Taking a gamble

Competish body looks into betting venture

LONDON — The U.K.’s Competition Commission has launched an investigation into the joint venture between British Sky Broadcasting and bookmaker Ladbrokes to develop an interactive TV gambling service.

The deal was referred to the antitrust watchdog by Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry, on the advice of the Office of Fair Trading.

BSkyB has teamed with Ladbrokes to launch a fixed-odds betting business linked with the Sky sports channels on its digital satellite platform.

Viewers will be able to bet on matches and races as they watch, using their remote control.

Such services are regarded by many analysts as a potential cash cow to repay the huge costs of converting to digital.

Under the deal announced in July, Ladbrokes will roll its existing soccer betting business into the joint venture and invest another £30 million ($43.5 million). BSkyB will contribute its bookmaking arm, Surrey Sports.

The joint company will have exclusive rights for five years to offer betting services via Sky’s digital sports channels.

A Sky spokesman commented, “The at-home betting market is highly competitive, and we believe we can demonstrate to the Competition Commission that the joint venture with Ladbrokes is fully consistent with the principles of fair competition.”

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