News In Brief: January 23–January 27, 2023

January 27, 2023
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An online casino bill is launched in Maryland, Ontario revenues spike as licensed market comes fully online and investigations continue into exclusive betting licence tender in Paraguay.

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Maryland Senators Introduce Online Casino Legislation

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Two Maryland legislators introduced a bill in the state’s Senate that would permit online casino gaming if voters were to approve a ballot measure next year.

Senate Bill 267 would permit each of Maryland’s six casino operators to obtain licenses to offer online casino gaming.

Operators would have to pay a $500,000 initial license fee for a five-year license, and a renewal fee of 1 percent of average annual revenue over a three-year period.

In addition, operators would pay a 15 percent tax rate on online casino revenue.

The bill would also require an annual report from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to the governor and legislature on the effects of the online gaming program on problem gamblers and gambling addiction in the state.

Maryland law requires voter approval for any expansion of commercial gaming, so if the bill were to pass the legislature, the bill would still require a majority of voters in the state’s November 2024 election.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Senators Ron Watson and Nancy King.

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iGaming Ontario Posts Increase In Third-Quarter Revenues

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Ontario’s online gaming market saw a 71 percent quarterly increase in revenues in the last three months of 2022.

iGaming Ontario, which manages the province’s privatized online gaming market, reported Thursday (January 26) that operators produced $457m in combined online sports betting and online casino revenues from October through December.

The revenues reflect the first quarter in which many of the largest operators with an established presence in Ontario have entered the regulated market following an October 31 deadline for grey market operators previously operating in the province to transition into the regulated space without having to halt their operations.

The province also saw more than $11.5bn in wagering handle through 36 licensed operators, an increase from just over $6bn in handle through 24 operators in the previous quarter.

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Maryland Lottery Signs Off On Five Sports-Betting Applicants

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The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission (MLGCC) has approved the qualifications of three applicants for sports-betting retail locations and two mobile wagering applications.

The businesses are expected to be considered for licensure during the Sports Wagering Application Review Commission’s next meeting on February 15.

SuperBook Sports was one of those companies to receive initial approval Thursday (January 26) to offer mobile sports betting in the state. SuperBook Sports has a retail betting partnership with Camden Yards, home of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles.

SuperBook Sports is currently live in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Jersey, and Tennessee.

The three businesses were found qualified for sports wagering facility licenses were: Kathe P. Hospitality (Michael’s on the South River in Riva, Anne Arundel County); Canton Gaming, LLC - Canton (The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in Canton, Baltimore City); and Canton Gaming, LLC - Towson (The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in Towson, Baltimore County).

Crab Sports Maryland joined SuperBook Sports in being qualified for a mobile license.

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Paraguay Continues Investigation Into Sports-Betting Tender

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Paraguay’s Permanent Commission of Congress has signed off on requests for documentation from the national gambling regulator, Conajzar, regarding the recently closed tender process.

Daruma Sam SA, also known as Apostola, won the bid to be the sole operator for sports betting in the country, despite making the worst offer financially compared with the other two final bidders, B-Gaming and Gambling SA Consortium, and businessman Luis Carlos Alder Benítez.

The losing duo announced they would be filing legal complaints the week of January 20, now the investigation will continue on in Congress.

Luis Gama, former regulator of the Uruguayan national lotteries and now the director of Gaming Consultants, told VIXIO that this is par for the course for Conajazar.

“I expect that the lawsuit will not be successful, but I believe that Paraguay must consider other ways of resolving these issues that affect its credibility. Conajzar's management is really very bad and extremely weak institutionally.”

Conajzar has a history of questionable business dealings, dating back to a slot machine scandal which saw it award a contract to a company whose origins could not be traced.

“A few years ago they had been working on processes that would position them in a different way, but the lack of professionalism and continuity in the policies and objectives originally proposed means that they are not advancing and even going backwards on different issues that are key for the development of the industry,” Gama argued.

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Negotiations Continue On California Cardroom Moratorium

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After last year’s defeat in a Senate committee to extend a moratorium on the number of licenses and tables for cardrooms for another year, talks between operators, tribes and California lawmakers to reach a new deal have been taking place in Sacramento.

There have been ongoing talks with Democratic state Senator Bill Dodd’s office and cardrooms to come to some kind of legislative agreement, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.

“Talks are currently ongoing,” the source said.

