News In Brief: December 18-December 22, 2023

December 21, 2023
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Malta fines Kindred Group's Trannel operation and demands reforms over anti-money laundering lapses, while Victorian regulatory fines for slots king ALH blow out to A$1m within four months.
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Malta Regulator Penalises Kindred Unit Over AML Failings
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Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) has issued a six-figure financial penalty and reprimand to Kindred Group’s Trannel unit for anti-money laundering (AML) shortcomings.

The company is being assessed €222,700 ($281,000) and must submit an action plan that will require it to demonstrate that all players who deposited at least €2,000 underwent a risk assessment and received an appropriate risk rating, the agency said.

The company must also provide updates on its enhanced due diligence procedures in high-risk play, plus updates on monitoring of transactions.

The FIAU found that, in one case, a gambler deposited €3.5m over 18 months, once reaching net deposits of €750,000.

Although the company found the player had accumulated a certain level of wealth, its enhanced due diligence procedures were inadequate for the speed of play and sums at risk, the agency said.

Kindred has 20 days from notice of the administrative penalty to appeal the ruling.

In March, two Kindred units were fined £7.1m by the UK’s Gambling Commission for AML and social responsibility failings.

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Victoria Hits Slots Giant ALH With Another Big Fine
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Victoria state’s gambling regulator has fined leading slots operator Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) a total A$480,000 ($324,000) for operating machines outside approved trading hours and breaching mandatory shutdown rules.

The Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) on Thursday (December 21) said it detected breaches of nominated operating hours and the state’s four-hour shutdown window at eight of ALH’s 76 gaming venues in Victoria between February and May 2023.

“Ensuring patrons take breaks and are not exposed to extended, continuous periods of play are critical to the responsible service of gambling,” said Annette Kimmitt, the regulator’s CEO.

“The VGCCC will continue to monitor gaming machine operations to ensure our expectations are being met.”

The punishment follows a A$600,000 fine, including costs, for ALH in August after it was found to have operated 220 machines without installing mandatory pre-commitment technology.

 

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Casino Supporters Urged To Talk With Dallas Politicians
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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson urged shareholder Miriam Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands to include the city council and not just the state legislature in their discussions about bringing an integrated resort to the city. 

Adelson, 78, has spent millions of dollars unsuccessfully lobbying the state legislature to legalize casino gaming.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has said he does not believe that buying a majority stake in the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks would have any impact on the issue of casino expansion. 

Johnson told members of the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce on Monday (December 18) that if the location is in Dallas, then the city council will also have to be consulted. 

“The folks I sit around the horseshoe with every day I can guarantee you are going to have to have a say in where you plop a casino in the city of Dallas. Or whether you get to plop a casino in the city of Dallas,” Johnson told the chamber, as first reported by NBC 5 in Dallas.

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Spanish Report Reveals Record Number Of Young People Gambling
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Spain’s Ministry of Health has reported that over a fifth of 14-18-year-olds gambled with money in 2023, according to the result of its “Report on Behavioral Addictions and Other Addictive Disorders”.

In 2021, 20.1 percent of 14 to 18 year olds were reported to be gambling with money, the rate has now risen to 21.5 percent. 

Of that figure, 10.7 percent gambled online in 2023, a record high. It was particularly prevalent amongst boys (17.1 percent) than girls (just 4.3 percent). 

Video games were the most popular, followed by sports betting, and then cryptocurrencies for men and bingo for women. 

According to local data provided to the government, 4,000 people are addicted to gambling, which they classified as a “significant volume.” 

“The data on adults on behavioral addictions or use of services that may have addictive potential tells us that gambling with money is relatively widespread in our society, often without it seeming problematic,” said Joan Villalbí, the government’s delegate for the National Plan on Drugs. 

Eighty percent of those 4,000 people are in treatment for addiction.

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Brazil's Senate Will Vote on Sports Betting This Week
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The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies is set to vote on the sports-betting bill (PL 3626) this week, according to its President Arthur Lira.

The Senate is under intense pressure to hand over the headline-making bill to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva before the holidays, when Congress will break until February.

The main point of contention is whether or not certain online casino games will make it into the bill or be left out. They were included when the bill was initially considered in the Chamber of Deputies, and then taken out by the Senate.

Now that the bill is back in the Chamber of Deputies, it is anyone’s guess if the bill will only address sports betting. Deputy José Guimarães gave an interview to Reuters stating that the goal will be to keep online gaming.

Grupo Globo, a powerful Brazilian media conglomerate, has come out against their inclusion, meaning that it could be a challenge to push through.

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Angola’s Proposed New Gambling Law Easily Clears Major Hurdle
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Angola’s National Assembly unanimously approved the proposed Gaming Activity Law on December 8, with 163 votes in favour and no votes against it. 

The Gaming Activity Law is designed to replace the existing 2016 law and separate sports betting from lottery concessions, introduce a new online licensing regime, new responsible gambling measures and overhaul the enforcement of the gambling industry, according to previous press releases. 

Committees of the National Assembly will now analyse the law before a final vote on the law before publication in the country’s Official Gazette. There is no date set for this vote at the time of writing.

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Canadian Gaming Association Names New Board Members
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The Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) announced Monday (December 18) the appointment of two new members of the association’s board of directors. 

Scott Woodgate, who is vice president of BetMGM in Canada, will join Kurt Gissane, who serves as senior vice president of sales for North America for Aristocrat Gaming and oversees tribal gaming. 

In addition, Richard Taylor, president of Niagara Casinos, was reappointed for a second three-year term. 

The full 2023-2024 GCA board of directors contains 20 members representing a wide range of gaming interests from commercial casino operators, suppliers and responsible gaming advocates.

