News In Brief: August 14-August 18, 2023

August 18, 2023
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Brazil's match-fixing investigation is extended, signalling another potential delay to sports-betting regulation, while Kentucky announces a timeline for the opening of its sports-betting market.

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Brazil Match-Fixing Investigation Extended

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A congressional investigation into betting integrity will now run until at least mid-November after members of a Chamber of Deputies commission agreed on Wednesday (August 16) to extend its mandate by a further 60 days.

The parliamentary commission of inquiry (CPI) on match-fixing in Brazilian football was established in May with an initial deadline of 120 days to complete its probe of high-profile allegations of spot-fixing in various professional matches that are also under formal police investigation.

To date, the panel has heard testimony from prosecutors, betting industry associations and Brazilian football officials, among others, with payment processors and integrity service providers due to appear before lawmakers in the coming weeks.

The extended timeframe is potentially significant in the context of pending regulation of online sports betting in Brazil, as the CPI’s work overlaps with Congress’ consideration of implementing legislation to establish a licensing regime in accordance with a December 2018 law.

The CPI, through its rapporteur Deputy Felipe Carreras, is ultimately expected to make formal legislative recommendations related to sports-betting integrity and oversight, which could be incorporated into a broader bill to regulate the industry.

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Kentucky Updates Timeline For Sports-Betting Launch

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Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, confirmed that in-person, retail sports betting will officially start at 10am EDT on September 7, with a list of approved retail facilities and mobile applications released on Tuesday (August 22).

“The countdown is on,” Beshear said Thursday (August 17). “We are just three weeks away from sports wagering in Kentucky.”

According to a timeline issued by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), the commission will meet Tuesday to vote on retail and mobile license applications. Then on August 28, residents can pre-register for a mobile sports-betting account, which is followed by the launch of retail sports betting on September 7.

On September 7, patrons who have pre-registered for a mobile wagering app can only deposit money into their account, with mobile betting to launch on September 28 at 6am EDT.

In a statement, the KHRC said Kentucky chose a tiered implementation, which allows for testing of policies and procedures before the full rollout that includes mobile applications.

Earlier this month, Beshear announced the retail locations and mobile operators seeking licensure in Kentucky. So far, seven racetracks and bet365, BetMGM, Caesars Entertainment, Circa Sports, DraftKings, FanDuel and Penn Sports Interactive have applied for a license to operate in the state.

Racetracks licensed for sports betting may open retail wagering at their satellite locations.

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WynnBET To Give Up Maryland License

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WynnBET, which was previously awarded a license in Maryland, will return that license, state gaming regulators confirmed Wednesday (August 16).

WynnBET was awarded a mobile wagering license by the Maryland Sports Wagering Review Commission (SWARC) on December 14, 2022, but has never launched its sports-betting app.

“So, the license had not been issued,” said John Mooney, director of regulatory oversight at the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

Last week, Wynn Resorts announced it would close its online sports betting and iGaming platform WynnBET in eight states as soon as possible. The list did not include Maryland, but the company will exit Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

WynnBET will remain available in Massachusetts and Nevada, where Wynn Resorts operates land-based casinos and sportsbooks.

The company will review continuing operations in New York and Michigan.

“There are no additional details at this time, but we will work with the company on steps necessary to relinquish its mobile sports betting license,” Mooney told the commission.

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Singapore Cracks Gaming-Linked Syndicate, Seizes Nearly S$1bn

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Singapore has cracked an alleged money laundering ring linked to online gambling after more than 400 police raided multiple locations on Tuesday (August 15).

Police seized at least S$948m ($696m) in real estate, luxury vehicles, jewellery and other luxury items, gold bars and cash.

The ten suspects, aged 31 to 44, entered Singapore with passports from Cyprus, Turkey, Cambodia, Vanuatu or China, but all had Chinese passports in their possession, the police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The suspects were charged on Wednesday with forgery and/or money laundering and resisting arrest, with police alleging they acted as a group to launder profits from scams and online gambling outside Singapore.

Police are questioning four possible suspects and are searching for another eight, the statement said.

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Victoria Regulator Charges BlueBet Over Freeway Ads

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The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) has charged Australia-listed corporate bookmaker BlueBet with 43 counts of illegal advertising that amount to a potential fine of just under A$1m ($639,000).

BlueBet displayed improper gambling advertisements at five freeway locations in Melbourne’s west for two weeks in August and September 2022, the VGCCC said in a statement on Thursday (August 17).

The VGCCC said it investigated the billboard advertising after receiving an online complaint.

“We encourage all members of the community to use our complaints and tip-off portals to let us know when they believe they have witnessed non-compliant behaviour by gambling providers,” regulatory services director Jason Cremona said.

The prosecution of Sydney-based BlueBet points to accelerating punitive activity against bookmakers in Victoria state. Such actions were rare under the VGCCC’s predecessor body.

