News In Brief: January 24-January 28, 2022

January 28, 2022
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Deposit limits will not return in Sweden, KSA says unlicensed operators should brace for enforcement in the Netherlands and Nevada sets a revenue record.

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Deposit Limits Scrapped In Sweden

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Sweden will not go ahead with plans to reintroduce the tough deposit and bonus limits that have been in effect for much of that pandemic.

In early January, the government announced that a weekly deposit limit of 4,000 Swedish krona (€390) and bonus cap of SEK100 would be reintroduced from February 7, in response to the growing number of coronavirus cases.

However, the fact that Sweden is forecast to have passed its omicron peak by that date has prompted the government to re-think, it said in an announcement on Thursday (January 27).

“It is a wise and well-balanced decision that the government has made, said Gustaf Hoffstedt, the secretary general of trade group BOS, which has opposed the restrictions since they were first introduced in 2020.

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KSA Warns Of Imminent Enforcement

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The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has told consumers they should withdraw money from unlicensed online gambling operators, as it warns that an expanding probe into illegal websites will soon result in enforcement action.

From October 1, any operators accepting players from the Netherlands without a licence open themselves up to punishment, even if they do not actively target the country.

The KSA initially announced that it had identified 25 websites for further investigation, but said on Thursday that this list had expanded and that it would soon take action against offenders.

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Cashpoint Reprimanded Over Danish AML

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Cashpoint Limited faces an injunction from the Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) over alleged anti-money laundering failures.

The company had not properly understood how at risk it was of being used to launder cash and had not properly identified who was responsible for anti-money laundering (AML) policies.

Cashpoint has been told it should submit an updated risk assessment to the regulator that details how it will address the issues raised in the enforcement action.

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Nevada Sets Revenue Record For 2021, Topping $13bn

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A tenth straight $1bn revenue month in December helped annual gaming revenues in Nevada set a record last year, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB).

The NGCB reported on Thursday (January 27) that gaming win of $1.15bn in December sent total revenues to $13.4bn for 2021.

Michael Lawton, senior economic analyst with the NGCB, said the record set last year beat the previous record for revenue set during calendar 2007, which totaled $12.84bn.

Eleven of the state’s 18 submarkets set all-time gaming win amounts in calendar year 2021, with the Las Vegas Strip posting a record $7.07bn last year.

Besides 2021 and 2007, Nevada topped the $12bn revenue mark only two other times with $12.03bn in 2019 and $12.62bn in 2006.

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Nebraska Bill Seeks To Restrict Racinos

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A well-known opponent of expanded gambling and leader of the successful campaign in 2020 to legalize casinos in Nebraska are now supporting the same bill.

Pat Loontjer, executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, and Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development business of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, both support a proposal limiting the number of casinos in the state.

Legislative Bill 876, introduced by Republican Senator Tom Briese, would block the plans for seven new tracks, with casinos, that have been announced since the 2020 referendum was approved.

“All they see is the dollars,” Loontjer told VIXIO GamblingCompliance. “It’s a whole new era in Nebraska.”

Loontjer believes there is enough support to pass Briese's amended bill out of the General Affairs Committee and send it to the floor for a final vote.

As introduced, LB 876 would require that a new racetrack be at least 50 miles from other tracks and would require a track to offer at least five days of racing a year.

Briese offered an amendment on Monday (January 24) that would require new racetracks to be 75 miles apart, except in counties of 100,000 or more residents. The amendment would also require racetracks to offer at least 15 days of racing annually.

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Virginia Bill Blocks Richmond's Second Casino Referendum

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A bill to allow Petersburg to hold a referendum for a casino and block Richmond from holding a second one for five years received unanimous support on Thursday (January 27) from a Senate subcommittee.

The Senate’s gaming subcommittee voted 9-0 to move Senate Bill 203, authored by Senator Joe Morrissey, to the General Laws and Technology Committee.

The Richmond City Council earlier this week approved plans to have a second casino referendum in November to establish a casino in Virginia’s capital city.

