News In Brief: January 17-January 21, 2022

January 21, 2022
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JKO decides against making bid for Playtech, the Nevada Gaming Commission votes in favour of remote player registration and Pennsylvania's online gambling revenue soars to new heights.

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JKO Says It Will Not Bid For Playtech

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JKO Play has decided against a potential bid for Playtech, reportedly due to concerns that a group of Asian investors that bought into the online gambling company could block the deal.

Playtech noted the announcement by JKO, an investment vehicle for former Formula One owner Eddie Jordan, of its intentions not to make an offer.

JKO had been considering an offer of 750 pence per share for Playtech.

Aristocrat’s offer of 680 pence per share is below Thursday’s share price.

Playtech said today (January 21) that it continues to recommend the offer from Aristocrat Leisure, which is set for a February 2 vote by shareholders.

Still, Aristocrat’s planned £2.7bn takeover may not be free of complications.

“A number of material investors have not to date engaged meaningfully about their views on the Aristocrat offer, including certain investors that have disclosed or taken material positions in the company following the announcement of the Aristocrat offer,” Playtech said.

“The absence of customary levels of engagement means that the board is approaching the court and general meetings without a clear understanding of whether these shareholders are supportive of the Aristocrat offer,” the company said.

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Record Revenue In Pennsylvania, Despite Slots Slippage

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Rapid growth of internet gaming helped Pennsylvania’s gaming industry scale new heights in 2021, according to statistics released on Thursday (January 20) by the state’s gaming regulator.

Overall annual revenue from land-based and online casino games, sports betting, fantasy sports and the state’s limited market for video gaming terminals at truck stops hit $4.73bn last year, up from $2.65bn in 2020 and shattering a previous record of $3.41bn in 2019.

Net interactive gaming revenue exceeded $1.11bn, versus $565.8m, as sports wagering revenue net of promotional credits hit $340.1m versus $189.7m in 2020. Gross sports-betting revenue was $502.8m.

Although the Keystone State reported record annual revenue across every other segment including casino table games, a standout exception was physical slot machines in land-based casinos. Annual slot machine revenue of $2.29bn was the lowest total in more than a decade, excluding the peak pandemic year of 2020.

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Fubo Sportsbook Scores Texas Market-Access Deal

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Fubo Gaming, the sports-betting and online gambling arm of the fuboTV streaming platform, announced a deal on Thursday (January 20) to become the exclusive official sports-betting partner of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Houston Dynamo.

As well as various sponsorship opportunities, the deal will allow Fubo Sportsbook to operate as the designated mobile sports-betting skin of the team, should Texas approve legislation for sports wagering using a structure akin to Arizona’s or Ohio’s.

Legislation filed in the state legislature last year would have authorized retail sports betting at major league sports arenas and at state-licensed racetracks, with each eligible to deploy an affiliated mobile betting platform. Lawmakers are not in session again until 2023, when similar bills are expected to be reintroduced.

“Partnering with the Houston Dynamo Football Club for market access in Texas is a major milestone for Fubo. Texas has an incredibly enthusiastic community of sports fans and will ultimately become one of the largest sports betting markets in the U.S,” Fubo Gaming president Scott Butera said in a statement.

Although terms of the partnership were not disclosed, Sportico reported that the deal is the most lucrative arrangement in MLS history and includes $10m upfront, as well as an additional $15m pending the approval of appropriate sports-betting legislation in Texas.

DraftKings and PointsBet both also have market-access in Texas via a local sports team, with bet365 and Betway inking recent partnerships for free-to-play games, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance’s U.S. Sports Betting Partnership Tracker.

Fubo’s mobile sportsbook platform is currently live in Iowa and Arizona. The company also has market-access arrangements in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana.

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Nevada Commission Approves Remote Registration Of Gaming Accounts

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The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously on Thursday (January 20) to approve amendments to the state’s gaming regulations so that players creating a casino wagering account can do so remotely, without having to show a physical ID to a casino staff member.

Patrons will still need to register in-person for mobile sports betting, which is governed by a different rule to those amended by the new changes.

The change was requested by Nevada-based Sightline Payments and had already been recommended for approval by the Nevada Gaming Control Board last year.

It is expected to facilitate the adoption of cashless gaming on casino floors, as approved by Nevada regulators in mid-2020.

Sightline chief legal officer Jennifer Carleton said the amendments would allow Nevada casinos “to leverage the best practices from across the financial services industry to enhance customer security and the customer experience.”

