Life & Culture

Israeli technology a safe bet for gaming


A childhood memory is ever present.

Watching a breed of burly “bookies” in loud plaid suits arrive at our Brighton synagogue on High Holy Days.

The involvement of Jewish figures in horse racing — otherwise known as the “sport of kings” — is a given.

The East End-born bookmaker, philanthropist and ardent Zionist Sir Cyril Strein, transformed Ladbrokes into a global gaming giant. The late Lord Weinstock owned several thoroughbred racehorses, and today Sam Waley-Cohen is one of Britain’s bravest amateur jockeys.

The current star of the gambling world is Playtech Ltd. An Israeli-run company, listed on the London Stock Exchange, providing gaming software from online casinos to sports betting and poker rooms.

The company is credited with saving the fortune of William Hill, as the bookmakers’ online division made a 21 per cent increase in net revenue after investing in Playtech software.

But rival Ladbrokes had not done so well.

Chief executive Richard Glynn attempted to develop an independent digital platform, but it fell behind schedule and investors became increasingly impatient.

So after three years in the job Mr Glynn has finally decided to employ 40 people from Playtech’s Tel Aviv-based marketing team and will get access to 200 Playtech casino games. Playtech leaders will be incentivised through a “success fee” based on earnings from 2017 onwards.

For several years, British bookmakers sought to conquer gaming markets in the US, Australia, Italy and Spain. They were deterred by US state authorities who sought to punish online gaming by arresting overseas executives on charges of wire fraud.

That is now changing. America’s top gaming states, including Nevada and New Jersey, have legalised online gaming and therefore opened up new opportunities for British bookies.

As a result of the UK taxes imposed on machine gambling, and the drug scandal involving horseracing trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni at the Newmarket stable owned by Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed — the search for top streams of digital income is increasingly urgent.

As is often the case — it is Israeli technology that is coming to the rescue.

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