News In Brief: December 12-December 16, 2022

December 16, 2022
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Ukraine readies new gambling laws to enhance regulator powers and a grenade inside a cake explodes outside Cambodia's Nagaworld Casino.

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Ukraine Prioritising Two Gambling Laws In 2023

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Ukraine’s parliament has included two draft gambling laws in its 2023 legislative plan, making it a legislative priority next year.

The two laws mainly aim to expand the enforcement capabilities of the Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) in order for it to better navigate the difficulties caused by the ongoing war and clamp down on illegal gambling.

KRAIL draft "amendments to improve the legal regulation of gambling market activities" include the framework for website blocking provisions and new procedures for inspecting gambling venues.

Additionally, the laws include proposals to introduce clear measures to prevent gambling addiction, provide education about the harms of gambling and provide the framework for psychological assistance and treatment for those affected by gambling problems.

The other law proposed by KRAIL in August 2022 covers the rules for regulating gambling under martial law, including the suspension/renewal of licences at the request of the licensee, replacing equipment damaged as a result of conflict and the possibility of delaying the payment of the annual licence fee for the period of martial law.

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GIG Acquiring Multiple Catena Media Affiliates For €45m

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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has signed an agreement to acquire the casino affiliate websites Askgamblers.com, Johnslots.com, Newcasinos.com and several smaller domains from Catena Media for €45m.

The announcement on December 15 explained that €20m of the fee will be paid in cash on closing, €10m will be paid a year after closing and €15m two years after closing, which is expected in the first quarter of 2023.

The acquired websites generated €12.9m revenue in the first nine months of 2022 with an EBITDA of €8.4m, according to the announcement.

GiG expects to have an EBITDA margin between 60 and 70 percent from the assets going forward.

Morten Hillestad, director of business development in GiG Media, said the “time was ripe” for the acquisition.

Catena Media CEO Michael Daly said the agreement “is a major step in our journey to focus the business on online sports betting and casino affiliation in high-growth, regulated markets in the Americas.”

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Grenade Explodes Outside NagaWorld Casino

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A grenade hidden inside a cake exploded outside the NagaWorld casino in Phnom Penh on Thursday morning (December 15), but police have not determined the reason for the incident and no arrests have been made.

The grenade, reportedly wired to a detonator inside a wrapped cake and placed on the roadside outside the casino, had been moved to a grassy area away from the public areas by a street cleaner and was being monitored by explosives experts when it detonated, the online VOD news service reported. There were no injuries.

An interior ministry spokesman said a car with identifiable number plates had been seen dropping off the parcel.

Police are yet to issue a description of the vehicle or of any suspects, but suggested the protagonist may have had a gambling complaint.

NagaCorp’s NagaWorld operation has been locked in a dispute with hundreds of sacked employees since the beginning of 2022, when the company laid off 1,300 staff.

Numerous protests and occupation of nearby streets have resulted in hundreds of arrests and the prosecution of key union figures sacked by the casino. World labour groups and the US government are among those who have called on the Cambodian government to resolve the matter peacefully.

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Macau Lawmakers Pass Junket Law

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Macau’s Legislative Assembly on Thursday (December 15) passed the Framework for Operation of Games of Fortune in Casinos, a law that formalises heavy restrictions on junkets and gives “satellite casinos” a three-year grace period before closing their operational loophole.

Under the law, which is effective on January 1, junkets will be restricted to operating in the casinos of a single concessionaire and revenue sharing with concessionaires will be banned, leaving commissions as the sole source of junket income.

However, economy and finance secretary Lei Wai Nong told lawmakers that the government is open to adjusting the long-used junket commission rate of 1.25 percent on rolling volume to offset damage to junkets.

Junkets will also be forbidden from accepting deposits from the public that are unrelated to gambling activity, formally closing down an informal, high-interest deposit mechanism that several junkets had utilised to increase liquidity.

Satellite casinos, meanwhile, will be allowed to operate for three years before falling under similar restrictions as junkets, with operators limited to working with a single concessionaire.

However, satellite operators, now tagged as management companies, will only be able to earn fees for gaming services, and not share revenue or earn commissions.

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Pennsylvania Fines Casino, Operators For Wagers On Unapproved Event

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved a consent agreement on Wednesday (December 14) that jointly fined Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association and BetMGM for accepting wagers on a boxing match that regulators had not approved.

The $7,500 fine was levied after BetMGM accepted and paid out wagers on the Victor Belfort versus Evander Holyfield boxing match on September 11, 2021, after the PGCB specifically notified all operators that wagering on this event would not be permitted.

In total, 76 wagers were accepted by BetMGM. Mountainview operates Hollywood Casino Morgantown in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

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Chilean Congressman Demands National Football Association Investigation

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Chilean deputy Sebastián Videla has formally requested an investigation into the Professional Football Association (ANFP) and its relationship with betting operators.

The deputy, who represents the Antofagasta region, was filed with the Ministries of Sports and Justice and Human Rights.

In his request, Videla cited "the legality of the ANFP having commercial ties with online casino companies, which are not authorized by law in Chile, be reported".

He also requested “initiating a special investigation of the ANFP in order to review its statutes".

Videla also voiced disapproval of the betting operators whose logos appear on football shirts, saying that many parliamentarians share his disapproval but that they are afraid to voice their true opinion.

Videla’s letter comes on the heels of the Chamber of Deputies’ approval of a bill that would prohibit contracts between online betting operators and sports teams.

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Venezuelan Lottery To Accept Cryptocurrency

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Venezuela’s Lottery of the East, which serves the Monagas state/region, will now accept cryptocurrency as payment.

The state, which is home to nearly 1.5m people, made the announcement at the Monagas Innova event last week, which is meant to focus on promoting cryptocurrency.

