News In Brief: March 28-April 1, 2022

April 1, 2022
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Sweden to update self-exclusion, Minnesota sports-betting bill makes progress and Nevada court to reassess Steve Wynn sexual assault ruling.

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Spelpaus Revamp Underway

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The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has said it will create a 2.0 version of its self-exclusion system, Spelpaus.

The updates will make the system more user friendly and will add the ability to extend an existing suspension, said the authority.

Operators licensed in Sweden will not need to make any major changes to the way they link up to the register, said the SGA.

So far 73,000 people have signed up to be excluded in Sweden. The updates are due to be complete by the end of May.

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Minnesota Sports-Betting Bill Clears Another Committee

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A bill that would legalize retail and mobile sports betting in Minnesota passed out of its latest committee by a vote of 13-5 on Thursday (March 31), but the measure still needs to gain approval from one more committee before it is debated on the House floor.

The Tax Committee approved an amended version of House File 778 sending it to the Ways and Means Committee, where it is expected to be considered next week.

Republican Representative Tim Miller, a member of the committee, voted against the bill arguing the state does not need the revenue from sports betting. Miller also questioned if it was a good thing to say these taxes can pay for the damage from what we are doing by legalizing wagering.

Representative Zack Stephenson, a Democrat and sponsor of the bill, told Miller his support for sports betting was not about new tax revenue but instead it was about getting rid of the black market, creating consumer protections and dedicating revenue to problem gambling programs.

Stephenson said his bill would earmark 40 percent of tax revenue for problem gambling programs.

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Nevada Supreme Court Reverses Steve Wynn Ruling On Regulatory Case

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The Nevada Supreme Court said a lower state court lacked jurisdiction standing when it ruled in 2020 that state gaming regulators could not hold Steve Wynn accountable for sexual misconduct and harassment allegations while he was CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts.

In a nine-page opinion released Thursday (March 31), the Supreme Court justices unanimously overturned the ruling writing that County District Court Judge Adriana Escobar should not have ruled on the matter because the Nevada Gaming Commission had not yet ruled on a 2019 request by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to have Wynn declared unsuitable for a gaming license.

The case will now be remanded back to the District Court in Las Vegas with instructions to dismiss Wynn’s complaint.

‘‘The Nevada Gaming Control Board is pleased with the ruling,’’ chairman Brin Gibson said in a statement. ‘‘We are reviewing the decision with legal counsel to determine next steps.’’

The NGCB filed its complaint against Wynn over his suitability to hold a gaming license on October 14, 2019, a year and a half after he had divested himself from the gaming company.

Messages left with Wynn’s attorney J. Colby Williams, a partner in the firm Campbell & Williams, were not returned Thursday.

Wynn continues to deny the allegations, but still left and sold his shares in the company he co-founded two weeks after they were unveiled in a report by the Wall Street Journal.

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Kansas House Approves Sports-Betting Plan

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The Kansas House of Representatives approved sports-betting legislation Wednesday (March 30), sending it to a conference committee to negotiate a compromise with the Senate before Friday’s deadline.

The House voted 88-36 to pass an amended version of Senate Bill 84, after the House opted to remove the bill from a House committee Tuesday and send it straight to the House floor.

The plan would see each of the state’s four casinos receive three online skins, as well as the ability to enter into up to 50 “marketing agreements” with other businesses, including professional sports teams, to install wagering kiosks.

Absent from the version of the bill the House passed Wednesday was a provision that would allow the Kansas Lottery to sell scratchers online, an issue that held up the bill during the committee meeting Tuesday.

The Senate passed the bill last year, but the House version completely gutted the original Senate proposal, although both plans did call for a casino-centric model.

The two chambers will have to agree on a plan in advance of Friday’s scheduled “first adjournment,” effectively the end of the legislature’s 2021-2022 regular session.

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Bally’s Unveils Japan Casino Bid As Deadline Looms

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US casino and online gaming giant Bally’s Corp has launched an 11th-hour candidacy for a Japanese integrated resort (IR) licence in Fukuoka City.

A Bally’s press conference on Wednesday (March 30) in Fukuoka, the capital of Fukuoka Province, confirmed details of the bid reported in Japanese media last Friday, including a project cost of ¥480bn ($3.9bn), an opening date in 2028, annual profit of around ¥71bn, and largely domestic visitation of 4.6m people annually.

The Bally’s proposal is radical in that it has yet to publicly receive the support of the city government.

It also differs from surviving IR candidacies in Osaka and Wakayama in that the bid would in practical terms go head-to-head with Nagasaki, another candidate from the northern Kyushu region of Japan, which has been endorsed by the Kyushu IR Promotion Council.

The deadline for proposing regional candidacies to the central government is April 28, leaving Fukuoka officials very little time to process the company’s offer.

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Sports Betting, Grey Market Ban Still Alive In Kentucky

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A bill legalizing sports betting in Kentucky got its first reading in the Senate on Tuesday (March 29), a procedural move that could lead to a floor vote on the measure.

