News In Brief: December 4-December 8, 2023

December 8, 2023
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Massive interest in Brazil licences, UK study recommends gambling treatment, a new chairman is elected at the American Gaming Association and Australia's Star Entertainment is warned it may be shut down over compliance travails.
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Interest In Brazil Sports-Betting Licences Exceeds Expectation By Four Times
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Brazil’s Ministry of Finance has received four times the amount of interest than 96 expected in an open call for operators to express internets in the sports-betting market. 

The window to register was 30 days, beginning October 27, and was designed to inform the ministry of the scale of the industry it would have to manage and the potential profits.

In total, 132 companies registered, and the members of the Treasury told Brazil’s paper of record Folha de São Paulo that they expected around 100 to eventually obtain licences. 

Registering interest, however, is in no way binding nor does it prevent future application for a licence. 

As the sports-betting bill has not yet been signed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, companies cannot be 100 percent certain what the final tax rate or licence fee will be.

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UK Study Estimates Need For Problem Gambling Treatment
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About 1.6m British adults could benefit from some kind of treatment or support for harmful gambling, according to a government-commissioned study.

About 970,000 of them could benefit from two or three sessions of motivational interviewing by gambling harm specialists, according to the study commissioned by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

The study, released on December 7, was done by researchers at the University of Glasgow and University of Sheffield.

About 243,000 could benefit from eight to 14 sessions of cognitive behaviour therapy for a gambling disorder, the report said.

Nearly 40,000 could gain from residential treatment involving one-to-one therapy and group sessions, the researchers said. 

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AGA Names Everi Executive As Chairman
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The American Gaming Association (AGA) board of directors elected Michael Rumbolz, executive chair of the board of directors of Everi Holdings, as the association’s new chairman.

He will succeed Hard Rock International chairman and Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, who has served as AGA chairman since January 2002. Rumbolz begins his two-year term in January, the AGA announced Thursday (December 7).

Rumbolz previously served as president and CEO of Everi, was a member and chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and chief deputy attorney general of Nevada. 

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NSW Regulator Gives Star Six-Month Ultimatum
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The New South Wales Independent Casino Commission (NICC) has warned Star Entertainment Group it has six months to “prove” it can be trusted to run Sydney’s The Star casino or suffer permanent closure.

The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday (December 6) quoted an NICC spokesperson as saying the regulator “is not satisfied The Star has reached a point where the licence suspension can be lifted and it can run its casino without the supervision of the [NICC-authorised special] manager”.

“If they can’t prove they are capable of operating with a conditional licence over the next six months, the manager will be retired, and the doors will close,” he said.

The report did not elaborate on the reasons for the NICC’s unease or why it chose to express them through the newspaper instead of a formal statement.

Star announced in November that special manager Nick Weeks, appointed in the wake of a devastating regulatory review of Star, had his term extended to June 30 but that the term would not be renewed.

In the same week, Star announced the signing of a binding tax agreement with the state government, suggesting the casino’s regulatory and fiscal prospects were improving.

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Calcutta Court Suspends Massive Delta Corp GST Notice
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India’s casino and listed online gaming company Delta Corp has won another reprieve in its fight with the national tax authority over alleged goods and services tax (GST) delinquency.

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday (December 6) ordered that a 63.8bn rupee ($766m) tax notice issued by the Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI) to Delta subsidiary Deltatech Gaming over unpaid online gaming tax be suspended until further notice.

The high court follows a similar order by the Sikkim High Court in October, which suspended a DGGI notice targeting revenue at Delta’s land-based operations in the state.

The DGGI subsequently suspended its claim against Delta’s riverboat casino operations in Goa, informing the Goa branch of the Bombay High Court that it would not proceed while the matter is before the court.

The Supreme Court of India is hearing a DGGI appeal in a separate case involving GST claims on gaming companies that will likely clarify if crippling GST obligations can be issued without distinguishing between games of skill and chance.

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GambleAware Study Suggests Link Between Discrimination, Gambling Harm
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Adults from minority communities in Great Britain who have any level of problem gambling habit are 50 percent more likely to have experienced public racism or discrimination than those who report no gambling issues, according to a report commissioned by GambleAware.

