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News In Brief: August 30-September 3, 2021

September 3, 2021
The UK Gambling Commission appoints its new chair, IGT wins European legal case, Bet MGM secures Puerto Rico partnership and India's Dream11 seeks another major funding round.

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Boyle Picked For UK Top Job

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The UK Gambling Commission has confirmed the appointment of Marcus Boyle as its new chair.

The former Deloitte executive will begin his role this month, taking over from Bill Moyes, whose term ends this month.

Boyle’s selection by the UK government had been widely reported earlier this week.

Boyle will be tasked with selecting a new permanent chief executive of the regulator and takes his post a pivotal moment for UK gambling law, as the commission continues to advise government on its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

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IGT Wins Legal Battle Over Italian Scratchcard Rights

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The nine-year renewal of Italy’s scratchcard concession, granted by the Agency of Customs and Monopolies to the National Lotteries joint venture, led by IGT Lottery, has been found compliant with the principles of the European Union Treaty.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Thursday on the question referred to it by the Italian Council of State in 2019.

The legal challenge was raised by two competing operators, Sisal and Stanleybet.

The renewal, according to European judges, does not represent a substantial modification of the concession itself, given that the possibility was foreseen in the 2009 call for tenders.

In any case, EU law does not prevent "any national legislation from requiring the renewal of a concession contract without a new tender", when this was provided for in the original contract.

Furthermore, the CJEU gave the green light for a new payment structure outlined in the “Fiscal decree” law: €50m for the first year (2017) and €750m for the second (2018), instead of the two instalments of €500 and €300m established by the previous 2009 concession.

According to the court, this modification “does not seem to alter the economic equilibrium of the concession in favour of the concessionaire”.

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BetMGM Inks Puerto Rico Partnership

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BetMGM has struck a partnership with Puerto Rico’s Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort to launch retail and mobile sports betting in the U.S. territory pending regulatory approval.

Puerto Rico passed a sweeping sports-betting law in 2019 but amendments adopted late last year require online sportsbooks to register players in-person and be licensed as a land-based operation.

The newly formed Puerto Rico Gaming Commission said in February that it had amended its proposed regulations to account for the statutory amendments, but the market has yet to be launched.

In a statement, CEO Adam Greenblatt said the partnership “marks a major milestone for BetMGM, as we share plans to bring our sports betting platform outside of the U.S. mainland for the first time.”

The partnership between BetMGM and Casino del Mar is the first to be announced specifically for the Puerto Rican market, although FanDuel inked a deal late last year with Caribbean gaming operator CAGE Companies.

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Washington Tribes Get Sports-Betting Approval

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Sports betting moved closer to launching at tribal casinos in Washington State after the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved amendments to nine state-tribal gaming compacts.

The DOI approved amendments for the Puyallup, Tulalip, Snoqualmie, Spokane, Cowlitz, Squaxin, Squamish, Stillaguamish and Lummi tribes.

Compact amendments are still pending for the Muckleshoot, Swinomish, Skokomish, Kalispel, Jamestown S’Klallam, Shoalwater Bay and the Confederate Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The tribes submitted amendments to include sports betting in their state gaming compacts that were approved by the Washington State Gambling Commission in June and then signed by Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, in July.

The updated compacts were submitted to the DOI, which published nine of the compacts in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The pending amendments are expected to be published in the Federal Register within the next few days.

Before the tribes launch retail and limited mobile sports betting any vendors the casinos have contracted with must be licensed. So far, regulators have licensed GeoComply Solutions and IGT, WSGC spokesman Kevin McCarty said Thursday.

Another 13 companies, including BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings, are still waiting to have their licenses approved, according to a list published by the WSGC.

The Snoqualmie Tribal Casino has confirmed it intends to launch sports betting by the opening of the National Football League season on September 9. The tribe has partnered with IGT, the WSGC said.

The WSGC in late July gave final approval to regulations and licensing rules needed before tribal casinos and their sportsbook operators could roll out retail and limited mobile wagering on-reservation.

