News In Brief: February 28-March 4, 2022

March 4, 2022
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France gives regulator power to block websites, New Jersey fines DraftKings $150,000 and NagaCorp halts construction work on its Russian casino project.

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French Regulator Gains Power To Block Illegal Gambling Websites

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France’s National Gaming Authority (ANJ) is gaining the power to order internet service providers to block unlicensed gambling websites and those that advertise them, a power overseen by an administrative judge, the authority has said.

The authority also expects to gain powers to neutralise suspicious bets before matches take place, the regulator outlined on March 3 in a press release.

Last week, the ANJ said it wants gambling companies to cut back on advertising, as it issued new guidelines on acceptable approaches.

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DraftKings Fined $150,000 Over New Jersey Proxy Betting

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DraftKings has agreed to pay a $150,000 civil penalty for regulatory violations relating to “proxy wagering by one of its customers”, according to a February 18 stipulation published this week by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

New Jersey regulations generally prohibit operators from accepting sports wagers from individuals acting as a proxy for another person or group. DraftKings was previously alleged in published reports to have accepted bets in New Jersey from one high-value, out-of-state player based in Florida, where sports betting is not legal.

DraftKings was further ordered to take corrective actions to avoid future regulatory violations related to proxy betting.

The $150,000 penalty is one of the largest to be imposed by a U.S. state regulator on a sports-betting company since liberalization of the U.S. market began in 2018, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s Enforcement Tracker.

Last year, Wynn Interactive paid the same amount in a settlement with the Virginia Lottery Board for violations of geofencing regulations after accepting a limited number of out-of-state wagers in March 2021.

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Iowa House Passes Bill For Cashless Gaming, Esports Betting

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The Iowa House of Representatives approved a bill on March 2 to authorize both cashless gaming in the state’s 19 casinos and wagering on esports through licensed sportsbook platforms.

House File 2497, approved in a 71-28 vote, would amend the 2019 sports-betting law and add an “electronic sports event” to the definition of a sporting event eligible for wagering.

Iowa is part of a small cluster of states, including Indiana and Pennsylvania, where operators cannot offer betting on esports due to statutory restrictions.

The bill would also authorize wagering on professional athletes participating as an amateur in a charitable event.

Various states including Nevada, Indiana, and South Dakota have already approved cashless payment methods in casinos, enabling players to directly fund a slot machine or table game via an e-wallet using their phones without having to retrieve cash or a ticket.

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Kindred’s Unibet To Open Nine Retail Sportsbooks In Arizona

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Kindred Group’s sports-betting brand Unibet has teamed up with Turf Paradise in Arizona to open nine retail sportsbooks in the state, the company announced Thursday (March 3).

Unibet already operates a retail sportsbook at Paradise Casino in Yuma and has launched its state-wide mobile wagering app.

Unibet, along with the nine retail partners, was awarded the limited event wagering operator licenses by the Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) to operate sports-betting kiosks at Turf Paradise, as well as eight off-track betting sites including bars and taverns.

Manuel Stan, senior vice president of North America Kindred Group, said the deal with Turf Paradise and the other locations was a great opportunity to expand the Unibet brand in Arizona.

Arizona Downs Racetrack in Prescott Valley, some 92 miles north of downtown Phoenix, received its limited event operator’s license in January to offer retail wagering but has yet to announce a deal with a sports-betting operator.

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Oklahoma Sports-Betting Bill Passes Committee

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A sports-betting bill in Oklahoma is expected to be debated in the House soon after making its way out of a committee, only hours before a deadline for lawmakers to vote on the measure or kill the proposal until next year.

House Bill 3008 was approved 28-3 on Wednesday (March 2) by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

The next deadline is March 24 for the House to pass the measure and send it to the Senate for further consideration.

The current legislative session in Oklahoma City is scheduled to end on May 27.

The proposal would allow in-person wagering under the existing model gaming compact. Mobile sports betting is not included in the proposal.

The bill proposes a 10 percent revenue-share on net sports wagering revenues.

Under the existing compacts, tribes pay the state exclusivity fees between 4 percent and 10 percent on gambling revenue in exchange for the exclusive rights to operate Class III gaming.

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NagaCorp Suspends Russian Casino Project

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Phnom Penh casino monopoly holder NagaCorp has suspended construction of its casino hotel near Vladivostok, citing “force majeure”, as Russia intensifies its invasion of Ukraine.

The Hong Kong-listed company said in a filing on Thursday (March 3) that “various uncertainties” surround the project, and that it invoked its investment agreement’s “force majeure clause” to suspend activity on the site until further notice.

The statement did not refer to the war in Ukraine.

The suspension is another major blow for the Primorye region’s plans for a casino hub following the November arrest in Macau of Alvin Chau, the Suncity junket mogul who controlled the gaming precinct’s first casino, Tigre de Cristal.

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Vietnam Eyes New Local-Access Casinos

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Vietnam’s finance ministry has proposed adding casinos in Da Nang City and Khanh Hoa Province to the list of properties where Vietnamese nationals can gamble, online portal VietnamNet reported.

