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Tom Horn Gaming expands its European footprint with Paf link-up

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Tom Horn Gaming, an igaming software supplier, announced today its latest content partnership with the Nordic based operator Paf which will further strengthen its local coverage of European markets.

Building on Tom Horn’s strong growth momentum and expanding product offering, this link-up further enhances the provider’s ability to rapidly engage strategic clients across a number of existing and new regulated markets.

“Joining forces with Paf provides a gateway to a number of jurisdictions, especially in the Nordics, where we are seeing increasing demand for our games. The partnership with the leading responsible operator strengthens our services footprint and facilitates further market penetration.

We are thrilled to be introducing our games to the operator’s wide base of players and very much look forward to watching our partnership grow and flourish going forward, “ said Ondrej LapidesCEO at Tom Horn Gaming.

“Tom Horn Gaming have the experience, the technology, the mindset, the scale and the team to provide the best-in-class gaming content to our players. Over the years the provider has focused on building the games that are well-received by players in local markets.

They always offer a superb and fresh experience, well-informed by player preferences and habits, and we’re excited to be rolling them out across our brands,” added Eric CastroHead of Content, Casino & Games at Paf.

Under the terms of the agreement the brands of Paf and Paf Multibrand Ltd. will initially offer its players a selection of Tom Horn Gaming’s titles, with the remainder of its award-winning portfolio to follow suit soon after. Players can look forward to gaining access to popular titles like 243 Crystal Fruits, Sweet Crush and Wolf Sierra.

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LeoVegas starts game studio

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LeoVegas is starting its own game studio, Blue Guru Games, to develop new, innovative games. The studio will develop exclusive games for LeoVegas and will also offer games to other operators. The first games will be released in late 2021.

LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group has, through LeoVentures, started the game studio Blue Guru Games and LeoVegas’ share of ownership in 85%. From the start the company will have a team with more than 20 years of experience in game development and will draw upon all of the experience and knowledge of LeoVegas. The studio will develop and offer games both for the Group’s own brands and for other game operators. The ambition is to produce at least 20 games in the coming 24 months through Blue Guru Games.

“For a long time we have created exclusive games with the help of external providers, but now the time is right to take the step to do game development entirely on our own,” comments Gustaf Hagman, Group CEO, LeoVegas. “Drawing from our data and casino knowledge we will be able to drive innovation and create games that our customers truly enjoy. These may be everything from niche, local games for individual markets to broad international games. In addition, we will create games and unique characters that can be used in our marketing, which will build stronger loyalty to our brands. Having great flexibility in producing games is a competitive advantage, and it will also give us a new revenue stream over time.”

Blue Guru Games will complement the games from the other 60 casino game providers that LeoVegas has access to today. The first games from the studio are expected to be released towards the end of 2021. These proprietary games will also give LeoVegas IP rights that will offer greater flexibility in how the characters and games may be used.

The new game studio is part of LeoVegas’ strategy to cost effectively control a larger share of the gaming industry’s value chain. In addition to Blue Guru Games, LeoVentures has invested in, among other companies, CasinoGrounds, Pixel.bet and SharedPlay. LeoVegas also recently acquired the sports betting company Expekt.

bos-claims-swedish-banking-institutions-have-suspended-services-provided-to-licensed-gambling-operators

BOS Claims Swedish Banking Institutions Have Suspended Services Provided to Licensed Gambling Operators

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Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary-general of the Swedish trade association Branscheforenigen för Onlinespel (BOS), has claimed that all of the country’s major banking institutions have suspended services they provide to licensed gambling operators.

BOS said that “all major Nordic banks” – including SEB, Swedbank, Nordea, Handelsbanken, DNB Nor and Danske Bank – stopped providing services to Swedish-licensed gambling operators at some point this year.

Claiming this is in violation of Swedish law, Hoffstedt has filed a complaint to the country’s Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen).

Most of these banks, Hoffstedt said, cited internal risk assessments or Sweden’s Anti-Money Laundering Act (PTL) as the reasons for account closures. The BOS secretary-general added that “in some cases the banks have not stated any reason at all”.

“As far as I am aware, no concrete justification for the dismissals and banks’ assessment has been provided in any case,” Hoffstedt said.