Using gambling as a coping mechanism is three times more likely among minority communities than white British people, according to the survey, done by Ipsos UK and ClearView Research.

Survey participants pointed to discrimination and racism contributing to the worsening of gambling behaviour, including feelings of social exclusion and reduced employment chances, according to the report released on Wednesday (December 6)

GambleAware, the industry-funded charity, said it plans a £4.3m initiative to address harms reported by minority religious and ethnic communities.

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UK Court Approves Entain’s £615m Turkish-Facing Business Penalty
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Entain has received approval for its agreement to a £615m payment as part of a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) relating to a failure to prevent bribery at its former Turkish-facing business.

The agreement approved by the Royal Courts of Justice on December 5 followed an international investigation launched by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The agreement includes a £585m penalty, £20m for charities and a further £10m in legal costs.

Richard Las, the chief investigation officer at HMRC, called the matter “a complex international investigation that was launched as part of our role as an anti-money laundering supervisor”.

“It has resulted in today’s hearing that revealed Entain failed to prevent bribery in relation to its former business in Turkey,” Las said.

Entain chairman Barry Gibson said the court approval for the agreement is the “final step in a process that has hung over our business since HMRC launched its investigation into a business that was sold by a former management team six years ago”.

“We have cooperated extensively and proactively at every stage of the process which, I am pleased to say, has been recognised by the Court. Entain has now fundamentally and profoundly changed. We can now concentrate on the future,” Gibson said in a press release on December 5.

Entain announced that it expected to reach an £585m agreement in August 2023. The company has been providing updates on the case since July 2020.

The company later announced on November 2 that it had “in principle” reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the Crown Prosecution Service.

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UK Commission To Accept Online Whistleblowing
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The UK Gambling Commission has opened an anonymous reporting service to allow for individuals to report suspected illegal gambling activity.

The “Tell us something in confidence” service offers an online form to notify the commission of criminal or suspicious activity that relates to match-fixing, underage gambling, money laundering, unlicensed gambling or general criminal activity.

Whistleblowers can elect to be anonymous or leave contact details if they wish for officials to follow up on reports. Users can also send supporting information by email or post, the regulator said.

An existing phoneline for reporting criminal activity run by the commission will remain active.

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Angola Regulator Backs Responsible Gambling To Remove Industry 'Stigma'
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Angola’s gambling regulator believes its responsible gambling drive will help to remove negative conceptions about the industry.

The Gaming Supervision Institute (ISJ) hosted an event on November 25 to raise awareness for treatment and support developed by the National Association for the Fight against Drugs (ANLD).

ANLD has recently sought to help people who frequent casinos and betting houses, with the support of operator Elephant Bet, in the hope of helping compulsive gamblers and their families, as well as spreading information about potential gambling harms.

Surveys have also been given to gamblers to help start collecting player data that will be used to “evaluate the impact of the action and guide future ANLD interventions”, according to the ISJ.

The ANLD initiative follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the ISJ and the ANLD in August 2023 to jointly implement “activities, projects and/or or social and community programs, which aim to prevent and mitigate the harmful effects resulting from excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs, as well as excessive gambling (gambling and problem gamblers)”.

“It is intended that with the implementation of the practice of responsible gambling, we can contribute to minimising the stigma and negative perceptions that still exist regarding gambling activities,” the ISJ said. 
 

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Ecuador Moves On Match-Fixing
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As Ecuador nears the January 1 deadline of taxation implementation, the investigation into sports-betting manipulation heats up as LigaPro this week gave itself the power to ban players.

During a meeting of team presidents, LigaPro decided upon forbidding players, their family members and anyone related to the organisation of club football from betting on games.

It also gave itself powers to address and discipline players themselves, before prosecutors, which is usual in most leagues.

The announcement comes as LigaPro presented its investigation report into the match-fixing claims against Club Libertad players Milton Bolaños and Jordan Chillambo. 

The players admitted to their crimes when confronted by LigaPro in October, but official sanctions to their team have yet to be handed down, an event that is now expected imminently.

