Bizwatch

4 minute read
TIME

Reining in Net Gamblers
Online gambling, once considered a long-shot business, is raking in the chips. Online betting exchanges, the peer-to-peer punting havens that allow gamblers to match up with one another, take about $5.2 billion in bets annually. But in Britain, traditional bookmakers like William Hill have been griping for years that because the exchanges allow punters to “lay” bets — bet on a horse, team or competitor to lose, rather like investors who sell stock short — they encourage corruption.

No chance, say the exchanges, who insist that picking a loser is no different from picking a winner, and say their technology actually helps track unusual betting patterns. But in a report last week, a British government committee agreed that professional “layers” should be registered. Earlier this month, search engines Yahoo and Google said they would stop carrying banner ads for online casinos, fearing legal reprisals by U.S. prosecutors. Will such restrictions dent the market? After all, the WTO ruled last month that the U.S. cannot legally prevent its citizens from

INDICATORS
In Good Company
The European Commission issued warnings to three more euro-zone countries set to breach the region’s stability pact this year. Finance commissioner Pedro Solbes slammed the Netherlands , Italy and Greece (along with serial offenders France and Germany) for running budget deficits in excess of 3% of GDP.

Flat Pack Of Lies?
IKEA denied a Swedish magazine’s claim that the furniture maker’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, is the world’s richest man, with a $53 billion treasure chest. The firm swatted away the accolade, pointing out that the famously frugal 77-year-old no longer owned the company. Still, he should be grateful he has the assembly instructions.

INDICATORS
In Good Company
The European Commission issued warnings to three more euro-zone countries set to breach the region’s stability pact this year. Finance commissioner Pedro Solbes slammed the Netherlands , Italy and Greece (along with serial offenders France and Germany) for running budget deficits in excess of 3% of GDP.

Flat Pack Of Lies?
IKEA denied a Swedish magazine’s claim that the furniture maker’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, is the world’s richest man, with a $53 billion treasure chest. The firm swatted away the accolade, pointing out that the famously frugal 77-year-old no longer owned the company. Still, he should be grateful he has the assembly instructions.

gambling on foreign websites. The U.S. says it will appeal, but don’t bet against online gambling.

Very Expensive Room Service
For over 50 years, Germans maintained unwavering faith in one institution: the Bundesbank, now a regional affiliate of the European Central Bank. Thus, the scandal around the bank’s president, Ernst Welteke, has come as a shock. Welteke and his family stayed at Berlin’s luxurious Hotel Adlon on New Year’s Eve, 2001. Dresdner Bank picked up the tab — over 37,660 — landing Welteke under state investigation. Welteke paid his share last Monday and took a vacation. But government and opposition both want him to resign, and that’s where politics comes in. Jürgen Stark is acting president, but insiders say if Welteke goes, Stark is unlikely to get his job. Stark was a senior aide to the previous conservative government. Finance Ministry officials are instead touting Deputy Finance Minister Caio Koch-Weser, a Social Democrat appointee responsible for global finance and currencies. But neither can check in unless Welteke checks out. — By William Boston

Smuggle Struggle Ends
Philip Morris International, makers of Marlboro, agreed to pay the E.U. $1 billion to head off legal action over the firm’s alleged collusion with cigarette smugglers. The deal, involving the largest sum Brussels has ever squeezed out of a private corporation, may not be the last: Japan Tobacco is eager to end a similar dispute with the E.U.

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