Hoffstedt added that gambling operators cannot function without banking services.

“Online gambling companies are, as stated above, dependent on basic financial infrastructure in the form of banking and payment services to conduct their business,” he explained. “This requires [them] to be able to store customers’ funds as well as receive deposits and make payments to customers.”

He added that the suspension of services meant that operators could no longer use Bank-ID, used to verify players’ identities. This meant they had lost access to a tool that was vital for fighting fraud and money laundering, Hoffstedt.

“Without access to the Bank-ID system, online gambling companies need to use alternative solutions to identify their customers. These solutions risk being neither as effective for companies nor as safe for users,” he explained.

Swedish Banks also provide the Swish payment service, which Hoffstedt said was also “very important” for operators.

Hoffstedt said that the banks’ decisions had worsened operating conditions for the country’s igaming licensees, as well as counteracting the goals of the Gambling Act.

He went as far as arguing that the actions were illegal.

Hoffstedt said banks have a contractual obligation to continue to provide banking services to these customers, unless there is a clear reason to break this agreement. Only in incidents where continuing to provide banking services would violate the PTL, or if the banking customer had committed misconduct, could agreements be broken, he claimed.

While Hoffstedt noted that banks may terminate agreements if they suspect a customer has connections to money laundering, he pointed out the PTL made clear that these assessments are at the customer level. They can, therefore, not be applied on a sweeping basis to a legal industry.

“Given that a large proportion of BOS members also received notice or notice of termination from the banks – all with general and overarching references to the risk of money laundering in the business – it seems obvious that the basis for the dismissals is a general business policy decision rather than a valid application of PTL,” he said.

“Under these circumstances, there is no possibility for the banks to deviate from their contractual obligation.”

BOS requested a dialogue with the Financial Supervisory Authority and said the regulator “should initiate a supervisory investigation of the banks’ handling and possibly intervene against the banks”.

SEB – one of the banks mentioned by BOS – however, argued it was not systematically ending relationships with gambling operators but rather examined the risk for every client on an individual basis.

“We always make an individual assessment of individual client relationships,“ SEB said. “When it comes to gambling companies, we generally have a cautious approach based on the raised risk level, not least connected to risks relating to money laundering and financial crime.”

Danske Bank, meanwhile, denied it had a policy specifically preventing gambling businesses from operating, but did say these businesses undergo a stricter screening process.

“Danske Bank does not exclude banking services for gambling operations as such,” Danske Bank said. “However, our assessment is that the gambling industry in general is associated with high risk and due to that we have tailored screening principles to ensure that the companies operate responsibly.

“In a case where a specific gambling client does not meet the requirements of our KYC-process or ESG-assessment, the ultimate consequence could be that we limit our offerings or refrain from enter into a business relationship.”

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Lidl to Remove Slot Machines from all its Finnish Stores

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German supermarket chain Lidl has announced plans to remove slot machines from all its Finnish stores, becoming the first nationwide retail chain to do so in Finland.

The machines, owned and operated by the state gambling agency Veikkaus, are scheduled to be removed from stores over the course of this coming summer. Lidl stores have a total of about 250 slot machines nationwide.

Lidl said the decision is based on a desire to show a positive example as a company of responsible choices.

“For us, responsibility means deeds, not just speech or slogans. It is an indisputable fact that there are problems with gaming and that the slot machines in the shops have a role to play here. It is up to each retailer to decide for themselves on the machines and assess their chances of giving them up, but as a large company we can set an example and lead the way,” Lidl Finland CEO Nicholas Pennanen wrote in a press release.

The company added that the decision will lead to a loss of revenue to the chain from a Veikkaus commission, which has run into millions of euros every year.

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Denmark’s Gross Gaming Revenue Down 8.7% YoY in 2020

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Denmark’s gross gaming revenue has declined 8.7% year-on-year in 2020. The closure of land-based gambling facilities, coupled with the cancellation and postponement of many sports events, is the reason for the revenue decline.

Figures released by the national gambling regulator Spillemyndigheden showed that revenue in 2020 amounted to DKK6.00bn (€806.7m), down from DKK6.57bn in the previous year.

