News In Brief: February 20-February 24, 2023

February 23, 2023
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Brazilian state launches first ever regulated sports-betting site, Hong Kong will extract an additional HK$12bn from the Hong Kong Jockey Club over five years and Missouri committee favours bill without VLTs.

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State Lottery Launches Brazil’s First Regulated Sports-Betting Site

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The Minas Gerais state lottery has launched its new LotoMinas digital platform, featuring online sports betting in addition to a range of interactive instant lottery games and keno.

The new platform sees Brazil’s third-largest state become the first to capitalise on a seminal Supreme Court ruling of September 2020 that said states and municipalities had the same rights as the federal government to operate lottery games within their jurisdictions.

LotoMinas is able to offer sports betting as fixed-odds bets were recognised as a lawful form of lottery in Brazil under a 2018 federal law.

Brazil’s federal government remains in the process of introducing a national licensing system for sports betting to regulate what is a booming offshore market, but lawyers suggest that would not prevent states from also moving forward at a local level based on the Supreme Court's ruling.

Various other state lotteries, including those in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are similarly looking to add sports betting and interactive games to their product portfolios, although development of the market to date has been slowed by litigation related to the procurement of the lotteries’ technology partners.

The LotoMinas.bet site is powered by Intralot Brazil and claims to be “Brazil’s first officially licensed platform”.

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Missouri Senate Committee Defeats Sports-Betting, VLT Bill

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A frustrated Republican Senator Denny Hoskins took to the Senate floor on Thursday (February 23) offering a journal amendment that the chamber does not support gaming in the state after a committee earlier in the day voted against his bill to legalize sports betting and video lottery terminals (VLTs).

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 10-2 with two members absent to defeat Senate Bill 1.

Hoskins believes a bill including VLTs would generate more revenue for education and improvements at Missouri’s veterans’ homes and cemeteries more than a standalone sports-betting bill.

But the committee on Thursday preferred Republican Senator Tony Luetkemeyer’s bill that will also legalize online and retail sports betting in the state, but does not include a VLT provision. Senate Bill 30 has support from the Missouri’s six professional sports team, including the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals and NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III is supportive of SB 30, and has urged senators to keep sports betting and VLTs separate to improve the chances of passage this session. The committee passed Luetkemeyer’s bill by a vote of 11-1 with one member absent.

On Thursday, the House Emerging Issues Committee unanimously advanced House Bills 556 and 581 that would legalize wagering on sports in Missouri. The bills now move to the Rules Committee for its consideration before the House floor for a vote.

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Hong Kong To Take Extra $1.5bn From Jockey Club Over Five Years

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The cash-strapped Hong Kong government will extract an additional HK$12bn ($1.53bn) in football betting duties from the Hong Kong Jockey Club over five years, according to a 2023-2034 budget announcement on Wednesday (February 22).

The HK$2.4bn annual Special Football Betting Duty drew unusually sharp remarks from the Jockey Club, which said the city’s betting duty rates are “already the highest in the world”.

“Any permanent hike in betting duty rates will create structural problems, irreversibly damaging the Club’s successful integrated business model and continued competitiveness, while benefiting only illegal and offshore betting operators,” it said in a statement.

“Most importantly, such [an] increase will adversely impact on the club’s ability to contribute to the community through our donations to the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust … on a sustainable basis.”

At the same time, the Jockey Club said it “understands the rationale behind the Government’s decision to impose” the increase, and would ensure that charitable and community donations do not decrease.

Even so, the club called for longer-term moderation of the betting duty policy and new reforms.

“[W]e need the support of the government for the club to bring in more simulcast and world-pool opportunities … [and request] a review on the licensing conditions imposed on football betting.”

The review would seek “flexibility and competitiveness” in response to regulated and illegal competitors, and would “mitigate the impact of the decrease in revenues" from the new betting duty, the statement said.

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South African MP Hopes Gambling Bill Published In 30 Days

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A South African member of parliament (MP) from the country’s second-largest political party wants to introduce overarching online gambling regulations, which he hopes will be published by parliament within the next 30 days.

Democratic Alliance MP Dean Macpherson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Monday (February 20) that he is hopeful they will be released to the public by March 28.

The party invited stakeholders to comment on the draft Remote Gambling Bill within 30 days of it being published in the government gazette on September 2, 2022.

The bill followed years of failed attempts to fully open the sector.

Macpherson has promised in the past that the bill is intended to “fill the gap in the law” in South Africa and to “address the issues faced by the Amendment Act which is one of the reasons why it was never brought into effect”.

The lawmaker fears that a lack of regulation is resulting in revenue and jobs being lost to other gambling jurisdictions. For any bill to be approved in South Africa, it will need support from the ruling ANC, which holds an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly.

