ts participation in Madrid was the first- and the only one so far- step of Bwin in the traditional sportsbooks business. However, the two shareholders of Winners agreed last year to pass the 49% of Bwin capital to its British partner, and in exchange, it has obtained more than a million titles fromf Betbull, which becomes the only owner of Winners.
But the operation between the two betting companies goes beyond. The agreement has also involved the conversion of a 2.5 million euros loan that Bwin granted to its partner in November 2007, in more than 1.2 million Betbull shares. This way, the reorganization of the sportsbooks firm in Spain has turned Bwin in the main shareholder of its competitor, with a participation of around 37% of its capital.
The Director of Operations of Winners, Ignacio Suárez, assures that the credit capitalization and the exchange of shares are just part of a reorganization. In this sense, he says that these latest movements will not suppose a radical change of strategy from Winners, despite it is assumed that Bwin will conclude its adventure in the business of traditional betting to focus exclusively in online betting.
He assured that the plan to open new centers go on, although he assumes that this is much less ambitious than it used to be at the beginning. Nowadays, Winners has operations in six points of sale in Madrid, and would add two more during this month. At the end of 2008, Winners planned to open around 120 betting centers.Ignacio Suárez says the delay is due to the dificulties to obtain gaming lincenses for new venues and to the fact that they do not enter to existing bingo halls or casinos, as other competitors do. Besides, he points that the sportsbooks business could experiment a relevant short-term growth, because Ceuta, La Rioja and the Community of Valencia
will probably regulate sportsbooks before the end of 2011. If so, Winners could ask for an operating license.
It may be a new business, but it is not a consolidated activity. In Spain, both online and traditional betting are expecting the government to approve the new gaming law that will regulate the Internet activity with months of delay. The law will be ready probable before the summer, and once its ruling is developed, it will allow a great number of Internet betting operators to install venues in Spain.
Meanwhile, one of the main traditional operators, Codere, has paid one euro to its partner William Hill to acquire its 50% in Victoria. However, the company owned by the family Martínez Sampedro does not discard to find a new partner for a business that has started less than two years ago and is present in Madrid and the Basque Country. Out of Spain, on of the main companies of the sector, , Bwin, seeks to merger with one of the main online poker platforms, PartyGaming. Besides, the British firm Betfair plans to start quoting in the market, which could be held this year.