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Dream11 Valuation Set To Explode Amid New Fundraising

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Indian fantasy sports giant Dream11 is raising $400m to $600m in a new round of talks with investors ahead of a probable Wall Street IPO, a report said, potentially lifting its valuation to $8.5bn and becoming the nation’s fourth-largest consumer internet company.

Dream11 parent company Dream Sports is “in conversation with several new and existing backers to raise $400m to $600m in a new round which is likely to be a pre-IPO one”, media outlet Entrackr reported on Monday, citing an unnamed person familiar with the situation.

“The talks have moved beyond [the] preliminary stage and may materialise in the next few weeks,” the source said.

Dream11’s aggressive growth in India’s online skill gaming market has been boosted by dramatic fundraising, most recently securing $225m late last year, while Dream Sports’ closure of an almost $400m funding round in March lifted the group’s valuation to some $5bn.

The Economic Times reported in April that Dream Sports is aiming for a US listing early next year, a process that itself could raise around $1.5bn.

Dream11 has become a vanguard company for the segment through its defences of the industry’s legitimacy in the courts. The company has twice triumphed in the Supreme Court — most recently in July and before that in December 2019 — against state governments and/or activists seeking to equate its products with chance-based gambling.

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Norsk Tipping Lowers Online Casino Loss Limits

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Loss limits have been lowered at Norway’s gambling monopoly, Norsk Tipping, to 5,000 kroner (€486) a month in changes which took effect on Wednesday.

The limits had been lowered from 10,000 kroner to 7,500 in December, but Norsk Tipping said it has been taking extra steps since a May 2020 population survey showed a significant increase in problem gambling.

The loss limits will be imposed on online casino games, bingo and another game called eFlax.

The reduction in loss limits is expected to cost the company 250 million to 300 million kroner on an annual basis, Norsk Tipping said.

“We have seen a clear effect after we adjusted the limit in December, in that the proportion of high-risk players has fallen over a longer period of time,” said the company’s head of responsible gaming, Bjørn Helge Hoffmann.

“Nevertheless, we see that there is still a group of core players who lose a lot”.

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Online Sports Wagering Goes Live In Wyoming

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The Wyoming Gaming Commission (WGC) on Wednesday approved DraftKings and BetMGM to begin accepting wagers and became the third U.S. state behind Tennessee and Virginia to launch an online-only sports betting market that does not require partnering with a land-based casino.

Both companies launched operations in the state shortly after gaining regulatory approval, with CEO of the MGM-Entain joint venture Adam Greenblatt calling Wyoming “an important state for us as we continue to expand BetMGM’s footprint in the West.”

Republican Governor Mark Gordon on April 5 signed a bill creating an online-only sports betting market in the nation’s smallest state by population.

The law does not allow for retail sportsbooks but authorizes the WGC to issue a minimum of five online licenses to operators that are already licensed in at least three other U.S. markets. The legislation was also notable for being the first in the country to expressly permit payments made in cryptocurrencies.

FanDuel and Penn National’s Barstool Sports have also expressed an interest in operating in Wyoming, while BetRivers, PointsBet, Bally’s and Caesars all have looked at the state but have yet to confirm plans to apply for a license.

The license requests from DraftKings and BetMGM were the only applications considered at Wednesday’s commission hearing. The next WGC meeting is scheduled for November 5.

David Carpenter, sports wagering and skill games project manager with the WGC, said he received a phone call from a company interested in Wyoming shortly after commissioners approved the two licenses.

Carpenter said he expects to have three more license applications by next month. The WGC has 60 days to approve an application once submitted, he added.

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Alberta Launches Single-Game Sports Betting

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Alberta has joined the line-up of Canadian provinces now offering single-game online sports betting after an amendment to Canada’s federal Criminal Code took effect last Friday.

The new sportsbook on the Play Alberta website of the province-owned Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis corporation (AGLC) will complement its existing online casino and lottery games, which were launched last year.

“AGLC is continuously looking for ways to improve Play Alberta, and adding sports betting to the website will give consumers expanded gambling entertainment options. Play Alberta Sports Betting will take the existing sports betting market that players are familiar with and introduce a modern option that presents Albertans with choice and convenience in a safe and regulated environment,” AGLC acting CEO Kandice Machado said in a statement on Wednesday.