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US Indicts Seven In Sweepstakes Scheme
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A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has indicted seven people on charges stemming from a sophisticated scheme that involved contacting elderly victims and falsely informing them that they had won a million or multimillion-dollar sweepstakes.

However, to claim their prize, the victims were falsely told they needed to pay certain taxes and fees before they could claim their prize. The tax claims were often reinforced with forged documents, some of which bore the seals of government agencies.

The scheme allegedly netted the group at least $2.8m. U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said the four indictments issued for defendants in the U.S. and Jamaica were on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

“These defendants allegedly enriched themselves at the expense of elderly victims who believed they had won the lottery,” Olshan said in a statement issued on Friday (December 15).

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Tabcorp Renews Victoria Licence For 20 Years
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Australian retail wagering monopoly Tabcorp Holdings has renewed its exclusive wagering and betting licence in Victoria state for 20 years, under terms that create a “level playing field” with online wagering rivals.

Effective August 2024, Tabcorp’s new licence will free the company of its joint venture arrangement with the Victorian Racing Industry and other industry funding obligations, according to a filing with the Australian Securities Exchange on Monday (December 18).

Savings from the reduction in obligations will be “partly offset” by Victoria’s pending increase in the state’s online wagering point of consumption tax from 10 percent to 15 percent, it said.

However, CEO Adam Rytenskild said securing the licence is “momentous” for the company following a demerger with its lottery division and an extended period of underperformance.

“I am particularly pleased with the terms we have secured under this new licence which directly addresses the structural reform required in the modern wagering environment,” Rytenskild said.

“It’s a licence that will allow us to ignite our total Victorian wagering business.”

The licence requires an initial payment of A$600m ($403m) to the state government, followed by annual payments of A$30m from August 2025.

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Enslaved Thais Light Fire To Escape Border Casino
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Nine Thai nationals that were rescued near the Cambodian border on Monday (December 18) have alleged that they set a casino on fire to escape the facility where they were forced to conduct telephone scams.

The Thais, some of whom presented injuries and bruising, fled the PuLi Casino in the Cambodian casino border town of Poipet before crossing the border and being picked up by Thai authorities, The Nation Daily reported on Tuesday.

They alleged that two escapees were recaptured, that some 200 Thais were being held captive by the syndicate running the facility, and that they had witnessed the shooting of Thai victims.

Thailand is considering the legalisation of land-based casinos and online gambling, fuelled in part by a desire for more consolidated revenue and in part to address the ongoing enslavement of Thais and thousands of others in border casino and cyber scam operations.

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Critical Week Ahead For Brazil Online Gambling
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Brazil's Chamber of Deputies plans to hold a final vote this week on a pending sports-betting bill, according to comments made by Chamber Speaker Arthur Lira on Friday (December 15).

The lower house of Congress initially passed Bill 3626/2023 in September, but must now vote again to decide whether to accept a total of 42 amendments made to the bill in Brazil's Senate when senators approved the measure last week.

The most prominent amendment was the Senate's move to eliminate language relating to online casino games and limit regulation strictly to sports betting. Other key changes include lower tax rates and a requirement for licence applicants to be part-owned by Brazilian investors.

Speaking at an event alongside Brazil's tourism minister, Lira referred to the legislation in terms of online gaming rather than strictly sports betting and said that tax revenues from gambling were important for tourism initiatives.

Of online gambling, Lira said: "Things that are known to exist in Brazilian society can't remain on the outside of the law without contributing to employment and generation of revenues through taxes so that the country can develop."

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California Tribes Reaffirm Opposition To Sports-Betting Initiatives
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Last week, the 52 members of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) voted unanimously to oppose two sports wagering ballot initiatives, including recent amendments that were filed with the California Attorney General’s office.

The vote, taken during the association’s annual meeting, follows an earlier, informal vote held via Zoom.

“The disingenuous nature of these initiatives should be a red flag to every tribal government as well as every voter in California,” CNIGA chairman James Siva said in a statement.

“The proponents of the measures are attempting to divide and conquer tribes by pushing an initiative that attempts to legitimize illicit offshore operators and putting our governments at risk.”

Siva said the opposition coming from Indian Country is “loud and it is clear.”  

"Tribes will not be distracted by outside influences making empty promises,” Siva said. “Indian Country will stand firm in protecting our sovereign rights and integrity.”

“We call on the proponents to do the honorable thing and withdraw these flawed initiatives,” he added.

Supporters of the two initiatives, the "Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act" and the "Tribal Gaming Protection Act," have begun collecting signatures and have until April 23, 2024 to collect 874,641 valid vote signatures to make the November 5, 2024 ballot.

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Updated Land-Into-Trust Process For Tribes Approved
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The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has published its final rule governing the discretionary acquisition of lands into trust under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA).

The final rule updates the Interior Department’s part 151 regulations which govern how the BIA responds to, considers, and processes applications from tribal governments and individuals to acquire new lands away from established Indian reservations.

The rules will apply to land acquisitions for new tribal casinos, although additional rules established by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 are not affected by the new regulations.

The BIA has acquired over a million acres of land into trust since Congress passed the IRA in 1934.

Among the changes is an affirmation by the BIA that it is the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s policy to take land into trust, a change from prior regulation that lacked any affirmative policy in favor of acquisition.

The BIA will also “speed up the decision-making process by requiring a decision within 120 days of assembling a complete application package.” Other revisions include clarifying that 151.1 does not govern acquisitions mandated by Congress or a federal court order.

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Malta fines Kindred Group's Trannel operation and demands reforms over anti-money laundering lapses, while Victorian regulatory fines for slots king ALH blow out to A$1m within four months.

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