News In Brief: February 13-February 17, 2023

February 17, 2023
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William Hill's app is back online in Nevada after its Superbowl shut down and it's game over for a casino bill in Virginia.

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William Hill Nevada App Back Online

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Both the William Hill Nevada and Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill apps were restored to full functionality Wednesday (February 15), a company spokeswoman said.

Kate Whiteley, vice president of corporate communications and productions with Caesars Entertainment, said Thursday (February 16) that all customers should now have full access to their accounts.

The apps were knocked offline toward the end of the second quarter of Super Bowl LVII, due to an “unforeseen technical issue,” affecting thousands of gamblers to the game.

“We apologize for the technical breakdown on our platform and will continue to monitor all aspects of the system closely,” Whiteley said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry for the frustration and inconvenience this outage caused our customers."

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Virginia Casino Bill Dies In Senate Committee

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A Senate committee in Virginia killed a House of Delegates bill Thursday (February 16) that would have placed a referendum on Petersburg ballots in November for a $1.4bn casino project by the Cordish Companies and prevented Richmond from considering the fate of a second casino referendum.

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted 10-6 against House Bill 1373, authored by Republican Delegate Kim Taylor.

Voters in Richmond defeated a casino referendum in 2021, but could place Urban One Inc.’s proposed $565m casino project on the November ballot. Taylor has argued that her proposal would “allow the voters of Petersburg to support a once in a lifetime economic development project.”

The same Senate committee voted down a similar bill from Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey earlier this month. Taylor’s bill narrowly passed the House of Delegates on a 49-44 vote with one delegate abstaining, allowing it to be considered by the Senate.

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Malta Regulator Warns Unauthorised Operators To Step Forward

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has issued a notice to companies it suspects are operating on the island without approval from the regulator.

On Tuesday (February 14), it said that operators who have a licence from another European Union or European Economic Area country or a jurisdiction with high enough regulatory standards need to apply to the MGA for approval.

The MGA said it was giving companies until April 14 to come forward and confess their lack of local approval.

“The Authority shall consider this act of disclosure when meting out any ensuing administrative decision in this regard,” suggesting those admitting guilt will not avoid enforcement action.

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New York Senator Introduces Online Casino Bill

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A bill filed in the New York State Senate on Wednesday (February 15) would expand the Empire State’s online gambling market to include interactive casino games.

Senate Bill S.4856, authored by Senate gaming committee chairman Joseph Addabbo Jr., would enable New York’s land-based casinos and VLT parlors, Indian tribes, and licensed mobile sports betting platforms to obtain licenses to offer virtual slot and table games via servers located within casino-resorts. Up to three additional licenses would also be made available for entities that would have to be at least five percent-owned by minority investors.

Those entities would be required to pay $2m for a license, with any third parties operating branded skins on their behalf subject to a higher upfront licensing fee of $10m. Internet gaming revenue would be taxed at a rate of 30.5 percent.

Addabbo, a Democrat, introduced an earlier iteration of his interactive gaming bill last year, but the proposed bill never advanced any further after being voted out of the gaming committee which he chairs.

New York is one of several states actively considering internet gaming legislation in 2023, with legislation also pending in Maryland, New Hampshire and Illinois.

A bill was introduced in Indiana late last month, but has yet to receive a committee hearing and industry optimism regarding its prospects has diminished, in part due to overlapping discussions related to expansion of video gaming terminals in Indiana bars and taverns.

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ClubsNSW Ends Lawsuits Against Whistleblower, YouTuber

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Leading Australian lobby group ClubsNSW has dropped legal action against slot machine whistleblower Troy Stolz and a YouTube personality, pointing to a softening of strategy after the sacking of its CEO last month.

ClubsNSW, a formidable industry voice for pubs and clubs and their considerable slot machine interests, applied to withdraw charges of contempt of court against the two men in Federal Court this week, and the court agreed on Thursday (February 16), the Guardian reported.

Earlier in February, ClubsNSW dropped legal action against the terminally ill whistleblower and former compliance employee, whose leaking of ClubsNSW data triggered lawsuits in both directions. Stolz had also withdrawn his complaints.

However, a lawsuit against Stolz and YouTube influencer Jordan Shanks over an interview on Stolz’s court case amid a court suppression order on the matter remained active. That case has now been closed.