If approved, the government’s local-access pilot scheme will be extended by two years and include a future $2.2bn casino licensed to Vinpearl Co on Hon Tre Island near Khanh Hoa’s Nha Trang City, as well as a future casino in Da Nang’s Sun World Ba Na Hill tourist precinct.

The pilot scheme has run for three years but boasts only one operational casino: the Corona Resort and Casino on Phu Quoc island in southern Kien Giang Province.

A second casino approved for locals is being built in the Van Don area of northern Quang Ninh Province.

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Lithuania Hands Out Two Fines For Promoting Poker

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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority has handed out two €25,000 fines for the promotion of a poker tournament.

Lošimų strateginė grupė, which operates the Betsafe brand acquired by Betsson Group in 2011, received the fine for publishing information on its Lithuanian website's blog.

The promotion was for a poker tournament called "Fisherman's Challenge", one of the biggest poker tournaments in the country.

The regulator deemed the blog to be in violation of the country's restrictive gambling advertising laws by “drawing attention” to the tournament and “persuading” people to participate in it.

Olympic Casino Group Baltija also received a €25,000 fine for publishing information about the tournament on its own website.

The regulator also said the casino operator did not comply with regulations as it allowed Betsafe online tournament winners to gain entrance to the land-based tournament.

Neither of the decisions are final and both can be appealed.

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Finnish Problem Gambling Rate Declines

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Finnish gambling monopoly Veikkaus has said the percentage of problem gamblers fell to 1.8 percent, according to its Autumn 2021 survey.

In the previous Autumn survey, it was estimated the problem gambling rate was 2.6 percent.

The results follow a responsible gambling drive by Veikkaus, which has included the removal of slot machines and the inclusion of more restrictions, as well as two years of temporary closures due to COVID-19.

Veikkaus said it is “practically impossible” to determine what factor has caused the welcome change, but added it is “exceptional”.

The survey had just over 5,000 participants and was conducted via telephone interviews between August and November 2021.

Problem gamblers are slowly shifting away from land-based slot machines, as 21 percent of them played online casino slots compared with 18 percent having played on land-based machines.

Views on Veikkaus’ responsible gambling measures were very positive, with 76 percent of players saying they believed the company was working to prevent problem gambling, an improvement of 8 percent compared with the previous year's results.

Only 11 percent of respondents felt the same way about Åland-based operator Paf and only 3 percent felt that way about foreign gambling providers.

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Mansion To Pay Gibraltar Settlement

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The Mansion Group has agreed an £850,000 regulatory settlement with the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner.

The regulator said the payment was a result of previous senior management of subsidiary Onsiac Ltd to “respond adequately" to regulatory advice or deliver on an action plan.

The government’s Gambling Division said it believed there was now a “clear commitment” to improve compliance and that new management were on board with the plan.

The regulator said it had carried out a series of site visits in recent months and found the wider industry to be broadly compliant with regulatory standards.

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Genesis Case Goes To Swedish Supreme Court

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Sweden’s Supreme Administrative Court has announced it will hear appeals in a case between the Swedish Gambling Authority and operator Genesis Global.

The dispute dates back to a fine for Genesis shortly after the launch of the country’s licensed online gambling market for failure to connect to the Sweden’s Spelpaus self-exclusion service.

In Summer 2021, a court of appeal upheld the enforcement action, but lowered the sanction fee. Both the regulator and operator appealed to Sweden’s highest court, which has now confirmed it will hear the case.

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New York Senate To Consider Internet Gambling Bill

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As most New Yorkers adjust to being able place mobile sports betting, the gaming industry’s chief advocate in the state's Senate in Albany has filed a bill to legalize internet gaming.

Senator Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, filed S8412 on Thursday (February 24).

The bill would allow the state’s commercial and tribal casinos to each offer two online casino skins, subject to an upfront fee of $2m or $10m from independent skin operators partnering with them.

The bill sets the internet gaming tax at 25 percent, less than half the 51 percent tax operators pay to offer mobile wagering in New York.

According to fiscal implications submitted along with Addabbo’s bill, New York would receive approximately $475m annually in tax revenue.

In the first year, New York is estimated to receive $150m in one-time license fees from casinos, operators and independent contractors seeking to conduct online interactive gaming.

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South Dakota Mobile Sports-Betting Bill Dies In Committee

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Despite support in the state's Senate, the House State Affairs Committee on Friday (February 25) voted to table Senate Joint Resolution 502, essentially killing a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize mobile sports betting in South Dakota pending state voter approval.

The measure, which passed the Senate 18-17 earlier in February, would have placed a referendum on the November 8 ballot that, if approved, would have amended the state constitution to allow for mobile wagering.

Currently, casinos in Deadwood operate retail sports betting, but not mobile wagering.

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France gives regulator power to block websites, New Jersey fines DraftKings $150,000 and NagaCorp halts construction work on its Russian casino project.

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