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Betfred on strict gambling board radar

The Star has established that Betfred already owns a South African operation, Betting World, with a gross gaming revenue of approximately R60 000 000 in 2021.Image: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

The Star has established that Betfred already owns a South African operation, Betting World, with a gross gaming revenue of approximately R60 000 000 in 2021.Image: Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Published Apr 25, 2022

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The Gauteng Gambling Board will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the proposed transaction between Betfred, the biggest independent bookmaker in the world, and Sepels Sportsbet, a South African gambling operation, is lawful.

This comes in the aftermath of an article in The Star on April 11 2022 which revealed that Sepels Sportsbet may not be the lawful licence holders of the 12 gambling licences they claim they hold and intend to sell to Betfred as part of a transaction that requires the approval of the Gauteng Gambling Board.

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The Star revealed that the 12 gambling licences were issued in the name of the original founder of Sepels Sportsbet, the deceased Cyril Sepel and not to the company itself and that the licences fell in the estate of Cyril Sepel and were unable to be transferred to the company.

When asked for comment, Glen Sepel, the son of Cyril Sepel, who is also the executor of the estate and the CEO of Sepels Sportsbet, refused to disclose how the licences were transferred from the deceased estate to the company. Morne Pieterse who runs the Betfred operations in South Africa said that he was unaware of the allegations but didn’t indicate what steps he intended taking to address the allegations.

‘We have taken note of the allegations and we will investigate the allegations. We are here to serve the people of Gauteng and the other licensed gambling enterprises and will not tolerate shortcuts or unlawful conduct’, a member of the Gauteng Gambling Board told The Star on condition of anonymity.

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‘If the licences are lawfully held by Sepels Sportsbet, that will count in favour of the board approving the transaction, depending also on whether the Competition Commission approves the transaction’, he said. But Pieterse, on behalf of Betfred, told The Star that this transaction does not require Competition Commission approval.

Pieterse did not say why not. The Star has established that Betfred already owns a South African operation, Betting World, with a gross gaming revenue of approximately R60 000 000 in 2021.

Sepels, so we are advised, had a gross gaming revenue of approximately R100 000 000 in 2021. In addition, Betfred claims to be the biggest independent bookmaker in the world with profits running into the billions. ‘If your facts are accurate Competition Commission approval would be required’, Ulrich Roux, a Johannesburg-based attorney told The Star.

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“The gaming industry is heavily regulated and where a multinational buys a second local gaming enterprise and the gaming revenues are above R100 000 000 the watchdogs and regulators will need to approve the transaction,” Roux said. We approached the Competition Commission for a response but they indicated that they intended investigating the allegations before they were comfortable to respond.

The Star is in possession of the application that Pieterse submitted to the Gauteng Gambling Board to approve the purchase of Sepels Sportsbet. What is omitted from the application is the sale agreement and the purchase consideration which Pieterse contended contained privileged information.

The Star has been reliably informed that Betfred has offered to pay Sepels Sportsbet more than R100 000 000.

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“We are accountable persons as defined in section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and we have a duty to look into and if necessary, report to the Hawks, conduct we reasonably suspect to have a fraudulent undertone. No transaction will be approved unless we are satisfied that nothing untoward or unlawful occurred”, a board member said.

In the meantime interested parties has until May 8 2022 engage the Gauteng Gambling Board to object to the transaction.

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