The resolutions adopted on January 24 re-select the consortium as Richmond’s casino development partner, nominate the same site as last year for the project, and ratify a community host agreement for the facility.

Richmond city voters in November 2021 rejected the initial casino plan by a margin of 51 to 49 percent.

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Iowa iGaming Bill Faces Casino Opposition

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A bill to regulate internet gaming has been introduced in the Iowa legislature, but several of the state’s land-based casinos are set to oppose the measure.

House Study Bill 604 was filed on Monday (January 24) by Republican state Representative Bobby Kaufmann for consideration by the House State Government Committee, which Kaufmann chairs.

The bill would enable Iowa land-based casinos to pay a $45,000 fee to obtain a license to offer “advance deposit gambling games” through a maximum of two online casino skins. A third skin per casino could also be approved by the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission, mirroring provisions already in place for mobile sports betting.

A single account could also be used for both sports betting and online gaming.

The bill is being supported by an alliance of leading online sports-betting operators, including FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.

However, it is opposed by Iowa-based casino operator Elite Casino Resorts, as well as Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, according to state lobbying records.

If approved, Iowa would join the six states with legal online casino gaming. Legislation was also introduced earlier this month in Indiana.

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Lithuanian Operator Fined For Link In Newsletter

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Lithuania’s Gambling Supervisory Authority has imposed an €11,183 fine on UAB Baltic Bet after the company was found to have emailed a newsletter to 10,600 customers that included a link to its website.

The email, which was entitled “Updating the Rules; new games”, was deemed to have infringed on the prohibition of promotions following an inspection undertaken in 2021.

Currently, there is a general prohibition on the advertising of gambling services in Lithuania, with limited exceptions.

The decision can be appealed.

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Lottoland Loses Swedish Case

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Lottery betting provider Lottoland has lost its appeal in Sweden over a 2019 fine.

The operator’s Swedish division, United Lottery Solutions, was fined €65,000 in 2019 for offering games not covered by its licence and taking bets on Svenska Spel’s Eurojackpot draw without permission.

In a statement on Tuesday (January 25), the Swedish Gambling Authority said the Court of Appeal had rejected United Lottery Solutions’ case.

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Standard General Proposes Taking Bally’s Private At $38 Per-Share

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Shares of casino operator Bally’s Corporation gained $6.65, or 22.75 percent, to close Tuesday (January 25) at $35.88 after investment firm Standard General, the gaming company’s largest shareholder, offered to buy all the outstanding shares in the company that it does not already own for $38 a share.

Standard General managing partner Soo Kim submitted a letter Tuesday to the Bally’s board of directors that said he expects them to appoint a special committee of independent directors to consider its proposal and make a recommendation, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Standard General owns more than 11.42m shares, or 21 percent, of Bally’s, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The investment firm will not move forward with the deal unless it is approved by the special committee, the filing said. The deal is also contingent on approval by holders of the shares not owned by Standard General.

Rhode Island-based Bally’s has expanded its operations significantly in recent years through the acquisition of land-based casinos in various states, including New Jersey and Illinois, plus its $2.7bn purchase of online gaming operator and provider Gamesys in a landmark deal completed last October.

It has also acquired numerous regional sports broadcasting networks from Sinclair, the Bet.Works sports-betting platform, as well as the Monkey Knife Fight daily fantasy sports business.

Barry Jonas, an analyst with Truist Securities, said the $38 a share offer compared with a $55 price target and would leave several minority shareholders underwater.

“We note Gamesys shareholders who elected stock consideration in October 2021 received Bally stock at $66 a share,” Jonas said in a note to investors.

“While it is unclear to us if the deal gets done at $38, we see this as an opportunistic move by Standard General given the market continues to re-rate lower,” Jonas said, referencing the recent sell-off in U.S. online gambling stocks including DraftKings.

Kim, who is managing partner and chief investment officer with Standard General, is currently chairman of the board of directors at Bally’s. In his letter, Kim did note that if the deal does not materialize, Standard General will remain a long-term shareholder and the companies’ relationship would not be affected.

