Betfair to test German laws with Bayer sponsorship

Betfair will become a “premium partner” of German Bundesliga football team Bayer 04 Leverkusen next season, in a move set to test the country’s contradictory new gambling laws.

The betting exchange’s deal will include advertising of the Betfair brand around the pitch and the stadium of the club that finished fifth in Germany’s top professional division last season. The club’s sporting director, German footballing legend Rudi Völler (pictured above left) will also become a new brand ambassador for Betfair, featuring in associated advertising and communication activities. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Betfair’s head of central Europe, Dr Peter Reinhardt, said it was “a special move for us at Betfair to enter and position ourselves in the Bundesliga.” He added that the company was very happy to gain Rudi Völler as brand ambassador, “as he combines great popularity with incontestable expertise.”

The sponsorship is announced on the back of Betfair receiving an online sports betting licence in the northernmost Land of Schleswig-Holstein last month, where Betfair will pay 20% on gross profit. The other 15 German Lander, including Bayer Leverkusen’s home state of North-Rhine Westphalia, last week ratified a new Interstate Gambling Treaty to take effect from 1 July under which 20 licences will be offered to private operators, based on an unworkable 5% turnover tax. In contrast to Schleswig-Holstein, the offer of online poker and casino by private operators will remain prohibited.

Betfair has not yet announced whether it will be applying for a sports betting licence in the rest of Germany, where the turnover tax would effectively make its core exchange product unviable. It recently launched a traditional fixed-odds sportsbook, aimed at capturing the 30% of the sportsbook wallet its 900,000 active customers were spending elsewhere due to Betfair’s inability to offer a full range of ante-post and in-play bets using its core betting exchange.

While Schleswig-Holstein’s licensing requirements only allow operators to offer services to state residents, PartyPoker and bwin owner, that received a licence there last month, announced its intention in its recent annual report to offer allowed products off this licence “across Germany and pay the proposed 20% of gross gaming revenue on all products.” Legal experts have argued that it would be practically and legally difficult for the other Lander to prevent operators from doing this, given these companies are in receipt of an administrative licence from a German authority.

Betfair quickly followed Germany’s announcement last year that it was going to replace its total ban on the offer of online games of chance with a limited opening for sports betting by entering into a sponsorship of fourth-tier German football side Türkiyemspor Berlin. The side was however relegated at the end of the season and went into administration in December 2011.

Many large media houses in Germany started accepting advertising contracts from offshore operators in the wake of the Lander confirming last April that the state monopoly on online sports betting would end in 2012.

Several operators have geared up for the opening in Schleswig-Holstein, and also to show their support for the region, by inking local sponsorship deals there. In November, PokerStars announced a deal with German fourth-tier football club VfB Luebeck which saw its 17,800-capacity stadium renamed the – Stadion an der Lohmühle. bwin also announced a deal with leading handball team THW Kiel, based in the northern federal state’s largest city. In December, Betfair revealed itself as the new sponsor of Kiel Week, the largest sailing event in the world, which takes place every year in June.

Casino Choice journalist

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