Paddy Power / BetFair ruffle feathers in the sports betting industry

By Martin Green31 October 2018
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Paddy Power Betfair has repurchased 85,000 ordinary shares as part of an on-going £500 million buyback scheme. The operator announced it has repurchased 42,500 shares on both the London Stock Exchange at an average price of £65, and another 42,500 on the Irish Stock Exchange at an average cost €73.33. The group recently reported a 5% revenue increase for the first half of the year, and its share price climbed 5% after the repurchasing news. The Times has more on this.

Yet Paddy Power continues to court controversy and the Irish bookmaker is in trouble this week for an ad that likens old people to zombies. It sponsors a show called The Talking Dead, which dissects recent events in hit show The Walking Dead. One spot mocks a group of elderly people with the voiceover: “Spotting the undead at the local casino is a tricky business.” Another clip implies that rigor mortis has already set in for one older man. A charity called Independent Age branded the ads “crass and utterly disrespectful”. TV watchdog Ofcom said it is assessing whether or not the ads breach its code before deciding if it should investigate. The Independent goes into more detail on this.

Mr Green has announced a record breaking 50.9% increase in revenues for the third quarter of 2018. Revenues at the Stockholm-based iGaming firm hit SEK445.2m (£37.9 million), while operating profit rose 49% SEK75.5m. A deal to buy Evoke has now gone through, adding online casino and sportsbook operator Red Bet to its portfolio, and it has just received a licence to operate in Ireland, while Mr Green has earned a Danish sports betting licence. Read the financial report here.

The UK government has decided to whack up the tax rate it charges offshore gambling companies from 15% to 21% effective as of 2019. The Treasury estimates that the increase in the tax from 15 per cent of gross gambling yield to will bring in an additional £130 million in 2019-2020 and £255 million in 2020-2021. Clive Hawkswood, chief executive at the Remote Gambling Association, warned that gambling companies would look abroad to make up lost revenues. “The UK is a mature market now and the increase in regulation and tax burden are making it less attractive,” he said. The Financial Times goes into greater detail on this tax hike.

Yet the opposition Labour Party is furious with the UK government for failing to launch a strict enough clampdown on gambling in its Budget announcement this week. Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “By rolling back on their promises the government are allowing greed to triumph over good as the bookies trouser an additional £900m in revenue. The new secretary of state has let down not only his predecessors who campaigned for urgent change, but all the gambling charities, reformers and addicts who were relying on him not to bow to the will of the Treasury.” The Guardian has more.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar has launched an offensive to stop leading gambling companies deserting the rock in favour of Malta amid fears of Brexit and higher taxes. The Times of Malta has an interesting feature on this issue.

Over in the US, British bookmaking giant William Hill is suing Paddy Power Betfair-owned rival FanDuel over claims it flagrantly ripped off a How To Bet pamphlet it produced for its punters. The pamphlet was allegedly copied word for word and FanDuel even apparently forgot to take William Hill’s name off one page. “We are not litigious people but this is ridiculous,” William Hill CEO Joe Asher said in a statement to ESPN. “If the court finds in our favour, a portion of the proceeds will fund scholarships for creative writing programs at New Jersey universities.”