“Nevada’s new regulation is in line with federal guidance permitting both new verification methods including knowledge-based authentication, as well as traditional documentary measures such as a customer’s driver’s license or passport,” Carleton said in a statement after approval by the commission.

She said Sightline would “look forward to working with regulators in gaming jurisdictions across the country to advance similar regulatory innovation.”

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Rank, LottoGo To Pay Penalties For Social Responsibility Failures

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Rank Group is among two UK-focused online casino companies that will pay penalties totalling £1.3m for social responsibility failures, the UK Gambling Commission has said.

Rank Digital Gaming (Alderney) will pay a £700,500 regulatory settlement for social responsibility failures, the commission said today (January 20).

The Rank subsidiary has businesses trading as bellacasino.com, grosvenorcasino.com, meccabingo.com and meccagames.com, the UK regulator said.

Annexio (Jersey), trading as lottogo.com, will pay a £612,000 regulatory settlement for both social responsibility and money laundering failures.

The settlement money will go to the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms, the commission said.

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Entain Revises 2021 Profit Numbers Upward

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Entain said its full-year group EBITDA for 2021 will be £875m to £885m, ahead of previous forecasts, the London-listed gambling company said today (January 20).

Online net gaming revenue for the year rose 12 percent over the year-earlier period, even as retail net gaming revenue (NGR) declined by 3 percent as shops were hurt by COVID-19 restrictions, the company said.

For the fourth quarter, online NGR dropped by 9 percent over the same period a year earlier, or a performance better than expectations, Entain said.

Fourth-quarter NGR, however, gained by 60 percent, with shops open for the full period, the company said.

Overall group NGR gained 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Volumes have returned to within 10 percent of pre-COVID levels, Entain said.

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Korean Lottery Sales Hit Record $5bn In 2021

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Lottery sales in South Korea jumped more than 10 percent in 2021 to hit a new annual record as pandemic disruption migrated customers away from other gaming activities.

Sales volume rose 10.3 percent to 5.98trn won ($5bn) in 2021, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said in a statement on Tuesday (January 18).

The ministry attributed the bulk of the increase in sales to a pandemic-induced “substitution effect” as gaming customers drifted away from shuttered casinos, reduced horseracing fixtures and other heavily disrupted gaming products.

By segment, dominant online lottery products grew by 8.4 percent to 5.14trn won.

However, less popular products recorded the most growth, with the pension lottery up 29.2 percent to 291bn won, electronic lotteries up 25.6 percent to 105bn won, and paper lotteries up 19.8 percent to 442bn won.

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Blacklisted Kings Romans Casino Enslaving Laos Women

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The Kings Romans Casino, a US-blacklisted operation inside the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos, is allegedly holding female Lao staff captive and likely selling some to other criminal groups.

Radio Free Asia’s Laos bureau reported on Tuesday (January 18) that three Lao women seeking “chat girl” work at the casino’s call centre say they are unable to leave the ethnic Chinese-controlled zone after being ordered to pay back “debts” and expenses to their employer.

The women’s identifying documents have been seized by the casino, and their calls for help from the Laos government are not being heeded, the report said.

Attracting employees with inflated salaries, then trapping them until they pay their “debts” or selling them on to other criminal interests, is a business model for which neighbouring Cambodia has become notorious.

Cambodian city Sihanoukville’s underground online gambling operations and a host of other operations dotted around the country hold hundreds of people prisoner every year, based on police figures and local reports.

The notable element of the Kings Romans operation, however, is that it seemingly targets women of its host nation, raising questions about the Laos government’s relationship with the zone.

It also raises the question of why the Chinese government has placed little apparent pressure on the operation, contrasting starkly with Beijing’s aggressive actions against legal and illegal gambling markets across Asia.

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Parx Approved For Pennsylvania Mini-Casino

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has unanimously awarded a license to the owner of Parx Casino for a so-called Category 4 mini-casino in Shippensburg Township in Cumberland County.

The mini-casino license is one of five available under a 2017 gaming expansion law and subsequent auction processes. Under the law, mini-casinos are restricted to no more than 750 slot machines, plus table games and sports betting subject to payment of additional fees.

Parx-owner Greenwood Gaming won an auction for the license in 2018 but subsequently amended its application to change the location of its planned casino in Cumberland County near Harrisburg.

