Latest Gambling News: Star, NSW Government Sign Jobs-For-Tax-Deferral Deal, and more

Kat Pilkington


February 19, 2024

Catch up on six of the stories our gambling compliance analysts have covered lately, and stay up-to-date on the latest news.

Star, NSW Government Sign Jobs-For-Tax-Deferral Deal

Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group and the New South Wales (NSW) state government have signed a jobs guarantee agreement in exchange for deferred tax increases.

Flagged in August, the agreement legally requires Star Entertainment’s Sydney casino to maintain 3,000 jobs until 2030 in exchange for deferring tougher slot machine duties to the same year.

A government statement on Friday (February 16) added new details of the deal, with Star facing trade union oversight and strict audits of its Sydney employees, including quarterly head counts and maintaining ratios of full-time staff, with fines of up to A$1m ($652,000) for shortfalls.

The deal appears to strengthen the company’s political position in the event of a hostile assessment by the gambling regulator.

In December, the NSW Independent Casino Commission said Star remains below the standard required of a casino licensee, and has six months to improve or be closed down.

Star’s casinos in NSW and Queensland state are under the supervision of special managers authorised by their respective gambling regulators, following damaging probes that identified widespread compliance failures and triggered board purges.

Alabama House Approves Major Gaming Package

The Alabama House of Representatives approved a constitutional amendment Thursday (February 15) that would potentially open the state’s regulated gaming market to seven new casinos, sports betting, and a state lottery.

House Bill 151 and House Bill 152 were approved by the full House during separate votes Thursday, clearing the required 60 percent threshold to amend the state’s constitution.

In addition to the expanded gaming, the bill would create a new gaming regulator, the Alabama Gaming Commission, that would have new enforcement powers to investigate and take action against illegal gaming operations.

“We have gambling in Alabama today,” said Republican Representative Chris Blackshear, the bill’s sponsor on the House floor. “We have illegal sportsbooks, gaming halls, casinos and more, it’s not capped, it’s not controlled or taxed in any way.”

If the bill successfully clears the Senate, the issue would be placed on the ballot for voters in November. Voters defeated a proposal to create a state lottery in 1999, but the issue has not been put to voters since then.

The proposal is also supported by Republican Governor Kay Ivey.

Skill-Game Bills Passed In Nebraska, Virginia

Several bills to regulate and tax skill games, also known as grey machines, that operate in convenience stores and gas stations were approved by lawmakers in Virginia and Nebraska. 

In Virginia, House Bill 590 and Senate Bill 212 were passed by the House and Senate, a crucial step toward legalizing the games that the legislature had previously banned. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the state ban leading to both bills being introduced this session. 

HB 590 would require local city councils to pass an ordinance or voters to approve a local referendum before any machines could be operational in convenience stores or taverns. The bill limits truck stops to five machines and convenience stores to two.

Additionally, the bill limits wagers to no more than $1 and a $500 maximum payout for each play. He also proposed to set a 30 percent tax rate on the machines. 

The Senate bill proposes lighter-touch oversight by Virginia's liquor regulator and a 15 percent tax rate preferred by the industry. SB 212 has been referred to the Senate Committee on General Laws.

Nebraska lawmakers on Monday (February 12) passed LB 635 and will advance to a second debate. Among the bill’s provisions, there would be a $100 annual fee for each machine and a 5 percent tax on gaming revenue.

DraftKings Informs Massachusetts Of More Credit Card Wagers

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Wednesday (February 14) delayed a regulatory hearing after new information was released that DraftKings allowed two additional instances of credit card funding of sports bets. 

DraftKings self-reported the two instances on Tuesday, according to the commission. The five-member commission agreed unanimously to delay the hearing to a future date to allow the Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) to conduct a complete investigation.

“In particular, I’m also hoping along with IEB’s continued investigation that we understand from the operators and have assurances that this is the extent of it,” said commissioner Nakisha Skinner. “It’s troubling that we first learned about this issue about a year ago and over a year there have been new and frequent developments.”

Justin Stempeck, the MGC’s deputy general counsel, said one of the incidents where credit card funds were used in Massachusetts took place in the August/September timeframe, while the other occurred last month. 

DraftKings self-reported to the commission last year that it had allowed 218 players to wager $83,663 via credit card deposits between the company’s launch on March 10 to July 23.

Wagering on credit cards is prohibited in the state under sports-betting legislation adopted in 2022.

Maryland Considers Betting Ban On College Campuses

A bill filed in the Maryland General Assembly would prohibit online wagering on college campuses throughout the state and require each institution to establish a geofence around their entire campus. 

House Bill 1087, sponsored by Delegate Pamela Queen, a Democrat, also requires each college or university to publish a written policy on their website detailing the policy. 

Under the bill, if a student attempts to wager online they should be blocked and shown a warning that the activity is prohibited and options for seeking help for gambling addiction.

The bill also requires geofences to be established by August 1. Queen’s legislation was jointly assigned to the House Ways and Means, and Appropriations committees. 

The Ways and Means has scheduled a hearing on the bill for February 22.

Penn Acquires Wynn’s New York Sports-Betting License

Penn Entertainment announced Tuesday (February 13) that it will spend $25m to acquire Wynn Interactive Holdings mobile wagering license in New York, meaning ESPN BET will have access to the largest sports-betting market in the country. 

A Wynn Resorts spokesman confirmed the sale in an email to Vixio GamblingCompliance but stressed that the decision to sell “has nothing to do with the failure of iGaming to pass” in New York. WynnBET’s operation in Michigan remains under review. 

Pending regulatory approval by the New York State Gaming Commission, Penn expects to launch ESPN BET state-wide this year. Wynn Interactive is a subsidiary of Wynn Resorts In Las Vegas.

Wynn Interactive was licensed by the commission in 2021. Penn and its former partner Barstool Sports applied for a New York license in 2021 but were not selected. 

According to Vixio GamblingCompliance’s Market Monitor, WynnBET had negative 0.2 percent of the New York online sports betting market in November and December, with an overall 0.2 percent share in 2023, down from 0.5 percent for 2022.

“This is an important development that will bring ESPN BET to the largest regulated online sports wagering market in North America,” said Penn’s CEO Jay Snowden in a statement. 

Snowden added that “operating in the New York market was key as we grow ESPN BET across the U.S.”

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