News In Brief: February 21-February 25, 2022

February 25, 2022
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Brazil's landmark bill officially moves to the Senate, poll reveals tentative public support for California sports betting and Chinese officials in Cambodia push for crackdown.

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Brazil Bill Sent To Senate

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Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies on Thursday (February 24) finalized its approval of a sweeping gambling expansion bill, sending it on to the Senate for further consideration.

Before Bill 442/1991 was passed in an historic 246-202 vote late on Wednesday night, Chamber Speaker Arthur Lira said he would allow for submitted amendments to be considered one-by-one during Thursday’s session.

As more than a dozen amendments were either rejected or withdrawn, deputies agreed only to adopt one technical change to clarify the total number of casino licenses that would be available under the bill.

The legislation will authorize up to 33 casino-resorts across Brazil’s 26 federal states. But that number does not include additional casinos permitted in designated tourist areas, operating on vessels in major Brazilian riverways, or on up to ten cruise ships.

The bill also would authorize extensive bingo and video-bingo operations, as well as all forms of online gaming.

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Poll Finds California Voters Support Sports Betting

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California voters appear to favor creating a legal market for sports betting, but less than half of those surveyed in a recent poll are sure they will support the idea when they go to the polls in November.

A poll released on Wednesday (February 23) by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times found that 45 percent of those surveyed would support amending the state constitution to allow for wagering on sports.

One-third of voters said they are opposed to legalized sports betting, while the remaining 22 percent are undecided.

Opinions at this stage do not vary a great deal by party registration, with about four in ten of both Democrats and Republicans inclined to support the legalization of sports betting.

“It’s rare these days for a political issue not to be seen as partisan,” IGS co-director Eric Schickler said in a statement. “But legalizing sports betting in California appears to be one of them, at least for the time being.”

The poll did not ask voters their opinion on how they might prefer California to legalize sports betting.

Currently, only an initiative allowing for in-person wagering at tribal casinos and racetracks in the state has qualified for the November 8 ballot.

Supporters of three other proposals, including mobile sports-betting initiatives supported by tribes and commercial companies, as well as a proposal being circulated by cardrooms, are in the process of gathering enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

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West Virginia Considers Satellite Casino Bill

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The West Virginia Senate could take up a measure on Friday (February 25) that establishes a process for existing casinos at four racetracks to operate a satellite location in the same county where the casino is located.

According to Senate Bill 100, which was amended in committee, any proposal to build and operate a satellite location would have to be approved by county voters in a local referendum and by the West Virginia Lottery Commission.

The amended bill also would allow the satellite casinos to offer sports betting and does not include a separate licensing fee for the facility.

An earlier satellite casino bill passed the House by a vote of 80-15 in 2019 but did not make it out of the Senate.

The new bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Eric Nelson, passed the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, and will have its first reading in the full Senate on Friday.

“It is the local people that get to decide if they want a satellite casino in their county,” Nelson told the committee before the measure was recommended and approved by a voice vote.

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BetRivers Qualifies For Maryland Sports-Betting License

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BetRivers is a step closer to launching retail sports betting in Maryland after the state gaming regulator on Thursday (February 24) initially qualified the company for an operator license.

The sportsbook operator, owned by Rush Street Interactive, still needs to pass a background investigation conducted by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) before being allowed to operate at Bingo World in Baltimore.

Bingo World must also be licensed by the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) and pass a background check conducted by the MLGCA before sports betting can launch. SWARC approval could come in March, with approval by gaming regulators expected soon after.

Bingo World is an electronic bingo venue and is among the 17 locations that were designated for licensure under Maryland’s 2021 sports-betting law.

BetRivers would be the sixth sportsbook licensed in Maryland, joining locations operated by BetMGM, FanDuel, Caesars, TwinSpires and Penn National Gaming. Bingo World would be the fourth location, along with three off-track betting venues, to receive a so-called class “B” license.