Pennsylvania’s first Category 4 casino was opened by Cordish Companies near Pittsburgh in late 2020. Two further mini-casinos were opened by Penn National Gaming last year.

The PGCB awarded the license to Parx during its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday (January 19). During the same meeting regulators also banned four individuals from frequenting any of the state’s casinos after they left children unattended while gambling. Some 133 individuals have been placed on the state’s involuntary exclusion list for the same reason since 2011, the PGCB said.

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Swedish Bingo Association Receives Just A Warning From SGA

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The Swedish gambling regulator issued the Swedish Bingo Association with a warning, but the association avoided a fine after it was deemed to have made several "non-serious" legal infringements.

The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) found the association failed to include a sign for self-testing, deposit limits, determination of login time when players were on the site and not logged in or using a mobile device to access the site.

Another infringement was found on its website homepage, where there was no telephone number or email address.

As the infringements were deemed to not be serious by the SGA, and the bingo association was found to have already addressed many of the infringements, it was determined that a fine was not necessary.

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Michigan Makes Its Mark As Billion-Dollar iGaming Market

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Michigan took less than a year to establish itself as a billion-dollar market for internet casino gaming, according to statistics released on Tuesday (January 18) by state regulators.

Online casinos generated $1.11bn in total revenue from their launch in late January through the end of 2021, per Michigan Gaming Control Board data. Annual revenue also exceeded a billion dollars at $1.03bn on an adjusted basis net of limited tax deductions for promotional credits.

Monthly internet gaming revenue hit a record $121.8bn in December, with BetMGM retaining a commanding market-share lead of 37.8 percent, well clear of FanDuel and DraftKings.

Total gross revenue for online sports betting was $34.8m in December and $292.2m for 2021 as a whole. Annual net revenue was much lower, however, at $110.6m.

Total gross online gambling revenue for 2021 of $1.41bn even surpassed the roughly $1.29bn earned by Detroit’s three land-based commercial casinos from traditional slots, table games plus retail sports betting during the year.

The statistics released on Tuesday confirmed that Michigan crossed the threshold of a billion dollars in annual online gambling revenue in its very first year of operation. By comparison, it took New Jersey until 2020 to become a billion-dollar market for internet gaming and online sports betting combined, following the former vertical’s sluggish launch in 2013 and the addition of mobile sports wagering some five years later.

December statistics for internet gaming and sports wagering should also be released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in the coming days, with the state already over the billion-dollar threshold, according to VIXIO GamblingCompliance data.

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Aspire Global Gets Takeover Bid From NeoGames

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Aspire Global said its bid committee is recommending that shareholders approve a $480m offer from NeoGames.

NeoGames, an internet lottery company, has offered 111 Swedish krona per Aspire Global share, in a combination of shares and cash, which makes a total of about SEK4.3bn.

The main shareholders of Aspire control 67 percent of the company and have committed to accept the offer, the Stockholm-listed B2B gambling company said today (January 18).

The combined company is expected to be led by NeoGames chief executive Moti Malul, who will continue as CEO, and Raviv Adler as chief financial officer of NeoGames, Aspire said.

Tsachi Maimon, CEO of Aspire Global, is expected to join NeoGames as president and lead the newly-formed online gaming division.

The current board of directors of NeoGames will remain in place and be responsible for the combined entity.

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Chilean Casino Operators Confirm Merger Agreement

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Chile’s two largest casino operators have reached an agreement over the terms of their merger.

Santiago Stock Exchange-listed Enjoy said Friday (January 14) that its combination with Dreams S.A. would be 64 percent owned by Dreams shareholders and 36 percent by its own shareholders.

The combined entity will operate 15 casinos in Chile, including the market-leading Monticello resort near Santiago, as well as the Enjoy Punta del Este casino-resort in Uruguay plus properties in Colombia, Panama and Peru. Enjoy also owns a casino in Argentina’s Mendoza province but announced an agreement in late December to sell its stake to a local minority partner.

Dreams became one of Latin America’s largest casino operators in 2015 when it merged with the regional operations of South Africa’s Sun International. Dreams’ owners bought out Sun’s stake in the venture two years ago.

In a statement, Enjoy chairman Henry Comber said the merger “will consolidate the leadership of a Chilean company in the casino industry of Latin America and make possible the enhancement of new business lines such as e-gaming.”