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After Adopting Regulations, Maryland Maps Out Online Market

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Maryland’s Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) has issued a survey to potential applicants for online and retail sports betting licenses.

The survey, approved during a SWARC meeting last Wednesday (January 19), seeks input on the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in the sports-betting market and asks whether officials should take “remedial measures” to ensure their participation to the extent permitted by federal and state law.

Maryland’s 2021 sports-betting law authorizes SWARC to approve up to 60 mobile licenses and 30 additional retail sportsbook licenses for businesses other than casinos, sports stadiums and certain racing and charitable bingo locations. The survey asks input on what should be the minimum and maximum number of licenses made available.

Responses to the survey are due by February 18.

The survey was approved less than a week after permanent regulations for sports wagering in Maryland became effective on January 13.

Legal sports betting began at several land-based casinos in December, with rules then in place only a temporary basis. The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission agreed late last year to amend initial requirements related to official league data, among other things.

Under state law, SWARC is responsible for vetting applications and approving licenses, while the gaming commission is charged with rulemaking, background reviews and ensuring compliance.

Twin bills filed last week in the Maryland House and Senate would amend the 2021 law to prevent SWARC from approving licenses for retail sports betting for any facility within 10 miles of a qualified off-track betting outlet or charitable bingo hall in Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Frederick or Washington counties.

House Bill 339 and Senate Bill 297 are both scheduled to be heard in committee on February 2.

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Macau Junkets Slide By Almost Half To 46

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The number of junket operators in Macau has fallen from 85 to 46 over the last year, amid pandemic market damage, ever-tightening corporate restrictions and the downfall of Suncity Group boss Alvin Chau.

Annual data released by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ) on Wednesday (January 26) shows the number of junket companies fell from 76 to 42, while the number of individual licensees dropped from nine to four.

Confirmed licensing casualties are Suncity — once Macau’s largest junket but now the target of criminal probes in Macau and mainland China — and Hengsheng, one of the more ambitious and lucrative junkets of the last decade.

Other long-running junkets that ceased operations are Ocho, which first registered in 2007, Ocean Star (2009) and I Kei (2010).

Mainstay junket operators Tak Chun and Meg-Star remain on the list of licensees for now, despite VIP room closures at several major properties and a shuttering of all VIP business by some casino concessions.

Draft amendments to Macau’s casino concession law, including articles that all but emaciate the dwindling power of junket operators, passed their first reading in the Legislative Assembly on Monday (January 24), with a legislative committee set to examine the changes in the weeks ahead.

The number of Macau-registered junkets peaked at 235 in January 2013 before beginning a decade of steady decline as Beijing’s crackdown on corruption and capital flight took hold of the industry.

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Mr Green Reprimanded Over Player Deposit

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The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has reprimanded William Hill-owned Mr Green for allowing a player to deposit around DKK325,000 without performing source-of-funds checks.

The operator should have executed more stringent responsible gambling and anti-money laundering (AML) procedures, the regulator said.

Mistakes were also made in assessing the player’s disposable income through internet searches, the authority said.

“The indictment does not entail any action for Mr Green, as Mr Green has subsequently introduced new business procedures for customer due diligence procedures and due diligence,” said the DGA.

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Malta Operator Fined By Financial Regulator

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Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) has fined gambling company Online Amusement Solution Limited more than €386,000 for breaking anti-money laundering (AML) rules.

The regulator said the Greece-facing company had not been properly monitoring players for AML risks and cited 16 individuals its said should have received greater scrutiny.

The operator, which runs sites including Championsbet and Bet14, did not perform mandated checks on deposits of more than €2,000, the FIAU said.

One player who made 68 deposits with pre-paid cards and withdrew more than €117,000 was not investigated, the regulator said.

