Betting changes cause headaches for sports punters

Betting with the bookies will change forever in 2012, but will the end of the state monopoly actually mean less choice?

New betting regulations that come into force in the New Year bring a mixed bag of fortune for the nationÂ’s gambling sector. While its liberalisation will see a significant increase in the number of gaming companies with a presence in Denmark, the countryÂ’s online punters will be barred from betting with companies that do not hold a licence to operate here.

For years the state has enjoyed a betting monopoly, offering fixed odds and other gaming options from outlets (mostly found in kiosks) under the name Oddset. In search of better value – the state will typically pocket a 20 percent margin on a game of football, compared to the more typical eight percent in a competitive market like the UK – Danish punters have increasingly favoured online betting with operators based overseas. 

While the stateÂ’s decision to open the door to foreign competitors is expected to hit its earnings from Oddset, it will more than make this back through a 20 percent tax on gross income from the 38 companies that have so far been granted a total of 55 licences. Some 19 of the companies will offer sports betting – of the remainder, 13 are exclusively online casinos.    

In the build-up to the law change, some overseas bookmakers have been closing the accounts of their Danish-based clients because they are no longer able to offer them a service. One of them, British bookmaker Coral, advised its Danish-based customers that it had decided “with immediate effect to cease taking any further business through its websites from residents of Denmark due to a review of the group’s legal position”, and that it would be closing down all accounts “with immediate effect”.

The move is bad news for punters who value choice, particularly in the area of betting typically known as ‘specials’. Only a handful of the 19 operators are large-scale and long-established – Stanleybet and Ladbrokes are the best known.

Curiously, while many will be relieved to know that Betfair – the world’s largest online betting exchange, at which punters can offer as well as take bets – has obtained a licence, it is locked in a legal dispute with the Danish government over how it can operate. For the time being, Danish residents cannot sign up as new customers, and already existing clients can only continue to use the site once they have provided Betfair with their CPR number. Furthermore, its customers will, for the foreseeable future, be unable to exchange bets on horse or dog racing. 

The Danish tax minister, Thor Möger Pedersen, has warned international operators with plans to continue serving Danish customers that his government will follow the US example and block them.

“The orderly market means, among other things, that all gambling operators without a licence from 1 January 2012 risk that their website or payments will be blocked,” he stated.

However, since his statement, the Danish Gambling Authority has confirmed that while the new market will still officially open on January 1, it will be delaying the full implementation of its new gambling framework until February 1, blaming technical issues associated with user verification. 

The 19 companies that have obtained licences to provide sports betting are: Betfair, Betsson, Bonnier Gaming, Cashpoint, DanBook, Danske Licens, ElectraWorks, Entraction Operations, Hillside, iGame, Interactive Sports, InTouch Casino, Ladbrokes International, Nordic Betting, Nordic Odds, PKR Technologies, Scandic Bookmakers, Stanleybet International and Unibet.