News In Brief: February 5-February 9, 2024

February 9, 2024
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West Flagler files Supreme Court complaint in Florida battle, Pennsylvania skill games leader wants to talk regulation, Virginia in-state college betting closer to reality and Crown Resorts boss cleared of misconduct.
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West Flagler Seeks U.S. Supreme Court Review
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West Flagler Associates filed a writ of certiorari on Thursday (February 8) with the U.S. Supreme Court requesting that the nation’s highest court review the legality of the Seminole Tribe’s gaming compact with the state of Florida.

Hamish Hume, an attorney that represents West Flagler, asked the Supreme Court to consider three questions concerning the state-gaming compact that was approved in 2021.

First whether the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) authorizes the approval of a compact that purports to allow for an online sports gambling monopoly throughout the state and off Indian lands. 

Also, whether an IGRA compact violates the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act if it provides for internet sports betting that is unlawful where many of the bets are placed. 

Finally, whether the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval of a tribal-state compact violates equal protection principles where it provides a specific tribe with a monopoly on online sports gaming off tribal lands, while state law makes that conduct a felony for everyone else.

The Supreme Court hears fewer than 2 percent of the petitions it receives. It is unclear whether the high court will decide the cert petition before concluding its term in June.

“IGRA authorizes the secretary ‘to approve any Tribal-State compact entered into between an Indian tribe and a State governing gaming on Indian lands of such Indian tribe,’” the petition states. “Nothing in IGRA authorizes the secretary to approve a compact that provides for gaming off Indian lands.

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Wall Street Estimates Super Bowl Handle Tops $1.5bn
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More than $1.5bn is expected to be wagered legally on Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday (February 11) between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, according to a note from Macquarie Research.

“Right now, roughly, 160m plus adults have access to legal sports betting in North America,” analysts Chad Beynon wrote. “If we assume 10 percent place a wager at an average amount (of) $90, we arrive as $1.5bn of handle.”

The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates 68m American adults are expected to bet $23.1bn on the game but that includes legal online and retail outlets, wagering with a bookmaker, casually with friends or as part of a pool or squares contest.

Based on current betting trends from VSIN, the best case scenario for sportsbooks is a 49ers win combined with a total under 47.5 points. Beynon noted that could lead to a Super Bowl hold rate of 30 percent, driving $450m of market gross gaming revenue. 

“The worst case would be a Chiefs win combined with a total above 47.5 points, which we estimate could lead to a negative hold rate of minus 14 percent,” Beynon wrote. 

As of Thursday, the Chiefs were heavily favored by gamblers, despite being a 2 point underdog to the 49ers. 

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Pace-O-Matic Seeks Fair Pennsylvania Tax Rate
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Pace-O-Matic, the developer of the Pennsylvania Skill game, applauded Governor Josh Shapiro for including the regulation and taxation of skill games in his budget proposal, but the company remains eager to work with the governor and legislature to negotiate a fair tax rate.  

Shapiro, a Democrat, released his 2024-25 budget on Tuesday (February 6) that included a 42 percent tax on the daily gross gaming revenue “from electronic gaming machines that involve and element of skill.” Currently, revenue from slot machines in casinos is taxed at a rate of 54 percent.

Shapiro's proposal would have the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) regulate the machines.

“While we believe the tax rate being proposed is higher than the industry can sustain and prefer to have a fair and impartial regulator, we stand ready and willing to discuss these issues in the general assembly and the Shapiro administration,” Michael Barley, chief public affairs officer for Pace-O-Matic, said in a statement.

Pace-O-Matic has been lobbying for a 16 percent tax rate and supports the state's Department of Taxation regulating its games.

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Virginia In-State College Betting Bill Pushed To 2025
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A bill that would allow gamblers to wager on in-state colleges and universities was continued to the Virginia General Assembly’s 2025 legislative session.

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted 14-0 in favor, without comment from committee members, to carry over Senate Bill 124 to the next session, rather than consider the bill during the 2024 legislative session.

Currently, Virginia law prohibits wagering on games involving in-state colleges and universities such as Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. 

