News In Brief: December 20-December 24, 2021

December 23, 2021
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Resort casino zones could come to Azerbaijan, Dutch operator warned over match bets and Ohio sports betting is approved.

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Resort Casinos On The Agenda in Azerbaijan

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Azerbaijani MPs discussed the creation of several resort casino zones on Wednesday.

The initiator of the push is Gudrat Hasanguliyev, deputy chair of the parliamentary committee for legal policy and state growth.

According to the deputy, the development of gambling businesses in the country would grow budget funds by attracting tourists.

“My proposal is based on the legalization of casinos. For example, I recommend using the experience of the other countries where gambling operations are legal within specific territories.

“A similar project may be implemented in Azerbaijan by opening a large casino in Karabakh. This way we will be able to attract enough tourists, and additional funds will go to the budget. Also there is a proposal to locate a similar facility on Nargin Island,” said Hasanguliyev.

Parallel to this, it is expected that in the near future the authorities will toughen penalties for organizing illegal gambling establishments in Azerbaijan.

The new fines will be set at 5,000 manats ($2900) for individuals and 50,000 manats ($29000) for legal entities, together with confiscation of gaming equipment and property, as well as blocking bank accounts of violators of the law.

The gambling industry in Azerbaijan, including any type of online gambling, poker and online sports betting, has been banned since 1999. However, land-based sports betting shops and state lotteries are legal.

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Dutch Regulator Warns Licensee On Bets During Games

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The Dutch Gambling Authority (KSA) said it had warned a licensee that was advertising bets on matches on eredivisi.nl while matches were in progress.

The licence holder, which was not named, had placed betting odds on the website of the top Dutch professional league and clicking on the odds transferred a visitor to the licence holder, the KSA said on Wednesday.

Bets could be placed there, which is a violation of regulations, the regulator said.

Licensees are not allowed to advertise bets just before, during and immediately after a sports match, a rule designed to prevent “impulsive participation in a bet”, the KSA said.

The regulator ordered the licensee to stop the practice and a check of games Tuesday night revealed that the practice had been corrected, the regulator wrote.

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Fantasy Over In Malta

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced on Wednesday that it cancelled the licence of Fantasy Sports Interactive Limited in November.

The regulator said the licensee had “failed to comply with an order issued by the authority”, but provided no details on what the company had been asked to do.

Fantasy Sports Interactive had also failed to pay “in a timely manner” licence fees owed to the regulator, the MGA said.

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Ohio Governor Signs Sweeping Sports-Betting Bill Into Law

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Legal sports betting is officially coming to Ohio after Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 29 into law on Wednesday (December 22).

The governor had already indicated he would approve the sweeping bill to authorize at least 25 mobile sports-betting platforms plus retail sports wagering at Ohio casinos, sports arenas, bars, restaurants and potentially other standalone sportsbook locations.

All eyes will now be on the Ohio Casino Control Commission, which is charged under the new law with crafting and approving implementing regulations and establishing the licensing processes for three different categories of operators.

Legal sports betting must begin no later than January 1, 2023, with Ohio regulators expected to take the vast majority of 2022 completing the implementation process.

DeWine’s signature confirmed Ohio’s status as the tenth state to enact sports-betting legislation during 2021, versus just two last year.

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Scientific Games Withdraws Offer To Acquire Remaining Interest In SciPlay

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Scientific Games has canceled plans to acquire the remaining 19 percent equity interest in SciPlay that it does not currently own, the gaming equipment provider announced Wednesday.

The company previously offered to merge with SciPlay in a transaction that would have resulted in SciPlay shareholders receiving 0.25 shares of Scientific Games stock for each share of SciPlay.

Scientific Games will retain its 81 percent economic interest and 98 percent voting interest in SciPlay.

“In line with our approach to capital management and disciplined M&A we have decided that continuing to pursue this opportunity would not be prudent for our shareholders at this time,” Barry Cottle, president and CEO of Scientific Games, said in a statement.

Cottle said SciPlay, a developer of social and mobile games, remains a strategic asset and the company will continue to invest in the social-gaming sector in a disciplined manner.

Scientific Games recently announced the sales of its lottery and sports-betting businesses for approximately $7bn in deals that are scheduled to close in the second quarter of 2022.

