Paddy Power, Betfair and The Stars Group have been linked with a merger that would create an £8.4 billion gambling giant. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power merged with betting exchange Betfair in 2015 and then the group snapped up FanDuel last year. It has since made great inroads into the US market. Stars Group runs the popular Poker Stars and Bet Stars sites, but it mushroomed in size when it snapped up British bookmaker Sky Bet for £3 billion. A merger between the two would run into competition concerns, but if it happens it would create a superpower that dwarfs all of its rivals in the online sports betting industry.
Bet365’s owners were second in The Times’ list of the highest taxpayers in the UK over the past year. The super rich are often accused of failing to pay their dues, but Denise Coates, her brother John and her father Peter paid £156 million in tax in the past year. That left them second only to Stephen Rubin and family, who paid £181.6 million after a strong year for the sportswear brands they own – Berghaus, Ellesse, Mitre, Speedo, Boxfresh, Endura, SeaVees and more. Individuals earning much more than the Rubins and the Bet365 owners dodged taxes through offshore holding companies, but the Coates family paid £26.8 million in corporation tax and Denise was liable for around £99 million of income tax on her eye-watering £220 million salary.
William Hill and Paddy Power have agreed to join Ladbrokes in reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs in Northern Ireland from £100 to £2. Bookmakers will be legally obliged to reduce the maximum stake to that end by April 2019, but Ladbrokes led the way by cutting it several months early. William Hill and Paddy Power have now followed suit, earning some positive PR in the process. Councillor John Kyle, who has campaigned for an early reduction, urged the remaining bookmakers to cut their maximum stakes too. “I would like them to show social responsibility and follow the example of Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power and voluntarily reduced the maximum stake from £100 to £2,” he said. “That would be a really responsible move and it would reduce significantly the damage that gambling addiction can do to individuals, families and communities.”
Betway is in the firing line of the Belgian government over a lack of transparency regarding its owners. Belgian law requires an international operator to team up with a local counterpart and Betway entered into a partnership with Casinos Austria International Belgium. However, the county’s gambling regulator found that a company affiliated with Betway had obtained a gambling manufacturer license from the regulator years ago. It announced it has “started a sanction procedure” against Betway “because of the cumulative license and the lack of transparency.” In other news, Betway has sponsored German esports team Berlin International Gaming in a two-year deal. It already sponsors popular teams Invictus Gaming, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Made in Brazil. “This partnership strengthens what is an already formidable esports offering here at Betway and is a statement of our intent for 2019,” said Betway chief executive Anthony Werkman.
Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings has launched a new responsibility gambling campaign and chief executive Kenny Alexander promised there is more to come. The scheme is called Changing for the Bettor and it includes a partnership with the Division on Addiction at Harvard Medical School. GVC also pledged double the donation it makes to fund research, education and treatment of problem gambling. “I think it reflects that GVC and the industry in general is making steps forward and is proving to be proactive in tackling the issue of problem gambling and being responsible operators,” said Alexander.