Bookmaker news of week: Paddy Power & the Pope
By Bookmakers Review21 August 2018
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Shares in Paddy Power Betfair rose this week after it completed an initial £200 million tranche of a share buy-back programme. Goldman Sachs had repurchased 2,429,174 ordinary shares on behalf of the group, and it is now undergoing a £500 million buy-back scheme. A second buy-back tranche of £300 million is now underway, and the shares grew 2.2% on the London Stock Exchange. The Paddy Power and Betfair websites both briefly crashed this week, leaving millions of punters agonising over the security of their online accounts, but that did not negatively impact upon the share price. Read more about the buyback programme at The Time.

Paddy Power celebrated by mocking the Pope on his visit to Dublin, constructing a gigantic confession box that drivers can take their cars through. “Ireland has changed a lot since the last Pope's visit – gay marriage is legal, we’ve repealed the Eighth Amendment [which prohibited abortion], and even secretly cheered for England in the World Cup,” it said. “With decades worth of sins clocked up since then, we’re providing a convenient means to complete your contrition with your keys still in the ignition. And if the Catholic hierarchy have anything they’d like to get off their chests too, they are more than welcome to take a spin through our mega drive-thru confession box while they’re here.” PR Week has more on this.

Bet Victor has increased its winning limits to £500 on every single UK and Irish horse race, irrespective of the grade, in a new initiative called Guaranteed Bet. The lay to lose guarantee offer applies to single winner bets and the win part of each-way single bets placed from 11am on the day of the race. It is an industry first and Ladbrokes and Coral are planning to roll out a similar offer soon. “We believe our guarantee to include each-way bets and all race classes makes it a leading industry initiative,” said Matt Scarrott, director of sportsbook at Bet Victor. “Once we have trialled Guaranteed Bet for a short time, our plan is to review it with the intention of increasing limits and extending the timescales going forward.” Read the Racing Post for a detailed report on this plan.

Leo Vegas has applied for a Swedish gaming licence as it continues its ambitious expansion plans. It hopes to grow revenue to €600 million by 2020 and it sees Sweden as a serious opportunity. “Leo Vegas is a company that operates on several regulated markets and thus has the right tools and knowledge to create sustainable and strong growth,” said group chief executive Gustaf Hagman. Check out the operator’s site for more details on its growth plans.

Marathon Bet has decided to sponsor Serie A club Lazio despite an imminent ban on sports betting ads in Italy. Chief executive Natalia Zavodnik said the deal “emphasises our intention to continue our growth in the Italian market and beyond”, although she was unclear about how it would be implemented in light of the ban. It may well end up as a very short-term deal. “Working with a club with such an illustrious history as that of the Lazio emphasises our intention to continue our growth in the Italian market and beyond, and we cannot wait to see the club’s progression, both nationally and in Europe this season,” said Zavodnik. Sport Business has more on this.

ESPN has run a high-profile feature on bookmakers excluding or limiting winning punters and the comments will resonate with many. “Yes, bookmakers are severely restricting or closing accounts for what appears to be the fact that these people are winning," said U.K. gambling consultant Steve Donoughue, secretariat for an all-party parliamentary group that focuses on gaming. "The hilariousness of it," Donoughue added, "is that they restricted one of my member's accounts, and he's a Lord.”