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Hard Rock To Launch Mobile Sports Betting In Florida
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Hard Rock International will launch mobile sports betting throughout Florida on Thursday (December 7), extending a rollout as court challenges continue in both the state's Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The company, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, relaunched its Hard Rock Bet app last month to only existing customers. 

The Seminole Tribe has exclusive rights to retail and mobile sports betting in the state under a landmark tribal gaming compact that was approved in 2021 but was only recently restored by a federal appeals court ruling. 

Currently, Hard Rock Bet is available in Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. The app offers both mobile wagering and iGaming in New Jersey.

The decision to move forward comes as the U.S. Supreme Court has granted West Flagler Associates an extension to file its petition for a writ of certiorari until February 8, 2023. 

On Friday, attorneys for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis also submitted their response to West Flagler’s separate petition with the Florida Supreme Court arguing that the lawsuit fails on its own merits because sports betting is not “casino gambling” as the term is defined in the state constitution as it is not a game typically found in casinos.

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Senecas, New York Agree To Short-Term Compact Extension
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The Seneca Nation of Indians has agreed to a short-term extension of their gaming compact with the state of New York as both governments also agreed to continue negotiations on a new compact agreement. 

The current agreement expires on Saturday (December 9). The extension runs through March 31, 2024, and will automatically renew unless one of the parties decides not to renew it or a new compact is agreed upon.  

Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said with signing the extension, “there is important momentum for negotiations around the compact.”

The Senecas operate three casinos in western New York, including Buffalo. Compact terms will remain unchanged, and negotiations are expected to resume in the coming weeks.

In recent years, the Seneca casinos have been paying 25 percent of slot machine revenue to the state, but with a saturated gaming market in the northeastern United States, the tribe want to pay less on a new deal. 

“The short-term extension of our Compact is an important step, but even more important work remains to be done,” said Seneca Nation president Rickey Armstrong in a statement.

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Oregon Audit Finds Video Lottery Revenue Boom
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The Oregon Lottery continues to provide the second-largest amount of budget revenue after income taxes, as a recent state audit found a big increase in sports betting, but video lottery terminals (VLTs) continue to drive revenue.

The 76-page audit conducted by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office reported revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023 of $1.678bn, down about 1 percent from fiscal 2022, but 29 percent higher than in fiscal year 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic affected revenues.

The agency has a network of 3,808 lottery retailers, and approximately 10,880 VLTs deployed throughout the state. The Oregon Lottery also has partnered with DraftKings to offer its sportsbook platform in the state.

According to the audit, there were 8.5 percent fewer VLTs in the state than a decade ago, but gamblers wagered $395.66 per capita last year, versus $261.12 in 2021. Video lottery continues to generate 70 percent of the agency’s net revenue.

The net revenue figures from sports betting were $55.25m in FY2023, compared with $32.05m in FY2022. The net gain in the latest fiscal year came from a gross total of $565.47m wagered on sports, according to the report released last week.

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Brazil Senate Schedules Vote On Online Betting Bill
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Pending legislation to authorise sports betting and online casino games is the number one item on the Brazilian Senate's voting agenda for its scheduled session this upcoming Wednesday (December 6), according to a notice published Sunday on the Senate's website.

A Senate vote on Bill PL 3626/2023 had been scheduled for a vote last Wednesday (November 29), but opposition from more conservative senators and the absence of Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco and other members meant the vote had to be delayed.

Already approved by the lower house of Congress, the bill would establish a licensing system for both online sports betting and casino games, with operators required to pay an upfront fee of up to R$30m (US$6m) and ensure they are at least 20 percent owned by Brazilian investors.

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888 Rejected Playtech Offer, Say Reports
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The Times newspaper is reporting that 888 rejected an £800m acquisition offer by fellow gambling giant Playtech this summer.

In reports published over the weekend, the UK newspaper said that an indicative offer of 156p per share was made in July, but was rejected on the grounds that it undervalued the company.

888's share price has since fallen and shares are currently trading at 70.6p, which would value the operator at just over £300m.

The company's licence remains under review by the UK Gambling Commission, following the growing influence of activist investor FS Gaming, which includes ex-Entain leaders such as Kenny Alexander.

