Released CEO Holds Nothing BackPublished November 4, 2007 by OCR Editor
Unibet CEO is released on bail after the French warrant led to his arrest. Now free, he speaks his mind. The arrest and his comments may turn out to be catalysts for further changes in gambling policy.
The arrest of Unibet CEO Petter Nylander can be summarized as an awkward affair. The French government did not really want Nylander arrested, but he was taken into custody nevertheless, surprising the French and embarrassing them too.
Unibet Group PLC chief executive Petter Nylander was arrested for violating French betting laws. The arrest was made at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. It followed a lawsuit made by the French online gambling monopolies, Francaise des Jeux and PMU.
Nylander has previously refused an invitation made by French officials to come in for an investigation into the online gambling industry. The French, he said, refused to guarantee he would not be arrested when he showed up. But even having thus disrespected the French, it did not want his arrest, surely not accompanied with the publicity that followed.
Perhaps the French have managed to save face by allowing Nylander to be released, on €200,000 bail, on Wednesday. But now the French and the world can hear Nylander's side of the story, and he surely has something to say.
Nylander Strikes Back
In a statement, Nylander said he has always abided by the law. He is most likely referring to the European Commission, which opposes state monopolies on gambling, as the one that is in place in France. Nylander would not be violating the law if the EU's free internal market rules were indeed in place.
He added and expressed his vision of the online gambling industry: "It is Unibet's strong belief that the French consumer should have a choice regarding online betting and gaming, with specific regulation."
Nylander is not the only one who opposes the French policy. If he was, then it wouldn't be too bad. But Brussels is also after the French, pressing them to change their policy, which the French seem to accept as an inevitable outcome, though they stall the process as long as they can.
The arrest has brought the spotlight back on to the French, at a sensitive time before the European Court of Justice forces them to reform their policy. Hence the embarrassment.
Unibet, the gambling group that Nylander heads, has 2 million customers, a ¼ million of them active. The European company is active in over 100 countries. It is also a successful business, and has shown strong numbers in its reports for the third quarter of 2007.
Profits at Unibet have risen by 22.6% to £6.5 million this past quarter. Gross winnings from non-sports betting amounted to double the sum, £13.7 million, for the quarter, poker leading the way with 35% of revenue.
It is most successful in Scandinavia. Sweden is Unibet's largest market, about a third of total gross winnings. The rest of the Nordic region accounts for another quarter of its business.
As the legal climate is changing, most likely in the direction of banning state run monopolies, though the French are an example of stubborn opposition at the moment, Unibet is optimistic about the future. With Nylander released, it expects reason and fair trade to rule and Unibet to gain from these potential changes going forward.