Online casino overtook sports betting to become the primary source of gambling income, for the first time since regulation, with revenue here rising by 4.5% to DKK2.45bn. Spillemyndigheden said this was due to players switching to iGaming while land-based facilities were closed, but noted that the 4.5% increase was lower than the average annual increase of 13.0% since regulation in 2012.

Sports betting revenue declined 8.9% year-on-year to DKK2.29bn, while retail slot machine revenue dropped 29.3% to DKK986.0m. Revenue at land-based casinos was also down 31.7% to DKK239.0m.

“One might have expected that there would have been a marked increase in online casino games when the physical gaming halls and casinos were closed down and the opportunities to bet on sports were severely limited,” Anders Dorph, Director of Spillemyndigheden, said.

“However, that is far from the case. Although online casino increased a bit, it is the smallest increase since 2012, and it therefore far outweighs the massive decline we have seen in the other areas.”

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modl.ai is the only games-focused company to make the 2021 CB Insights list of most innovative artificial intelligence startups

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modl.ai, the Danish company making AI-driven tools that help developers build better games, has been ranked as one of the 100 most promising private artificial intelligence companies in the world by CB Insights. Its fifth annual AI 100 includes modl.ai as the only AI company focused on the games industry.

“To be listed as one of the most promising AI companies in the world, let alone the only one working in the games industry, is a reflection of the growing importance that AI plays across different aspects of modern game development,” said Christoffer Holmgård, CEO at modl.ai.

modl.ai was founded by a talented and diverse team of game developers, engineers and AI experts who saw the opportunity to use AI to automate and improve aspects of the game development process. Between them, the company founders have been involved in the development and launch of more than 30 games. Despite being less than three years old, modl.ai ranks second in the world among private companies for the number of technical game publications its team has authored.

Through an evidence-based approach, the CB Insights research team selected the AI 100 from a pool of over 6,000 companies based on several factors, including patent activity, investor quality, news sentiment analysis, proprietary Mosaic scores, market potential, partnerships, competitive landscape, team strength, and tech novelty. The Mosaic Score, based on CB Insights’ algorithm, measures the overall health and growth potential of private companies to help predict a company’s momentum.

“This is the fifth year CB Insights has recognized the most promising private artificial intelligence companies with the AI 100, and this is one of the most global groups we’ve ever seen. This year’s cohort spans 18 industries and is working on everything from climate risk to accelerating drug R&D,” said CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal. “Last year’s AI 100 companies had a remarkable run after being named to the list, with more than 50% going on to raise additional financing (totalling $5.2B), including 16 $100 million+ mega-rounds. Many also went on to exit via M&A, SPAC or IPO. As industry after industry adopts AI, we expect this year’s class will see similar levels of interest from investors, acquirers and customers.”

modl.ai’s development tools include modl:test, a suite of AI-driven tools for automating repetitive test tasks in game development, modl:persona, AI tools that help developers understand who their players are and optimise their game experience, modl:play, AI bots that learn from human behaviour play as opponents, player stand-ins, or NPCs, and modl:create, tools that accelerate game content creation. You can find out more at www.modl.ai.

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Better Collective acquires Rekatochklart.com to strengthen market position in Sweden

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Better Collective strengthens its position in the Swedish sports betting market by acquiring online sports betting media platform, Rekatochklart.com for 3.8 mEUR. 

The global sports betting media group, Better Collective, today announced that it invests further in the Swedish sports betting market by acquiring the online sports betting media Rekatochklart.com. Rekatochlart.com was founded in 2008 and is a leading Swedish online community where sports bettors and tips experts gather to share betting tips and analysis for upcoming sports events. In 2020, the platform generated annual revenue of approx 1.2 mEUR (12 mSEK), and operating earnings (EBITA) of approx 0.9 mEUR (8.9mSEK).

The purchase price was agreed to 3.8 mEUR (40 mSEK) and was paid in cash at closing. The acquisition was completed as an asset purchase from Win&Fun Media Ltd. and Better Collective will consolidate the acquired asset into its group accounts as of now. Rekatochklart.com will be managed by the Better Collective’s Sweden division.