The settling of legal action comes just two weeks after hardline ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis was sacked by the board, after criticising the “conservative Catholic gut” of New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet over the latter’s election-season gambling reforms.

ClubsNSW’s pressure on Stolz had generated considerable acrimony in the media, even drawing flak from former gaming mogul James Packer.

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Connecticut Operators Push Back Against Proposed Bonus Ban In Ads

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Operators of online gambling in Connecticut have voiced opposition to a measure that would prohibit any references to bonus offers or other “financial enticements” in ads for sports betting or internet gaming.

During a hearing on Senate Bill 971 on Tuesday (February 14), a DraftKings representative warned the proposed restriction would be unique in the U.S. and “cripple the ability of Connecticut’s legal, licensed, regulated sports wagering operators to compete with illegal offshore operators.”

A senior executive with the Connecticut Lottery’s sports-betting partner Rush Street Interactive similarly advised that the proposal would “make Connecticut an outlier among gambling jurisdictions.”

Officials with the Connecticut Lottery and the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation also submitted testimony in opposition to the restriction.

Sightline Payments expressed concern with a separate payments-related provision of SB 971, which is sponsored by the Connecticut House Public Safety and Security Committee.

The provision would allow credit and debit card deposits only when the bettor is the “sole account holder of such card.” Sightline’s submitted testimony said there was “no feasible way to implement this proposed limitation.”

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Massachusetts Casinos Report Illegal Wagers On College Sports

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A third incident involving prohibited wagering on college sports is under investigation in Massachusetts.

MGM Springfield notified the commission this past weekend that it offered banned wagers on college basketball games between Harvard and Yale and Brown universities, an official from the regulator said on Tuesday (February 14).

The commission confirmed on February 9 that Plainridge Park Casino and Encore Boston Harbor had both self-reported taking bets on men’s and women’s college basketball games shortly after the launch of retail sports betting in Massachusetts on January 31.

Massachusetts law expressly prohibits wagering on in-state college games apart from when Massachusetts teams are competing in tournaments with four or more college teams.

Heather Hall, chief enforcement counsel with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB), explained that Plainridge Park, operated by Penn Entertainment, accepted 33 bets on Merrimack College men’s basketball games on February 2.

The company attributed the error to its partner Kambi, which placed Merrimack in Florida instead of Massachusetts.

Encore Boston Harbor reported a money line wager was made on a Boston College women’s basketball game against Notre Dame on February 2 as part of a five-game parlay bet. Partner GAN omitted the game from its prohibited list, but after noticing the mistake froze the ticket and removed Boston College as part of the parlay.

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William Hill Nevada App Offline, Retail Sportsbooks Operating

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As of late Tuesday (February 14), William Hill US was still offline in Nevada after suffering an “unforeseen technical issue” toward the end of the second quarter of Super Bowl LVII, affecting thousands of gamblers during the game.

The company, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment, said that while its retail sportsbooks are “currently back up and operating,” the issue affecting William Hill’s mobile app had yet to be resolved.

“We have pinpointed the cause of the system failure and are now working through the resolution with all of our available resources,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as can occur when dealing with a complex, real-time data system, this has taken longer than we had hoped or expected.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) told Las Vegas media outlets that it is investigating the incident.

In Nevada, William Hill has retail sportsbooks, kiosks and a mobile sports-betting app associated with more than 100 locations state-wide. Caesars’ sportsbook operations were not affected.

“While we move as expeditiously as possible, we also do so with an abundance of caution to ensure that we do not exacerbate or repeat the issue and that when we bring the platform back up, it stays up,” William Hill said.

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Kentucky Business Coalition Seeks Grey Machine Ban

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As unregulated gaming machines continue to appear throughout the state, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is urging lawmakers to prohibit them.

“Grey machine operators are trying to back Kentucky into a corner by forcing the General Assembly to reward their unauthorized activity after they’ve already established a foothold in the Commonwealth,” Ashli Watts, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Watts also expressed concern that these grey-market machines pose a threat to the Kentucky Lottery, charitable gaming and the racing industry.

Both the Kentucky House and Senate passed bills last year to ban the games but were unable to reach a consensus on a final bill allowing more machines to enter the state.

On Tuesday (February 14), the Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition held a rally in the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would regulate and tax the machines.

The sponsor of last year’s bill, Republican Representative Killian Timoney, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that he does plan on reintroducing a proposal in the 2023 session that runs through March 30.

