Google Lifts Ban on UK Internet Gambling Advertisements

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Google has reversed its anti-gambling advert policy to the UK demographic. The leading international search engine will now accept advertisements from both registered UK organizations and advertisers whose campaigns are based in the European Economic Area (EEA).

With the corporate mantra, “Don’t Be Evil,” Google had maintained that its clients were not to run ads for online casino gambling, as well as for firearms, fireworks, “miracle cures” and prostitution for ethical reasons. However, mainland Britain, Scotland and Wales will see such internet gaming ads run by the end of the year. The repeal has is not extended outside of the UK.

According the some critics, the amendment is decision to amend its ethical policies is the result of the struggling global economy. “The bottom line really is it’s a lot of money,” said Hannah Kimuiu of advertising experts Greenlight. “The gambling advertising industry is probably worth £100 million a year. A lot of advertisers have had half their budgets in the past year. They’ve got to recover this money somewhere.”

Google refutes that the decision was made to cater to what is socially acceptable in Britain. The UK allows gambling advertisements because of “local business practices.”

                A Google spokesperson said, “At the time, we thought banning these adverts worldwide was the responsible thing to do and would give us a chance to review our policies. But we like to localize our policies to make sure they’re relevant to cultural and legal practices in a particular country.”

                After the implementation of the UIGEA, online gambling revenues in Britain, where internet casinos are legal, skyrocketed. Because Google is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the world’s internet marketing, online casino operators have been after Google for some time to lift the ban.

                Although the Queen visited Google’s headquarters near Victoria station and gave the company her assent, the decision has been deemed “irresponsible” by MPs and church leaders who feel it is immoral for gaming companies to buy “sponsored links.”

                The Church of England launched an attack on Google, as the decision was made just one day after figures were released showing a 25 percent increase in those seeking help with problem gambling.

                A spokesperson for the Church said, “Whatever people are searching for on Google, it probably isn’t the chance to risk developing a serious problem that could have a hugely negative effect on themselves and their family. As people are facing more financial uncertainty, the fantasy of instant wealth could become particularly attractive and the consequences of losses correspondingly serious.”

                Those worried that the reversal might corrupt adolescents, however, will be happy to learn that only licensed gambling websites will be permitted to display their adverts which will be classified as “non-family safe.” That is to say, said advertisements can be blocked using a parental control.

                James Cashmore of Google stated, “We’ve decided to amend our policy to allow text ads to appear against search queries related to gambling in Great Britain. We hope this will enhance the search experience for users and help advertisers connect with interested consumers. Gambling ads will automatically be classified as Non-Family Safe which means they will not show on any search where the user has applied the Safe Search Filter.”

Tex Rees of eCOGRA Joins Asian Responsible Gambling Panel

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Tex Rees, a Fair Gaming Advocate with eCOGRA will be among several panelists at the Asian Gambling Briefing in Singapore on October 21st. Rees will discuss Responsible Gambling with a number of attendees in the panel moderated by Panos Makridis, Responsible Gaming and Compliance Manager for Galaxy Entertainment.

Rees will be joined by Francisco Gaivo, Senior Legal Counsel of Melco Crown Gaming and professor Hao Zhidong, Associate Professor and Head of Department of Sociology of the University of Macau. The panel will discuss the relationship between Corporate Social Responsibilty (CSR) and Responsible Gambling, and their importance in the online casino industry. Additionally, the panel will compare the gaming policies in Asia with other nations, discuss the limits of government involvement, and how to increase operator accountability.

Rees is credited with eCOGRA’s standards for Responsible Gambling, and enforces their implementation with over 100 affiliated online casinos. She is responsible for a number of underage responsible gaming training programs with affiliated websites, and for lobbying for more strict international responsible gaming regulations in organizations like RGA, EGBA and IGC.

eCOGRA welcomed Rees to their team in 2003, as Rees was accredited with 15 years of management and customer relations experience in offline and online casinos. Prior to working for eCOGRA, she was a customer relations agent with LiveBet Online, software development. With LiveBet, the majority of clients would contact Rees to report any development or operational problems. She was responsible for the oversight of software installation and testing. Rees additionally worked with SuperBet, the first online casino in South Africa, managing 40 call centers.

