eGaming Review January 2014 - Page 52

2013 : W H A T W E L E A R N E D F E A T U R E WHAT HAPPENS NEXT ? The new poker offering was launched in September after more than a year in the making, and it will be well into 2014 before we see whether the new poker client, with merged Party-bwin poker liquidity and recreational focus, will cause revenues to climb once more. If the US continues to open up during 2014 bwin.party’s partnership with Boyd Gaming – which has a land-based presence in most active gaming states – could prove an extremely shrewd move. Meanwhile, various product launches that remain in the pipeline – a new social sportsbook product and mobile casino offering – could help capitalise on a summer that includes the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and provide that respite. WINNERS AND LOSERS All four verticals showed decline in 2013 and mobile continued to be an area of weakness. The only glimmer of light was from the US where its smooth launch in New Jersey will calm investor fears. The new year will be crunch time for the operator in Europe. 07 NO JOY FROM GERMANY – YET The past 12 months have been full of broken promises, court cases and operator frustration in Germany as sports betting licences continue to lie just out of reach WHAT HAPPENED? After a string of delays, many believed 2013 would be the year the lucrative Slow progress German regulation has proved a source of frustration market finally opened up, with German regulators pencilling in August as a prospective date for the first licences to be awarded. However the process was hit by a landmark ruling in favour of BetVictor, which successfully sued the Ministry of the Interior of Hesse in the Administrative Court after it was not invited to a licence hearing. The case caused further delays and highlighted the extent to which operators had become distrusting of the regulatory body over the licensing process, with little sign of movement and even scarcer comment originating from the Ministry. Schleswig-Holstein-based mybet launched a cost cutting programme after being forced to downgrade its EBIT forecast for the year on the back of such uncertainty, with Betfair having long since given up on the country. Remote Gambling Association chief executive Clive Hawkswood, however, says it would be hard for many operators to “turn their backs” on a market the size of Germany. The process received a potential bodyblow in November after it was revealed that none of the 41 applicants permitted to the second stage of the procedure had met the Interior Ministry’s minimum requirements for approval, delaying licensing long into 2014. Patrick Schwarzbart, a gaming lawyer at DLA Piper, concluded that the continual delays are making sports betting licences “less valuable by the day” considering that the suspension on the state monopoly is to expire on 30 June 2019 regardless of when licences are awarded. Operators clinging onto the hope that the European Commission would intervene were left disappointed after Germany failed to appear on a list of nations receiving infringement proceedings in November, with Hawkswood considering the Commission unlikely to interfere with a country’s licensing procedures. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? Companies with an eye on Germany, particularly the likes of bwin.party, will be expectant of movement on the regulatory front in 2014. Letters providing additional guidance are to be sent in January, while operators are to be afforded the chance to amend and complete applications before resubmitting them. For the time being, however, it would appear that Germany is in a state of limbo regarding sports betting, and is to be for some time yet. 50 www.egrmagazine.com