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Exclusive Interview with Ivan Sagál (Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia)



Reading Time: 6 minutes

While our team is gearing up for our event in Prague, I have managed to catch up with Ivan Sagál, who is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. You can meet Ivan in person by attending the second edition of Prague Gaming Summit which will be held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague. You can find more details here.

With this occasion, I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to and I will happily get back to you!

Thank you very much for accepting our invitation and answering the questions. You have more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services. Why did you choose the gaming industry?

Ivan: It is an interesting question. If answered lightly, it is rather that the gaming industry chose me than the other way round. One of my main areas of focus since the beginning of my career has always been the transactional work – that is helping international and local companies expand their business through acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts and various other forms of business deals, as well as in getting the necessary funding for those deals. For many years, companies with business interests in the gaming industry have been among my clients, and naturally, when you want to provide a high-quality expert advice in a transaction involving a gaming business, you need to understand the strategic commercial issues that gaming industry is facing as well as the regulatory legal framework. And when you initially get this insight into the industry, it is just logical you keep yourself abreast of subsequent industry developments (whether they relate to business, technology or regulation) as you never know when another gaming client would be seeking your support based on positive references from your previous clients.

The company you work at, Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry. What is the focus on in your work at the company; what are the key values of this company?

Ivan: One of the main strategy pillars of Bird & Bird has always been excellence in client service achieved through a strong sector focus. We believe that what differentiates the top legal advisors from the good ones is their deep understanding of the particular industry sector in which their client operates which must be in addition to their excellent legal skills. Many of our lawyers have additional professional background. This is thanks to their previous career in the particular industry or thanks to their additional technical education. Another key element of our strategy is our international reach, meaning that when clients come to us through any of our international offices, they get the same level of service, whether in terms of project management, legal expertise or the sector knowledge. We achieved that through a strong emphasis on the ‘one firm’ approach in internal procedures, knowledge sharing as well as cross-border client projects.

Please tell us more about the services the company offers especially those which are connected to gaming, gambling.

Ivan: Bird & Bird is a full service global law firm, providing advice in all main areas of business law, including Corporate/M&A, Banking & Finance, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Intellectual Property, Privacy & Data Protection, Outsourcing, Real Estate, Tax etc. We have developed an unparalleled expertise in a number of industry sectors, especially those based on, or largely being re-shaped by, the new technologies and digitalization. Naturally, gaming industry is at the forefront of this change, given its rapid development towards the digital era, and we help gaming companies adopting to new regulatory challenges as well as expanding their reach to new markets. This involves advising in all aspects of licensing procedures (whether in setting up businesses or updating licensing scope due to new legislative changes), sorting out ad hoc regulatory issues (whether due to the probes or inspections by the authorities or new business ideas crossing the regulatory borderline), analyzing and outlining solutions in situations where several other regulatory frameworks overlap with gaming regulation (such as marketing and advertising rules, data protection/GDPR issues, payment services regulation under the PSD2 directive etc.), as well as all forms of transactional support – acquisitions, joint ventures, strategic commercial contracts, new technology deployments etc.

You have more than 20 years of experience in the business. Will you please tell your opinion about the European gaming industry and also about the gaming industry of the Czech Republic?

Ivan: In my view the gaming and betting industry as a whole is one of the fastest-changing industry sectors of the last decade. I am fascinated by the speed of this change, which to a large extent is due to a rapid development of new technologies and moving the user experience into the online world. What this brings, of course, is a totally new perspective for the national regulators, who historically have been very much used to control the domestic playgrounds tightly without giving much consideration to what was happening elsewhere in the world. With the digitalization of the business and the online environment, the visible borderlines are suddenly gone and of course the largest international players are somehow disrupting the status quo in smaller markets. When you add to the mixture the general principle of freedom to provide services under EU legislation and on the other hand the commonly accepted risks of unregulated (or under-regulated) gaming or betting on the society, plus the difficulties of the tax authorities to track or allocate the income from such online activities based on its geographical source, it is clear that everyone involved is facing many uncertainties. I still see, however, that in general the industry is doing well, whether Europe-wide or in our country, so apparently it is possible to adapt to the challenge and live well.

Last year the government of Czech Republic planned to restrict online bonuses and free bets, because they found alleged links between these promotions and problem gambling. What is the situation now concerning this issue?