Online Gaming Tournament Causes Stir on Campus

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Although the online casino or poker room has yet to be identified, Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia, Canada) is offering free tuition as the grand prize in an online poker tournament, stirring much controversy within the ranks.

                Matt Stewart, president of the Students Union at the University expressed his assent of the tournament, saying, “There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s like a free competition to me. If you are good at it, may the best person win.”

                The tournament has been advertised throughout the campus and via messages on Facebook, but the name of the internet gambling establishment has not yet been released. The promotional campaign offers a $5,660 tuition fee to one online gamer per week, among other prizes. Because the students do not have to buy-in to the tournament, Stewart feels that the tournament is as innocent as a raffle or bursary.

                “There are so many other resources out there to get people gambling; I don’t think a free tournament is going to do it,” he opined.

                There have been several arguments opposing the tournament, however, labeling it problem gambling as the potential outcome. “I would suggest the university not encourage this behavior because it could lead to excessive problems,” claims Jeffrey Devrensky, a psychology professor at McGill University. “I put it in the same realm as drinking on campus; doing drugs on campus.”

                The professor’s argument is that because the human brain does not reach its full maturity until the age of 24, the demographic that this tournament is aimed toward is at high risk for developing gaming addictions.

                It has not been announced whether the online poker tournaments will continue, or whether the Video Online Lottery Terminators Society will shut the operation down.

NETeller Changes Identity

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                A popular e-wallet with the online casino gambling industry, NETeller Plc, has announced an identity change that many surmise is an effort to distance itself from the recent encounter with the US Department of Justice. The litigation ended with NETeller having to pay a substantial fee of $185.7 million, after it had been catering to US internet casino transactions.

                Ron Martin, Chief Executive to NETeller cites an attempt to rebuild the processor’s credibility with merchants, customers, partners and regulators as the reason for the name change. “An element of strategy is moving beyond the US situation,” says Martin.

                Whatever the reason, the London-based payment processor will officially be known as Neovia Financial as of November 17th this year. Even with the identity change, the three main financial services, used mostly by online casino gamblers will maintain their titles – NETeller, Netbanx and Net+.

                After being forced from the US market and having cut half of their workforce, NETeller left Canada and went into Europe and Asia. From there it was determined that NETeller could not rely on just online casino gambling for its total revenue. As a response to the litigation with the US, the payment processor, NETeller released its card, Net+.

                Net+ generated revenue of $1.15 million just last month, and as Martin reports, the organization exceeded its targeted non-gaming revenue of 30 percent by 2010. Rather, NETeller has already seen 18.5 percent in non-gaming profits.

                “Gaming will continue to be an important part of the business, but on the other hand we have built a payment capability much beyond gaming and many products have an application outside of gaming,” said Martin.

More Korean Suspects Arrested in Gambling Ring

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Korean law enforcement had another raid on a gambling ring in which the suspects were said to have allowed Korean internet users to wager using a real time webcast from an online casino in the Philippines. The raid resulted in the indictment of four suspects without bail on illegal gambling charges, while seven more are being pursued.

                According to South Korean media, over one hundred billion dollars were won in the gambling operation that encompassed live casino games including internet baccarat. The land casino in question was based in Manila and has been operational since February 2007. The ringleader of the accused had hired nearly 30 Filipino dealers after installing webcasting equipment that would allow customers to gamble online.

                The operation would exchange Korean money for virtual chips that customers would use to place wagers while watching live broadcasts. In order to collect on their earnings, users would then pay a commission to the casino whose total depended on the amount of the wager and on which side it was placed. One gamer’s bet equaled 120 million.

                In fact, it was found that it was not uncommon for customers to transfer 100 million to the casino in exchange for chips; half of the earnings going to the owner, 15 percent to online casino gambling websites and a remaining 35 percent to business partners.          

