Gauselmann Group: Entering the privatized sports-betting market in Italy

New international business segment of the Gauselmann Group

‘Merkur Interactive GmbH’ is based in Espelkamp/North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and is a subsidiary of the family-managed Gauselmann Group. It was successful in a public tender and was awarded licenses for privatized sports betting mainly in Northern Italy.

Espelkamp/Bologna. The East Westphalian Gauselmann Group reports a successful start into the new year. The subsidiary ’Merkur Interactive GmbH’ of the family-managed company from Espelkamp enters the privatized sports-betting business in Italy under the lead of Dr. Dirk Quermann. In the tender of the central public authority AAMS (Administrazione Autonoma Dei Monopoli Di Stato) in Rome for the relevant licenses, ‘Merkur Interactive’ won licenses for 76 betting offices and 157 sales points in Northern Italy on 28 December 2006. In addition, a license for internet-based gaming in all of Italy was obtained. In terms of number of licenses awarded ‘Merkur Interactive’ is one of the major players in this newly structured and liberalized market in Italy.

The operating activities in Italy will be assumed by ‘Merkur Interactive Italia SPA’ founded on 26 January 2007 and based in Bologna. The Austrian company ‘CASHPOINT Sportwetten GmbH’ based in Vienna will contribute the sports-betting know-how and will also provide the technical infrastructure. The total investment is in the two-digit million range. ‘Merkur Interactive Italia SPA’ will present its market concept in Italy in February and will open the first betting offices in the third quarter of 2007.

It was decided to only engage in obtaining licenses for Northern Italy because of the service infrastructure in place in this region, in order to be able to provide the invaluable qualitative customer support for which the Gauselmann Group is famous. In detail ‘Merkur Interactive’ won licenses in the following regions: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli/Venice, Lazio (Rome city), Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Piedmont, Tuscany, Trento, and Veneto.

“We are delighted that we were so successful in the tender in Italy. It proves that our market concept was absolutely right,“ explains Armin Gauselmann, who is the member of the Management Board responsible for the new business segments. “And in addition it is very gratifying that the Italian government was so courageous as to liberalize the sports-betting market, and thus complies with the demands of the European Union to eliminate the corresponding monopolies in the EU member countries. This raises hope for Germany that the governments of the federal states will also give up blocking a responsible liberalization of the betting market and will start to acknowledge the reality of the EU regulations and draw the necessary political consequences,“ continues Paul Gauselmann, Chairman of the Management Board of Gauselmann AG.

By tendering the sports-betting licenses the Italian government took the bull by the horns, thus creating a controlled and regulated market and securing the associated revenue from auctioning the licenses and from the taxes to be paid. As a consequence, illegal offers and tax evasion are prevented. „During the preparation Italian politicians surely had a look at the situation in UK, where private sports-betting has a long tradition without any snags. On the contrary, the public revenue even increased continuously“, explains Armin Gauselmann.

Apart from Italy there is also an ongoing debate in the Spanish regions about the corresponding bills. Decisions will be taken soon to create a liberalized but controlled market. However, a definite timeline for the implementation is not foreseeable today. Therefore, ‘Merkur Interactive’ will first observe this market carefully, in order to be able to take the necessary business decisions later on.

‘Merkur Interactive GmbH’ is responsible for all activities in the sports-betting and internet-based gaming segments within the internationally active Gauselmann Group. In 2006 the aggregated business volume of the Gauselmann Group companies totaled more than EUR 1.3 billion. At the end of the fiscal year 2006 the headcount of the Gauselmann Group was 5,600 worldwide and ever since the group was established it has sold more than 2 million gaming products around the globe.