Ivan: It is not that much about imposing new restrictions through e.g. a legislation amendment, but rather about a narrower vs. wider interpretation of the existing provisions of the new Czech gaming law by the regulator (Ministry of Finance). It is true that the regulator has issued a standpoint to certain forms of bonuses and free bets from the perspective of compliance with the general rules of Czech gaming law. This has been issued in August last year, so it is relatively fresh and is yet to be tested in the potential administrative proceedings (or later court proceedings) in a particular case. Also, it has to be mentioned that the standpoint does not automatically mark all forms of bonuses as illegal, it rather analyses the rationale and nature of the particular bonus in the light of legislation provisions and generally divides these bonuses in three categories – generally allowed, allowed if included in the pre-approved gaming plan or disallowed. However, the standpoint is not a generally binding law but rather just the guidance, and as such may be changed or overcome in the future.

How did this new situation, the restrictions affect the Czech gambling industry and what would be the solution for the future of this sector in your country?

Ivan: As already mentioned, the new Czech gaming law definitely changed the landscape of the industry locally, and generally imposed additional requirements on the compliance functions of all market players. Based on my initial observation, however, it definitely did not ”kill” the market (as was feared by many players before the enactment of the law) and it is still too fresh to analyze its deeper impacts on the industry as well as the society. In my view, however, the future of the Czech gambling would be very much inter-linked with whatever developments in more advanced jurisdictions (especially within the EU), both with respect to the further technology and digitalization development, as well as regulatory framework (including more unified interpretation and application of the general regulatory principles).

To meet Ivan in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.

Interviewee profile:

Ivan Sagál is a Managing Partner of Bird & Bird offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Bird & Bird is a leading global law firm with a strong focus on the businesses sectors where digitalization and technology plays a key role, including gaming industry.

Ivan has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, corporate and financial law, advising clients from across a number of sectors including lottery & gaming, telecommunications, media & entertainment and financial services.

His team has been actively involved in advising various gaming companies from market leading national lotteries and gambling multinationals to small peer-2-peer gambling startups on a broad range of legal issues including gaming regulatory and licensing matters, legality of advertising of gaming products, data protection, compliance, regulatory aspects of consumer protection, competition, commercial, and transactional matters.

Ivan is a member of the Czech and Slovak Bar.

Source: European Gaming Media and Events


New Orleans casino market outpaces state performance for February; see how much revenue was generated



New Orleans casino market outpaces state performance for FebruaryReading Time: 2 minutes

Casino winnings in the New Orleans gambling market were up by 1.9 percent in February from a year ago, better than the modest 0.6 percent gain reported across the state.

The state’s 15 riverboat casinos, four racinos and land-based casino generated nearly $210.0 million in revenue in February, according to figures released Monday by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.That was slightly ahead of the nearly $208.6 million they took in during February 2017. Video poker revenue was up 2 percent during that same period to $50.0 million from $44.3 million in February 2017. 

In New Orleans, gambling revenue was up from $49.7 million to $50.7 million. Improved business at Harrah’s contributed to the gains. The casino posted $23.6 million in winnings during February, 4.4 percent more than the $22.6 million from February 2017. Winnings at the Fair Grounds race track were up by 5.2 percent to $3.9 million from $3.7 million.

The Crescent City’s three riverboats had a modest drop in winnings during the month of 1 percent to $23.1 million. Treasure Chest was the biggest loser, dropping 2.2 percent to $9.1 million. Boomtown New Orleans was down 0.4 percent to $10.4 million. The Amelia Belle in Amelia was virtually unchanged, with earnings holding at $3.6 million.

While the performance in the state’s gambling markets was mixed, Baton Rouge was the biggest loser, with winnings at its three riverboats plunging by 10.4 percent. The Belle of Baton Rouge, the oldest riverboat in the city, dropped 16.2 percent to $4.5 million. Hollywood Casino revenue fell by 14.1 percent to $5.5 million. L’Auberge Baton Rouge was down 6.7 percent to $13.6 million.

In other markets, casino revenue at Lake Charles’ three riverboats and slots at the Delta Downs racetrack was up by 8.6 percent to $73.8 million. Shreveport-Bossier City, which has the most riverboats of any market along with the Harrah’s Louisiana Downs track, was down 3.8 percent to $55.1 million. Acadiana, which includes the Evangeline Downs race track, was down 7.1 percent to $6.7 million.



Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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MeReal Biometrics Combines Biometrics and NFC Technologies for New Card Solution



MeReal Biometrics Combines Biometrics and NFC Technologies for New Card SolutionReading Time: 5 minutes

The company, based in France and Hong Kong, is selling an ID card for the hospitality industry that leverages Near Field Communication, as well as biometrics and acoustic signals, to vary the level of security for access control, payments and VIP services.

Several hospitality companies are deploying or trialing a new biometrics- and Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID-enabled card from MeReal Biometrics that leverages the combination of technologies to ensure the companies meet regulatory standards for privacy, while also providing a variety of access-control, VIP treatment and payment options for those with the cards.

MeReal is also partnering with French access-control and security technology company EuroStation, which will resell the cards to its clients in the hotel, casino and television production industries. The card was released in 2017 and has since been used by casinos and hotels in trials or full deployments.

In La Ciotat France, for instance, Casino Pleinair is using the technology to provide its employees with access to its specific restricted areas. Casino Pleinair is the first French casino built for outdoor use, to enable guests to smoke while still complying with France’s indoor smoking ban. Players and other guests can roam outdoors in the facility’s gaming area, restaurants, and pool. The resort, in the long term, intends to provide guests with the MeReal Biometrics card to they can make payments, receive VIP services and gain access to authorized areas. Initially, however, the card is being used only by staff members.

In Nice, the Palais de Mediterranée is utilizing the cards to provide its employees with access control specific to their work requirements. In Macau, meanwhile, a hotel and casino (which has asked to remain unnamed) has begun piloting the card for use by its VIP customers. Regular customers have the card (approximately 1,000 will participate in the pilot by mid-year) and are using the technology to gain VIP access to the resort.

In the future, the company says, the plan is to use the system (the MeReal card with apps, Websites and customer hotlines) for payments and other services. The card has also been trialed in France for online gaming. To provide proof of authenticity, a gamer can simply tap his or her card on an NFC-enabled smartphone to log on to the gaming site or app. If NFC is unavailable, the card’s audio signature can be used: the gamer holds his or her card to the microphone of a PC, a laptop or a tablet to log into the game.

MeReal was cofounded in 2009 by Patrick Partouche, a casino and hotel group owner and operator, and Philippe Blot, whose background is in the “powered card” manufacturing industry, and before that in cyphering technology. The company says its goal is to disrupt the standard access-control card industry and digital-payments market, by providing the hospitality industry—among others—with a security and access-control solution that uses multiple technologies.

The card is intended to provide more than just access control, Blot says. The battery-powered biometric system-on-card, which features built-in fingerprint biometric capability, an acoustic signature emitter and an NFC chip, is being marketed for VIP and loyalty service, as well as for payments and security. It can be loaded with funds and be used for physical and online access, or make payments in a closed or open network. It comes with a portable charger and can transmit data via NFC or sound if a reader or microphone is available. With the NFC functionality, the device can also be used with an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet.

Patrick Partouche

Patrick Partouche

When the company was founded, its goal was to create a card that would meet the requirements of European regulators. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), established in 2016, dictates how personal identification, as of May 2018, can be required, while protecting and simplifying the authentication process for citizens. While biometrics can ensure the authenticity of a person entering a facility or making a payment, EU regulations mandate that companies cannot require biometric data from people under all conditions.

For instance, at certain public doors and during specified times of the day, the companies must allow access without requiring a fingerprint. It’s more than just a matter of privacy, Blot explains—it’s a question of civil rights. How many times, he notes, can a company require an individual to stop and present his or her fingerprint in order to access a building or to gamble, for instance?

Hong Kong, where MeReal Biometrics is headquartered, is presently looking into similar protections as more companies are asking citizens to present ID cards or ID numbers to access basic needs, says Kate Davies, MeReal Biometrics’ head of marketing.

Using simply NFC on traditional cards spares an individual from having to provide a fingerprint, Blot says, though the technology has limits as well. “It comes down to the level of identification—who I am versus who I say I am,” he explains. Although an NFC card can authenticate the card itself, it cannot guarantee that the person holding the card is the same individual who owns that card’s account. “This can be quite important,” he says, especially in the gaming industry, in which online gaming is becoming popular and makesauthentication considerably more challenging than it would be for a casino employee standing face to face with a player.