                Korean police officials have estimated upwards of 500 billion having been wagered in the gambling ring using nine separate internet gambling websites. In order to assure the casino’s customers that the live broadcasts were legitimate, CNN news broadcasts were shown on the same screen as the webcast.

                According to the Korean Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, business partners had accumulated over 12.3 billion in assets, 4.35 billion in real estate, 3.45 billion in bank accounts and 850 million in luxury cars. Along with an additional 1.57 billion in cash, police have confiscated all assets from the suspects and ringleader.

                Two key members in the casino’s operation have fled overseas where they are currently being pursued using “extradition proceedings. In the meantime they have been indicted in absentia and moves are under way to confiscate their illegal earnings.” It has not been specified where the money, real estate and other assets will go. Three additional members are suspected to have escaped to Malaysia where they will also be pursued.

                One member of the gambling ring in custody must additionally answer to charges of operating an illegal internet casino gambling website, having furnished servers in Japan and Thailand, under the same conditions as those being used in the ring. A commission was also collected from its internet users, who allegedly wagered a total of 80 billion since its establishment. The website has since been closed and its 80 billion in revenue is unaccounted for.

                At this stage in the game, law enforcement is investigating the possibility that this operation may be tied to organized crime families, although an official statement has not yet been made.

New Gaming Platform Means Good News for Casino Operators and Consumers

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                In response to the growing demand for a competitive internet casino gambling industry, LVS gaming providers have partnered with the SAS business intelligence analytics firm to introduce a revised Enterprise Gaming Platform internationally. The team touts a customer centered gaming platform geared for international online betting and gaming operators.

                According to SAS’s Customer Intelligence and Marketing Automation team, this new platform will allow operators to “become more efficient, analyze customer information in greater depth and gain a better understanding of customer behavior, preferences and betting patterns.”

                The software enables gambling operations to analyze a selective demographic and therefore for marketing strategies to more successfully appeal to a consumer base. The end result will be an increase in revenue, as customer service and satisfaction will improve and fraudulent activity will be easier to detect.

                According to spokespersons, the software is the first of its kind in that it will allow online casino gambling providers to monitor their customer’s petting patterns in real time and therefore adjust their marketing campaigns accordingly. The platform will also allow gaming companies to develop more loyalties within the company and predict customer behavior, needs and wants.

                SAS managing director, Ian Manocha reports, “As the betting industry becomes increasingly competitive, it is imperative for operators to provide a more customized service to each and every one of their customers. SAS software enables operators to easily manage sophisticated, timely and personalized intelligence driven customer interactive, improving response rates and revenues. Together with LVS, specific betting opportunities can be finely targeted at relevant groups or individuals, based on a much more comprehensive view of the customer.

                To which LVS CEO, Simon Ordish added, “International Betting and Gaming providers are under constant pressure to deliver improved services and facilities for their customers. Our partnership with SAS has resulted in a unique offering to a provider that puts their customers at the heart of our solution.”

An Increase in Polish Gambling

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

           The gambling market is growing rapidly worldwide, with Poland as the latest example of this. According to Puls Biznesu, a Polish newspaper, gambling is the cat’s pajamas of the nation. Estimates say that the country as a whole is likely to spend $7.63 billion on gambling this year, with citizens spending double the amount that was invested in gaming (twice as much as is spent on beer and medical treatment) the year before. This may be partially due to the rise of online casino gambling, and its sister facilities.

            “If the upward trend continues,” the newspaper reports, “the gambling market will be worth as much as the mobile telecommunication sector is 2009.”

            Based on figures by the Ministry of Finance, $5.35 billion was spent on gambling last year, showing a 47.5 percent increase in just one year. At this rate, the Ministry estimates that the rate will grow another 40 percent, or $2.23 billion, by the end of 2008.

            Slot machines are the game of choice in Poland, according to the newspaper, with online casino style machines in approximately 18,000 bars, pubs and gas stations. In fruit machines alone, gamers spent $2.18 billion, double the amount two years prior. The State-owned lottery, called Totalistator Sportowy, saw a revenue increase of 20 percent in 2007, amounting to $1.75 billion.