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Chinese Businesses In Cambodia Demand Attack On Online Gaming

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The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia has urged tighter policing of online gambling and telephony fraud and called on Chinese nationals and businesses to reject any association with underground activity.

Four days after Chinese diplomats met the governor and police of Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s underground online gaming hub, the chamber said in an open letter on Thursday (February 24) that it is “important to root out online gambling and telecommunication fraud groups”.

The Cambodian and Chinese governments must “create a safe and favourable business environment for Chinese enterprises in Cambodia,” it said.

The letter said crime syndicate methods of tricking foreigners into coming to Cambodia to work and then forcing them to do work against their will “are extremely cruel … crossing the line of human behaviour”.

“The atrocities make one boil with anger, and have aroused the strong indignation” of Chinese in Cambodia and at home, it said.

It said online gaming interests have “caused immeasurable damage to Cambodia’s business environment and seriously affected the confidence of Chinese investors”.

On Monday, the day after the head of the Chinese embassy’s consular office met the governor, the Sihanoukville provincial court established a working group for processing cybercrime and money laundering.

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Danish Regulator Gets New Match-Fixing Powers

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The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has been given additional authority to try to control match-fixing as part of a cross-party agreement on gambling.

Monitoring of match-fixing will be moved from Anti-Doping Denmark to the DGA, which will gain the power to issue injunctions in cases of suspected violations, the Ministry of Taxation said.

Previously the authority had to involve the police.

Introduction of player cards, plus match ID, should help the agency watch for potential violations, the ministry said.

"Match-fixing is a serious problem because it threatens to destroy the integrity of the sport,” said minister of taxation Jeppe Bruus.

“We have seen extensive examples of this around Europe — in some cases with criminal ringleaders,” he said. “The game providers are already making an effort today, but now we are tightening the requirements for them further, so that they become even more active participants in the fight against match-fixing."

The government also introduced rules to make it easier for non-profit groups to hold a bingo event or lottery to raise money for good causes.

The agreement also removed taxes on winnings, the ministry said.

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California Supreme Court Denies Challenge To Tribal Sports-Betting Initiative

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The California Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 23) denied a legal effort by two cardrooms to invalidate an initiative on this year’s ballot to legalize retail sports wagering at tribal casinos and four racetracks.

“We’re pleased but not surprised the court rejected this frivolous lawsuit,” Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the tribal initiative, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an email.

“The campaign in opposition to our measure is being led by cardroom casino operators who are frequent violators of California gaming laws and have been fined more than $8m for misleading state regulators and violating anti-money laundering laws,” Fairbanks said.

Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova sued California Secretary of State Shirley Weber in December. The cardrooms claimed the initiative violated the state constitution’s mandate that ballot initiatives in California must be limited to a single subject.

The initiative, known as the California Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands, is supported by a coalition of tribes that gathered more than enough signatures during 2020 to put it on the November 8 ballot.

Besides sports betting, the initiative allows tribes to offer games such as roulette and craps at their casinos and enables private citizens to launch civil enforcement actions against illegal gambling violations not being pursued by the state attorney general.

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Vote Expected On Brazil Gambling Bill

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Sweeping legislation to expand gambling in Brazil is set to be voted on this week by members of the federal Chamber of Deputies, according to Speaker Arthur Lira.

Although Lira included Bill 442/1991 on the lower house of Congress’ voting agenda for Tuesday (February 22), the bill was not among the four that were ultimately taken up by deputies.

The bill is listed as item number two on the Chamber’s voting agenda for Wednesday’s session.

After deputies passed a resolution in December to fast-track approval of the bill and a new version of the measure was released last week, Lira told reporters that further amendments were still being discussed ahead of a final vote to send the bill to Brazil’s Senate.

In its latest guise, as published on Tuesday, the bill would allow more than 30 casino-resorts, hundreds of bingo halls with video-bingo machines and licensing of a limited number of sports-betting operators in each of Brazil’s 26 states, according to their population. Online gaming would be subject to regulation by the lottery department within the Ministry of Economy.