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Kentucky Bill Would Create First Problem Gambling Fund

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State Representative Al Gentry, a Democrat, wants to tax money wagered on live horseracing and historic horseracing (HHR) machines to create the state’s first problem gambling assistance fund.

House Bill 486 would set aside one-tenth of 1 percent of all money wagered on live races and on HHR machines to go to the fund, but the amount of dollars is capped at $500,000.

Gentry’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Committees, but no hearing on his proposal has been scheduled. He was the co-sponsor of former Republican state Representative Adam Koenig’s bill, HB 609, last year that would have used some of the $300m from the PokerStars settlement to create a problem gambling fund.

Kentucky is one of nine states that does not provide any funding for problem gambling services. The others are Alaska, Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, and Utah.

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Maverick Gaming To Appeal Dismissal Of Sports-Betting Case

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A federal court has dismissed an effort by Maverick Gaming to overturn a Washington state law granting tribal casinos exclusivity over operating sports betting in the state, a decision that will be appealed by the gaming company.

“We expect that this decision will be resolved by the Supreme Court of the United States and we will appeal (Tuesday’s) decision,” Maverick CEO Eric Persson said in a statement.

Maverick, which operates 22 of 38 licensed cardrooms in Washington, had asked the district court to overturn the state’s 2020 sports-betting law, which allowed tribes to amend their compacts to offer retail and mobile wagering at their casinos.

Persson’s lawsuit also asked the court to indefinitely put sports betting on hold at tribal casinos pending their latest legislative effort to expand wagering on games to card rooms and racetracks.

When asked Wednesday (February 22) if at some point without sports betting if Maverick would have to consider exiting the Washington market to concentrate on its business in Nevada and Colorado, a company spokesman pointed to comments Persson’s made in a policy brief released last month.

"I have the opportunity to pursue my dream of building a market-leading gaming company in my home state,” Persson wrote. “I know that our perspective on sports betting is at odds with those who prefer a monopoly for tribal casinos, but I respect their right to advocate for their members.”

Persson stressed that Maverick “will one day offer sports betting at its properties” in Washington, either following a Supreme Court ruling or “an inclusive policy discussion by the state legislature that is founded in facts."

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Belgian Ban on Gambling Advertising Advances, Newspaper Says

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A proposed gambling advertising ban is on track to take effect in Belgium on July 1, with the “core Cabinet” having approved a planned royal decree, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

Plans call for the ban on gambling advertising on TV, radio, websites and social media to take effect in July, with a ban on advertising in sports stadiums due to take effect on January 1, 2025.

On January 1, 2028, the names of gambling companies on football shirts would be banned.

The proposed ban still faces opposition, and the decree has not yet been approved, member of parliament Georges-Louis Bouchez told the newspaper.

“People can also smoke and drink, although that is not good for health,” he said. “I don't want a puritanical society where perfect behaviour is defined as virtuous."

Last April, the Belgian Gaming Commission stated its position, that it supported tighter restrictions targeting “the most vulnerable groups” and limiting the amount of advertising.

But curbs including allowing players to refuse personalised advertising would allow for “a more modern and flexible way”, the authority wrote.

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Spanish Trade Group Loses Attempt To Suspend Gambling Ad Ban

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The Spanish Digital Gaming Association, Jdigital, has lost an attempt to lodge an injunction against a ban on gambling advertising, as a tribunal of Spain’s Supreme Court said the ban should stand until the Constitutional Court rules on it.

The trade group had been seeking to have the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ prohibition suspended pending a ruling on whether the ban could be applied across Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

But the royal decree’s restrictions had been reviewed by the autonomous governments who had alerted media organisations that would be affected by the ban, according to a February 8 ruling in Madrid.

Enforcement of the ban started in November 2021.

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Madrid Rejects Cordish Casino Plan For Second Time

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The Madrid government has again rejected a bid by Baltimore-based Cordish Companies to develop a major casino-resort complex in the region, according to multiple reports by the EFE news agency and other Spanish outlets.

Madrid in 2017 rejected two applications from Cordish to develop a €2bn Live!-branded resort complex in the Torres de la Alameda suburb of Spain’s capital city.

The casino operator submitted a revised proposal last year, but the Madrid government remains unconvinced the casino project would make an enduring economy, social and culture impact in the region, EFE reported.

Madrid lawmakers passed a 2012 law establishing specific criteria for integrated-resort casino developments. At that time, officials were seeking to attract a multi-billion euro investment from Las Vegas Sands before the Nevada-based company ultimately abandoned its so-called EuroVegas project.