            Just one year ago, the European Court of Justice ruled to change laws regulating online casino gambling, making it so that any online gambling operator with a license would have the right to provide its service within the entire EU.

Ivobank Spreads Through Europe

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Six weeks after the online casino industry was introduced UK based Ivobank, the financial institution has skyrocketed and spread to France, Italy and Germany. The online bank whose forte is online payments and money transfers is a godsend of sorts to internet casino merchants, affiliates and players.

                The company, owned by Indonesian billionaire Putra Sampoerna, was initially opened in UK, Span, Ireland and Canada. However, with payment processors thinning, Ivobank has already seen a great deal of activity. Because of the cross border online payments that Ivobank accepts, business is starting to reach the rest of the world.

                Timothy Sawyer, managing director of Ivobank commented, “More businesses and people are now choosing to bank online, make payments and transfer money on the internet. Following our successful launch, we are looking forward to opening up our rapid payments service to more customers across Europe and plan to introduce our service to even more European countries shortly.”

                Ivobank assures its clientele private and secure payments, around the clock customer support by way of phone, live chat and e-mail, competitive interest rates, a virtual debit card that may be used anywhere where MasterCard is accepted, and finally a commission free money transfer.

                Ivobank has no initial sign-up fee, low transaction fees and multi-currency settlement in Europe, making it a great venue for online casino users. The internet bank is available in France, Germany and Italy and is regulated by the FSA in Britain.

NETeller Teams With Cardsave

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                NETeller announced its new partnership with Cardsave, a UK based financial and business provider for independent companies. Cardsave is currently affiliated with 28,000 retailers. In addition to the e-wallet and Net+ cards offered by NETeller, Cardsave allows the payment processor to accept international non-card payments. This will prove to be very beneficial for the online casino gambling community as e-wallets have become more limited than ever.

                The latest program, Netbanx, allows merchants to accept payment online, contact centers, mail order or from automated phone systems via credit or debit card, direct debit or more obscure forms of payment such giropay and iDEAL found in smaller countries. The partnership provides the best solution to online casino companies world-wide.

                “Through this relationship with the NETeller Group, Cardsave has again shown its commitment to bringing leading and innovative products to our members. The NETeller payment suite is the best solution to remove the barriers for UK companies to compete with other retailers online- both inside and outside the UK,” said Clive Kahn, Cardsave CEO.

                The President and Chief Executive Officer of NETeller, Ron Martin, added, “Our services help drive merchant success through innovation, simplicity and value. The Cardsave agreement means that the NETeller Group has significantly extended its distribution and business opportunity for the Netbanx gateway, NETeller e-wallet and our other services.”

                NETeller promises that these new services will provide online casino users the most private and secure forms of payment on the market. The Net+ prepaid card will be made available to e-wallet users by October of this year.

Casino Player Writer Dies at Age 39

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Adam Fine, a respected writer for Casino Player magazine, died at the age of 39 shortly before the publication’s 20th anniversary celebration. Fine, very popular in the online casino industry, was widely known for his jocular yet well informed writing style. His untimely death was determined as the result of a stroke.

                Fine joined the team when he was just 17 years old. He took over as editor in chief just a few years later when his predecessor was needed for other exploits in the industry. His witty musings soon launched the magazine into the success that it enjoys today.

                Casino Player is widely read in the online casino industry and was introduced by Adam’s older brother Glenn and Roger Gros in 1988. Friends paid tribute to Fine this week, including his manager Frank Legato who remembers him as the driving force behind Casino Player magazine.

                “Whether writing about the trends of gaming, a great new hotel, or a fine restaurant, his prose had a way of drawing the reader into his world and making him experience that particular casino resort, restaurant or amenity right along with the writer,” Legato writes. “Adam’s secret was that he wrote as he felt. His writing revealed his own lust for life, his love of fine dining, his love of great entertainment. Adam savored each of the finer things of life, and invited his readers to do the same. Thousands responded with undying loyalty to Casino Player magazine.”