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Malta Minister Promises To Foster Gambling Sector

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Silvio Schembri, the Maltese minister of the economy, said during a visit to the ICE expo in London that his country would continue to foster the island’s large online gambling industry and promised more incentives for businesses based there, without offering any examples of specific measures.

"It is important that, as a government, we continue to work so that Malta remains an attractive jurisdiction, so that it remains a strong ecosystem in [the gambling sector] and helps the economy," he said.

According to statistics from the ministry, the gambling industry employs around 11,000 people in Malta, which has a total population of around 500,000.

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Gambling Club Punished In Denmark

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The Danish Gambling Authority has fined a “foreningen”, a kind of special interest club, 15,000 kroner (€2,000) for illegally offering bingo and banko games.

The regulator said it visited the association in 2019 after discovering that its specific purpose was to offer these kinds of games, which require a licence in Denmark.

The case was heard before a court in Odense on February 2 and a judgment handed down on February 8.

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Oklahoma Sports-Betting Bill Passes First Legislative Test

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The Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Select Subcommittee on Monday (February 13) easily passed a bill to legalize sports betting and allow gaming tribes to negotiate compacts to offer retail and mobile wagering in the state.

House Bill 1027, authored by Republican Ken Luttrell, still needs to be voted upon by the full Appropriations and Budget Committee before it can be considered on the House floor.

“One thing that this has done has opened the lines of communication for dialogue with our tribal partners,” said Littrell, who chairs the subcommittee. “It’s very important, you all are a part of a historic effort to restore the tribes’ trust in our legislature.”

Luttrell introduced a similar bill in the last legislative session, but it did not make it out of committee.

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt said he supports legalizing sports betting in Oklahoma as long as it is sufficiently regulated.

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Nomination For Presidency Of Coljuegos In Limbo

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The future of Colombian regulator Coljuegos is mired in controversy as it struggles to appoint a president.

The last president, César Augusto Valencia, was fired after the election of new conservative Colombian President Gustavo Petro. At that time, Roger José Carillo Campo was tipped to take over the role of the regulator’s top job.

But Carillo Campo has since courted scandal when he allegedly impersonated a rival, Roberto Pérez, and badmouthed the current government, in what is said to be an attempt to discredit Pérez.

Pérez was apparently also being considered for the position alongside Carillo Campo, according to local outlet W radio.

Coljuegos is viewed as the lodestone of Latin American regulation by other younger regulatory authorities in the region, as mentioned at ICE Vox last week by Gaming Laboratories International’s Karen Sierra-Hughes.

Carillo Campo was prematurely reported as the official replacement back in January by local outlets and VIXIO GamblingCompliance, before the controversy emerged.

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Bet365 Beats Romanian Regulator In Supreme Court

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Bet365 has won an appeal in Romania’s highest court against the country’s regulator.

The UK-headquartered operator has been engaged in a lengthy challenge against the National Gambling Office of Romania (ONJN) over the regulator’s decision to cancel bet365’s temporary licence.

The case reached Romania’s Supreme Court in March 2021, after the ONJN lost a case in the Bucharest Court of Appeal but the court only issued a ruling on February 8, 2023.

Legal sources in Romania say it is unclear if bet365 could immediately resume operations, but believe it could at least now apply for a licence.

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Colorado Casino Facing $400,000 Fine Over Proxy Betting

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The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission will this week consider a $400,000 regulatory settlement with the Monarch Casino in Black Hawk over a series of proxy bets facilitated by casino employees.

According to the commission’s published agenda for its February 16 meeting, three former Monarch employees placed a series of proxy bets on behalf of 11 patrons both in the casino’s retail sportsbook and by accessing their mobile accounts, including when they were out-of-state.

Half of the $400,000 fine would be held in abeyance for a period of two years and payable only in the event of further compliance failings.

Monarch has also agreed to upgrade its geolocation systems and internal controls, and to train all employees on anti-money laundering compliance and state regulations.

If approved by the commission, a $400,000 enforcement penalty would be the largest of the post-PASPA era of U.S. sports betting that arrived when the Supreme Court permitted regulation outside Nevada.

In December, Ohio regulators proposed a $350,000 penalty against DraftKings over advertising violations but that case has yet to be resolved.

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Mississippi Mobile Betting Study Bill Passes House

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Mississippi’s House of Representatives has passed a bill to establish an 11-member task force to study the potential regulation of online sports betting.