Neighbouring New South Wales state and the Northern Territory, where BlueBet is registered, have dominated legal and regulatory actions against the online gambling sector.

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UK Regulatory Gives Xhaka Ad Red Card

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Bet365 has become the latest operator to be censured for using prominent sports stars in its advertising.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told the Stoke-headquartered gambling company on Wednesday (August 16) that it had broken the CAP code by promoting a video clip featuring Granit Xhaka, who at the time was an Arsenal player.

The video, produced by Sky Sports, ran on Twitter using its Amplify advertising feature. Bet365 said it had only been served to those aged over 25 and Sky and Twitter said they had received no complaints about it.

Nevertheless, the ASA banned the ad, noting its recent guidance that Premier League footballers had particular appeal to young people and said it would only have been allowed in a medium where under-18s could be completely excluded.

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North Carolina Lottery To Launch Digital Instant Games

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North Carolina is set to become the ninth U.S. jurisdiction to launch a full iLottery program after the state lottery commission voted late Tuesday (August 15) to approve the offering of digital instant games.

The commission’s approval of e-instant games came despite objections from lottery retailers and concerns among some members, according to local news outlet WRAL.

North Carolina already offers online sales of lottery draw-game tickets and is also set to launch online sports betting next year under the lottery commission’s licensing and regulatory authority.

State lawmakers are also actively considering further proposals to allow commercial land-based casinos and video lottery terminals in bars and other retail establishments across the state.

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s executive budget proposal, released in March, projected that North Carolina could generate $81m in proceeds from digital instant games in the 2023-24 fiscal year followed by $103m in 2024-25.

The state lottery plans to launch e-instant games by November 15, WRAL reported.

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Connecticut Warns Consumers About Illegal Gambling Platforms

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Connecticut Attorney General William Tong warned consumers Tuesday (August 15) about the risks of illegal, offshore gambling operators who are targeting consumers by posing as legitimate betting sites.

Tong said this issue is especially important with the National Football League and college football seasons set to begin later this month or in early September.

Tong and Bryan Cafferelli, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), released a memo to remind consumers that only DraftKings, FanDuel and PlaySugarhouse are licensed to operate sports betting within the state.

“Any other site soliciting bets is illegal and unregulated and your money and personal information may not be protected,” Tong said.

Cafferelli added that these platforms might look legitimate, but “they are illegal and not subject to regulation and inspection by the state.”

The DCP Gaming Division has received five complaints from consumers about illegal online gaming operators since regulators started taking complaints in late 2021, the agency said in an email.

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NSW Regulator Fines Bet Right Over Odds Boosting

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Australian corporate bookmaking website Bet Right has been fined A$20,000 ($13,000) for offering boosted odds, in the latest New South Wales (NSW) state conviction for illegal advertising inducements.

Bet Right, operated by IRPSX, a subsidiary of National Stock Exchange of Australia (NSX) listco BetTube, was convicted on August 7 in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court, regulator Liquor & Gaming NSW said in a statement on Tuesday (August 15).

Unusually for Liquor & Gaming NSW prosecutions, the company was found not guilty on three charges, although Liquor & Gaming NSW did not name or elaborate on them.

The regulator instead used its statement to announce its prosecutions since 2016 had generated court fines totalling A$830,000, and that its penalty infringement notices now total A$270,000.

Nonetheless, and despite warnings to this effect, Liquor & Gaming NSW has yet to prosecute individual directors or managers over repeat infringements.

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PAGCOR Boss Floats Minimum $1.1bn For Casino Franchise

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Philippine gambling regulatory PAGCOR has named an asking price of 60bn to 80bn pesos ($1.1bn to $1.4bn) for the sale of the Casino Filipino land-based franchise.

PAGCOR chairman and CEO Alejandro Tengco told the House of Representatives appropriations committee on Monday (August 14) that its estimated price for all Casino Filipino licences does not include property value, and therefore is only one quarter of the 200bn to 250bn peso asking price suggested by the finance ministry.

“We are just leasing, we really don’t have the properties. So the minimum that we are pegging is at 60bn to 80bn [pesos] for the licences, but that would still increase with the bidding,” he told the committee.

PAGCOR lists nine Casino Filipino branches and 34 “satellite casinos” on its website, with the latter being much smaller operations, often based within hotels or shopping malls.

Tengco’s comments are part of PAGCOR’s latest attempt to divest itself of commercial operations after several failed attempts.

The regulator also intends to take the Casino Filipino franchise online, targeting local and foreign customers to expand revenue.

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SkyCity Sets Aside $29m For AML Fine

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Australasian casino operator SkyCity Entertainment Group has recognised a provision of A$45m ($29m) for an anticipated fine from financial transactions regulator AUSTRAC over operations at SkyCity Adelaide.

SkyCity said the provision would cover any civil penalty and legal costs, but warned any eventual penalty could be “significantly higher or lower than the provision”, according to company filings with the Australian and New Zealand bourses on Monday (August 14).

