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Poker Business News From Europe

by Card Player News Team |  Published: May 01, 2010


Estonia Gets First Regulated Online Poker Site
The Olympic Casino group has launched the first regulated and licensed online poker room in Estonia. The new site is on the iPoker network and the license was granted to Olympic Eesti on Jan. 21 by the Estonian Tax and Customs Board.

Revenue from the online poker room, which will be accompanied by a casino, will be taxed by the Estonian government.

Harrah’s May Go Public Again
Chief executive officer of Harrah’s Entertainment, Gary Loveman, spoke in February of the potential for a possible initial pubic offering (IPO) of the company in 2013.

Harrah’s Entertainment, owner of the World Series of Poker, turned private in January 2008 when it was bought by the Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Global Management for $90 a share in a deal worth $17.1 billion.

However Loveman says the likelihood of this would probably depend on the state of the economy and the legalisation of online poker in America.

Speaking at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit in New York, he said that if the IPO went ahead, the company would not go public in one move. “What one might imagine is that the company would gradually make available some sort of public offering of its equity with a limited float and gradually work its way back to a more public position.”

Online Poker Booms at bwin
bwin’s interim financial results for 2009 saw gross poker revenue for the full-year up 26.1 percent to €118.8 million from €94.2 million in 2008. Of this, Gioco Digitale, the Italian poker operator which bwin bought last year, contributed €12.8 million. Last year the company saw gross poker revenues rise 14 percent.

Full year net gaming revenues for poker were €90 million, up 11 percent on the €81 million registered in 2008.

Fourth quarter 2009 gross gaming revenues from poker jumped 35.8 percent to €37.6 million from €27.7 million in 2008, while fourth quarter net gaming revenues from poker were €28.1 million, up 22 percent on the €23 million recorded in the same period of 2008. The number of active poker customers at bwin in 2009 leapt 55 percent to 1.05 million from 678,409 a year earlier.

In the fourth quarter of 2009 the number of active customers grew 49 percent to 561,000 compared to 376,092 in the same period of 2008.

South Africa Gaming Power House Created
Gold Reef Resorts Limited and Tsogo Sun Holdings have agreed to merge their respective gaming and hotel businesses, in turn creating the largest gaming group in South Africa.

The merger will see Gold Reef acquire Tsogo shares held by Tsogo Investment Holding Company Limited and SABSA Holdings Limited in exchange for new Gold Reef shares.

Last September, Tsogo Sun Gaming struck a deal with Dragonfish, the business-to-business unit of, to launch online poker, casino, sports betting, and bingo products. At the time the company stated its move into online gaming was a natural progression for the business. The latest deal could take this progression even further.

William Hill Poker Falls 14 Percent
William Hill, the publicly-quoted British bookmaker, has seen online poker revenue drop 14 percent to £21.3 million in 2009 from £24.9 million in 2008 as “customer attrition” from the company’s move to the iPoker network took its toll.

Hill signed a deal with iPoker owner Playtech last year to revamp its online gaming business and the company said that 2010 would see it, “Invest in marketing and international growth”.

New poker accounts came in at 68,000, down 18 percent on 2008, and poker now makes up 10 percent of online revenue compared to 62 percent for casino, 21 percent for sports book, and 7 percent for bingo and skill games.

Net online revenue in 2009 was £203.5 million, up 8 percent from the £188.2 recorded in 2008.

Poker Energises Entraction Network
Sweden’s publicly-quoted poker software provider Entraction saw its gaming surplus from poker rise 34 percent in 2009 to SEK435.7 million (€326.3 million), while the fourth quarter surplus was up 8 percent to SEK106.8 million (€99.3 million).

Poker net sales for turnkey partners (rake less bonuses) grew 7 percent to SEK73.9 million (€68.9 million) in the fourth quarter while net sales from poker for the year jumped 28 percent to SEK303.1 million (€237.6 million).

The company’s year-end report said, “Entraction’s poker network continues to grow. Its player distribution is attractive to many partners and, in particular, low-limit poker is on the increase.

“Growth comes primarily from countries around the Mediterranean where Entraction’s position is steadily becoming stronger with a large range of poker variants that are popular in the region.

Betsson Poker Revenue Drops Significantly
Betsson, the publicly-quoted Swedish bookmaker and gaming operator, has announced full-year 2009 gross profit from poker has fallen 16.8 percent to SEK131.9 million (€13.09 million) from SEK158.5 million (€15.7 million) in 2008.

The drop is even more pronounced at 31.7 percent when compared to 2007 gross profit from poker, which was SEK193 million.

In the fourth quarter of 2009 the company made a gross profit on poker of SEK31.5 million, a drop of 24 percent on the same period of 2008, but up 15 percent on the previous quarter of 2009.

Poker, as a share of overall gaming activity at Betsson, fell to 12.6 percent in 2009 compared to 19.1 percent in 2008 and 38 percent in 2007.

Norway to Ban Online Poker Payments
The Norwegian government has said that credit card companies and online payment processors will not be permitted to transfer funds between Norwegian citizens and online gaming operators from June 1 onwards.

This ban applies to all but the state monopoly holders Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto.

The move has gone ahead despite a previous warning from the European Free Trade Association’s Surveillance Authority that, “such measures constitute an unjustified restriction of the freedoms of the internal market for gambling services.”

It remains to be seen now what EFTA’s response will be. Whether or not the ban was made to regulate online gambling, there is no doubt that the companies outside the realm of this ban will benefit greatly.

Svenska Spel Poker Declines
Svenska Spel, the state-owned Swedish gaming operator, has announced a drop in online poker revenue of 18.1 percent for full-year 2009.

Although the company does not break down figures for its Internet business, it indicated that poker fell while Lotto grew 4.1 percent and sports book jumped 5.4 percent.

Internet makes up 14 percent of Svenska Spel’s activity and the reported drop in poker continues a trend from the first half of 2009.

888 Poker Revenue Plummets has issued its interim statement with key performance indicators for the fourth quarter and full-year 2009. Total operating income from poker for 2009 was $52 million, down 30 percent on the $74 million generated in 2008.

Fourth quarter (Oct. to Dec. 2009) operating income from poker was $13 million, down 11 percent compared to the $15 million generated in the same period of 2008, but up 3 percent compared to the previous quarter.

The number of active customers in the business-to-consumer poker business was 132,000, down one percent on the previous quarter, while quarterly total operating income per active customer in the business-to-consumer poker business was $98, up five percent on the previous quarter.

Dragonfish, the business-to-business unit at 888, took in $14 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, up 36 percent on the same period of 2008. Spade Suit