Coates keeps the taxman warm once again

Bet365 owner Denise Coates and her family have topped The Times’ tax list for the third year in a row, as the paper revealed the online betting moguls made a total contribution to Her Majesty’s Treasury of more than £480m in 2020/21.

Denise, John and Peter Coates together paid £481.7m through a combination of corporation tax, employer’s national insurance, gambling duties and personal tax on the £421.2m salary Denise received in 2020.

Rounding out the list’s top five were more familiar faces in the global gambling industry, Betfred owners Fred and Peter Done, who together paid some £170m, while Intouch Games owners Simon and Yu-Lin Wilson came in at number 35, contributing close to £30m.

According to The Times, around £1 in every £5 of tax identified in its research came from people who earn most of their money in the gambling industry.

The total raised in tax from the nation’s 50 biggest contributors rose by £510m compared to the previous year, however The Guardian was quick to point out that of the top 10 richest people in the UK, only retail specialists the Weston family (the 10th richest with £11bn) appeared on this year’s tax list. 

ICE starts to melt as major exhibitors turn up the heat

Gambling industry exhibition ICE London suffered a series of blows this week, as the withdrawal of the trade show’s biggest exhibitors seemed to cause a domino effect for organiser Clarion Gaming.

After cancelling its 2021 edition and, following increasing cases of Covid-19 across the world, postponing the 2022 iteration from its regular February spot until April, some of the world’s largest gaming developers and operators have gone cold on the event.

Gauselmann Group-owned Merkur Gaming was the first major exhibitor to withdraw a stall presence, citing the poor timing of the show (which is scheduled to run during the start of the Easter holiday period), large numbers of Covid cases in the UK, and logistical difficulties caused by the nation’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Scientific Games was the next to go, with industry behemoth (and historically one of ICE London’s biggest exhibitors) Novomatic quietly following suit yesterday (27 February), citing much the same reasons as Merkur.

“ICE is an important trade fair for the entire gaming industry and Novomatic hopes that the successful cooperation can be continued in 2023 under more favourable conditions,” the supplier commented.

Zitro and TCS John Huxley have also confirmed that they will be unable to participate in the show, while others have confirmed their attendance in support of the event. 

Superbet sets sail 

Another story worth noting this week came in courtesy of Bloomberg, which sat down with Superbet CEO Johnny Hartnett for a chat about the Romanian operator’s global ambitions.

Hartnett said in the piece he wants to take the Superbet brand “anywhere in the world where there’s a regulated gambling market” and hinted at expansion beyond Central and Eastern Europe and into overseas markets including Canada, Asia and the US.

Superbet is private and boasts financial backing from New York-based investment heavyweight Blackstone, which bought a strategic minority stake three years ago for €175m.

Hartnett told Bloomberg that Superbet won’t require too much cash to achieve its aim of global domination and even hinted an IPO could be on the cards in the not-so-distant future.

Gaming in his genes

There is only one place to start this week and that is with the 2000-word profile of 888 chief executive Itai Pazner in last week’s edition of The Sunday Times.

The Israeli revealed he had been on a clandestine tour of William Hill shops up and down the country after purchasing the UK bookmaker’s assets in a £2.2bn deal.

Pazner said the staff didn’t recognise him, but they soon will as their new boss, with the acquisition scheduled to complete in Q1 2022.

Pazner towers over the top of the piece dressed head-to-toe in double denim. He also said he was paid $2.6m including compensation last year and recently bought his wife a Tesla.

Grant’s rise to Paddy Power

From one profile to another, we segue to an Irish Independent write-up on Flutter Entertainment UK and Ireland CEO Conor Grant.

Grant takes a trip down memory lane and recalls starting his 22-year gambling industry career at Paddy Power in 1998 on a graduate programme.

He worked alongside 14 colleagues in the firm’s telephone business with about seven or eight staff in the race room – all in a small head office above a shoe shop in Tallaght.

The nostalgia is short-lived as the focus soon turns to regulation, before Grant is confronted about the Sky Vegas email error that occurred during Safer Gambling Week.

Maltese firms prepare to take a hike

The industry sat up and took notice of a Times of Malta story this week that revealed 20 large foreign companies may have to start paying treble in corporate tax from 2023.

Government sources said between 18 and 20 international firms, with annual revenue in excess of €750m, could see their tax exposure rise from 5% to 15%.

This would apply from January 2023, with Malta forced to adopt a global minimum tax rate imposed by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Readers tried to join the dots to work out which gambling firms could be affected by the tax hike, from Kindred Group to Evolution.

Winners need not apply

Finally, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins caused uproar with customers this week after suggesting the business did not want punters who were only gambling to make a profit.

While the comments did not come as a surprise to those within the iGaming sector, Twitter users had a hard time getting their heads around that business model.

Robins said DraftKings was only after customers who bet for entertainment during an investor call with Canaccord Genuity, which was most comprehensively covered by Legal Sports Report.

Robins was also particularly vocal on Twitter, telling “haters” and sellers to “check back in 2025” from his personal account, now complete with a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT profile picture.