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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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CVC gets extra time for Betfair bid

Category : Business

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is given another 24 hours to come up with a bid for online gambling company Betfair.

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Greece sells gambling monopoly stake

Category : Business

Greek-Czech investment fund Emma Delta snaps up 33% of Greek gambling monopoly Opap in Greece’s first big privatisation.

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Ray Bitar, Full Tilt Poker founder, strikes deal with US prosecutors

Category : Business

Ray Bitar who was charged with bank fraud, money laundering and online gambling offences faced a jail sentence of 65 years

Ray Bitar, the online poker tycoon who ran the world’s second largest poker site from servers in Guernsey, has abandoned his defence against criminal charges brought by US prosecutors, striking a plea bargain as he awaits a heart transplant in California.

Bitar, 41, one of the founding figures behind Full Tilt Poker, becomes the second of 11 senior poker executives and payment processor intermediaries charged two years ago with bank fraud, money laundering and online gambling offences.

He was charged in April 2011 on five counts, and faced a maximum jail sentence of 65 years. Full Tilt was shut down and assets frozen. In four and a half years since the US enacted anti-online gambling laws, prosecutors alleged Full Tilt – branded around star players Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, each of whom had a stake in the business – had taken “at least an estimated $1bn” from the US alone.

However, bank fraud and money laundering allegations turn out to be just the start of Bitar’s woes. Detailed investigation led the US authorities to further allege that he and co-conspirators had secretly been plundering purportedly ring-fenced customer accounts, where poker players thought they had safely deposited cash and winnings.

Preet Bharara, US attorney for the southern district of New York, said Full Tilt had become a “Ponzi-style scheme”, with a $350m (£228m) black hole. The formidable prosecutor – best known for breaking the insider trading ring linked to New York hedge fund Galleon – said Bitar had “bluffed his player-customers and fixed the game against them as part of an international Ponzi scheme that left players empty-handed.”

A fresh indictment was issued and Bitar returned to his native the US last July. At the time he issued a statement through his lawyers saying: “I know that a lot of people are very angry at me. I understand why. Full Tilt should never have gotten into a position where it could not repay player funds.”

On Tuesday, his US lawyer John Baughman confirmed to the Guardian that an unusual plea bargain had now been struck, which took account of his exceptional health circumstances. Bitar is said to be awaiting a heart transplant in California. His serious health condition had not been made public previously.

Full Tilt had operated under a licence from the remote Channel Island of Alderney, though inadequate IT infrastructure meant it was forced to locate its servers on nearby Guernsey. Allegations that player accounts were plundered and that the company had been deeply involved in bank fraud for many years are highly damaging the reputation of the Channel Islands, where the offshore financial industry trades a on a reputation for not tolerating criminality.

While Full Tilt’s regulatory and IT functions were largely conducted from the Channel Islands, other operations were located on a business park just south of Dublin. Bitar is said to have spent much of his time between the Channel Islands and Ireland.

Together with market leader PokerStars, Full Tilt came to dominate the multibillion online poker industry after the US introduced tough laws making it illegal for banks to process payments from US citizens for internet gambling.

Scores of websites closed their operations in the US, including Party Poker, now part of London stock market-listed PokerStars and Full Tilt for years appeared to flout the rules, continuing to take bets from America, which was said to account for almost half of global demand for poker games.

The two sites allegedly used a string of intermediaries who set up sham online retail websites – purporting to sell golf clubs, watches, bicycles, jewellery, clothing, or even settling medical bills. In truth, payments through these sites masked deposits into poker accounts.

PokerStars, based in the Isle of Man, was also targeted by Bharara, but struck a deal last July that saw it forfeit $547m to the US authorities. It had managed to continue trading outside the US, unlike Full Tilt. In addition, PokerStars agreed to rescue Full Tilt, pledging to reimburse $184m owed to the effectively bankrupt group’s players outside the US.

The Full Tilt site has since been resurrected and is operated by PokerStars.

Under the terms of its settlement with Bharara, PokerStars had to promise that its founder Isai Scheinberg would step down as a director of the company. Scheinberg, a former Canadian executive with IBM, is one of three facing outstanding criminal charges and is said by the US authorities to still be at large. Two years ago was charged in the US with five offences of variously committing bank fraud, money laundering and online gambling offences. Reputedly resident in the Isle of Man, but with strong links to Israel, he faces a maximum of 65 years in jail.

The cost of gambling in Britain today: get the data

Category : Business

More than £40bn was wagered on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines from April 2011 to March 2012 according to estimates. Get the data by parliamentary constituency
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The latest figures show that more than £40bn was staked on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines with northern, urban cities and London boroughs with high levels of unemployment last year bearing the brunt.

These figures have proved contentious with bookmakers complaining that in fact it is fairer to focus on bookie’s profits of just £1.4bn. However the £40bn is an indication of the “activity and engagement” punters have on the machines say campaigners.