Senator Schuyler VanValkenburg, a Democrat, filed SB 124 out of concern that residents were traveling to neighboring states to wager on Virginia college teams. The bill would have kept the ban on prop betting on college athletes.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 628 that removes Richmond from being a casino host city and replaces it with Petersburg, and Senate Bill 541 that removes Richmond from the list of eligible casino host cities, both received a 40-0 vote to pas the Senate on Wednesday (February 7).

Both measures now go to the House of Delegates for their approval.

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Probes Clear Crown Resorts CEO Of Misconduct
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An independent investigation and the Victoria state regulator have cleared the CEO of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts of breaching the law or gambling regulations.

Crown chairman Bill McBeath told staff in a letter that the company-commissioned external probe into CEO Ciarán Carruthers “found that no regulations or laws were breached”, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday (February 8).

But McBeath said the incidents that triggered the investigation had prompted a board review of security protocols and “lines of authority and accountability”.

The daily also said the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) was “satisfied that … the recommendations [of the Crown probe] were appropriate”, citing its statement late Thursday.

Carruthers had been accused by whistleblowers, including security staff, of intervening to benefit patrons who had flouted casino rules, including a patron who had brought a child into Crown Melbourne.

The apparent resolution of the accusations against Carruthers are a boost for Crown, whose casino licence in Melbourne is under review.

A confidential report by the casino’s temporary special manager has been submitted to the state government, which will determine within weeks if Crown can regain its licence after a two-year probationary period.

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Wyoming Legislature Set To Debate iGaming Bill
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A Wyoming lawmaker has filed an internet gaming bill just before the start of the legislative session next week. 

Republican Representative Robert Davis filed House Bill 120 on Tuesday (February 6) that defined an “interactive game as any internet-based version or variation of poker, blackjack or any other card, slot, or gambling game typically offered in a casino.” 

The 2024 session begins Monday and runs until March 8, giving Davis less than a month to get HB 120 through the state legislature and onto Republican Governor Mark Gordon’s desk for his signature.

“I hope that we can make it work. I guess we will find out,” Davis said in an email Wednesday.

The measure appoints the Wyoming Gaming Commission (WGC) as the regulator, which will promulgate rules to allow iGaming to operate within the state and govern the conduct of the operators. The bill taxes iGaming revenue at 10 percent. 

An initial fee of $100,000 for an interactive gaming operator permit that is renewable every five years for $50,000, while an interactive gaming vendor permit will cost $10,000 initially followed by a $5,000 fee when renewed every five years. 

The measure also proposed a slimmed-down application process, requiring the commission to offer an abbreviated application for online sports wagering license holders and may consider them qualified to hold an interactive gaming operator permit without additional investigation.

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Hawaii Sports-Betting, Casino Bills Receive Committee Approval
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Two bills, one to legalize sports betting in Hawaii and another to allow for a casino on Oahi, were approved by the House Economic Development Committee on Wednesday (February 7), but their future remains uncertain as lawmakers have been unsuccessful in their attempts over the last several years to legalize gaming.

Representative Daniel Holt, a Democrat and chairman of the committee, introduced House Bill 2762 to legalize one casino in the state and House Bill 2765 to legalize online sports betting.

HB 2765, if approved, will allow sports-betting operators to apply for a license as long as they are already licensed in three other jurisdictions. Neither the cost of the licenses nor a sports-betting tax rate have been announced.  

Holt said that most of the proceeds from sports betting will go to law enforcement to be used to go after illegal gambling and online gambling, with part of the proceeds being used to create a gambling mitigation program, which currently does not exist in Hawaii. 

In addition, HB 2762 would allow one casino with a 40-year license to be built on the island of Oahu. The legislation would create the Hawaii Gaming Commission to regulate and oversee the industry in the state.

“My reasoning for passing out this measure is to raise funds for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs which is entitled to 20 percent of the land trust revenues, which they are not receiving currently,” Holt said. “This is just my attempt to create a funding mechanism so they can receive their fair share of funding."

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Kindred Appoints Permanent CEO
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The interim CEO of Kindred Group, Nils Andén, has been appointed as its permanent chief executive, the company has announced.

Andén has been in his post since May 2023 and fully takes over the role as Kindred navigates an expected takeover by French lottery giant FDJ. 

