroneous’ NFL Tickets
FanDuel Sportsbook glitch

After much bad publicity, FanDuel Sportsbook announced last week they'd pay out the prop bets made on glitch odds during an NFL game.

The post FanDuel Sportsbook Changes Its Tune, Pays Out ‘Erroneous’ NFL Tickets appeared first on .

Caesars appoints new CHRO

Gambling Insider
Caesars appoints new CHRO
Caesars Entertainment Corporation has announced the appointment of Monica S

MGM, Wynn tamp down Boston casino intrigue

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
MGM, Wynn tamp down Boston casino intrigue
Executives for MGM and Wynn are tamping down speculation the companies are quietly in talks over Wynn's Boston-area casino. MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said today it would have to be an "extremely unique situation" for officials to ...

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What’s Next for Gambling Tech Giant Playtech?

Casino News Daily
What’s Next for Gambling Tech Giant Playtech?

It has been an eventful year for Playtech and a particularly turbulent one at the same time. The gambling technology company, founded by Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi in 1999, saw its share price fall nearly 50% over the past 12 months and recorded a 34% drop in adjusted profit in the first half of the year. In addition, news emerged that a brand-new Playtech investor is pushing for a corporate governance overhaul and is not very happy about Mr. Sagi’s involvement in the company.

Earlier this year, the tech giant, which has for years been supplying major operators with a variety of products, completed the purchase of Italian gambling company Snaitech for €846 million. In its half-year results, Playtech CEO Mor Weizer attributed the company’s regulated revenue growth namely to that acquisition deal.

However, the debate over the introduction of massive restrictions on the distribution of gaming machines around Italy is becoming more and more intense with each day passing and this could cast heavy clouds over what Playtech hoped would be a purchase that would strengthen its footprint across the regulated gambling space. Snaitech derives nearly half of its overall revenue from the gaming devices.

Most recently, Playtech offloaded its entire stake in CFD trading platform Plus500 for £176 million, stating that it would use proceeds from the deal to reduce its debt and for general corporate purposes.

What is next for the gambling tech giant? The company is facing regulatory pressure and competition in key markets and will clearly have to direct its focus to where it can reap the greatest benefits. In addition, changes are clearly coming for Playtech, but it is yet to be seen how these will affect its operations, profitability and its lure to investors.

Shaky Profitability and Share Price Drop

Playtech has long been targeting a FTSE 100 status. However, it was forced to abandon these ambitions after issuing two profit warnings over the past year and reporting a 34% slump in adjusted profit for the first half of the year. The profit warnings and the eventual significant drop resulted in the company’s share price falling by half over the past 12 months.

Playtech attributed its shaky profitability to its operations in Southeast Asia. The gambling tech giant has maintained its footprint in that particular region for nearly a decade. However, growing competition in China combined with heavy pressure in Malaysia, where the local government has ramped up efforts to crack down on unregulated gambling, have had quite a negative impact on Playtech’s performance over the past year. In Malaysia, in particular, the company saw a significantly lower activity this year compared to two years ago.

On a more positive note, regulated markets offset the losses suffered in Asia. Excluding Asian revenue, the company recorded a double-digit growth during the first half of the year. Playtech further pointed out that it would look to focus on regulated markets which are traditionally more stable and that it expects to generate around 80% of its overall revenue for 2018 from such regulated markets. Around 69% of Playtech’s half-year revenue came from regulated markets, as reported by the gambling software developer.

New Shareholders with New Demands

News emerged last month that SpringOwl Asset Management had invested more than $100 million into Playtech over the span of several weeks, thus acquiring a 5% stake in the company. The New York-based hedge fund is led by US investor Jason Ader, who among other things is known for playing a key role in bwin.party Digital Entertainment’s sale to GVC Holdings. Mr. Ader used his holding in bwin.party to press for the gambling operator’s sale following a prolonged proxy fight with the company’s board which involved him criticizing board members for failing to properly execute the 2010 merger of bwin and Party Gaming, which resulted in a 60% decline in share price.

According to media reports, Mr. Ader is expected to use his newly acquired stake in Playtech to demand disposal of assets or even sale of the gambling tech company. However, Playtech’s corporate governance is understood to be SpringOwl and its leader’s main focus for the time being. Mr. Ader has reportedly expressed concerns over the fact that Alan Jackson has been serving as the company’s Chairman for too long. In addition, the US investor has pointed out that Mr. Sagi’s continuing association with the gambling tech giant he had found is “a negative” for Playtech. The company’s founder currently holds a 6.3% stake in it after selling down his controlling stake bit by bit over the past several years. Mr. Ader has recently told Reuters that he does not have “a sense that the future of this company includes Teddy Sagi”.

In a separate round of news, it became known that London-based privately owned hedge fund Odey Asset Management has quietly bought a 5% stake in Playtech. Reports also emerged that the hedge fund’s co-founder, British businessman Crispin Odey has been in touch with Mr. Ader. Together the two investors own 10% in Playtech, which is more than enough to secure them with the influence required to press for important changes, including a corporate governance overhaul.

According to the latest reports on the topic, a change in the company’s leadership could indeed be asked for by Mr. Ader.

Plus500 Stake Sale

As mentioned above, Playtech sold recently its entire stake in CFD trading platform Plus500 for the amount of £176 million. The company said in a statement that it would use the money it has raked in from the sale to reduce its debt and for other corporate purposes.

The move came days after five of the trading platform’s founders disposed of 9.4 million of their shares for the approximate amount of £145 million, citing personal reasons and “desire to diversify their investments” as the main reasons for their decision. Playtech previously made a £459-million offer to purchase Plus500. However, concerns raised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority combined with pressure from the trading platform’s investors, with Odey being one of them, resulted in the deal’s failure.

Playtech’s recent disposal of its stake in Plus500 has actually been applauded by Mr. Ader. The US investor has pointed out that the gambling tech firm should continue disposing of its financial businesses and focus solely on the gambling portion of its operations as its financial services holdings have proved to be a major distraction.

Conclusion

Bearing in mind the recent developments, it seems that Playtech’s eventful streak is far from over. With brand-new and very demanding investors, the company could be headed toward a sale, a disposal of some of its assets, and/or a corporate governance overhaul. In addition, it would be looking to improve its profitability by directing its focus mainly on regulated markets and gradually reducing the influence unregulated markets have on its business. Last but not least, there clearly will be pressure for Mr. Sagi to exit the company completely and it is rather curious to see whether and how this would happen.

The post What’s Next for Gambling Tech Giant Playtech? appeared first on Casino News Daily.

Golden Knights become first NHL team to partner with a sportsbook

Las Vegas Sun Stories: Gaming
Golden Knights become first NHL team to partner with a sportsbook
The Vegas Golden Knights have entered a multiyear partnership with William Hill US, becoming the first-ever NHL team to partner with a sportsbook. The partnership will feature a TV visible dasher board, in-arena signage, updated ...