Latest Gambling News: UK Conservative Gambling Blunders Mount, and more

Kat Pilkington

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June 24, 2024

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

UK Conservative Gambling Blunders Mount

A second prospective member of parliament for the UK’s Conservative Party is under investigation for placing bets on the timing of the country’s general election, according to a report by the BBC.

Laura Saunders, who is the Conservative candidate in Bristol North West, joins fellow candidate and former aide to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Craig Williams, in the spotlight.

Both are reportedly under investigation by the Gambling Commission over fears they may have placed bets on when the election would be called based on insider information.

A third individual, who is a member of Sunak’s close protection team, has also been arrested for allegedly placing bets on when the election would be called.

The revelations come in the same week that the Conservatives ran a now-deleted social media ad that parodied charity GambleAware.

An image of a roulette wheel featured a warning to “Be Labour Aware”, in the same style as the “Be GambleAware” warning that is included on many gambling ads in the UK.

Boyd Gaming Makes Acquisition Approach To Penn Entertainment

Boyd Gaming has approached Penn Entertainment to acquire the gaming company, according to a report by Reuters on Thursday (June 20).

Shares of Penn gained $1.8, or 9.93 percent, to close at $20.04 after Reuters reported the potential acquisition. Boyd’s shares closed down $1.07, or 1.99 percent, to $52.68.

Last week, Truist Securities analyst Barry Jonas wrote in a research note that Penn was unlikely to abandon its operational plan and explore a sale.

“Despite the activist letter (from Donerail), we don’t think any sort of formal strategic review at Penn is likely in the near term,” Jonas wrote. “We also not Penn is one of the most efficient land-based operators in our coverage, which limits any low hanging operational synergies.”

Jonas cited several reasons for Penn not pursuing a takeover by Boyd, including a clear ESPN BET product roadmap and higher/volatile interest rates still having an impact over merger and acquisition activity for now.

Boyd would also need approval of any deal from Walt Disney, which through its sports network has a betting partnership with Penn.

Bovada Blocked In Michigan

About three weeks after the Michigan Gaming Control Board issued a cease-and-desist letter, offshore sportsbook and casino Bovada added Michigan to the list of states that cannot access the website.

Michigan is the seventh state to be added to Bovada’s blocked list. The other states are Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York.

Curaçao-based Harp Media B.V. operates Bovada.com and Bovada.lv.

Connecticut on Thursday (June 20) confirmed its state's Department of Consumer Protection sent a cease-and-desist letter dated June 14 to Bovada.

The two-page letter, authored by Kristofer Gilman, director of the Gaming Division, cited Bovada for violating several statutes by operating in the state without a license.

“The department, therefore, orders Bovada to cease and desist advertising and offering its games and services to Connecticut customers,” Gilman wrote. “Bovada must also continue to allow all Connecticut customers to withdraw any fund currently held by Bovada.”

Gilman noted that failure to comply may result in additional action including, but not limited to, civil penalties or criminal penalties.

Zimbabwe Illegal Gambling Poses 'Serious Risk'

Zimbabwe’s home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe has warned that the country will take enforcement action against illegal gambling after his office noted several casinos in the country operating without a licence.

Kazembe told local media that illegal gambling poses a “serious risk” to society, adding that the country will use the full effect of the law, including possible jail sentences, as he urged the public to report any suspected illegal activity.

“Working with key enforcement agencies in the country, the Lotteries and Gaming Board will take the most robust enforcement action against any illegal operations. This will result in the immediate shutting down of any illegal casinos, gaming shops, or other betting facilities, as well as the prosecution of those responsible,” Kazembe said.

Missing Poker Pro Ordered To Pay $3m To Ponzi Scheme Victims

The Queensland Supreme Court has ordered a professional poker player to pay more than $3m to victims of an apparent betting syndicate Ponzi scheme that mostly targeted members of Australia’s poker community.

In a default judgment, the court ordered Marley Wynter to pay A$4.8m ($3.2m) to 11 plaintiffs for losses incurred after investing in Marley’s House of Sport, a financial investment platform purportedly targeting sports betting and horseracing, PokerMedia Australia reported on Tuesday (June 18).

Wynter remains unaccounted for after disappearing late last year, the A Current Affair television programme reported in April.

Unable to serve papers on Wynter, counsel for the plaintiffs applied for a default judgment, and it is not clear if or how they can secure their compensation.

Marley’s House of Sport closed down and left many more investors adrift in January 2023, seven months after leading poker industry figure Craig Abernethy set up a Facebook group warning the poker community against Wynter’s unregistered operation.

Marley won almost A$431,000 in a World Poker Tour Australia event in September 2022,  four months after the Facebook group was established.

Criminal investigations into Wynter's operation are underway in Queensland and at least one other Australian state.

Caesars Closes WynnBET Michigan Deal

Caesars Entertainment confirmed Tuesday (June 18) that it has closed its previously announced deal to acquire WynnBET’s internet gaming market access rights in Michigan.

The deal also includes a long-term extension of iGaming market access rights with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The tribe own and operate Kewadin Casinos, which consist of five land-based casinos in the state.

Caesars will assume the existing platform under the WynnBET brand with no anticipated interruption to the customer experience. The Las Vegas-based gaming company expects to announce a new online casino brand and transition WynnBET to its Michigan iGaming platform in the second half of the year, pending regulatory approvals.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Wynn Resorts announced in August 2023 that it would be shutting down its WynnBET online sports betting and iGaming businesses. The company sold its New York mobile sports-betting license to Penn Entertainment for $25m less than a week before announcing the Caesars deal in Michigan in February.

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