AGLC said Play Alberta’s sportsbook offering was being powered by its existing platform provider NeoPollard Interactive in partnership with French national lottery operator FDJ’s Sporting Solutions division.

Last week, FDJ and Sporting Solutions launched a similar sports-betting product on behalf of the Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation.

On Monday, Scientific Games announced that its OpenSports platform was providing single-game sports betting for provincial lottery corporations in British Columbia, Quebec and the provinces of Atlantic Canada.

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Codere Cuts Guidance After COVID Closures

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Madrid-based Codere cut its full-year earnings guidance to €110-130m in adjusted EBITDA versus a prior 2021 forecast of €162.7m as the company released second-quarter results on Wednesday.

Codere said the revised forecasts reflected extended closings related to the pandemic during the second quarter in Argentina and Italy, as well as a “more protracted process to relieve existing operational restrictions” in Mexico and other markets.

Codere’s upscale bingo halls in Buenos Aires province were all forced to close in April and only reopened in July, since when they have “recovered revenues quickly,” Codere said.

All but five of the company’s 88 gaming halls in Mexico are currently open but most are subject to operating restrictions and could face tighter measures amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The situation is Italy is also uncertain because a vaccine card is now required to access gaming halls, bars and restaurants where Codere operates machines.

Overall, the company reported €139.1m in revenue and €18.1m in adjusted EBITDA for the second quarter, versus €39.1m and negative €23.7m in 2020.

The quarterly results are the first since Codere announced a financial restructuring as well as a planned merger of its interactive division with a Nasdaq-listed special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

Revenue from online gambling in the second quarter was €20.1m versus €13.8m in the prior year, although profitability was affected by Codere marketing more aggressively in Spain ahead of this week’s introduction of a general ban on most forms of advertising.

Codere also said a subsidiary had been awarded a 20-year internet gambling license in Panama and will launch operations there in December.

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India Minister Hints At Harmonisation

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A senior minister in India’s central government has flagged a “uniform approach” to online gaming regulation, an intervention that could herald a more standardised and stable legal environment for online skill gaming with stakes.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the minister of railways, communications and electronics and information technology since July, said in a letter to the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state last month that the government is considering a national initiative to address diverging state gaming laws.

The central government “is cognisant of the issues arising because of different legislations in different States in the area of regulation of online gaming and the matter is under consideration to have a uniform approach on this matter”, Vaishnaw wrote in the August 3 letter, later published by Indian media.

The statement followed a request from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy that the central government ban “online games, online gambling, and online betting sites”.

Vaishnaw’s comment offers further evidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is moving toward a legislative or regulatory template for online gaming, likely including skill gaming, fantasy sports and non-gambling products.

However, with gaming regulation largely under state jurisdiction, adoption of any template would be voluntary, unless the government chooses the difficult path of amending India’s Constitution to compel the states to follow suit.

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Evobet Loses Malta Licence

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The Malta Gambling Authority terminated the licence of EvoBet Limited in mid-July, according to an update posted on its website this week.

The announcement did not elaborate on the reasons for the enforcement action, saying only that the operator had “failed to comply with one or more applicable obligations in terms of any regulatory instrument or any other applicable law of Malta” and was late on an unspecified number of payments to the regulator.

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Connecticut Approves Sports Betting, Online Gaming Regulations

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A legislative committee on Tuesday approved emergency regulations for sports betting and online gaming in Connecticut, another step in the process toward legalized wagering on sports, online casino games and other new forms of betting.

Connecticut lawmakers still need to approve the final rules and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) needs to approve to the state’s amended gaming compacts with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes before online sports wagering or internet gaming can begin.

The BIA has been reviewing the new compact for the past month and is expected to issue its final decision by September 9. The rules are designed to implement a law enacted in June and will govern the operation of online casino gaming, sports betting, fantasy sports, online keno and the online sale of lottery tickets.