“The proceedings remain at a relatively early stage, with AUSTRAC and SkyCity Adelaide currently working towards agreeing on facts and potential admissions before the Court identifies a process for any remaining disputed issues and any potential penalty to be determined,” the filings said.

AUSTRAC is probing what it has called “innumerable” SkyCity breaches of anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing law, which could accrue to a fine in the billions of dollars.

SkyCity also proposed a separate impairment of A$45.6m for its 2023 financial year financial statements, the filings said.

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UK Researchers Discover How Many Lottery Tickets It Takes To Win

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University of Manchester mathematicians have an answer to the question: how many lottery tickets do you need to buy to ensure at least one winning ticket?

Answer: 27. At least for the UK’s National Lottery.

The mathematicians examined the popular “Lotto” weekly draw, which uses six random numbers from 1 to 59.

The academics, David Stewart and David Cushing, used finite geometry to examine the possible 45,057,474 different number draws, according to the university.

The researchers say, however, that ensuring a win by buying 27 tickets does not ensure a profit, and indeed a profit is unlikely.

The 27 tickets would cost £54 and, in nearly 99 percent of cases, the buyer would not make the money back, according to Peter Rowlett, a mathematician from The Aperiodical website, according to the university.

The mathematicians “tested” their theory on July 1 of this year.

They matched two balls on three of the tickets, which won them three “lucky dip” tries on a subsequent lottery. That lottery draw won them nothing, the university said.

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Ghanaian Minister Critical Of Gambling In Support of Tax Change

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A key member of Ghana’s parliament has criticised gambling in a radio interview as they showed support for the new 10 percent withholding tax that comes into effect on August 15.

Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, the majority leader in the Ghanaian parliament and the minister for parliamentary affairs, told Angel FM in Kumasi that he believes gambling “does not encourage hard work”.

Kyei Mensah Bonsu justified the need for gambling taxes as a way to “discourage” people from participating in it, adding that he himself would never participate in a lottery as he does not believe in luck.

He also warned of the threat of match-fixing and sports integrity posed by the betting industry and criticised gambling sports sponsorships.

Edward Gyambrah, the head of the domestic tax revenue division at the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), recently warned at a press conference that gambling companies failing to comply with the new tax policy will face enforcement action, including the possible withdrawal of their licences.

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Argentina Lawmaker Files Bill To Ban Gambling Advertising

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A bill to severely restrict advertising of online gambling in Argentina was introduced in the National Congress on Thursday (August 10) by Deputy Marcela Campagnoli of the opposition Juntos por el Cambio parliamentary bloc.

Similar to Spain, Campagnoli’s bill would restrict all broadcast and online advertising of online gambling platforms to between 1am and 5am in the morning. Ads also could not induce players to gamble, while players bonuses would be prohibited. A further provision of the bill would limit payments for online gambling platforms to debit cards only.

“Gambling addiction is one of the addictions that has increased the most among young people, adults and more vulnerable people since the pandemic,” Campagnoli, who represents Buenos Aires Province, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in confirming the introduction of her bill.

Buenos Aires is one of a handful of Argentine provinces to license and regulate online gambling, although several others offer legal online betting through incumbent land-based operators or public lotteries.

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Wynn Resorts Pulls WynnBET From Eight U.S. States

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Wynn Resorts announced Friday (August 11) it will close its online sports betting and iGaming platform WynnBET in light of “outsized market spend through user acquisition and promotions in online sports betting.”

The Las Vegas-based gaming company is working with state regulators to exit Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia as soon as possible. WynnBET will remain available in Massachusetts and Nevada, where Wynn Resorts operates land-based casinos and sportsbooks.

The company will review continuing operations in New York and Michigan.

Julie Cameron-Doe, chief financial officer, said the company believes there are better uses of capital deployment for Wynn Resorts shareholders.

"While we believe in the long-term prospects of iGaming, the dearth of iGaming legislation and the presence of numerous other investment opportunities available to us around the globe have led us to the decision to curtail our capital investment in WynnBET to focus primarily on those states where we maintain a physical presence," Cameron-Doe said in a statement.

Cameron-Doe told analysts during an earnings call on August 9 that Wynn Interactive’s EBITDAR burn rate decreased year-over-year to $15m in the second quarter of 2013.

When asked if WynnBET was on track for profitability in the fourth quarter, CEO Craig Billings reminded analysts that he did not think “we ever said it would be break even in the fourth quarter.”

“But what we are focused on is making sure that it goes down every quarter,” Billings said.

Cameron-Doe added that sports betting is a “tough business.”

“It’s about the game of community,” she said. “They’re difficult businesses, but we’re very focused on managing this business. We’ve got a very long-term shareholder friendly view on it. So that’s our focus.”

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Brazil's match-fixing investigation is extended, signalling another potential delay to sports-betting regulation, while Kentucky announces a timeline for the opening of its sports-betting market.

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