News In Brief: January 1-January 5, 2024

January 5, 2024
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Bally's will reportedly launch sports betting in Massachusetts after its Rhode Island operation is up and running, while Betway withdraws its plans for the Bay State.
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Bally’s Sees Future In Massachusetts As Betway Departs
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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) received an update on Thursday (January 4) on two sports-betting operators who received temporary licenses but have not launched in the state.

Caitlin Monahan, interim director of the MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, said Bally’s Interactive, which operates Bally Bet, has informed the commission that it is working on opening in Rhode Island before moving forward with Massachusetts.

Monahan said Bally’s does not have a hard launch date. Rhode Island legalized iGaming in 2023, and Bally’s Interactive expects to launch sometime this year.

Bruce Band, director of the MGC’s Sports Wagering Division, assured commissioners that Bally Bet will update regulators on its plans for Massachusetts.

“But they do plan to pay our licensing fee,” Band said. “I would assume if they are willing to pay the $1m fee … that they are still planning to open with us.”

Bally’s Interactive and Betway were both approved for Category 3 untethered sports-betting licenses.

Monahan said Betway has informed the commission that it does not plan to operate in the state, and that its temporary license will expire next month.

Betway joins PointsBet and bet365 in pulling out of Massachusetts since the launch of retail sports betting on January 31, followed by the start of mobile betting on March 10, 2023.

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California Cardroom Boss Kirkland Runs For Congress
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Kyle Kirkland, owner of Club One Casino in Fresno, is running for U.S. Congress to succeed Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy resigned from Congress on December 31 after he was removed as House Speaker in October.

McCarthy’s 20th Congressional District seat includes parts of Kern, Tulare, Kings and Fresno counties in Central California. It is also the most Republican district in California, according to The Cook Partisan Voting Index.

Kirkland told KMJ Radio in Fresno that he is on the ballot for the 2024 primary on March 5. He faces McCarthy’s chosen successor, Republican state Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield.

Kirkland’s Fresno cardroom features 51 table games, a 24-hour restaurant, and three bars. He is also the president of the California Gaming Association, the state’s largest trade association representing the cardroom industry.

Asked by KMJ host Ray Appleton why he decided to enter politics now, Kirkland said he has always been interested in government and lawmaking. He cited the economy and high cost of living as his top two priorities.

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Report Says More Racetracks Bad Bet For Nebraska
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Nebraska does not need more horseracing tracks and accompanying casinos because the state’s six licensed racetracks have more than enough capacity to meet demand for racing and casino play, a report found.

The Innovation Group’s report was commissioned by the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission after lawmakers asked regulators to examine the state’s horseracing and casino markets and their socioeconomic impact. The report will be produced every five years.

Nebraska voters approved casino gaming in a November 2020 ballot referendum, followed about six months later by the legislature approving a bill to regulate the industry. The change in the state constitution allows for casinos at the state’s six licensed racetracks.

Among the findings in their 111-page report, researchers noted that further casino development beyond existing racing license holders would require development of a racetrack.

“Of the six existing tracks, only one — Fonner Park — operates a full racing schedule. The remaining five tracks have more than ample spare capacity to accommodate up to a four-fold growth in live racing,” it said.

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Seal Of Approval Launched In Curaçao
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Curaçao’s regulator, the Gaming Control Board, has created a digital seal that can be used by the operators it authorises.

The seal, an image that links to the regulator’s website, can be used by the small number of companies the board currently directly regulates, as well as those that passport those firms' approvals under the so-called master licence system.

However, the seal will outlast this system, which is being dismantled as Curaçao attempts to rebuild its often criticised gambling regulatory regime.

Operators that wish to remain licensed on the island will need to submit an application for direct licensing by March 31 this year, according to the board’s Digital Seal Policy.

Operators with applications pending are also permitted to use the seal as long as they are “in receipt of satisfactory due diligence relating to them” from the regulator.

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Ireland To Skip Affordability Checks
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The minister leading Ireland’s reform of gambling laws has said the government has no plans to follow the UK in introducing affordability checks on gamblers.

“My understanding is anecdotally that is having a massive impact on the horse racing over in the United Kingdom in terms of people participating,” James Browne told the Irish Sun daily on December 26.

“We’re not doing that here because I think, and others agree, that affordability checks are quite personally invasive in the people who are gambling.

“I don’t think that is an appropriate way to go.”