According to local news Cripto Noticias, Ernesto Luna, the governor of Monagas, said at the conference: "We had an outdated system that did not adapt to the new times, but now we have a platform that introduces us to the new era."

Players can use the Venezuelan website pagando.tech, which also allows users to withdraw winnings in crypto.

The site currently accepts Binance USD (BUSD) and Ether (USDT), which are both stablecoins, meaning there is allegedly $1 in reserve for every unit of the currency. This has proved more reliable with BUSD than it has with tether. Developers at pagando.tech say they will soon also accept Bitcoin, which is not a stablecoin.

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London Court Bails Korean Casino’s Chinese Boss

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A London court has allowed record bail for a leading Chinese property mogul who is building the Midan City precinct and integrated resort on Yeongjong island in Incheon, South Korea.

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday (December 12) granted record bail of £15m ($18.5m) to Zhang Li, 69, the CEO and co-chairman of Hong Kong-listed Guangzhou R&F Properties, as he awaits a US government extradition application over allegations of bribing public officials in San Francisco, Bloomberg reported.

Zhang has been ordered not to leave a luxury apartment in London as a bail condition, and is being monitored and guarded at considerable expense, the report said.

Guangzhou R&F Properties said in a bourse filing on Tuesday that “it did not provide any security money for the bail” and has “no interest” in the Zhang-owned company at the centre of the US allegations.

Guangzhou R&F Properties’ control of the Midan City gaming project was obtained in part from Caesars Entertainment, which exited the joint venture in 2021 amid the pandemic and financing disruption to the resort’s construction. The Chinese company originally replaced Indonesian giant Lippo as the driving force for the project.

The casino and hotel are close to completion, and Guangzhou R&F Properties must open the property by this March after two 12-month extensions. It has yet to name a gaming partner for the property.

Zhang Li has high-level connections in Chinese business, political and law enforcement circles and has served multiple terms on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a largely rubber stamp group that shadows the National Assembly.

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Queensland Sues Second Regional Casino Over Junket Ties

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A casino in Townsville, Queensland, is the latest gaming operation to be prosecuted by regulators amid an unprecedented, wide-ranging crackdown on the land-based Australian gambling industry’s compliance and governance failures.

Queensland’s Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) has charged The Ville Resort Casino with two breaches of gaming legislation after the casino paid a junket operator without ministerial approval. A hearing in Townsville Magistrates Court is scheduled for January.

The announcement on Monday (December 12) came days after the Cairns Magistrates Court fined the Casinos Austria-controlled Reef Hotel Casino A$10,000 ($6,700) for inadvertent illegal junket activity.

Fellow Queensland casino operator The Star Entertainment Group, which has been fined A$100m in both Queensland and New South Wales states for compliance breaches at its three casinos and has had its state licences handed to an external temporary manager, is also being sued by national money laundering watchdog AUSTRAC and faces billions of dollars in fines.

Completing Star’s annus horribilis, national corporate watchdog ASIC on Tuesday (December 13) launched civil proceedings against 11 individual current and former board members and senior managers, including the current and former chairmen, with potential multi-million dollar fines for each.

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German Regulator Primed To Take Full Control

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The council of state legislators that has governed the German gambling market since the inception of the latest interstate treaty has met for the final time to symbolically hand over control of the market to the Joint Gaming Authority (GGL), which will assume full control from January 1, 2023.

“We're ready to go," said GGL board member Benjamin Schwanke. “We have set up the appropriate structures and processes to regulate the online gaming market effectively from January 1st, 2023.”

The new regulator will take central control of the market from its base in Saxony-Anhalt, with areas of oversight currently split among various German states.

Klaus Zimmermann, a minister with the government of Saxony-Anhalt, said: “The final phase of setting up the joint gaming authority of the federal states has now been completed. We have created the conditions in Saxony-Anhalt to enable GGL to get off to a successful start. With a clear conscience, I hand over the tasks for issuing permits in the areas of online poker and virtual slot machines, which were previously performed by us or the state administration office, to the GGL.”

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South Carolina Lawmaker Introduces Sports-Betting Proposal

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A South Carolina lawmaker has proposed a constitutional amendment that could legalize sports betting, casinos and pari-mutuel wagering on horseracing.

Representative J. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat and House minority leader, introduced H. 3905 Joint Resolution to give residents the ability to vote on whether gaming should be legalized in the Palmetto State.

Rutherford’s bill would allow wagering on professional sports, but it does not include wagering on collegiate events. A potential tax rate on sports betting is not specified in his bill but a bipartisan measure, House Bill 5277, introduced in April would have taxed adjusted gross revenue at 10 percent.

Although a tax rate is not proposed, Rutherford’s proposal said gaming tax revenues would be used for highway, road and bridge maintenance, construction and repair.

As for casino gambling, the legislation would allow “card and dice games where the skill of the player is involved in the outcome, and games of chance with the use of electronic devices or gaming tables”.

Rutherford’s bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Southern Carolina’s 2023 legislative session is scheduled to start on January 10.

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Delays Continue For Nascent São Paulo Lottery

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A São Paulo court has upheld the decision to suspend the tender for São Paulo’s lottery.

In the decision, the judge wrote that “the technical qualification clause was altered without giving the deadline for proposals (preparation of bids)”. Furthermore, “the public notice had a gap in the box that should indicate the amount of experience required”, among other errors.

São Paulo, a state that is home to 46m people, is offering a licence to a single operator that would last for 20 years through a contract that has an estimated worth of R$935.4m, or nearly US$185m. The contract covers sports bets, as well as traditional lottery draws and instant games. Offered lottery games can be virtual in addition to in-person playing.

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Ukraine readies new gambling laws to enhance regulator powers and a grenade inside a cake explodes outside Cambodia's Nagaworld Casino.

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