News In Brief: April 1-April 5, 2024

April 5, 2024
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VICI is fined in New Jersey, Bulgaria rejects a gambling ad ban, Chile's online bill moves to the Senate floor and Peru proposes tax increase.
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VICI Properties Fined $25,000 In New Jersey
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VICI Properties, a real-estate investment trust (REIT) that was spun off from Caesars Entertainment in 2017, has been fined $25,000 for alleged violations of New Jersey disclosure rules, the state's Department of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced Thursday (April 4). 

VICI, as landlord of three Atlantic City casinos, was fined following discovery that it failed to properly file board and committee meeting minutes and failed to provide a scheduled of its board and committee meetings for approximately two years.

The DGE also found VICI failed to provide them with copies of all filings submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and failed to timely establish the qualifications of or request waivers of qualification for certain beneficial owners of VICI.

VICI owns 54 gaming properties in the U.S. and Canada, including the Borgata, which MGM Resorts International operates, as well as Caesars and Harrah’s Atlantic City, operated by Caesars Entertainment. 

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Bulgarian Parliament Rejects Ban On Gambling Advertisements
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Bulgaria’s parliament rejected draft amendments this week to its gambling act that would have banned most gambling advertisements.

The amendments, proposed by the Vazrazhdane party were voted down on Wednesday (April 3) by a 67-29 vote with 79 abstentions, according to the Bulgarian News Agency.

The bill’s supporters said the proposals would have minimised harm and strengthened lists of exclusions from gambling, the agency said. They would have provided for fines for violating the ban on advertising.

Lyuben Dilov of the GERB-UDF party claimed that the proposed ban would hurt municipal sports and would not solve problems of gambling addiction, the news agency said.

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Chile Online Gambling Bill Goes To Senate Floor
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The Chile Senate’s economy committee approved the online gambling bill on Tuesday April 2, and it will now progress to the main Senate floor. 

This is one of the long-awaited final steps in the bill’s road to law, which has so far seen the bill meander through committees, the Chamber of Deputies and then the Senate since March 2022. 

The text of the final draft in the Senate is a matter of debate, as online operators struggle against a 38 percent tax rate and a proposed 12-month cooling-off period. 

Its passage through the main Senate floor, according to Chilean onlookers, is far from guaranteed. 

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Peru Proposes Selective Consumption Tax For Online Gaming
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Peru’s online gambling taxes are set to get a little higher, as the minister of economy and finance, José Arista, declared that the Executive Branch will present a bill to Congress to add a selective consumption tax. 

Arista said that “face-to-face games do have a tax, therefore, remote games should also have this tax as a matter of fairness”, although during his comments he did not clarify which tax he meant. 

Peru currently has a tax of 12 percent on the net profits of online gaming operators, one of the lowest in the region.

The market is expected to go live in the summer. 

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Entain Chair Gibson Will Step Down
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Entain’s chair, Barry Gibson, said he will step down by September of this year, and potentially earlier, depending on the outcome of the gambling company’s search for a chief executive.
 

When he retires, Gibson will be replaced by Stella David, currently serving as the company’s interim CEO, the London-listed company said today (April 4).

Gibson joined Entain’s board in November 2019 and became chair in February 2020. David has been interim CEO since December.

The search for a permanent CEO is “progressing well”, the company said. 

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Louisiana Joins States Banning College Prop Bets
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The Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) announced Wednesday (April 3) that proposition bets on an individual college athlete’s performance or statistics will not be allowed in the state after August 1.

In a notice to licensees, chairman Ronnie Johns reminded sports-betting operators that “all reasonable efforts shall be made to comply” but they may honor any outstanding bets. 

“Only proposition bets based on full team statistical results are permitted.”

The decision by Louisiana comes after increased pressure from NCAA president Charlie Baker who called on state gaming regulators to consider eliminating college prop bets from their wagering catalogues. Louisiana joined Ohio and Maryland in banning the wagers. 

Cory Thorne, a spokesman with the Kansas Lottery Commission, confirmed they do allow them, and would consider any request to disallow them based on its own merits.

“At this time, we have not received a request from the NCAA,” Thorne said. 

Nevada also does not have any prohibitions on collegiate player props or collegiate sports wagering, according to Regulation 22.1205 titled Prohibited Wagers.

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Fanatics Closes PointsBet Acquisition
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Fanatics Betting & Gaming, a subsidiary of Fanatics Holdings Inc., closed on the final state, Illinois, on Wednesday (April 3) as part of its acquisition of the U.S. business of PointsBet.

PointsBet Holdings Ltd. confirmed receipt of the final installment of the $225m purchase price and has transferred the remaining entities for Fanatics Betting & Gaming, including all the remaining entities that make up PointsBet’s U.S. sports wagering, advance-deposit wagering and iGaming operations.  

It also includes Banach Technology, a copy of the PointsBet platform and a license to use that proprietary technology platform, Fanatics said in a statement. 

The acquisition makes Fanatics Sportsbook available to 95 percent of the addressable online sports bettor market in the U.S.  By the end of the month, Fanatics Betting and Gaming will be operating online in 20 states, including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, pending regulatory approvals.

Fanatics Casino is available online in Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with New Jersey to follow.

“In addition to our migration of PointsBet customers and technology to the Fanatics Sportsbook and Casino platform, we have also added an incredibly talented team of passionate leaders from the ranks of PointsBet USA that have already made an impact on our business,” said Matt King, CEO of Fanatics Betting & Gaming.