The General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee voted 9-4 to approve 82 page of regulations written by the state Department of Consumer Protection. The rules were reviewed by Democratic Governor Ned Lamont’s office, both tribes, the Connecticut Lottery Corporation and other state agencies.

The status of online gambling and sports betting hinges on approval of the amended compacts and state officials issuing gambling licenses.

Randy Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, thanked the committee for approving the emergency rules and assured lawmakers the tribe was working to launch online gaming and sports betting as soon as they are legally allowed to do so.

“As we continue to work with the governor’s office and Department of Consumer Protection in the coming months, we will collectively gain experience and comfort in this market,” Butler said.

“We anticipate there will be further clarification of the regulations before a vote on final regulations early next year that will align with best practices we see in competitive markets throughout the country.”

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PointsBet Left Out Of Arizona Sports-Betting Field

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PointsBet will be looking for a new partner to gain market access in Arizona following a strange sequence of events whereby its tribal partner said it was granted a license by regulators only to have it denied days later.

The Australian-based operator announced a partnership last month with Cliff Castle Casino, operated by the Yavapai-Apache Nation, but the tribe was left off the list of ten successful applicants issued licenses on Friday by the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG).

However, the tribe said in a statement that it was told it would be issued a license by the ADG on August 23, only to have the department reach out claiming that an “administrative error” had been made.

The casino said it assumed that the error was simply in the timing of the issuance prior to Friday’s expected selection but was then surprised to learn the tribe had been left out entirely.

On PointsBet’s end, the company says it will consider its options.

“When it came to partnering with Cliff Castle, they're seen as a very strong tribe, we're seen as a very strong operator,” said PointsBet CEO Sam Swanell on an earnings conference call Monday night.

“We fully expected that as part of the ten licenses, that we would be holding one of those licenses… so fair to say it was a bit of a surprise, but we then look for other opportunities.”

“We had the right deal with Cliff Castle, and we believe we have the right partner,” he added. “We'll now have a look around and see how that all plays out."

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Danish Gambling Industry Debuts Ad Complaint Board

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The Danish gambling industry has launched a self-regulatory board for handling complaints about gambling advertising.

The board, called the Gambling Advertising Board, or Spilrekamenaevnet, is an extension of a code of conduct that first surfaced in 2018.

Marketing should be legal and not misleading, and should be socially responsible in terms of protecting minors and vulnerable people, according to the website.

It should not suggest that gambling promotes financial or social success and should not suggest that chances of winning are greater than they actually are, according to the board’s code.

Marketing materials should not use persons under 25 and should not encourage “socially irresponsible behaviour,” the board said.

The board expects rulings should be “followed immediately,” and in serious cases or those where no action follows, it may issue a press release and refer the case to a body such as the Consumer Ombudsman for potential legal action.

The board has five members, including judge Jacob Sherfig of Copenhagen City Court, as chairman.

Other members include Thomas Marcussen of the Research Clinic for Gambling Addiction at Aarhus University Hospital, Danske Spil legal director Kate Jacquerot, Morten Ronde of the Danish Online Gambling Association, Gunnar Sørensen of the Danish Vending Machine Industry Association and Dansk Automat Brancheforening and Erik Jensen of the Danish Casino Association.

Sørensen and Jensen only participate in decisions involving land-based advertising complaints, according to the Danish Gambling Authority (Spillemyndigheden).

In January, the government relaxed restrictions on sports sponsorships, in an agreement that will allow sports teams to be backed by gambling companies, even if they have marketing links to consumer loan providers.

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TopSport Fined For Illegal Advertising In NSW

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The New South Wales (NSW) state government has secured another conviction of a corporate bookmaker, with Australian-owned TopSport fined A$60,000 ($44,000) plus legal costs over illegal advertising.

Merlehan Bookmaking-owned TopSport pleaded guilty to three counts of illegal advertising in August and September 2020 and was fined A$20,000 per offence in a Sydney local court on Wednesday, August 25, a state government statement said on Saturday.

“Two of the offences relate to publications on the TopSport website of the availability of a ‘Top Up’ feature, which is a form of enhanced odds,” Marcel Savary, Liquor & Gaming compliance director, said.

