News In Brief: April 4-April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022
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The inquiry into Australia's Star Entertainment has claimed another executive scalp after admissions of "unethical" emails.

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Star Entertainment Inquiry Claims Second Casualty

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Leading Australian supermarket chain Woolworths has announced that group treasurer Sarah Scopel has left the company over misleading a bank’s financial crimes unit while she was group treasurer of casino operator Star Entertainment Group.

Woolworths said on Friday (April 8) that Scopel’s immediate departure was “mutually agreed” after she admitted to a Star Entertainment regulatory inquiry in March that she sent “dishonest” and “unethical” emails to the bank in 2019 regarding China UnionPay card transactions.

Scopel misled the National Australia Bank (NAB) by saying that up to A$900m ($673m) in gambling transactions using the cards at The Star in Sydney were for hotel and other expenses.

Scopel is the second professional casualty of the New South Wales state Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority’s (ILGA) enhanced scheduled review into the company following the resignation of managing director and CEO Matt Bekier in late March.

In another grim signal for Star Entertainment, the ILGA has granted a request by Adam Bell, who is leading the review, to extend the submission date of his report by two months to August 31.

Bell “requested additional time to undertake further lines of inquiry in order to fully discharge his duties according to the Terms of Reference”, the ILGA said in a statement on Friday.

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BGC Backs New Ad Rules

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Trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has reacted positively to new advertising rules in the UK that will ban the use of sports stars and other celebrities in gambling ads.

The group said the changes to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code echoed work it had done to make advertising more responsible.

It also took the opportunity to argue, in a statement, that “the most popular forms of betting by young people are playing cards, scratchcards, bets between friends and fruit machines — not with BGC members. The BGC takes a zero tolerance approach to gambling by those under the age of 18 and we enforce the toughest possible action.”

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Michigan To Join Interstate Poker Agreement

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The Multi-State Internet Gaming Association has admitted Michigan as a member to pool online poker liquidity with Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

A statement released by the association on Wednesday (April 6) said Michigan’s admission was pending the state’s formal execution of the interstate agreement that was first signed by Nevada and Delaware in 2014.

“The Multi-State Internet Gaming Association welcomes Michigan to its ranks, along with its nearly 10m residents, who can now avail themselves of a full array of interactive gaming among the association’s member states,” said Rebecca Satterfield, internet gaming manager for the Delaware Lottery and manager of the association.

Michigan launched online poker, casino and sports betting last January in accordance with a state law enacted in December 2019. The Michigan Gaming Control Board last month published a set of guidelines for multistate internet poker.

Currently, only 888 operates poker on an interstate basis, pooling players from Caesars’ World Series of Poker sites in New Jersey and Nevada with those of 888’s platform utilized by the Delaware Lottery.

A WSOP site launched in Michigan last month, joining PokerStars and BetMGM in the market.

Online poker is also offered by the three companies in Pennsylvania, which has not yet joined the interstate poker agreement.

Satterfield said the multi-state association “continues to be forward thinking and welcomes the interest of additional gaming jurisdictions in becoming party to the agreement.”

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Gambling Bills Fail To Pass Through Alabama Legislature

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As expected, four bills to legalize and regulate casinos, sports betting and a state lottery have failed to pass the Alabama legislature that adjourns on Thursday (April 7).

Lawmakers arrived in Montgomery for the 30-day session but with a deadline approaching there was not enough time for any bill to make it through the House and Senate and reach final passage.

Republican state Senator Greg Albritton, who was first elected in 2014, told reporters he is considering introducing the legislation again when lawmakers return to the Capitol in early 2023 following elections on November 8.

House Bills 501 and 502 were withdrawn despite the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee passing the proposals last month.

Senate Bill 293, a constitutional amendment to create a lottery, legalize sports betting and allow compact negotiations with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and Senate Bill 294, to create gaming commission to license and regulate five casinos, passed committee but were not taken up by the Senate.

Albritton told WSFA-TV in Montgomery he has not gotten any adequate responses other than they just do not want to deal with it.

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Lights Go Out In Georgia For 2022 Gambling Expansion

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Georgia legislators failed to reach an agreement on any form of gambling expansion in the state before the legislative session ended late Monday (April 4), potentially delaying sports betting in the state until at least 2025.

A late push that began last week to bring a constitutional amendment to the House floor that would have put a question to voters in November as to whether they wanted gambling to be expanded in the state, effectively giving legislators a blank slate to work with if voters approved, ultimately went nowhere, as the bill was not considered by either chamber in the final days of session.

House leadership had backed a plan from the beginning of the session to push for a broader gambling expansion rather than a narrower focus on sports betting.

Accompanying sports-betting enabling legislation that would have gone into effect following a favorable result in November also received no consideration on the floor.

Barring a change in direction by legislators away from the constitutional amendment method that was recommended by legislative counsel and toward standard legislation, the failure to act this year defers any potential constitutional amendment vote until at least November 2024.