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Federal Sports-Betting Ad Ban On AGA’s Radar

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The American Gaming Association (AGA) has reached out to New York U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, a Democrat, to discuss his new bill that would ban all broadcast ads for sports betting, a spokeswoman for the congressman confirmed on Tuesday (February 21).

Rachel Dejan, communications director for Tonko, said HR 967 has been assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

According to Tonko’s bill, all media under Federal Communications Commission jurisdiction would be banned from running sports-betting ads. The proposed ban is modeled on the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1966, which banned tobacco advertisements.

“Representative Tonko will continue to discuss this issue with his committee colleagues and hopes for a hearing soon,” Dejan told VIXIO GamblingCompliance via email.

The AGA is opposed to Tonko’s bill as introduced, urging Congress to instead focus its attention on combating the “predatory and pervasive” offshore illegal betting market.

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Tribe Exclusivity Key To Minnesota Sports-Betting Bills

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A new sports-betting bill would give exclusive rights to Minnesota gaming tribes to operate retail wagering at their brick-and-mortar casinos, as well as state-wide mobile betting in partnership with commercial operators, its sponsor, Democratic Representative Zack Stephenson, said Tuesday (February 21).

Minnesota has 11 federally-recognized tribes that operate 21 casinos. The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association and the state’s professional sports teams have endorsed Stephenson’s House File 2000.

“Last year, legalized sports betting passed the House with a bipartisan majority but stalled in the Senate,” Stephenson said. “We are back this year and intend to finish the job. Legalization is the only responsible way of addressing the phenomenon of sports betting.”

House File 2000 bill would establish a 10 percent tax rate, grants each tribe one mobile betting skin, and does not include tax deductions for bonuses or promotions.

When asked if either House File 2000 or companion legislation Senate File 1949 can garner the 34 votes needed for Senate passage, Senator Mark Klein, a Democrat, told reporters it is still early in the session but “I cannot say I have 34 votes right now.”

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Italian Bookmakers Battle Unexpected Back Tax Bill

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Bookmakers in Italy are fighting back after the regulator, the Agency of Customs and Monopolies (ADM), revealed it expects them to pay as much as an extra €40m on an already hefty bill for back taxes.

Licensed bookmakers in Italy have six months to pay fees introduced by the government as emergency funding for sports organisations battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, on January 5 the agency sent a letter to concession holders stating that “the due amounts must be recalculated” and that payment of arrears is due “for all concessions, both online and retail”.

The ADM also pointed out that in the event of any surplus in payments already made, “these have been used to balance out the amounts still due”.

Operators had been expected to pay a rate of 0.5 percent of revenue, capped at €40m for 2020 and €50m for 2021. Now the ADM says there is no cap on the tax and licence holders owe tax on all revenue from May 2020 to December 2021.

It is estimated that the turnaround could cost some operators an additional €40m.

Operators have already lodged complaints with administrative courts in Italy.

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South Dakota Lawmakers Reject Mobile Betting Ballot Bid

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The South Dakota House of Representatives has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize mobile sports wagering across the state.

After narrowly surviving committee scrutiny, House Joint Resolution 5006 was rejected on the House floor on Thursday (February 16) by a margin of 28 votes in favor to 41 against.

Current South Dakota law limits sports wagering strictly to land-based casinos in the town of Deadwood.

Another possibility for a state referendum on mobile sports betting in 2024 would be for Deadwood casinos to lead a voter petition to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for the ballot.

Thursday's defeat of HJR 50006 comes as neighboring North Dakota continues to deliberate the same issue.

A proposed constitutional amendment to allow sports betting beyond North Dakota tribal casinos was approved by the House on January 12 and is currently under review in the Senate.

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Penn Entertainment Completes Barstool Acquisition

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Penn Entertainment announced Friday (February 17) it has completed its acquisition of Barstool Sports after previously acquiring a 36 percent stake in the company for $163m in February 2020.

To complete the transaction, Penn needed to exercise a provision that allowed it to purchase Barstool’s remaining shares through a two-step process. The gaming company paid $62m to increase its stake to 50 percent and then another $325m for the rest of Barstool’s shares.

“Barstool is a proven, powerful media brand with an authentic voice and vast, loyal audience that provides us with a strong top of funnel for new customer acquisition and organic cross-selling opportunities across our growing interactive division,” Penn CEO and president Jay Snowden said in a statement.

Currently, Barstool’s mobile betting platform is live in 15 U.S. states.

“Barstool, combined with theScore’s reach and highly engaged user base, creates a massive digital footprint and ecosystem that will serve to propel Barstool Sportsbook and our uniquely integrated media and gaming business,” Snowden said.

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Brazilian state launches first ever regulated sports-betting site, Hong Kong will extract an additional HK$12bn from the Hong Kong Jockey Club over five years and Missouri committee favours bill without VLTs.

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