“The third offence is related to the promotion of a weekly tipping competition on the Sporting Base website offering TopSport bonus bets as a prize for the top tipsters.”

The breaches were a first offence, but the magistrate imposed substantial fines because of the “need for specific and general deterrence,” Savary said.

NSW is far and away the most litigious of Australia’s state governments in terms of gaming enforcement, with almost all offences involving inducement to gamble in advertising.

The previous prosecution saw Kindred-owned Unibet fined almost A$52,000 plus costs over advertising infringements.

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NFL Names Four More Sports-Betting Partners

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BetMGM, PointsBet, WynnBet and Flutter’s Fox Bet will all be able to advertise during televised National Football League games and on certain NFL media outlets this season after the league confirmed all four companies as “approved sportsbook operators” on Monday.

The agreements come several months after the NFL named FanDuel, DraftKings and Caesars as its “tri-exclusive” official sports-betting partners.

That is a higher category of partnership that includes use of NFL trademarks, integrating into NFL media platforms and direct customer activation rights.

Only the seven approved operators will be able to purchase ads around NFL broadcasts, the NFL said in a statement.

According to reports, the NFL will allow no more than six sports-betting commercials per game this season — one per quarter, one at half-time and one pregame.

In return for NFL approval, the seven operators have all agreed to license official NFL data from partner Genius Sports, and “agreed to adhere to the NFL's core integrity policies, collaborate with the NFL on information sharing and advocacy efforts and support the NFL's responsible gambling efforts,” the NFL said.

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Maryland Welcomes Comments On Sports-Betting Regulations

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The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) opened a 30-day period on Friday for the public to submit comments regarding the agency’s proposed sports-wagering regulations.

The agency is also scheduled to hold a public meeting on September 22 at which gaming companies, potential licensees and members of the public can provide oral testimony regarding the regulations.

Comments will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. on September 27, and must be received during the 30-day public comment period in order to be considered.

Last month, the MLGCA approved draft wagering regulations, including a requirement for use of official league data for certain kinds of bets. The state’s sports-betting model is one of the most welcoming in the nation, with more than 100 retail and online licenses available, including 60 mobile-only licenses.

Applicants for mobile and retail licenses will be selected by Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), with the gambling authority only weighing in as to whether would-be operators meet the necessary suitability standards to receive a gaming license.

The SWARC’s next meeting is scheduled for September 21. The commission held its first meeting earlier this month where members of the panel discussed current gaming activities that could be impacted by sports betting and conducted an overview of the state law authorizing wagering on sports.

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Washington Gaming Regulators Debate Voluntary Self-Exclusion Rules

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Almost two years after Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill requiring the Washington State Gambling Commission to create a state-wide, voluntary self-exclusion system, commissioners took a crucial step forward on Friday in approving regulations to implement the program.

According to the draft rules, a person with a gambling problem would be able to voluntarily exclude themselves from licensed house-banked cardrooms and participating tribal casinos.

The rules propose allowing a person to self-exclude for one, five or ten years. WSGC chairman Bud Sizemore took issue with the option of a ten-year self-exclusion period and suggested the final draft rules include a period of one, three or five years.

Other proposed changes to the draft rules include allowing online registration in addition to filing the paperwork at the WSGC’s office or mailing the form to the commission.

John Chinn, WSGC’s project manager, said the option to mail the paperwork was put in the draft regulations for people who live in remote parts of the state. He said mail forms “must have a notary to make sure they are the person they say they are.”

Commissioners also agreed the ultimate responsibility for enforcement belongs to cardrooms and participating tribal casinos, which could face penalties for failures to prevent those included on the list from gambling in their establishments.

WSGC interim director Tina Griffin said the plan was to bring the draft regulations with all the changes back before the commission in October. If approved, a public hearing would be held in November before a final commission vote takes place in January.

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The UK Gambling Commission appoints its new chair, IGT wins European legal case, Bet MGM secures Puerto Rico partnership and India's Dream11 seeks another major funding round.

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