News In Brief: February 19-February 23, 2024

February 23, 2024
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Poland's state-owned lottery gets a new CEO paving the way for future changes and Texas skill gaming ruling being challenged at appeal court.
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New Interim CEO Appointed At Poland's State-Owned Lottery Operator
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Stanisław Grabiec, who was previously Polish national lottery operator Totalizator Sportowy's management board member, has been appointed as the company's interim chief executive.

The supervisory board of Totalizator Sportowy dismissed Olgierd Cieślik from the position of the company’s CEO.

The move paves the way for further changes at the state-owned company following the swearing in of a new government last December.

Cieślik had served as the firm’s CEO since 2017.

Local media reported that he was appointed to the company’s management board with the support of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki from the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Last December, his government was replaced by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Donald Tusk after an alliance of centre-right, liberal and left-wing parties ousted the PiS party from power in the October 2023 general election.

On February 22, Totalizator Sportowy’s supervisory board kicked off a competition to recruit four new management board members for Totalizator, including the company's new CEO.

During Cieślik’s term as its CEO, Totalizator Sportowy was expanding the role it plays in the country’s gambling industry, developing its network of slot halls and launching an online casino, among other things.

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Texas County Appeals Skill-Games Ruling
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Fannin County district attorney Richard Glaser confirmed Thursday (February 22) that his office has already filed a notice of appeal to have a state appeals court overturn a ruling that skill games are legal in Texas.

On Tuesday, Fannin County District Judge Laurine Blake ruled the machines and games they offer are skill-based, and therefore legal under state law. Blake ordered that the games seized last year be returned to local businesses.

The machines were manufactured by Pace-O-Matic. The Duluth, Georgia-based company has become controversial in other states, being part of a lawsuit to overturn a ban passed last year in Kentucky and lobbying lawmakers in Virginia to legalize and tax their games. 

Last year, the Commonwealth Court in Pennsylvania ruled 7-0 that the terminal was not an illegal gambling device. Pennsylvania attorney general Michelle Henry has appealed the decision to the state's Supreme Court.

“We think it’s gambling and don’t want them,” Glaser said. 

About 35 machines were seized last March at convenience stores throughout the county. Fannin County, with a population of 25,817, is located in the far northeast corner of Texas, on the border with Oklahoma.  

“They picked us because of our location,” Glaser said. “We are fighting back.”

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Guardian Article Says UK Will Introduce £2 Slot Limit For Under 25s
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An article in the Guardian says the UK will introduce a £2 online slot limit for people under the age of 25 and a £5 limit for anyone older.

The article claims it has been informed by an unnamed industry source and that a public announcement will be made on Friday (February 23).

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has carried out a public consultation looking at what level stake limits should be set for people playing online slot games, which closed on September 20, 2023.

The consultation considers a maximum stake of between £2 and £15 per spin and options to introduce greater protections when playing slots for 18 to 24-year-olds, such as lower stake limits of £2 or £4 or requirements on operators to consider age as a risk factor for gambling-related harm.

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Key Roles Being Filled At Brazil's New Betting Regulator
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Brazil’s federal government has named the first set of appointees to serve within the newly created department that will be responsible for regulating sports betting and online gaming in accordance with Law 14.790 passed in December.

More than a dozen individuals have been appointed to serve within the Secretariat of Prizes and Bets under the Ministry of Finance, according to notices published in the Brazilian government’s official journal on Wednesday (February 21).

Those roles include an assistant secretary or deputy leader of the new agency, as well as a head of licensing, head of enforcement and chief of staff.

The nominations were published on the day that a January 31 decree to formally establish the new gambling secretariat became effective.

A head of the new betting department has yet to be named. It had previously been assumed that the role would be filled by the Ministry of Finance’s former chief policy advisor on gambling, but José Francisco Manssur was relieved of duties late last week in what is widely understood to be a political move made by Brazil’s finance minister in deference to the leader of the country’s Chamber of Deputies.

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Danish Self-Exclusion Error Allowed 1,200 Registrees To Gamble
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A technical error in Denmark allowed 1,200 self-excluded players to gamble at land-based casinos or use gaming machines.

The Danish Gambling Authority highlighted the error that allowed people who renewed their registration on ROFUS, the national online and land-based self-exclusion register, to play on forms of games that were added to the register after they initially signed up in a press release on February 20.

The technical error, which has now been resolved, was reported by the gambling regulator to the Danish Data Protection Authority as a data breach.