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Fanatics Takes Over Sports Betting For Connecticut Lottery
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The Connecticut Lottery Corp. (CLC) announced its new partnership with Fanatics Betting & Gaming on Friday (December 1), which makes Fanatics Sportsbook the lottery’s exclusive provider of mobile and retail wagering in the state.

The transition from the CLC's current operating partner, Rush Street Interactive (RSI), is expected to be completed by mid-December.

“We are excited to be working with the CLC to bring the Fanatics Sportsbook to customers in Connecticut,” said Ari Borod, Fanatics chief business officer.

“We are looking forward to bringing the Fanatics experience to the ten retail locations throughout Connecticut and more importantly, adding our innovative mobile app to the online choices available in Connecticut,” Borod said in a statement.

The Connecticut Lottery has been looking for a new sports-betting partner following RSI’s decision earlier this year to leave the state. RSI had agreed to a ten-year partnership before the state launched sports betting in October 2021. 

Rush Street had launched its PlaySugarHouse sportsbook in Connecticut.

“CLC anticipates notable market share growth as a result of this partnership,” said Greg Smith, CLC president and CEO. 

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Pennsylvania Court Rules In Favor Of Skill Games
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry is expected to seek review of a ruling by the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on Thursday (November 30) that skill games are not slot machines or illegal gambling devices under the state’s Criminal Code.

The Commonwealth Court upheld a Dauphin County judge’s ruling earlier this year that favored Pace-O-Matic (POM) and its machines known as Pennsylvania Skill.

Although the decision blocks any seizures of the machines, it does not settle the legislative debate over whether they should be regulated or declared illegal through statutory change.

In her 20-page ruling, Judge Lori Dumas wrote the court's judges “discern no legal error in the trial court’s determination that the POM machines are primarily games of skill, and thus, not gambling devices.”

The case stems from agents with the Pennsylvania State Police and Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BCLE) in 2019 seizing three POM machines, a green bag containing $525, and seven receipts from Champions Bar.

According to the BLCE, the POM machines were gambling devices, and the $525 and receipts were derivative contraband.

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U.S. Supreme Court Grants Florida Sports-Betting Extension
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday (December 1) granted West Flagler Associates an extension to file its petition for a writ of certiorari until February 8, 2023. 

West Flagler requested the extension so it could include the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on its sports-betting lawsuit into its petition with the Supreme Court.

On Friday, attorneys for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis also submitted their response to West Flagler’s separate petition with the Florida Supreme Court.

In the 65-page filing, Henry Whitaker, Florida’s solicitor general, argued that West Flagler and fellow Bonita Springs have provided “no basis for this court to upend work approved by three sovereigns in their third-choice legal venue.”

Whitaker wrote that filing the state-level legal action two and a half years after the state-tribal compact taking effect was “unjustifiable.”

He also argued that the lawsuit fails on its own merits because sports betting is not “casino gambling” as the term is defined in the Florida Constitution as it is not a game typically found in casinos.

Amendment 3, which requires Florida voters to approve any expansion of casino gaming, does not apply in this instance, Whitaker wrote. 

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CEO Of Troubled Kangwon Land Resigns
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The CEO of South Korea’s Kangwon Land casino-resort has resigned after a torrid revenue and regulatory stretch for the nation’s only casino where locals can gamble.

Lee Sam-Geol tendered his resignation on Thursday (November 30), four months before the end of his first three-year term, the company announced on Friday.

Kangwon Land’s stock price hit a record low this year amid a series of scandals that recalled accusations of graft and cronyism under Lee’s predecessors.

The latest scandals include a $2.4m fine for Kangwon Land to punish more than 180 money laundering offences, including data fraud; an abysmal government annual review after allegations of toxic and corrupt activities in the workplace; and falling business in the shadow of illegal online gambling growth.

An extraordinary shareholders meeting will take place on Tuesday this week, presided over by senior managing director and acting chairman Oh Jung-Hoon.

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Massive interest in Brazil licences, UK study recommends gambling treatment, a new chairman is elected at the American Gaming Association and Australia's Star Entertainment is warned it may be shut down over compliance travails.

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