In a statement, the company said it plans to use the proceeds of the sales to significantly deleverage it balance sheet, invest in its core business and target accretive digital mergers and acquisitions.

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New Jersey Governor Grants Tax Relief For Atlantic City Casinos

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Atlantic City casinos have been granted a significant tax relief for 2022, after the New Jersey Senate and Assembly on Monday passed a bill to remove internet gaming and online sports betting revenues from the calculation of annual property tax payments and Governor Phil Murphy signed bill S 3771 into law on Tuesday evening.

Under a payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) scheme established in 2016, casinos pay a revenue-based payment instead of an assessment based on the current value of their properties. Those obligations have increased meaningfully in the past three years, however, as casinos were being assessed based on total revenue including that earned by affiliated sports-betting or iGaming skins, and not strictly on traditional slots and table game earnings.

“Under the revised PILOT program, Atlantic City and Atlantic County will receive more tax revenue moving forward year over year from the casino industry, and the funding provided by the PILOT program will help improve Atlantic City’s infrastructure and create a safer community for visitors and residents,” the Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) said in a statement after the bill’s passage by lawmakers.

In other legislative activity on Monday night, the state Assembly unanimously passed a revised bill to enable New Jersey casinos and racetracks to deduct up to $8m in promotional wagers annually from their taxable retail sports-betting revenue.

Murphy, a recently reelected Democrat, conditionally vetoed bill A 4002 last month to remove similar tax deductions for online sports wagering. The final bill has yet to be taken up by the Senate.

Also on Monday evening, the Assembly advanced legislation to grant an additional $5m in purse subsidies for New Jersey’s horseracing industry. The Assembly also unanimously voted to pass a Senate-approved bill requiring the Meadowlands and Freehold racetracks to continue to stage live standardbred horse races in order to remain eligible to hold their sports-wagering licenses.

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Wisconsin Governor, St. Croix Chippewa Indians Sign Sports-Betting Deal

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Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has signed a compact amendment with the St. Croix Chippewa Indians to allow the tribe’s casinos and affiliated casinos to offer betting on sports, according to media reports.

A spokesman for Evers was unavailable for comment late Monday (December 20). The signed amendment was sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior where it will undergo a mandatory 45-day review.

The compact amendment also allows for mobile wagering on land owned by the tribe or held in trust for the tribe by the federal government, WQOW-TV reported.

The compact amendment follows a similar agreement signed in July by Evers and the Oneida Nation to launch retail and on-site mobile sports betting at its Oneida Casino near Green Bay, as well as at affiliated locations.

The deal with the Oneida Nation was the first sports-betting compact amendment in Wisconsin.

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Full House Resorts Sues Indiana Regulators Over Casino License

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Full House Resorts has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to nullify the Indiana Gaming Commission’s (IGC) November 17 decision to award a casino license to Churchill Downs.

The IGC selected Churchill Downs to develop a casino in the city of Terre Haute in Vigo County. In its lawsuit filed Friday in Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis, Full House claims the hearing contravened Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The company argues the seven-member commission adjourned into an executive session to discuss the proposals in the middle of the hearing, a violation of state law.

Indiana codes say a “governing body may not conduct an executive session during a meeting,” according to the 12-page lawsuit.

“After the mid-hearing executive session, which contravenes the Open Door Law, the commission returned to the hearing,” the lawsuit reads. “Without public debate, comment, discussion or explanation, the commission voted to deny Full House’s application and grant Churchill’s application.”

Churchill and Full House advanced to the final round of consideration for the Vigo County license last month. The process was reopened in June after the IGC denied renewal of Lucy Luck Gaming’s license.

Greg Small, the IGC’s executive director, was unavailable for comment on Monday.

In addition to the Full House lawsuit, the commission’s efforts to reach a settlement over the denial of Lucy Luck’s license will continue to February 17.

Last month, the IGC rejected a settlement offer from Lucy Luck setting up a Thursday hearing, but that hearing was delayed to allow settlement talks to continue.

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ICE 2022 Delayed

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Major gambling expo ICE London has been postponed amid the ongoing Omicron variant outbreak in the UK and Europe.

After 2021’s event was cancelled, the 2022 event originally scheduled for early February will now take place in spring, organisers said last week.

Partner event iGB Affiliate London will also be delayed, organisers Clarion Gaming announced.