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Victoria Regulator Starts Probe Into Crown's UnionPay Scam

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Victoria’s gambling regulator has announced a new probe into Crown Resorts’ Melbourne subsidiary over findings by a state Royal Commission that Crown evaded China’s currency restrictions and enabled “illegal transfer of funds from China”.

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) said on Tuesday (April 5) that Crown’s use of hotel billing to disguise Chinese gambler spend via the China UnionPay card warranted disciplinary proceedings, with a potential A$100m ($76m) fine, licence variation and/or rectification orders.

The VGCCC is awaiting Crown’s response to the notice of proceedings and will hold additional proceedings into “other matters highlighted in the Royal Commission”, the statement said.

The VGCCC noted that Crown admitted to breaches of the Casino Control Act 1991 during the Royal Commission, whose findings were released to the public in October.

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Marathonbet To Leave The UK

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Marathonbet has said it will close its UK-facing sportsbook from April 14.

The company cited “ongoing events in Europe”, without offering any specifics, saying it had had a “significant impact” on the company.

Marathonbet was founded in Russia in 1997 and has a long history of operating in the region.

Customers in the UK can no longer open new accounts and the operator will not take bets from UK customers from April 14. Existing marathonbet.co.uk customers will still be able to access their funds to withdraw them, the company said.

Marathonbet said its other operations would continue as normal. The firm is licensed in Spain, Denmark and Italy, as well as the island of Curaçao.

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DraftKings, Mashantucket Pequot Bring Sports Betting To Puerto Rico

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DraftKings and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation agreed Monday (April 4) to expand their partnership in Puerto Rico after the tribe complete spending $137.5m to upgrade and reopen El San Juan Casino as the renamed Foxwoods El San Juan Casino.

The Mashantucket Pequot expect DraftKings to begin operations within the coming weeks. The company joins BetMGM and FanDuel with plans to open online sportsbooks on the island.

The two have agreed to offer DraftKings retail and mobile products in Puerto Rico, but the Boston-based bookmaker is still subject to a series of legal approvals and licenses before the partnership launches.

In October, DraftKings launched online gaming and sports betting at the Mashantucket Pequot tribe’s Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. The deal will also allow DraftKings to offer daily fantasy sports in Puerto Rico.

BetMGM entered the Puerto Rico market prior to February’s NFL Super Bowl at Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort, while FanDuel signed a market access agreement with the CAGE Companies to offer mobile wagering on the island.

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Football Teams Want Gambling Ad Ban

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Some 20 UK football clubs have written to the government calling for gambling advertising to be banned in the sport.

The group of teams includes Luton Town FC of The Championship, England’s second tier of professional football, but no Premier League teams have signed the open letter, orchestrated by charity The Big Step.

The clubs said they want to “challenge” the belief that money from gambling sponsors is needed to keep teams afloat.

“As clubs without these partnerships, we can say categorically that we evidently do not need them,” the letter says.

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Massachusetts Attorney General Backs Legal Sports Betting

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As several bills continue to languish in the Massachusetts legislature, state attorney general Maura Healey has said she supports legalizing sports betting and remains confident that lawmakers will pass legislation that has stalled in the Senate.

Healey, a Democrat who is running for governor this year, has been an outspoken opponent on gaming issues since she first ran for attorney general in 2014.

Healey told WGBH radio in Boston last week that her position has evolved because sports betting has become legal in so many states.

“I was always concerned about addiction, gambling addiction. I was concerned about exploitation,” she said. “It’s here. Sports betting, it is the way now, and I’m confident the legislature will work something out.”

Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who will not seek re-election in November, has introduced a measure to legalize sports betting, while House Bill 3993 has been waiting for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means since passing the House last July.

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is also running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, told State House News Service (SHNS) she is “open” to legalizing sports betting. Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty both told the Boston Globe they support a sports-betting measure.

Although the Senate remains the hold-up on sports-betting legislation, at least 60 percent of Massachusetts senators support legalizing the activity, according to an SHNS survey.

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Paraguay Slot-Route Ban Heads To President's Desk

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A bill to ban slot machines outside licensed casinos or dedicated slot halls was approved by Paraguay’s Congress last Thursday (March 31), after the Senate agreed to adopt amendments made by the lower house when the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill in October.

The bill was initially approved by the Senate in July and will clarify the rights of Paraguayan municipal governments to license slot-hall operations in their jurisdictions. Casinos and other forms of gaming are regulated by the national gaming authority, Conajzar.

If signed into law by President Mario Abdo Benitez, the bill will serve to nullify a contract Conajzar signed in 2020 for local company iCrop S.A. to exclusively operate slot machines in non-gaming retail locations throughout Paraguay.

The legislation also proposes new monitoring and other regulatory requirements for slot halls to prevent underage gambling.

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The inquiry into Australia's Star Entertainment has claimed another executive scalp after admissions of "unethical" emails.

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