Ireland’s Gambling Regulation Bill is currently at a standstill with the European Commission ahead of its full implementation.

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Seven Operators Seek North Carolina Sports-Betting License
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Seven mobile sports-betting operators have submitted applications with the North Carolina Lottery Commission in an effort to be among the initial licensees to offer mobile wagering in the state.

The seven operators are bet365, BetMGM, DraftKings, ESPN BET, Fanatics Sportsbook, FanDuel and Underdog.

North Carolina Lottery officials have yet to confirm an official launch date for mobile sports betting. Currently, tribal casinos operate retail sportsbooks in the state in partnership with Caesars Entertainment.

The applications were submitted before a December 27 deadline, giving commission staff 60 days to review each of the applications, with operators having ten days to reply to any requests for additional information.

So far, four of the seven applicants have announced partnerships with professional sports teams or venues for access to the state’s sports-betting market. ESPN BET is partnering with Quail Hollow Club, a PGA Tour venue in Charlotte, while FanDuel has an existing partnership with the PGA Tour.

Fanatics is partnering with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and bet365 has joined forces with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. BetMGM, DraftKings and Underdog have yet to announce their partnerships. 

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Mobile Sports Betting Goes Live In Delaware
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The first state to launch full sports betting outside Nevada became the 29th to launch mobile sports wagering on December 27 when Rush Street Interactive (RSI) launched a BetRivers-branded online sportsbook and casino platform in Delaware.

Legal sports wagering in Delaware had previously been limited to sportsbooks at three land-based casinos, as well as parlay wagering cards available at various other retail locations.

RSI inked a contract with the Delaware Lottery last year to take over the operation of the lottery's online gaming platform from 888 Holdings, while also adding a mobile sportsbook to the offering.

The BetRivers sportsbook and online casino is co-branded with two of Delaware's casinos, Delaware Park and Harrington Raceway, which previously served as skins on 888's platform.

Unlike most other states, Delaware has not passed specific legislation to authorize online sports betting. However, a legislative committee issued a report on the matter in December following approval of a resolution in the state's House of Representatives earlier in 2023.

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Oklahoma Sports-Betting Bill Lacks Tribal Exclusivity
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A state senator has filed legislation to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma without granting tribes the exclusive right to offer the new form of gaming.

Republican Senator Casey Murdock filed Senate Bill 1434 that would allow the Oklahoma Lottery Commission to issue licenses for retail and online sports wagering.

Murdock’s bill would tax retail wagers at 15 percent of gross revenue. For mobile sports betting, applicants would have to pay a $500,000 license fee and annual fees of $100,000, in addition to a 20 percent tax rate.

Tribes would have to negotiate sports-betting compacts with Republican Governor Kevin Stitt and get approval from the Oklahoma Legislature’s Joint Committee on State-Tribal Relations before being granted a license.

The measure would also appropriate $1m in tax revenue to the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to treat problem gamblers. 

Murdock told the Oklahoma Voice that his one-page bill is still a work in progress, but he worked with the governor’s office on the measure.

Republican state Representative Ken Luttrell, who introduced a sports-betting bill last year giving tribes exclusivity to offer sports betting, said the bill violates Oklahoma's tribal-state gaming compact of 2004.

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Brazil National Lottery To Launch 'Lotex' Instant Games
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Brazilian national lottery operator Caixa Economica Federal has been approved by the Ministry of Finance to launch so-called Lotex instant lottery games.

The form of instant lottery was created by a federal lottery law approved in 2015, but the Brazilian government's efforts to issue an exclusive concession for Lotex games to a private operator have so far proven unsuccessful.

Caixa has been granted "transitional" authority to offer Lotex games for a period of up to 24 months from the time the national lottery operator starts selling either printed or digital instant games. 

The operation can also be extended until Lotex games are instead ready to be operated by a private company that wins an eventual concession process, according to a Ministry of Finance ordinance published on December 28.

As things stand, it is uncertain whether Caixa will also gain approval to offer sports betting and online casino games under new legislation signed into law in Brazil on December 30.

A Senate amendment to that legislation would have specified that Caixa should receive a federal licence to offer fixed-odds betting both online and through its retail network, but the language was not included in the final version of the law as enacted by President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

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Bally's will reportedly launch sports betting in Massachusetts after its Rhode Island operation is up and running, while Betway withdraws its plans for the Bay State.

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