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Richmond Revisits Casino Plan After Referendum Setback

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Richmond residents will be asked to vote again in November on a referendum to establish a casino-resort in Virginia’s capital city, after the Richmond council voted decisively Monday night (January 24) to adopt three casino resolutions.

Last year, Richmond voters narrowly rejected the plans of media company Urban One, casino operator Peninsula Pacific and the owner of Colonial Downs racetrack to develop a major casino-resort within the city.

The resolutions adopted on Monday would re-select the consortium as Richmond’s casino development partner, nominate the same site as last year for the project, and ratify a community host agreement for the facility.

Richmond city voters rejected the initial casino plan by a margin of 51 to 49 percent.

Virginia’s capital was one of five cities earmarked to host a casino under a 2020 gaming law. Casinos have already been approved by voters and are now under development in the cities of Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth.

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Chinese Lotteries Up 11.8 Percent In 2021 But Trending Down

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Chinese lottery sales grew 11.8 percent in 2021 against a pandemic-stricken 2020, but sales in December racked up a fifth consecutive month of year-on-year declines.

Sales for the combined Sports and Welfare Lottery modes for 2021 rose 11.8 percent to 373.29bn yuan ($59bn), the Ministry of Finance reported on Friday (January 21).

Sports Lottery sales jumped 21.9 percent in 2021 to 231.03bn yuan, while Welfare Lottery sales eased down 1.5 percent to 142.26bn yuan, it said.

But the combined depressive effects of the pandemic and Beijing’s crackdown on corruption and rapid-turnover product in the lottery industry weighed on sales overall.

The annual total for 2021 remained 11.6 percent below the pre-pandemic 2019 result of 422bn yuan and 27 percent below the industry’s record haul of 511.5bn yuan (then $75.9bn) in 2018.

December’s haul of 43.02bn yuan was also down 11.7 percent year-on-year and the fifth consecutive monthly downturn, pointing to ongoing political and pandemic obstacles to growth.

But sports betting remained the key growth segment of the industry, rising 79.3 percent to 134bn yuan for the year, presenting a genuine challenge to the leading lotto segment, which slumped 27 percent to 161.9bn yuan.

The smaller instant lottery and keno segments also made big gains at lotto products’ expense, while sales for the once-ambitious, largely-shuttered video lottery terminal (VLT) segment remained close to zero.

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Illinois Bills Seek To Authorize Betting Exchanges, Lottery Pilot Program

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Barely a month after enacting legislation to permit remote registration and limited in-state college betting, Illinois lawmakers are hoping to make further amendments to the state’s enigmatic 2019 sports wagering law.

Filed on Friday (January 21) by Democratic state senator Bill Cunningham, Senate Bill 3872 would empower the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) to issue up to two additional sports wagering licenses exclusively for betting exchanges, or “exchange trade wagering.” The licenses would cost $500,000 upfront.

As it stands, the IGB is reviewing a trio of applications for the three standalone online licenses that were made available under the original law alongside licenses for incumbent casinos and racetracks. Those online licenses require a $20m fee.

Meanwhile, a separate bill also introduced on Friday, Senate Bill 3809, seeks to revive plans for a network of sports-betting kiosks to be operated via the Illinois Lottery. SB 3809, introduced by Democrat Kimberly Lightford, would reduce the licensing fee for a central system operator from $20m to $1m and push back the timeframe for the sports lottery program until 2030.

Part of the 2019 law, the lottery pilot program to allow up to 5,000 kiosks in retail locations has never gotten off the ground with the Illinois Lottery holding a consultation but never issuing a request for proposals.

A third measure filed in the House earlier in January would reduce the cost to renew an Illinois sports wagering supplier license from $150,000 annually to a $50,000 fee payable every four years.

The Illinois General Assembly will be in session through the end of May. Although lawmakers only have until this Friday, January 28, to formally introduce bills, it is customary for legislative proposals to emerge later in the session as an amendment to unrelated legislation.

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Deposit limits will not return in Sweden, KSA says unlicensed operators should brace for enforcement in the Netherlands and Nevada sets a revenue record.

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