Latest Gambling News: UK Sanctions Southeast Asian Casinos, Moguls and more

Kat Pilkington


December 18, 2023

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

UK Sanctions Southeast Asian Casinos, Moguls

The British government has blacklisted a host of high-profile individuals and companies with gambling interests involved in slave labour and other human rights violations in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

The government on December 8 sanctioned nine individuals and five companies associated with them over “forced labour in Southeast Asia” as part of a larger tranche of human rights sanctions, according to a statement.

The list includes US-sanctioned Zhao Wei, owner of the Kings Romans Casino in Laos and the Kings Romans Group that controls the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos, as well as Zhao’s wife and group co-director Su Guiqin.

Other Kings Romans targets include the casino’s Australian director-general Abbas Eberahim, and Thai shareholder Nat Rungtawankhiri.

Another high-profile target is She Zhijiang, an ethnic Chinese Cambodian national who owns the KK Park in Myanmar’s Shwe Kokko village near the Thai border. The mogul was last reported to be in Thai custody pending an application from Beijing for extradition.

Two local militia colonels, Saw Chit Thu and Saw Min Min Oo, are also on the list for their involvement in Shwe Kokko zone gaming and scam activity.  

Casino precincts in Cambodia are also sanctioned, including the Golden Sun Sky Entertainment Co facility in Sihanoukville, along with chairman Dong Lecheng; the K.B. Hotel in Sihanoukville; Golden Phoenix Entertainment City (listed as Pacific Real Estate Property Management Co) in Koh Thom, Kandal Province, along with chairman Hum Sovanny; and the Heng He casino in Bavet.

Golden Phoenix Entertainment City became notorious in August 2022 when enslaved workers staged a mass breakout, with many swimming across the nearby Binh Di river into Vietnam.

Dutch Market Reaching Maturity, Regulator Says

Only about a third of applicants for Dutch gambling licences have been successful, but the rush of applicants has receded this year, and the market seems to be reaching “a certain degree of maturity”, according to the chair of the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA).

There was a sharp decline in the number of applications in 2023 after a rush when the market opened in April 2021 and a year later when a “leniency period” expired, according to Rene Jansen. He is leaving the regulator next year.

Licensing trends include smaller companies joining forces to boost their market position, and large licensees taking over smaller providers for similar reasons, he said.

Large operators without a licence have also acquired smaller companies with a licence, often after they were rejected or withdrew their applications, Jansen said.

Those larger operators typically met “reliability” standards but found themselves unable to meet standards for the required control database, he said.

Swedish Regulator Meets With Industry On Black Market

The Swedish Gambling Authority has said it recently met with two trade groups to discuss how the industry and the regulator can work together to curtail the illegal market.

“Cooperation between the relevant authorities and the industry is necessary for the licensing system to function satisfactorily,” said Maria Wennerberg Sedigh, CEO of the Swedish Gambling Association (SPER).

“The gambling industry and the Swedish Gambling Authority have a common interest in discouraging unlicensed gambling from Sweden,” said Gustaf Hoffstedt, secretary-general of the Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS).

“If we are to succeed in this, we cannot each sit in our own chamber, but we must gather our forces,” he said.

Ohio Initiatives Seek To Protect College Athletes

Amanda Blackford, the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s (OCCC) director of operations, has outlined two protective initiatives in various stages of development.

One involves the development of an app through which college athletes can publicly or privately report any type of harassment. The app also allows access to mental heath and telehealth services for college athletes.

Blackford said college athletes face added pressure because of living and studying with students who wager on games. She told the OCCC that it is different for college athletes than professional athletes, who live largely in a “bubble”.

Athletes hear things like “You cost me my rent money” or “You made me lose the spread”, Blackford told the commission during its monthly meeting on Wednesday (December 13).

She said the harassment is “something on top of the pressure of being a college athlete”.

Blackford said the commission is piloting the program at a few colleges and hopes to offer it to more schools. There was no timeline for when the app could be released across the state.

Another initiative in the planning stages is a public awareness campaign directly targeting bettors in an effort to humanize college athletes.

Seminole Tribe Supports Governor In Sports-Betting Case

The Seminole Tribe of Florida believes that “repeated and unsuccessful attempts” by West Flagler Associates has affected its “inherent sovereignty” to regulate gaming as part of its compact with the state.

The claim appears in a 33-page amicus curiae filed on December 8 with the Florida Supreme Court in support of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ filing that argues West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp, collectively West Flagler Associates, have provided “no basis for this court to upend work approved by three sovereigns in their third-choice legal venue.”

“The tribe and state worked together under the authority of the IGRA [Indian Gaming Regulatory Act] and Florida law to negotiate a carefully crafted gaming agreement that resolves years of previous disputes and greatly benefits both the tribe and state,” according to the brief.

“West Flagler’s federal court challenges have failed, and West Flagler now seeks extraordinary relief from this court. West Flagler’s untimely, unwarranted, and impermissible attempt to use a writ of quo warrant to invalidate a duly enacted Florida statute should be denied.”

West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers have asked the state's Supreme Court to review the 30-year tribal gaming compact agreed to in May 2021. They claim DeSantis acted unconstitutionally in approving the deal because Amendment 3 requires Florida voters to approve any expansion of casino gaming.

Henry Whitaker, Florida’s solicitor general, has argued that Amendment 3 does not apply in this instance.

Resorts World Sentosa Fined $1.7m For Poor Due Diligence

Singapore’s Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) has slapped S$2.25m ($1.67m) in fines on integrated resort Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) over “systemic” due diligence failures relating to cash transactions.

RWS accepted cash deposits greater than S$5,000 between December 2016 and December 2019 but “failed to establish the identity of the third party depositors”, the GRA said on Friday (December 8) in a statement.

“RWS did not record the requisite identifying information, nor did it verify these identities using reliable and independent sources as required under” anti-money laundering regulations, it said.

The “systemic failures in certain controls” were discovered by RWS after the regulator ordered it to review “certain” patron activity in 2020. A subsequent GRA probe then identified various breaches.

The statement said one RWS employee’s licence has been terminated and other employees are still under investigation.

RWS owner Genting Singapore said in a Singapore bourse filing on Friday that it had “taken remedial actions” over the incidents, which were not reported at the time because “there was no evidence of criminal offences nor money laundering”.

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