“This comes as really disappointing news,” Clarion managing director Stuart Hunter said.

“However, in what is a rapidly changing situation, it became clear that we could not provide the certainty that our customers need in terms of logistical planning, from the construction of stands to the transportation of equipment, as well as the booking of flights and accommodation.”

Organisers said they hope to provide new dates this week.

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BGC Call For Casino Support

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The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has joined the calls for the UK hospitality sector to receive additional economic support.

The trade group said that the casino sector is among those industries facing financial damage from government advice to limit socialising.

Ministers stopped short of issuing official rules and have not offered a package of financial support for affected businesses, as they did earlier in the pandemic.

“Casinos are a major economic contributor to UK plc, as well as an integral part of the hospitality industry,” said BGC chief executive Michael Dugher.

“After a gruelling 18 months, they have started to recover from the various impositions, including prolonged closures and travel bans, but they are now understandably concerned that further restrictions over Christmas and into the New Year will have a significant impact on their recovery,” he said.

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Ontario Opens Consultations On Retail Sports-Betting Standards

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) is seeking industry input on updated standards to accommodate full sports betting in land-based casino venues and at lottery retailer locations.

The AGCO said its two separate sets of updated gaming and lottery standards largely align with those for online sports betting, which were adopted a few months ago.

But they also include "some modifications made to reflect the realities of land-based gaming."

Among other things, operators of sportsbooks at Ontario casinos would have to monitor risks associated with anonymous play, including anti-money laundering risks.

In a blog post, the AGCO also said it was removing a current requirement for land-based gaming systems to be located within the province "to allow an increased variety of operating models."

Operators of lottery sports betting will be prohibited from offering bets greater than C$100 or from offering in-play or peer-to-peer betting, the AGCO said.

Comments on the draft standards are due by January 25, 2022.

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Illinois Governor Signs Sports-Betting Bill

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill to permit remote registration of mobile sports-betting accounts by March, as well as limited wagering on Illinois college teams.

Sports betting was legalized in Illinois two years ago, but until Pritzker signed legislation on Friday wagers on in-state teams had been prohibited.

According to House Bill 3136, bets on Illinois teams can only be placed in-person at a retail sportsbook located at a casino or racetrack, not on a mobile application. Wagers are also limited to the outcomes of games.

The law also allows the in-state ban to be reinstated in two years unless lawmakers pass another bill allowing the wagers to continue.

Pritzker, a Democrat, did not comment after signing the bill on Friday.

The new legislation also gamblers to sign up remotely for mobile and online betting accounts instead of in-person beginning March 5.

Under prior state law, remote registration would have been allowed only after the first of Illinois' three online-only sports wagering licenses are awarded.

The Illinois Gaming Board received three timely applications for those licenses prior to a December 3 deadline, with a fourth submitted too late to be considered, board administrator Marcus Frutcher said at recent meeting. Still, it is not certain that the licenses would actually be awarded before March, so Pritzker's approval means remote registration will definitely be in effect in time for the NCAA men's college basketball tournament.

HB 3136 also allows for a sportsbook at Wintrust Arena in suburban Chicago that hosts DePaul University men’s and women’s basketball games, as well Chicago Sky WNBA games.

The bill further prohibits Illinois towns from imposing additional per-push taxes on video gaming terminals. A push-tax charges gamblers a penny every time they push a button to place a bet on the slot machines in bars and taverns.

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Nebraska Commission Approves Casino Rules

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The Nebraska Racing and Commission voted unanimously on Friday (December 17) to approve regulations to allow casino gaming and sports betting at licensed horse racetracks.

The six-member commission published the 69-page set of regulations in November.

To take final effect, the rules must now receive formal approval from the state’s attorney general as well as Republican Governor Pete Ricketts.

Once in effect the commission will be able to begin the process of licensing the state's first commercial casino operations.

Nebraskan voters last November approved a series of related ballot measures to authorize casino gaming at tracks. Implementing legislation passed earlier this year confirmed that sports betting was considered an authorized form of gaming, in addition to traditional slots and table games.

There are currently six horse racetracks in Nebraska but several developers have said they hope to build new locations following the legalization of gaming.

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Resort casino zones could come to Azerbaijan, Dutch operator warned over match bets and Ohio sports betting is approved.

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