News In Brief: December 5-December 9, 2022

December 9, 2022
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Star Entertainment has been fined A$100m in Queensland and faces a temporary licence suspension over compliance breaches.

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Queensland Fines Star Entertainment A$100m, Defers Suspension

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The Queensland government has fined The Star Entertainment Group A$100m ($68m) and imposed a deferred 90-day suspension of its gaming licence after finding the company unfit to operate casinos in the state.

Attorney-general Shannon Fentiman announced the fine and deferred suspension on Friday (December 9), adding that Star must “get their house in order” and cease “completely unacceptable” practices or else the suspension will come into force at Star’s two casinos in December 2023.

“Essentially this means that Star has 12 months to get their house in order if they do not want to see a 90-day suspension of their licence,” she said.

The disciplinary actions follow the special review of Star operations in Queensland by retired judge Robert Gotterson, who found numerous breaches of compliance obligations, including the masking of gaming transactions as hotel expenses.

Fentiman appointed Nicholas Weeks, an advisor to the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Casino Commission (NICC), as a special manager to oversee company operations until suitability is achieved, based on one of Gotterson’s recommendations.

Weeks is also serving as special manager of The Star casino in Sydney following a finding of unsuitability by the NICC that also triggered a A$100m fine and licence suspension in October.

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Boston Casino Lands Massachusetts' First Sports-Betting License

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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded the state’s first sports betting license on Thursday (December 8), approving Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor to start offering retail sports wagering as soon as January.

The unanimous decision of the five-member commission followed the third of three lengthy hearings on the license applications of Massachusetts’ three incumbent land-based casinos.

A decision on the retail license application of Penn Entertainment’s Plainridge Park Casino was delayed on Tuesday due to commissioners’ suitability concerns related to the Penn-owned Barstool Sports and its controversial co-founder, Dave Portnoy.

Similarly, the commission declined to vote on MGM Springfield’s application on Wednesday because the casino’s retail sports-betting operation would essentially be run by BetMGM.

The MGM-Entain joint venture will be before the commission next week as regulators consider license applications for the five mobile sports betting operators — BetMGM, WynnBet, Caesars, Penn Interactive and Fanatics — that will partner with Massachusetts casinos.

In a statement regarding the Encore Boston Harbor license, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said the casino “now must obtain a certificate of operations and meet additional conditions before bets can be accepted. More information on a universal launch day for retail sports betting will be released in the coming weeks.”

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North Carolina Tribal Casino Faces NIGC Enforcement Action

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The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) published a notice of violation on Wednesday (December 7) against the Catawba Indian Nation and Kings Mountain Sky Boat Partners, accusing the latter company of managing the tribe’s Two Kings tribal casino without an approved management contract as required by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The tribal casino opened as a temporary gaming facility in July 2021 on Catawba tribal lands located some 35 miles from Charlotte.

In its 30-page notice, the NIGC said Sky Boat and six of its principals and consultants served as the legal and de facto managers of the expansion of the Catawba Two Kings casino and failed to submit a copy of their contract to the NIGC for approval, despite repeated warnings to do so.

The parties face a potential civil penalty of some $57,000 per violation, per day. The tribe and Sky Boat have 30 days to appeal the action.

“We do not take this enforcement action lightly, but do so to preserve the integrity of the industry and protect the valuable tool Indian gaming represents for many tribes as codified in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” NIGC chair E. Sequoyah Simermeyer said.

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Hard Rock Granted Initial Approval To Acquire The Mirage

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MGM Resorts International announced the $1.08bn sale of The Mirage casino to Hard Rock International almost a year ago, and on Wednesday (December 7) the deal was granted initial approval by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).

The sale will go before the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) for final approval on December 22. During the four-hour hearing, Hard Rock chairman and CEO Jim Allen shared the company’s plans for the iconic Las Vegas Strip property originally built by Steve Wynn.

Allen said they hope to have the construction plans completed by next year, with construction taking 26 to 30 months.

BetMGM will continue to operate the property’s sportsbook.

After the NGCB hearing, Allen confirmed the company has about 100 ongoing gaming and non-gaming projects but declined to discuss specifics of any opportunities in the Middle East. Wynn Resorts announced plans to open a casino-resort in 2026 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while MGM has a non-gaming property in Dubai.

“We've certainly been approached by multiple groups, but we are not prepared to comment on that at this time,” Allen told VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

Allen also declined to discuss any potential outcome from the oral arguments scheduled for December 14 in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia concerning the appeal of a ruling nearly a year ago that shut down the Seminole Tribe’s state-wide mobile sports betting in Florida.

“I think with any legal proceeding, we just have to refrain from comment until the court gives [its ruling].”