House Bill 606, as amended, was approved by a vote of 109-5 on Thursday (February 10) and will now be considered by the Mississippi Senate.

HB 606 was originally introduced as a proposal to authorize online betting via the state’s land-based casinos, which are already permitted to offer on-site sportsbook operations, before being amended in a House committee to instead require a study of the issue. If approved by the Senate, the task force’s policy recommendations would be due by October 15.

Mississippi is not the only state looking to expand its retail-only sports betting market this year.

Delaware lawmakers have similarly established a mobile betting task force to review policy options.

The North Dakota House last month passed a resolution to amend the state’s constitution to potentially allow state-wide online wagering, subject to voter approval.

However, a separate Senate bill to set up a five-member group to establish a formal implementation plan for mobile sports betting pending a successful referendum was defeated on the Senate floor on Wednesday by a vote of 12 in favor to 34 against.

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Nevada Breaks Up Sports-Betting Embezzlement Scheme

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Agents with the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) recently disrupted an alleged embezzlement scheme involving sports-betting kiosks that led to a now former employee of William Hill, along with a co-conspirator, being arraigned last week in the state.

The NGCB did not identify the two men in a statement released on Friday (February 10). But Channel 8 in Las Vegas identified the former employee as Shravan Singh and his conspirator as Paige Steiner.

The report said William Hill terminated Singh’s contract on January 19 after it became aware of the scheme. William Hill, which was purchased by Caesars Entertainment for $4bn in 2021, estimated its loss at $280,000.

Beginning in December 2022, the NGCB began an investigation into the fraudulent cash adjustments being made at various sports wagering kiosks across multiple licensed locations throughout Las Vegas.

“The alleged operators of the fraudulent activity used internal information technology systems at their disposal, as employees of the licensee, to illegally add money to sports wagering kiosks, and then print and redeem fraudulent wagering vouchers,” the agency said.

The NGCB reported that William Hill was able to use internal security to uncover the alleged criminal activity and report it to the board. Agents of the control board’s Enforcement Division uncovered thousands of fraudulent adjustments from this one scheme.

Singh was in charge of “day-to-date reporting” of kiosk wagers of greater than $500.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Cut Nevada From Bill Banning Advertising

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A bill banning casino advertising in Hawaii has been approved by a Senate Committee after being amended to remove any direct references to Nevada casinos.

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection voted 3-1 on Thursday (February 9) to move Senate Bill 935 to the full Senate for further consideration.

In prepared remarks, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez warned the bill in its original form may be subject to challenge under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the state’s constitution as an unconstitutional restriction on commercial speech.

“Although the bill cites the illegality of gambling in Hawaii as a concern, gambling in Nevada is generally a lawful activity,” Lopez wrote. “For purposes of the constitutional analysis, therefore, the commercial speech appears to concern lawful activity and is not misleading.”

“Accordingly, we recommend that section 2 of the bill be deleted,” the attorney general wrote.

Separate from the First Amendment concerns, Lopez noted that federal law pre-empts the regulation of television advertising, at least with respect to cable television operators.

Jarrett Keohokalole, a Democrat and committee chairman, agreed with Lopez’s analysis and agreed to eliminate the reference to Nevada casinos and add a new section establishing a tax on trips to gambling cities to fund problem gambling services in Hawaii.

“We are going to accept the attorney general’s recommendation and delete Section 2 so that it deletes all specific references to commercial advertising and the state of Nevada,” Keohokalole said.

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Alternative Casino Law Ditched In Brazil

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PLS 186/14, an expanded gambling bill that would have made casino gambling legal again after 70 years by allowing up to 35 casino-resorts throughout the country, as well as several hundred gaming halls, has been officially archived in the Federal Senate.

The bill, which has been dead in the water since 2016, was held back by senators at the time, who motioned that despite passing through committee the bill needed to be brought to the floor for debate.

It has remained in Senate limbo in the years since and was officially listed as unfiled in the Senate, as requested by the author of the bill, in 2019.

The bill can return to debate if a third of the Senate (27 senators) request it within 90 days of the start of the next legislative session.

The larger gambling bill, 442/91, remains on the table. The sports-betting law, which is still awaiting a presidential decree to regulate it, is also, for the time being, valid.

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William Hill's app is back online in Nevada after its Superbowl shutdown and it's game over for a casino bill in Virginia.

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