House Bill 606, which would also legalize online poker and daily fantasy sports, is scheduled for a second reading on Wednesday and a possible vote by lawmakers on April 13 or April 14.

The bill won’t be considered for a vote for a couple of weeks because of a ten-day veto period that begins Thursday (March 31) and ends April 12.

The delay will give the bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Adam Koenig, and proponents the veto recess to lobby the Senate to garner enough support for a vote in the final days of the 2022 session.

Senators on Wednesday could give final approval to House Bill 608, a measure banning so-called "grey-market’" machines that resemble slot machines but are unregulated.

The Senate on Tuesday also passed an amended House Bill 607 a bill that institute a flat 1.5 percent pari-mutuel tax across the board for bets placed at tracks, simulcast centers, through online advance-deposit accounts and on historical horseracing machines.

The bill was amended to modify the cap on the thoroughbred fund sending an additional $20m annually to the general fund and accounted for an occupational tax issue.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican, said the bill will modernize they way the state taxes racing, while allowing the industry to continue to grow.

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Alabama Lottery, Gambling Expansion Bills Likely Dead This Session

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The Republican sponsor of two bills to allow Alabama voters to decide whether to have a lottery and allow sports betting and casino gambling said Tuesday (March 29) he does not expect a vote on his proposals during the legislative session, which ends in six days.

Senate Bill 293 is a constitutional amendment that would create the Alabama Education Lottery, allow the state to enter into compact negotiations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and allow for two satellite casinos and legalize sports betting.

Senate Bill 294 is the enabling legislation to create a state gaming commission to award five casino licenses in the state.

Both bills were passed out of the Senate Tourism Committee on March 9 but neither bill has been voted on by the full Senate.

“I think the issue is dead,” Republican state Senator Greg Albritton told the Associated Press.

Republican Representative Chip Brown had introduced a bill in the House establishing a state lottery and using the revenues to help families pay a portion of tuition at two- and four-year colleges. Brown told the AP that given the lack of time left in the session that it would not be moving forward on the House floor.

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São Paulo Lottery Tender Suspended After Court Challenges

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A Brazilian judge has suspended a tender process for an exclusive concession to operate a range of traditional and digital lottery games on behalf of the state of São Paulo.

An auction on the 20-year contract had been scheduled for Tuesday (March 29), until Judge Cristiana de Castro Moraes late on Monday ordered the suspension pending further analysis of legal complaints filed by four interested bidders, including global lottery giants IGT and Scientific Games.

The companies cited some two dozen concerns related to the bid process, qualification criteria, the size of an upfront fee, and an alleged bias towards past experience in providing digital lottery services, among other things.

With its population of around 46m, São Paulo is by far the largest lottery opportunity to emanate from a 2020 Federal Supreme Court decision clearing Brazilian states and municipalities to operate approved lottery games.

More than 20 states are preparing to create or expand lottery operations, with the government of Tocantins filing legislation earlier this week. A consortium of seven central Brazilian states is also consulting over a plan to create a regional lottery.

São Paulo is the third state to face problems in a concession process, following similar court challenges in Rio de Janeiro and Maranhão.

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888 Launches African Joint Venture

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Online operator 888 has signed an agreement with five high-profile gambling industry executives to launch a joint venture in selected regulated African markets.

The new joint venture, 888AFRICA, will operate 888 brands in online and betting markets on the continent and pay a licence fee to the operator, which has invested a minority stake in the venture.

“The brands will operate via a third-party technology platform, with products and content designed for the local preferences of the African market. Initially, 888AFRICA expects (subject to licensing) to launch in four markets on the continent during 2022,” according to 888.

Christopher Coyne, former chief marketing officer and chief customer officer at The Stars Group; Andrew Lee, former MD - Sportsbook of The Stars Group and current chairman of Voxbet; Alex Rutherford, former chief product officer at Editec Online; Ian Marmion, former Sportsbook trading director at The Stars Group; as well as Helen Scott-Allen, former CFO of Premier Bet, are the other joint owners of the venture.

888 has the option to increase its stake to 100 percent in the future.

The company has launched joint ventures in the past when entering into new markets and verticals, for example in Latin America. It has also exercised its right to acquire remaining interests in these ventures, such as its acquisition of the All American Poker Network in 2018.

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Boyd Gaming Acquires Pala Interactive

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Boyd Interactive Gaming, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boyd Gaming, announced on Monday (March 28) it had acquired Pala Interactive and its subsidiaries for $170m in cash.

Pala Interactive is an online gaming technology company that provides real money and social gaming products on both a business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) basis in regulated markets in the United States and Canada.

Among its current deals, Pala provides its interactive gaming platform for Unibet Sportsbook in Indiana and online real money gaming in Pennsylvania, along with Wind Creek Casino in Pennsylvania.

Pala provides B2B services in eight states in the United States, as well as Canada, and operates B2C offerings in New Jersey and Canada.