The Gambling Authority said it “makes great efforts to ensure that ROFUS is a stable and reliable service that you can trust. Therefore, it is also very regrettable that there has been an error in the system.”

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UK Gambling MP Still Suspended
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Conservative member of parliament Scott Benton and former head of the all party parliamentary group on betting and gaming has lost his appeal over a suspension from the Tory party.

Benton was caught in a sting by The Times newspaper offering what he believed were gambling industry executives special access to Westminster.

The MP for Blackpool was found by a standards committee to have breached lobbying rules and was suspended.

Losing his appeal could mean he loses his seat in parliament, with MPs to vote on a recall petition and Labour politicians calling for him to resign.

 

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Gibraltar Wants Clear Gambling Policy Priorities As FATF Decision Looms
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Nigel Feetham, Gibraltar’s minister for justice, trade and industry, is set to clarify the country’s gambling policy priorities in the coming weeks, as the country awaits its expected removal from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) greylist.

Feetham has recently held meetings with key industry executives including Stella David, the interim CEO of Entain, and Per Widerström, the CEO of 888.

In the next few weeks, the minister will meet more gambling industry and financial services stakeholders to “make government policy priorities clear”, according to the government of Gibraltar’s press release on February 19.

Topics discussed during these meetings include regulation, taxation, business environment and the “substance that gambling firms were required, and expected, to maintain in Gibraltar as part of the licensing proposition”, according to the government.

The press release stated: “Minister Feetham was pleased with the commitment continued to be demonstrated to Gibraltar as an important hub in what are multi-jurisdictional businesses. He was also very grateful for the time invested in these discussions and agreed to continue the close of engagement with both companies.”

News of the meetings comes as the FATF plenary and working group meetings are ongoing in Paris, ending on February 23, 2024.

Gibraltar’s government stated in October 2023 that FATF is satisfied with its action plan and is set to, subject to an onsite inspection, be removed from the FATF greylist.

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New Jersey Closes Evolution Investigation
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The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) confirmed Tuesday (February 20) that it had closed its investigation into allegations of misconduct by Evolution AB without further action. 

Evolution also acknowledged the DGE’s decision on Tuesday. Investigators with the DGE investigated the company after receiving a report in November 2021 prepared by an unidentified firm alleging misconduct by Evolution.

“The DGE found no evidence that Evolution sanctioned, promoted, permitted, or otherwise materially benefitted from its content offered by operators in any market that the DGE considers a prohibited jurisdiction,” the company said in a statement.

Evolution also conducted an internal review, while concluding that its due diligence and compliance processes were sufficient, the company said it took this opportunity to enhance its processes. The DGE supports the enhancements that Evolution has made.

“The enhancements did not relate to any jurisdictional violations,” Evolution said.

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Massachusetts Top Gaming Regulator Announces Retirement
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Cathy Judd-Stein, the chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, will retire at the completion of her term next month, Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat, announced Tuesday (February 20).

Judd-Stein has been the chair of the five-member commission since her appointment in 2019 by former Republican Governor Charlie Baker, and her term will expire on March 21.

During her tenure, the state legalized and launched a land-based and mobile sports-betting program that has become one of the most closely scrutinized models in the U.S. due to aggressive policymaking in areas such as advertising and data privacy.

The state’s unique open meeting laws that give unmatched transparency into each commissioner's thought process have sometimes led to some heated disputes within the commission being held on a public stage.

Healey said in a statement that the administration is beginning a search for Judd-Stein’s successor, with applications due to the state by March 18.

“Cathy Judd-Stein led the Massachusetts Gaming Commission through a critical time for the industry, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the launch of sports wagering.,” Healy said. “We are grateful for her many years of service to the people of Massachusetts and wish her the best in her retirement.” 

Healey added that her administration “looks forward to beginning the search for an experienced leader to take the reins of this important commission.”

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Caesars Acquires Wynn’s Michigan iGaming Operations
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Caesars Entertainment has acquired WynnBET’s Michigan iGaming business and a long-term extension of market access rights with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

As part of the deal, Caesars gains access to the Sault Tribe’s iGaming skins, enabling Caesars to operate additional digital brands in Michigan.

The company said existing WynnBET customers will be transitioned to Caesars’ Michigan iGaming platform, pending regulatory approvals. Wynn and Caesars will receive non-cash consideration, including extinguishment, reductions, and assignment of certain contractual obligations related to both parties’ businesses.