Although there is fierce opposition to gambling, Lira said the measure would generate tax revenue and jobs by recognising activities that already occur in the unregulated market.

“We already have online gambling — the Brazilian national team itself is sponsored by an online gambling site whose advertisements are around every football pitch. You can click on one of those sites and open a virtual casino,” Lira said.

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Arkansas Approves Mobile Sports-Betting Rules

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The Arkansas Joint Budget Committee (JBC) unanimously approved mobile sports-betting regulations on Tuesday (February 22), with the rules due to become effective on March 4.

Following the committee’s approval, which did not include any debate, Arkansas casinos are allowed to launch sports-betting apps after a ten-day waiting period. Retail betting has been legal in Arkansas since 2018.

“We anticipate at least one of the state’s three casinos will have an app launched prior to March 13, prior to March Madness,” said Scott Hardin, a spokesman with the state's Department of Finance.

The new rules allow for state-wide mobile wagering in Arkansas, with each casino license permitted to partner with up to two operators, meaning a maximum of eight skins in the state after a fourth casino licensee in Pope County begins operations.

The rules also require the casinos to keep 51 percent of the revenues in any market access agreement, which has been opposed by national sportsbook operators, including FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.

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Churchill Downs Acquires Casinos In New York, Virginia

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Churchill Downs Incorporated on Tuesday (February 22) agreed to purchase all of the assets of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment for $2.49bn, including Peninsula’s rights in a partnership with Urban One to develop a $565m casino in Richmond, Virginia.

The Kentucky-based gaming company will also acquire Peninsula’s Colonial Downs Racetrack in Virginia and del Lago Resort & Casino in New York, as well as the operations of its Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Sioux City, Iowa.

“This unique set of assets expands our geographic footprint and provides additional scale,” Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, said in a statement.

According to the terms of the deal, Peninsula Pacific is expected to sell the real estate associated with its Sioux City casino to a third party and Churchill Downs will lease the property from that third party. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

The deal also gives the company six historical horseracing (HHR) facilities with 2,700 machines throughout Virginia and the option for five new HHR facilities with an additional 2,300 machines.

The company also acquires the right to the Dumfries Project, an 1,800 HHR machine location in northern Virginia that is scheduled to open in 2023.

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Lottoland, Tabcorp Secure 20-Year Keno Licences In Victoria

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Secondary lottery operator Lottoland’s Australian arm is enjoying a rare and substantial victory after being awarded one of two 20-year Keno licences in Victoria state, with former monopoly holder Tabcorp Holdings securing the second.

Gaming minister Melissa Horne on Wednesday (February 23) announced that Lottoland Australia and Tabcorp will also provide online Keno products for the first time, in addition to retail outlets, from April 15.

The competitive tender has overturned Australia’s lottery and Keno monopoly model for the first time in any state or territory. The two companies will be “authorised to conduct and distribute the game of Keno in eligible hotels, clubs, wagering outlets and electronically throughout Victoria”, a government statement said.

Lottoland struggled to protect its synthetic lottery offerings in Australian state and territory based markets for years amid vigorous legal and political opposition mounted by Tabcorp, its predecessor company Tatts Group and a powerful network of newsagents loyal to the Tabcorp-Tatts monopoly.

Eventually Lottoland lost almost all of its footing in Australia as monopoly-supportive national and state legislatures, various courts and the national online gaming regulator closed down the bulk of its signature products.

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Playtech Expects New Takeover Offer

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Playtech confirmed on Monday (February 21) that investment group TTB were expected to make a new offer for the London-listed gambling giant.

In a stock exchange note, Playtech said the bid would be above the 680p per share offer made by Aristocrat Leisure that was recommended by the board, but ultimately rejected by shareholders.

The supplier also revealed that former chief executive Tom Hall was partnering with TTB to help shepherd the bid. Current CEO Mor Weizer is also set to “explore his potential participation in the TTB Investor Group”, meaning he will be excluded from the Playtech board’s assessment of any offer.