Jesper Søgaard, Co-founder and CEO of Better Collective, says:

“It is a great pleasure to welcome Rekatochklart.com to Better Collective. With its strong brand and community of tipsters, Rekatochklart.com is a perfect supplement to our business and a strategically important step for us in strengthening our position in Sweden. In a year packed with major international sports events like the EURO 2021, the Olympic Games and the Ice Hockey World Championship 2021, Rekatochklart.com will enable us to engage with many more sports fans in the Swedish market.”

Jens Carlsson, Founder of Rekatochklart, says:

“I am both excited and proud that we have been able to conclude the sale of our platform to Better Collective. This is a testament to the strength of our site and vibrant community of tipsters and gambling experts in Sweden. We become part of a well-managed and responsible company with a strong tradition for investing in its people and platforms – a company with a solid track record, when it comes to further developing sites and communities like Rekatochklart.com.”

The former owners of Rekatochklart.com, Jens Carlsson and Ulrik Sandebäck, will continue in consultancy positions in the Better Collective Sweden division.

In 2018, Better Collective invested 30 mEUR in the Swedish market by acquiring a network of Swedish sports betting media platforms such as speltips.se. With the acquisition of Rekatochklart.com, Better Collective now further strengthens its position in the market.

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Sweden’s Spelinspektionen Fines Bet365 Over Bets on Football Friendly

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The Swedish gaming regulator Spelinspektionen has fined Bet365 operator Hillside Sports SEK1m (€98,000) and issued it a warning for offering bets on a football friendly in which most players were aged under 18.

Bet365 had offered odds on a training match played between Kronängs IF and Mariedals IK on March 28, 2020.

Spelinspektionen’s review of the match found that 24 of the 34 participants were under 18, meaning that Bet365 breached Chapter 8 section 2.2 of the Swedish Gambling Act, which prohibits betting on sports events when the majority of participants are under 18 years of age.

Hillside said it had believed it could offer bets because the fixture was not specifically an underage match. It said it took immediate action to avoid offering odds on similar matches in the future, which included a decision to stop offering bets on lower-division friendlies.

It said: “The fact that a majority of the players then turned out to be under 18 years was an unfortunate coincidence that could have occurred in any senior league at any time and which could not be foreseen.”

Bets on the match in question had been voided, it said.

Spelinspektionen said the Swedish Gambling Act clearly prohibited betting on the match and that the breach was serious but accepted that it was a one-off incident that the operator had sought to correct.

Hillside argued that any fine be based on its Swedish revenue, but Spelinspektionen insisted that the penalty should be based on its stakes from Sweden, which totalled SEK11.2m for 2019.

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Veikkaus Appoints Leena Vainiomäki as New Deputy Chairman

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The Finnish state-owned operator Veikkaus has appointed Leena Vainiomäki as its new deputy chairman.

Vainiomäki takes on the role having previously worked for Danske Bank, where she was country manager for Finland and also spent time as head of business banking in the country.

Prior to this, Vainiomäki spent time with Nordea and has also served on the boards of a number of organisations, including Finance Finland, Varma and Danske Bank Russia.

Vainiomäki’s appointment was approved at this week’s annual general meeting, where it was also announced that Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo will continue as chair of the board. Veikkaus also confirmed that Christian Cedercreutz, Pekka Hurtola, Anne Larilahti, Juha Pantzar and Hanna Sievinen will continue as members.

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LeoVegas acquires Expekt

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LeoVegas AB is acquiring Expekt Nordics Ltd and related assets (“Expekt”) from Betclic Group. Expekt is one of the most well-known sports betting brands in Sweden and the Nordic countries. The total purchase price is EUR 5 m for all assets. The acquisition strengthens LeoVegas’ brand portfolio with an established position in sports betting and expand the Company’s strategic growth opportunities in the segment.

“For those of us who grew up with online gambling in Sweden, Expekt is undeniably one of the pioneers in sports betting. I can remember back in the early 2000s when everyone played on Expekt. After a few years on the sidelines, we will now restore Expekt to its former glory as the leading sports betting brand,” comments Gustaf Hagman, Group CEO LeoVegas. “We are working resolutely to offer the ultimate mobile sports betting experience, which will entail a number of new innovations and new thinking with a starting point from what a mobile experience can entail for the big years of sport in 2021 and 2022. This is a milestone for LeoVegas and represents a broadening of our strategy. We look forward to Expekt once again becoming a leading sport brand in Sweden and the Nordic countries.”