Adrian Parkinson, who worked for the Tote, was involved with launching fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from 1999 until 2008, worked out the figures using a survey commissioned by Fairer Gambling and industry data. The huge sums involved, he says, are down to fixed-odds betting terminals which bring high-speed, high-stakes casino gambling to the high street.

His most recent analysis is based on the financial period April 2011 to March 2012. According to the Gambling Commission, based on data provided by bookmakers, there were 33,284 FOBTs located across the UK in betting shops.

The declared Gross Gambling Yield (gross profit) from on FOBTs was
£1.42bn in 2012. Therefore the average weekly profit per FOBT was £825, up from £760 in 2011.

Based on the declared number of operating betting shops of 9,128 the average density of FOBTs is 3.65 per shop. Regional variations in density, says Fairer Gambling, have been factored in to their analysis using data sourced from Tote Sport retail 2009.

The profit per terminal has been factored across all betting shops within each parliamentary constituency to produce the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY). Fairer Gambling point out that the actual Gross Gambling Yield achieved on FOBTs in 2011/12 was £1.42 billion “whereas our result is £1.36 billion. This difference is caused by approximately 1.8% of betting shops not being mapped by Geofutures due to postcode anomalies. This is an acceptable level of error”.

The Association of British Bookmakers claim that the data is flawed pointing out that in about ten consitituencies the numbers do not match the number of shops.

The table shows gambling data by parliamentary constituency and includes claimant count for December 2012. What can you do with this data?

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Gambling machine crackdown rejected

Category : Business, World News

The government rules out a crackdown on high-stakes gambling machines from betting shops despite warnings by campaigners about their addictive nature.

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Squeeze hits Sportingbet takings

Category : World News

Online gambling site Sportingbet announces a fall in first quarter revenues, citing “challenging trading conditions”, as poker revenues drop 50%.

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‘I lost control’, says UBS trader

Category : Business

An alleged rogue trader accused of gambling away £1.4bn tells a jury how he “lost control in the maelstrom of the financial crisis”.

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Sportingbet accepts Hill’s terms

Category : Business

Gambling firm Sportingbet agrees the improved terms of a £530m takeover by the UK’s biggest bookmaker William Hill.

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Rank’s acquisition of Gala Coral casinos referred to Competition Commission

Category : Business

Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan’s Rank Group is already the UK’s second-largest operator

The acquisition of the casino arm of the gambling firm Gala Coral by Malaysian billionaire Quek Leng Chan’s Rank Group has been referred to the Competition Commission for scrutiny.

With 34 casinos trading under the Grosvenor and GCasino brands, Rank is already the UK’s second-largest operator. Only Genting, run by Lim Kok Thay, the scion of another Malaysian billionaire dynasty, is larger. The addition of Gala casinos would add a further 23 sites, giving Rank a commanding 40% share of UK casinos. The group also holds licences for further casinos, as does its controlling shareholder, Quek’s conglomerate Guoco.

If Rank’s takeover of Gala casinos goes ahead, the two Malaysian groups will together control 75% of UK casinos.

For many years the ownership of the stock market-listed Rank was fought over by competing Malaysian interests – Quek’s Guoco and Lim’s Genting. Genting became Britain’s largest casino operator in 2006 when it acquired Stanley Casinos. Guoco tried sought to apply for its own casino licences but after limited success started to acquire shares in Rank. Fearing Quek would take control of Rank, Genting swooped on shares, taking a large stake overnight in what appeared to be an attempt to thwart the takeover ambitions of Guoco.

The two Malaysian groups interest on Rank’s share register appeared to be in deadlock until last year when Genting seemed to surrender its interest in Rank to its arch-rival without a fight. Lim’s group sold its 11.6% stake – big enough to block a Guoco takeover – to Quek’s empire in a near nil-premium deal, baffling many analysts and industry experts.

That took Guoco’s stake to over 40%, triggering a mandatory takeover. Despite advice to the contrary from Rank directors, many smaller shareholders sold out – again without receiving a takeover premium – leaving Guoco with a stake of 74.5%.

The Office of Fair Trading said: “Rank and Gala are two of only three large national casino operators in the UK. This merger would represent a major consolidation, which could be expected to reduce competition, both locally and nationally. The high barriers to entry and expansion in the casino sector mean the loss of competition could potentially be irreversible.”

A committee of legislators in Maryland votes to expand gambling in the state and the Washington D.C.-area, setting up a wider vote for the full House this week. Naturally, working out how much in taxes the state will rake in was one of the biggest…

Category : World News

A committee of legislators in Maryland votes to expand gambling in the state and the Washington D.C.-area, setting up a wider vote for the full House this week. Naturally, working out how much in taxes the state will rake in was one of the biggest hurdles to clear. Waiting it out: MGM Resorts (MGM +0.7%) with a $800M complex in the works for suburban Maryland about ten miles from the Capitol. 1 comment!

Excerpt from: A committee of legislators in Maryland votes to expand gambling in the state and the Washington D.C.-area, setting up a wider vote for the full House this week. Naturally, working out how much in taxes the state will rake in was one of the biggest…

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