Analysts at Peel Hunt said: “On balance this is positive; the most knowledgeable participant in the bid process sees a reasonable prospect of TTB’s possible offer being accepted by shareholders.

“On the other hand, a competing bid seems less likely since any competing bidder would struggle to become comparably well-informed about Playtech and, when evaluating a possible offer from TTB, shareholders would have to consider the valuation implications of losing the CEO post a failed bid.”

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Oregon Considers Legalizing Wagering On College Sports

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A bill in the Oregon legislature to legalize wagering on college sports is being opposed by tribes and problem gambling advocates.

Senate Bill 1503, sponsored by Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, would allow the Oregon Lottery and its exclusive sports-betting partner DraftKings to post odds and accept wagering on college sports, in addition to the pro sports that are already offered for betting.

The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are neutral on the measure.

But Anna Richter Taylor, who represents five Oregon tribal governments, said the tribes are opposed to the measure and support House Bill 4046, which would pause any expansion of state-regulated or state-sponsored gaming until a review of Oregon’s regulatory structure can be completed and recommendations made by lawmakers in the next session.

“We have been urging for a pause and study for two years,” Taylor said in testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Rules, which is considering the measure.

Courtney, who is chairman of the rules committee, noted that residents are already placing illegal bets on college sports and his bill would allow the state to better target gamblers and provide needed addiction services.

The bill would ban wagering on individual athletic performance and direct revenues to the Oregon Opportunity Grant program, which provides need-based grants for college students.

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Sports Betting Coming To Milwaukee Under New Compact

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The Forest County Potawatomi expect to open a retail sportsbook at their Milwaukee casino by the end of the year under a new compact signed between the tribes and Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers.

The compact, announced on Friday (February 18), will allow the tribe to offer event wagering on sports and non-sports events. In addition, the amendment extends the term of the current compact to 2061.

The signed agreement was sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior where it will undergo a 45-day review before being approved or denied by the agency.

The agreement also allows sports and event betting at the tribe’s Forest County casino about 201 miles north of Milwaukee.

Evers has already signed similar compacts with the Oneida Nation and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians to allow sports betting at their casinos in Green Bay and northwestern Wisconsin.

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NHS Confirms End Of Industry Funding For Addiction Clinics

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The UK's National Health Service (NHS) will cut ties with funding from the gambling industry, including charity GambleAware, for its addiction clinics from April, it has confirmed.

The NHS received £1.2m from betting companies, via GambleAware, in the year to March 2021.

NHS mental health director Clare Murdoch confirmed that the health service will be fully funding its own services from April in a letter to the charity.

The decision followed feedback from patients and clinicians opposing a perceived conflict of interest from the gambling industry.

Two new specialist gambling addiction clinics will open from May in Southampton and Stoke, joining a network of existing ones in London, Leeds, Manchester, Sunderland and a pilot clinic for children.

Research from Public Health England last year estimated that one in 200 adults — around 246,000 people — have some form of gambling addiction and 2.2m are at risk.

Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, said: “Gambling is a serious public health issue which requires a collaborative approach, involving the third sector and the NHS within a coherent system of care.

“We look forward to continuing to work with NHSE and supporting them to provide an integrated solution to preventing and treating gambling harm.”

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German State Passes Online Casino Law

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The parliament of the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous, has passed legislation that will allow it to hand out online table game licences.

The state becomes one of the first to approve the needed legal changes to allow for legal online casino games, aside from slots which are licensed nationally, since the enactment of the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling.

It is also one of only a handful of states to confirm that it will offer multiple licences to approved operators. Under the terms of the treaty, states have the option to run a monopoly or not allow online casino games at all.

A maximum of five licence holders are permitted under the new NRW law.

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Brazil's landmark bill officially moves to the Senate, poll reveals tentative public support for California sports betting and Chinese officials in Cambodia push for crackdown.

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