MeReal wanted a card that would work for physical or virtual access, gaming, payments and other applications, with a variety of use cases depending on a user’s needs. The card’s biometrics sensor can read and authenticate a user’s fingerprint in less than one second before transmitting its unique ID number to an NFC reader, thereby ensuring the card’s authenticity, and that the card user is who he or she claims to be.

kate davies

Kate Davies

Because the biometrics data is stored directly on the card and not in the issuer’s database that could be hacked, Blot adds, it provides greater security for the card user. So a user can simply place a thumb or finger against the sensor on the card in order to unlock the NFCfunction, then tap the card against the NFC reader. The system also enabled multiple fingers to be enrolled so that one fingerprint (from an index finger, for example) could have different privileges or accomplish different functions than another (from a thumb, for instance).

Such flexibility is one of the card’s strengths, Davies says. The system can be set up so that it allows a cardholder to enter through a general doorway using only the NFC RFID chip in the card, without requiring the fingerprint sensor. However, the fingerprint sensor could be used, or required, to enter a card holder’s guest room. “Our card is dynamic enough to comply with the regulations that won’t allow biometric data to be used at [for example] the front door or entrance of a hotel.”

The card is expected to cost less than $20 when purchased in high volume, Blot reports. The card pays for itself with the functionality it provides to users, he adds. “You’re putting a device into the hand of a customer that makes them far more loyal to the brand,” Blot states. MeReal provides apps for users if so requested, while many companies are expected to utilize the card with their own existing apps and IT systems.


Source:RFID Journal

Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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Playtech BGT Sports unveils retail cash-out improvements



Playtech BGT Sports unveils retail cash-out improvementsReading Time: 3 minutes

21st February 2018, London – Playtech BGT Sports (PBS) has introduced several significant improvements to its unique retail cash-out tool.

Shop customers will now experience cash-out for a longer period, across more events and with improved margins on PBS’ proprietary self-service betting terminals (SSBTs).

The cash-out option will stay open for longer on matches with strong favourites, increasing the availability of the tool in multiple bets. Previously, players had to wait until traders had settled results, but the favourites price will now be factored in while the match is live, even if it’s not available as a selection.

Suspension times in-play have been reduced, significantly lengthening the time available for customers to both place and cash-out bets, driving stake turnover and operator revenue.

Tennis matches no longer suspend while players change ends and football matches go live much sooner after the occurrence of a match-changing event like a goal or penalty.

A further improvement will see margins now more consistent across market type and length of price. Overrounds are now shared equally across selections, allowing for more competitive pricing and a better user experience for bettors.

It’s expected the upgrades to the PBS cash-out tool will further enhance retail customers betting experience, while bringing the high street shop in-line with its online counterparts.

John Pettit, Managing Director for UK, Ireland, Asia, and Australia at Playtech BGT Sports, said: “We believe the retail space can, and should, offer the same experience as digital, and improving our cash-out feature is one way of doing so.

With lower suspension times, consistent margins and more events available with the cash-out option at any one time, customers will enjoy the flexibility and choice of bet offering that they deserve.

Improvements to its cash-out service follow the recent announcement of the PBS MatchAcca tool, which allows customers to create their own single match multipliers based on related contingencies, a first for the retail sector.


About Playtech:

Playtech is a market leader in the gambling and financial trading industries. Founded in 1999 and listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange, Playtech has more than 5,000 employees in 17 countries.

Playtech is the gambling industry’s leading software and services supplier with more than 140 licensees globally, including many of the world’s leading regulated online, retail and mobile operators, land-based casino groups, government sponsored entities such as lotteries, and new entrants opening operations in newly-regulated markets. Its business intelligence-driven gambling software offering includes casino, live casino, bingo, poker and sports betting.

It is the pioneer of Omni-channel gambling which, through Playtech ONE, offers operators and their customers, a seamless, anytime, anywhere experience across any product, any channel (online, mobile, retail) and any device using a single account and single wallet. It provides marketing expertise, sophisticated CRM solutions and other services for operators seeking a full turnkey solution.

Playtech BGT Sports (“PBS”) is Playtech’s sports betting division, headquartered in Nicosia with more than 600 employees across 6 different business centres. PBS is the provider of the market leading Self Service Betting Terminals product with over 26,000 terminals supplied to retail operators in the UK and internationally as well as digital sports betting platforms and user interfaces to many major online licensees.

Playtech’s Financials division operates both on a B2C and B2B basis. Its B2C focused offering is an established and growing online CFDs broker, operating the brand Its B2B offering includes the division’s proprietary trading platform, CRM and back-office systems, as well as its liquidity technology platform which provides retail brokers with multi-asset execution, prime brokerage services, liquidity and complementary risk management tools.



Source: European Gaming Media and Events

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