“The new firm will combine all the experience of both groups and have a stronger financial position that will allow the company to robustly confront new challenges that the effects of the pandemic and the development of new technologies have imposed upon the gaming and entertainment industry in Latin America,” added Claudio Fischer, co-founder and chairman of Dreams.

The companies said the merger was still subject to regulatory approval by Chilean casino and financial regulators, among other government bodies, with the deal expected to be completed in nine to 12 months.

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Missouri Lawmakers Renew Mobile Sports Betting, Video Lottery Debate

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At least four bills that would legalize mobile sports betting or video lottery machines in Missouri are waiting to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee as lawmakers return to Jefferson City on Tuesday.

Both Senate Bill 643 and Senate Bill 764 were referred to the committee last week, but official hearing dates are still pending.

Republican Senator Denny Hoskins, who is making his fourth attempt to add Missouri to the list of legal sports-betting states, authored SB 643 that would allow both in-person wagering at casinos and online betting tied to those resorts.

The net revenue from wagering would be taxed at 21 percent, while sports leagues may request to restrict or limit certain wagers and lottery games based on the outcome of games to “parlay games” only.

The second bill, SB 764, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Tony Luetkemeyer, a Republican, would impose a tax rate of 6.25 percent on the net revenue from retail and mobile wagering.

Both bills allow each casino to operate one skin, include esports in the definition of sports betting, and ban wagering from taking place within a sports and entertainment district, surrounding professional sports stadiums in the state.

Another bill introduced last week but still waiting for its committee assignment was SB 1046, sponsored by Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Dan Hegeman, a Republican. His proposal is similar to the two other bills but would allow sports and entertainment districts to be licensed to offer mobile wagering.

Hegeman’s bill would allow sports teams to have one skin, while casinos could operate up to three skins.

Meanwhile, Senate Bills 642 and 686 are similar pieces of legislation that would legalize video lottery terminals in bars, restaurants, truck stops and liquor stores.

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Michigan Cracks Down On Grey-Market Machines

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The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and Michigan Liquor Control Commission have joined forces to crack down on unregulated gaming machines, as they continue to pop up in convenience stores and gas stations across the state.

“Illegal gambling can lead to other, more serious crimes that compromise safety in Michigan communities,” said Henry Williams, MGCB executive director.

Williams said those who use these unregulated machines also have little recourse if they feel cheated.

“They can’t file a formal dispute with an unregulated operator and ask our agency to review the outcome as they can when participating in licensed, legal gaming.”

In a statement, the MGCB said both state agencies will share information with businesses and the public about what is legal in Michigan. Both agencies hope the public campaign will counteract misleading information the public and businesses receive about unregulated machines.

“The misleading information often comes from machine and software suppliers,” the MGCB said.

Consequences for having illegal machines include loss of liquor license, loss of lottery license, misdemeanor and felony charges and fines. The Detroit Free Press reported the MGCB has seized 1,033 machines and $248,518 in cash.

The crackdown on unregulated gambling devices in Michigan comes as lawmakers in Missouri consider legislation to combat the growth of skill-based games by legalizing video lottery terminals in bars, truck stops and restaurants, and a judge in Virginia has set a May 18 hearing on whether to lift a temporary injunction allowing the operation of slots-like, skill-based gaming machines.

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New Jersey Online Market Surpasses $2bn In 2021

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New Jersey’s online gambling market generated total revenue of $2.11bn last year, establishing the Garden State among the top five largest regulated markets globally.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement on Friday (January 14) reported a record monthly internet gaming revenue total of $133.2m in December. Monthly sports-betting revenue was $59m on handle of $1.23bn.

The state’s online casino market generated total gross revenue of $1.37bn in 2021, up almost 41 percent on the prior year despite the full reopening of Atlantic City land-based casino properties.

Annual sports wagering revenue was $815.8m versus $398.8m in 2020, with online betting accounting for around 90 percent of the total.

Overall gaming revenue, including from land-based slots and table games in Atlantic City, more than recovered to reach $4.74bn, New Jersey’s highest annual revenue total since 2007.

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Kyrgyz Republic Selects Lottery Operator

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A consortium of two companies has been selected to run the national lottery of Kyrgyzstan, after the conclusion of a tender process that began in October.

A partnership between Elbet and Axel Capital has been chosen, according to a government announcement.

Both Elbet and Axel Capital are based in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade.

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JKO decides against making bid for Playtech, the Nevada Gaming Commission votes in favour of remote player registration and Pennsylvania's online gambling revenue soars to new heights.

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