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K&F Capital Urges Bally’s To Reject Sale
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K&F Growth Capital issued a letter Tuesday (April 2) to the board of directors at Bally’s Corporation recommending the company reject the sale to Standard General. 

Standard General submitted a proposal on March 11 to purchase the remaining shares in Bally’s for $15 per share and take the gaming company private.

Currently, Standard General is the company’s largest shareholder with 23.2 percent and whose principal Soohyung Kim is chairman of the board of Bally’s. 

K&F Growth Capital, which is also a shareholder in Bally’s, said Kim proposes to acquire the company at a fraction of its fair value, “using as a source funds Bally’s own already overstretched balance sheet.” 

Other recommendations from K&F Growth Capital include to offload or de-risk the $1bn Chicago project, immediately withdraw its application for one of three downstate New York licenses, focus on U.S. iGaming operations and eliminate investing in sports products.  

“It is critical Bally’s does not allow the Chicago project to hamstring for years to come its capacity to pursue other strategically compelling, synergistic opportunities,” Dan Fetters and Edward King, managing partners of K&F Growth Capital, wrote. 

Bally’s opened a temporary casino in downtown Chicago in September; the company expects to open the first permanent casino in Chicago in 2026.

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Kansas Legislature Next Step For Tribe’s Sports-Betting Compact
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The Kansas legislature is the next step in the process of approving an amendment to the state’s gaming compact with the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska to allow sports betting at the tribe’s casino. 

In a meeting that took less than ten minutes, the Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations unanimously approved the amendment Monday (April 1) to the 1995 gaming compact. 

That compact now must be approved by both chambers of the legislature and Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, before it is submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior for approval.

The Iowa Tribe operates a casino about a mile south of the Nebraska border in northeast Kansas. 

The Prairie Band of Potawatomie Nation was the first tribe to have its sports-betting amendment approved in July 2023. Russ Brien, an attorney and member of the Iowa Tribe, told the committee that other than “changing names and dates this was identical to the compact this committee approved last year for Prairie Band.”

The Kansas legislature approved a mobile and retail sports-betting bill in 2022 that was signed by Kelly.  

Justin Whitten, chief counsel to the governor, said the compact amendment allowed for retail wagering and includes a trigger mechanism that would allow the tribe to offer state-wide online sports betting.

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Córdoba Lawmakers Threaten To Take Away Online Gambling Licences
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Legislators in the Argentine province of Córdoba continue to refuse to accept that online gambling was launched in January, calling for a special assembly to discuss its negative impact and rescind licences.

Although Córdoba’s Cabinet has a special session on the books for the second week of April, no ordinary sessions have been scheduled yet, leading to a group of legislators requesting a special session, with the specific purpose of discussing online gambling. 

Three initiatives are on the agenda for the session, including two bills that would block the awarding of any further licences to operators online and the creation of an expert commission to map a path forward for the termination of currently valid online gaming licences.

The last proposal seeks to reinforce protections around preventing underage gambling.  

Córdoba’s online market went live on January 5 of this year after a trial 45-day period in which players could gamble without money. Four operators paid ARS$200m, which was $570,000 at the official exchange rate at the time, for a 15-year licence.

Those four operators have so far generated nearly ARS$22m ($25,000) in income.

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Victoria Fines MintBet Over Gambler Spree
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The Victoria state gambling regulator has fined local corporate bookmaker MintBet A$100,000 ($65,000) for allowing a customer with “indicators of distress” to gamble for 35 hours in two days.

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) said Victoria-registered MintBet repeatedly breached its responsible gambling code of conduct by allowing 327 bets from the customer over 50 hours.

The customer lost A$31,149 by the end of the second day, and MintBet only terminated the spree when the gambler “actively identified” experience of harm, the VGCCC said in a statement on Tuesday (April 2).

The VGCCC added that MintBet’s “systems” to prevent out-of-control gambling are “inadequate”, constituting a further breach of the code.

It said further action could be taken against the company if it does not present improved customer protection mechanisms.

The VGCCC is Australia’s most active gambling regulator in terms of fines and breadth of scrutiny of the land-based and online gambling segments, while the MintBet punishment is notable for being a rare penalty against an online operator not registered in the Northern Territory.

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West Flagler Files New U.S. Supreme Court Brief
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West Flagler Associates has filed a supplemental brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that it claims supports its argument for the high court to take up its case over the legality of the state’s 2021 tribal gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe.

That landmark deal allowed the tribe to conduct state-wide online sports betting.

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court denied West Flagler’s petition for writ of quo warranto to remove the online sports-betting language from the gaming compact. In a five-page brief filed last week, attorneys for West Flagler noted that the Florida Supreme Court depicted the compact as authorizing online sports betting.

“Then, regardless of where the bets are placed, the wagers are ‘deemed’ to occur on tribal lands,” the state Supreme Court wrote.

West Flagler argues that the state-tribal compact violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act by allowing online sports betting to occur off tribal lands.

“This factual description conflicts with the D.C. Circuit’s holding that the Compact should be “interpreted” as not authorizing any off-reservation gambling,” wrote Hamish Hume, an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner in Washington, D.C., who is representing West Flagler. 

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VICI is fined in New Jersey, Bulgaria rejects a gambling ad ban, Chile's online bill moves to the Senate floor and Peru proposes tax increase.

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