The Sault Tribe currently owns and operates Kewadin Casinos, which consist of five land-based casinos located throughout the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Caesars also reported earnings Tuesday (February 20) for its fourth quarter and 2023. Caesars Digital reported a fourth-quarter loss of $8m on revenue of $304m, down significantly from the $35m loss on $237m in revenue, in same period in 2022.  

Overall, Caesars reported a loss of $72m in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $148m in the prior year’s quarter, on revenues of $2.825bn. 

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Maine Casino Did Not Violate Rules With Promotional Email
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The Maine Gambling Control Unit has found Oxford Casino did not violate state gaming regulations when it sent account accidental promotion emails to more than 60,000 customers.

Milton Champion, the agency’s executive director, wrote in a two-page ruling that the “email offer accidentally sent to 60,000 plus recipients and then promptly retracted does not violate Gambling Control Board laws or rules.”

“There is no dispute about the facts,” Champion wrote. 

The email sent on January 10 mistakenly told recipients they had won $250 worth of complementary slot play. That email should have been sent to only five individuals, according to Oxford Casino, which is owned by Churchill Downs. 

The casino realized the error and immediately contacted Champion, and less than an hour later had retracted the promotional email, explaining it had been sent in error.

The Gambling Control Unit said it “received numerous phone calls and 183 formal written complaints about the mistaken promotion, but after an investigation, Champion dismissed the complaints.”

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Angola Regulator Told To Provide More Information On Tax, Enforcement Action
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The Angolan Ministry of Finance’s Consultative Council has recommended that the country’s gambling regulator provide more information on how it taxes and enforces social gambling rules.

The Instituto de Supervisão de Games (ISJ), which is responsible for overseeing gambling policy, regulation and supervision, gave a presentation to the council on “the activity of games and the collection of public revenue” when it met on January 27, 2024.

Following the meeting, the council gave the ISJ two key recommendations.

The first recommendation is for the ISJ to “disseminate more information about its scope of action, as well as the creation of partnerships with other bodies to prevent and combat money laundering, terrorist financing in the context of social games”, according to a press release on February 16, 2024.

The second recommendation is to analyse “the possibility of proposing the allocation of part of the revenues arising from the exploitation of social games, particularly lotteries etc.".

Finance minister Vera Daves de Sousa said the recommendations reflect “the way our work can become even more efficient and, as a result, improve the quality of life of all Angolans”.

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Swedish Fashionista Reportedly Loses Player Refund Case
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A fashion designer in Sweden who claims to have gambled millions with Unibet before the country opened its licensed market has reportedly lost his case to have his losses refunded.

Per Holknekt, who founded the Odd Molly fashion brand, was suing Unibet parent company Kindred for more than SEK10m (€888,000), according to reports in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).

The judge threw out the case and ordered Hoknekt to pay Kindred’s legal costs, largely because he had sued the wrong entity of the Kindred group of companies, the newspaper said.

Holknekt said he was considering his options and may appeal or relaunch the case.

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Ghana Regulator Shares Details Of Planned Amendments
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The Gaming Commission of Ghana has shared details of what it will include in its gambling law amendment proposal, which will be sent to lawmakers before the end of 2024. 

The amendment will cover five key areas, Gifty-Rita Amoah, the deputy director of legal at the Gaming Commission of Ghana, told Vixio GamblingCompliance. 

“It will provide for online and virtual operations, for sports betting and casinos, introduce a central monitoring system, re-categorise some licences and the products allowed under them, introduce minimum levels for local content/investment as well as include guidelines for responsible gaming and advertising among others,” Amoah said.

Ghana is set to hold general elections on December 7, where voters will elect the country's next President and members of parliament. Both presidential candidates have said they will either remove or review existing gambling taxes

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Ukraine Regulator Launches Chatbot To Address Common Queries
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Ukraine’s Gambling and Lotteries Regulatory Commission (KRAIL) has launched an AI-powered chatbot to help answer a range of common queries and provide advice. 

The chatbot on Telegram, an encrypted messaging service, launched on February 14 and will be able to provide multiple users with advice on a range of topics simultaneously. 

Information available from the chatbot includes advice on how to self-exclude or exclude relatives from gambling, how to report legal violations, how to submit a request for public information and how to contact KRAIL, according to a press release on February 14.

Users will also be able to get information about legal gambling establishments and websites, as well as illegal gambling websites.

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Poland's state-owned lottery gets a new CEO paving the way for future changes and Texas skill gaming ruling being challenged at appeal court.

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