“The acquisition of Pala Interactive markets the next phase in the ongoing execution of our iGaming strategy, providing us full control over the technology, development and customer experience,” Keith Smith, president and CEO of Boyd Gaming, said in a statement.

Smith said the deal will allow Boyd to further leverage and monetize its customer database, driving growth in both its land-based and internet gaming operations. Smith added that the company remains “fully committed to our sports-betting partnership with FanDuel.”

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023.

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FanDuel To Stop Offering Fantasy Sports In Ontario

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FanDuel will no longer offer paid or free daily fantasy sports (DFS) contests in the province of Ontario on April 1 due to a “change in government regulations,” the company announced on its website.

However, the change will not have an impact on FanDuel’s DFS players in the other provinces of Canada. Additionally, Ontario residents will be able to use FanDuel’s sportsbook and casino products launching in Ontario beginning on April 4.

All entries submitted prior to April 1 will run as normal and any winnings are fully eligible for withdrawal, the company said. Any tickets and Championship League entries won or entered on or prior to April 1 will also be honored.

Messages seeking comment from FanDuel and DraftKings, which also operates in Ontario, on Monday (March 28) were not returned.

The current regulations from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario require DFS operators to pay a C$100,000 registration fee and 25 percent of revenue.

“Large registration fees are especially prohibitive for smaller operators and reduce competition as witnessed in the U.S. states of Delaware and Indiana,” the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association (FSGA) said in a statement.

“Ontario’s fees and regulations are large enough, however, that even the largest operators can no longer offer contests in the province,” the FSGA said.

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California Cardrooms Finance Opposition To Tribal Initiative

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Some of California’s largest cardrooms have contributed millions of dollars to defeat a tribal-backed ballot initiative that would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks in the state, according to figures updated by a state commission.

A Political Action Committee (PAC) known as No on the Gambling Power Grab has raised more than $7m with Knighted Ventures, a provider of third-party player proposition services for card rooms, and Parkwest Casinos both contributing $2.5m.

Another PAC titled Taxpayers Against Special Interest Monopolies has raised $21.48m with California Commerce Club and Hawaiian Gardens Casino both contributing $5.08m. Park West Casinos and The Bicycle Hotel and Casino both contributed $2.08m.

The latest contribution figures were updated Monday (March 28) by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The initiative, which has qualified for the November 8 ballot, also allows tribes to offer roulette and craps and enable private citizens to launch civil enforcement actions against illegal gambling violations not being pursued by the state attorney general.

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Karnataka Appeals To Apex Court To Restore Online Skill Gaming Ban

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The Karnataka state government has filed to appeal a high court repudiation of its ban on online skill gaming with stakes to India’s Supreme Court, potentially giving the apex court an opening to clarify the legality of the segment nationwide.

The state government argues that the Karnataka High Court’s February decision, which voided amendments banning online and land-based skill gaming with stakes, failed to consider its “public order” and “public health” mandates, the Bar and Bench legal daily reported on Tuesday (March 29).

The appeal also argues that the high court improperly invoked Article 19 of India’s Constitution, which protects freedom of expression and commercial activity.

It was not immediately clear if the Supreme Court will accept the case.

The Karnataka High Court decision is one of several recent instances of higher courts blocking punitive anti-gaming legislation by citing Supreme Court rulings that protect skill gaming with stakes.

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Swedish Government Includes Gambling In Addiction Strategy

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Swedish government plans to include gambling in the alcohol, drugs, doping, tobacco and gambling (ANDTS strategy) for 2022-2025 should not have a major impact on the industry, according to the regulator.

A spokesperson for the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) told VIXIO GamblingCompliance it does not have that much information on the change yet, but they could not see how it would affect the gambling industry “significantly”.

Long-term goals regarding gambling in the strategy are focused on reducing access to gambling, protecting minors, reducing the number of gambling addicts, providing support for players and reducing gambling-related suicides.

Minister of social affairs Lena Hallengren said “the work of reducing the harmful effects of alcohol and gambling on money, counteracting drugs and doping and reducing tobacco use are central parts of the government's public health policy”.

The ANDTS strategy is expected to cost the government approximately SEK96m (€9.27m) per year.

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Gambling Harm Should Mitigate Sentences, Says UK Report

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A report by the UK’s Howard League for Penal Reform has recommended that people are screened for gambling harm when arrested, as it warned that not enough is known about the links between crime and excessive gambling.

The chair of the commission set up to investigate how gambling interacts with those in the criminal justice system, Lord Goldsmith, said: “The shocking details of this powerful report provide further evidence that, while gambling can and often does lead to crime, there is currently insufficient knowledge or action within the criminal justice system to address the issue properly and protect people from harm.”

The report recommends that gambling addiction be considered as a mitigating factor during sentencing and calls for the use of more community sentences, rather than prison.

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Sweden to update self-exclusion, Minnesota sports-betting bill makes progress and Nevada court to reassess Steve Wynn sexual assault ruling.

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