“I am grateful and proud to have received the Board’s confidence to continue in the role as CEO of Kindred Group. We have a great team who are working hard to deliver on an exciting strategy that will strengthen Kindred’s position in locally regulated markets, and I look forward to continue to execute on our plan,” said Andén.

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Swedish Trade Group Defends Gambling Ads On Stockholm Transport
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The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) is fighting to keep gambling adverts in Stockholm's public transport system.

BOS secretary general Gustaf Hoffstedt published an op-ed in the Expressen, the third most read newspaper in the country, on February 6.

Hoffstedt argues that gambling advertising helps to keep transport fees low and helps to drive consumers towards licensed gambling operators.

The political board of Stockholm’s public transport announced that it intends to ban advertising for online gambling, despite estimating that it contributes around SEK20m (€1.8m) per year.

“Unfortunately, this is now threatened, as the political majority in Stockholm wants to ban all advertising for online gambling in the public transport system,” Hoffstedt said.

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Virginia Casino Bill Sidelined To 2025
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A controversial bill that would allow a northern Virginia suburb to build the state’s sixth casino was rejected Tuesday (February 6) by a Virginia Senate Committee. 

The Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee voted 13-2 against a bill that would have allowed Fairfax County to decide whether to hold a referendum on the issue. But the committee did not kill the bill outright, instead lawmakers opted to carry the bill over to 2025 for future consideration.

Senator David Marsden, a Democrat and author of Senate Bill 675, supports the project, saying it could reinvigorate Fairfax County and retain some of the $150m Virginians currently lose annually across the Potomac River at MGM National Harbor resort in Oxon Hill, Maryland.

Also on Tuesday, the committee voted to advance Senate Bill 628 that would allow Petersburg to join the list of cities eligible to host a casino under a state law initially approved in 2020.

Voters allowed casino gaming in 2020 in five cities, subject to referendum. Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk all voted for casinos, while Richmond voters twice rejected a proposed casino.

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NCLGS Partners With UK Gambling Commission
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The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) has partnered with the UK Gambling Commission to serve as a “special advisor” for the group as it looks to create model iGaming policy for states that will consider legalizing online gaming. 

Tim Miller, executive director at the UK Gambling Commission, admitted Monday (February 5) that gambling is an increasingly global industry with many of the same risks, opportunities and challenges seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

“It’s therefore essential that jurisdictions, which will often be regulating the same companies, work together to share knowledge and best practice to deliver fair, safe and crime-free gambling markets,” Miller said in a statement. 

Shaun Fluharty, a Democratic delegate in the West Virginia legislature and president of the NCLGS, said it is also a reflection of the magnitude of this opportunity and the seriousness that comes with it.

“NCLGS will now have the unique opportunity to leverage the wisdom and expertise of one of the most respected regulatory bodies worldwide in an effort to produce model legislation to strengthen the U.S. market, shrink the black market, and protect consumers,” Fluharty said.

The NCLGS plans to release its model iGaming legislation in July at its summer meeting in Pittsburgh.

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Lottery Bill Unveiled In Utah Legislature
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A bill sponsored by Republican state Representative Kera Birkeland proposes to allow Utah voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow the legislature to create a state-run lottery.

But the chances that HJR 24 makes it onto the November ballot is a longshot in a state that has had a constitutional prohibition on lotteries and all forms of gambling since statehood in 1896.

Republican Senate President Stuart Adams told the Salt Lake Tribune that the odds of getting the two-thirds support it needs in both the House and Senate to make that ballot is “not very high.”  

Currently, Utah is just one of five states — Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada — that do not have a lottery. Hawaii and Utah are the only state states without any form of gaming. 

Nevada in last year’s session passed a lottery bill, but the measure must gain approval in both the Senate and Assembly again in 2025 before voters get to decide the matter in 2026. Republican lawmakers in Alabama are expected to introduce gaming legislation soon that could include a state lottery.

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West Flagler files Supreme Court complaint in Florida battle, Pennsylvania skill games leader wants to talk regulation, Virginia in-state college betting closer to reality and Crown Resorts boss cleared of misconduct.

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