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Queensland Court Fines Casinos Austria Over Junket Trips

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A court in Queensland state has fined Casinos Austria’s Australian arm A$10,000 ($6,700) for paying a junket operator to bring customers to its jointly owned Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns.

Casinos Austria International (Cairns) pleaded guilty to failing to secure approval from Queensland’s gaming minister for the arrangement, but a conviction was not recorded for the breach, which faced a maximum penalty of just over A$26,000.

The prosecutor acting for the state Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation had requested a fine of up to A$15,000 from Cairns Magistrates Court over five junket trips to the casino between December 2020 and May 2021, ABC News reported on Wednesday (December 7).

The court said Casinos Austria International was cooperative and did not commit a “deliberate contravention” of gaming legislation, but had to improve compliance systems and training.

Junket agent Lawrence Fu received betting vouchers totalling some A$21,400 from the casino as payment for the operation, as calculated from customer turnover.

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Casino Referendum Introduced In Missouri

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As lawmakers debate whether Missouri should legalize sports-betting or video lottery terminals, Republican Representative Jeff Knight also wants his colleagues to consider allowing a casino to be built on the shores of the Lake of the Ozarks.

The bill, House Joint Resolution 23, would allow the Missouri Gaming Commission to issue a license for a commercial casino in an area along the Osage River from the Missouri River to the Bagnell Dam.

Knight’s bill, which would amend the state’s constitution, is expected to be assigned to a committee prior to the legislative session that begins next month.

Before voters can determine the fate of Knight’s proposal, the resolution needs to pass by a simple majority of both chambers of the state legislature. Missouri voters would have to approve the proposal by a 50 percent plus one vote.

According to the resolution, that vote could come in November 2024 unless Republican Governor Mike Parson calls a special election for voters to consider amending the constitution.

Currently, there are 13 casinos in Missouri. In February, Representative Ron Hicks, a Republican, introduced House Joint Resolution 127 but his efforts to get an Ozarks casino on the ballot failed to emerge from the House Emerging Issues Committee.

Whether Knight will be successful is uncertain. The Osage Nation has acquired land in the same area to build the first tribal casino in Missouri.

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Gambling With Lives Pushes For Sunak Meeting

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Six mothers who have lost their children to gambling-related suicide, and together form the pressure group Gambling With Lives, have presented a letter to 10 Downing Street asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Joined by MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Paul Blomfield, the group argues for tougher regulations on gambling and called for legislation to cut all ties between the industry and treatment for gambling addiction.

The parents want a statutory levy on the gambling industry to be included in the long-awaited government white paper to pay for research, education and treatment.

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Cyprus Praises Gambling Contribution To GDP

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The National Betting Authority (NBA) of Cyprus has said the gambling industry contributed 3.34 percent of the entire country’s GDP in 2021.

News of the industry’s contribution was revealed during the regulator’s celebrations as part of its ten-year anniversary.

NBA president Ioanna Fiakkou praised the increasing contribution of the industry, claiming it had further cemented itself as a pillar of the economy, increasing from 0.99 percent of GDP in 2016.

“Over the years, we have sought and succeeded in winning the trust of the players and the society as a whole, the trust of the market and the trust of the state, trust which helps to ensure the correct and legal conduct of the betting activity,” Fiakkou said.

In 2021, the NBA also carried out more than 4,000 on-site inspections and there was an 85 percent reduction in compliance infractions within the premises compared with 2017, it said.

The country’s other gambling regulator, the Cyrus Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission, is still awaiting Hong-Kong headquartered Melco to complete Europe’s largest casino on the island, which is set to open after several delays in the second quarter of 2023.

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North Dakota Governor, Tribes Sign Gambling Compacts

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Republican Governor Doug Burgum announced Friday (December 2) that he has signed new compacts with North Dakota’s five Indian tribes that allows internet gaming and mobile sports betting within the physical boundaries of the reservations.

The new state-tribal gaming compacts also lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 19 at tribal-owned casinos and allow gamblers on reservations to use credit or debit cards to place wagers.

Burgum last month rejected a request by the state’s tribes to give them exclusive rights to host internet gambling and sports betting throughout North Dakota because online gambling is not allowed under state law.

The current state-tribal gaming compacts were set to expire early next year, requiring Burgum and tribes to negotiate new agreements. The new compacts are subject to approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior but will be valid for ten years.

Further changes in the compacts include eliminating unnecessary duplication of regulation, cleaning up a number of other regulatory and definition issues, and requiring the state’s five tribes to pay $25,000 each for gambling addiction programs.

Burgan said his administration looked forward to “continuing the mutually beneficial gaming partnership between the state and the sovereign tribal nations with whom we share geography”.

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Star Entertainment has been fined A$100m in Queensland and faces a temporary licence suspension over compliance breaches.

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