In September, the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, which Dodd chairs, failed to pass a moratorium extension bill, opening the door to the expansion of commercial cardrooms in communities state-wide.

The moratorium that restricted the expansion of existing cardrooms or the licensing of new facilities began in 1995. In 2018, Assembly Bill 1168 was approved to extend the moratorium by three years to January 1, 2023.

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UK Gambling Commission Clears Camelot Buyout, Says Company

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Allwyn says it has received approval from the UK Gambling Commission as part of its acquisition of Camelot UK Lotteries Limited, from which it will take over running the lucrative UK National Lottery in 2024.

“This transaction will help facilitate a smooth transition as Allwyn becomes the operator of The National Lottery under the Fourth Licence from February 2024 — a process which is well underway,” the company said, in a press release.

“Subject to all relevant regulatory conditions being met, Allwyn looks forward to welcoming Camelot into the Allwyn family and working closely on the transition from the Third to the Fourth Licence,” it said.

Allwyn also announced that, following completion of the deal, Clare Swindell and Neil Brocklehurst, currently Camelot’s chief financial officer (CFO) and commercial director, respectively, will become co-chief executives. The pair will oversee the end of Camelot’s stewardship of the National Lottery, through January 2024.

Current chairman Sir Hugh Robinson and CEO Nigel Railton will step down, with Sir Keith Mills appointed as new chair.

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India Court Rulings Back Industry Over Reserve Bank, GST Organ

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Two regional High Courts in India have reaffirmed the legality of skill gaming by siding with gaming operators against some of the nation’s most powerful fiscal and enforcement organs.

On Wednesday last week (January 18) the Bombay High Court and Rajasthan High Court backed gaming plaintiffs at the expense of, respectively, the Reserve Bank of India and a central body implementing a goods and services tax (GST) crackdown on the online gaming industry.

The Bombay court ordered the reserve bank to shelve its concerns that Play Games24x7 offered online gambling, and directed it to consider anew the company’s application to issue shares to foreign investors, the G2G gaming news website reported on Monday (January 23).

The court noted the company’s online games did not offer rewards and could not constitute gambling.

In Rajasthan state, the High Court sided with fantasy sports outfit MyTeam11 and ordered the director general of GST Intelligence to cease GST recovery from the company based on the presumption of gambling activity.

The decisions come ahead of a Supreme Court hearing into at least two state government appeals that is likely to issue binding rulings nationally on the legality of online gaming with stakes.

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Fanatics Reportedly In talks To Acquire BetParx Sportsbook

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Sports merchandise retailer Fanatics is in discussion to acquire BetParx sportsbook, as the company seeks additional opportunities for its Fanatics Betting and Gaming division in the sports-betting market, CNBC reported Friday (January 20).

The BetParx app was launched by Greenwood Gaming & Entertainment, the parent company of Parx Casino in Pennsylvania, and online gambling software company Playtech.

BetParx is available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

Representatives from Fanatics and BetParx were unavailable for comment.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) approved Fanatics Betting and Gaming for a tethered online sports-betting license as the second operator partnering with Plainridge Park Casino. Barstool Sports is also an online partners with the Penn Entertainment operated casino.

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Ontario Regulator Restores UFC Wagers

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) will allow sport-betting operators in the province to resume taking bets on Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) matches.

The AGCO pulled UFC betting from its approved list of events on December 1 following alleged incidents, including possible betting by UFC insiders, and reports of suspicious betting patterns in other jurisdictions.

Since then, the AGCO has been actively engaged with regulated entities and stakeholders as they worked to address the issues, the agency said in a statement.

“The AGCO is committed to protecting Ontario players and the integrity of its betting market,” said Tom Mungham, registrar and CEO of the AGCO.

“With the legalization of single event betting last year, the AGCO created strong new rules to protect bettors in Ontario,” Mungham added. “We are please these rules are already working to strengthen the integrity of sports betting in Ontario and, as a result, of UFC competitions around the world.”

Among the actions taken by the UFC is amending its Athlete Conduct Policy to prohibit all insiders from placing any wagers directly or through a third party on any UFC match, including placing wagers on themselves, and reiterated their expectation that their contracted athletes report any matters that might raise integrity concerns.

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An online casino bill is launched in Maryland, Ontario revenues spike as licensed market comes fully online and investigations continue into exclusive betting licence tender in Paraguay.

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