News In Brief: January 29-February 2, 2024

February 2, 2024
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Allwyn and the UK Gambling Commission address Russia allegations, the National Collegiate Athletic Association bans insider betting coach and Nigeria launches its monitoring system.
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Allwyn Parent Still Has Russia Ties, Guardian Says
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The parent company of Allwyn, the company that just took over the UK National Lottery, has yet to cut ties with Russia-owned gas company Gazprom, nearly two years after the company won the contract to run the lottery, according to a British newspaper.

Allwyn, which received a ten-year contract to run the lottery in March 2022, is majority owned by Czech entrepreneur Karel Komárek, via his holding company KKCG.

He promised to end ties to a joint venture with Gazprom as Allwyn won the contract, according to The Guardian, where the story originated.

When asked for a comment, the UK Gambling Commission, which awarded the contract over past licence holder Camelot, supplied a letter it wrote to a parliamentary committee which said that it was “satisfied that no sanctioned entities or individuals are involved in funding the Incoming Licensee, nor have they been previously”.

A KKCG spokesman supplied a timeline that included Komarek’s condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and notes from Czech competition authorities.

Allwyn formally took over the National Lottery contract on February 1. 

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Ex-Alabama Baseball Coach Penalized In Gambling Case
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) handed down a five-year suspension as part of a 15-year show cause order against former Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon on Thursday (February 1).

The decision effectively bans Bohannon from college coaching after he provided information to a gambler who used it to make illegal wagers against Alabama.

Shortly after Bert Eugene Neff received that information, he attempted to place a $100,000 wager on the Alabama game versus Louisiana State University on April 28, 2023. Sportsbook staff limited him to a $15,000 wager and declined his attempts to place additional bets due to suspicious activity.  

Alabama and the NCAA negotiated a resolution to the case that led to the university being placed on three years probation, a $5,000 fine, and additional education programming for athletes, coaches and staff on the potential harms of gambling. 

"Integrity of games is of the utmost importance to NCAA members, and the panel is deeply troubled by Bohannon's unethical behavior," said Vince Nicastro, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the Big East and chief hearing officer for the panel. 

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Uganda Launches Long-Awaited Online Monitoring System
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Uganda’s gambling regulator has announced the long-awaited launch of its National Central Electronic Monitoring System (NCEMS), which will allow it to track industry activity in real time.  

The National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board said the system will offer “enhanced compliance and increased revenue collection, improved enforcement and prioritizing responsible gaming”, in a press release on January 29.

Operators are now beginning to integrate the monitoring system and it is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2024. 

Revenue collected from the gambling industry is projected by the regulator to grow from UGX$151.9bn (€36m) in the 2022/2023 financial year to UGX$160bn in 2023/2024, and UGX$300bn in FY2024/2025.

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Polish Competition Watchdog Ends Match Score Fees Probe
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Polish competition watchdog UOKiK has announced that, as a result of its intervention, the Polish Football Federation (PZPN) and Ekstraklasa, the operator of the top tier of Poland’s professional football league, have modified their policy on match score fees.

Local gambling industry representatives have long criticised the two entities for the fees they had imposed on Polish bookmakers, ranging from 0.5 percent of the companies’ gross and net revenues, to at least PLN10,000 (€2,300).

Over “the course of our investigation, the Polish Football [Federation] and Ekstraklasa … changed the way they had charged their fees and their amount for the use of football [match] results. We consider the new charging mechanism satisfactory from the point of view of antitrust law, which puts our actions against PZPN and Ekstraklasa to an end,” Tomasz Chróstny, the UOKiK’s president, said in a statement.

In 2019, local gambling industry association PIGBRiB filed an open letter to the two entities.

The organisation criticised the PZPN and Ekstraklasa for collecting “horrendous fees for [allowing local bookmakers to] use the scores of football matches” that should be considered publicly available information.

The PIGBRiB accused them of applying varying rates to Polish bookmakers without sufficient transparency.

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Lithuanian Regulator Fines Top Sport Again
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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority has imposed a €15,000 fine on Top Sport UAB for again allowing a player to gamble on its site from outside the country.

Lithuania-based operator Top Sport claimed that the player in question was accessing their gambling account from Lithuania; however, the authority says he was accessing it from Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to a press release from the gambling regulator.

Top Sport has been fined several times in Lithuania in recent years, including three different times in a single week in June 2023. One of these fines was also €15,000 and issued for allowing someone to gamble from outside the county.

A separate €15,000 was issued to Top Sport in November 2022 for accepting an online customer from outside Lithuania.

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Jackpocket Launches iGaming In New Jersey
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Jackpocket has become the first lottery platform to enter the online gaming market, launching its iGaming project Wednesday (January 31) in New Jersey. 

"This launch immediately expands Jackpocket's entertainment offerings in New Jersey and will do the same for fans in other markets in the future," said Jackpocket CEO and founder Peter Sullivan.

"As the iGaming space continues to grow, we're excited to provide our engaged lottery user base with an easy and fun way to get involved in games we know they already love." 

Jackpocket Lottery users in New Jersey will be able to move between the two apps easily once registered. Besides New Jersey, the third-party lottery courier app is available in 17 additional jurisdictions including Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.

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Nevada Licenses On Administrative Hold For Ex-MGM Executive
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Scott Sibella, who is scheduled to be sentenced on May 8 after pleading guilty in federal court to one-count of failure to file suspicious activity reports while he was president of MGM Grand still retains his Nevada gaming licenses. 

“Mr. Scott Sibella has active gaming licenses in Nevada, which are currently under an Administrative Hold status with the NGCB,” Kirk Hendrick, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), said in an email. 

When asked if the NGCB would require MGM Resorts International executives to appear before the board or if they planned to add former minor league baseball player turned bookie Wayne Nix to the list of excluded persons, or black book, Hendrick declined to comment.

“The NGCB, as a law enforcement and regulatory agency, does not comment on whether investigations or actions will be instituted against gaming applicants, licensees, or other individuals and entities,” Hendrick said. 

Nix, who operated an illegal sports-betting business was allowed to gamble at the MGM Grand while Sibella served as president from August 2017 to February 2019.

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WynnBET Set To Exit Massachusetts
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WynnBET has submitted a notice of intent to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to cease online sports betting in the state. The five-member commission will consider the company’s request on Thursday (February 1).

A WynnBET spokesman confirmed Tuesday (January 30) that it will continue its retail sports-betting operation at Encore Boston Harbor. The company was the first to be approved for a sports-betting license in December 2022 in Massachusetts.

In August, WynnBET announced it would work with regulators to end sports betting and iGaming operations in eight states. The company ceased operations in Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. 

At the time, parent company Wynn Resorts said the decision would allow it to focus WynnBET operations in states in which it operates land-based casinos, Massachusetts and Nevada. WynnBET still offers both retail and mobile wagering in Nevada.

The MGC will also consider a similar request Thursday from sports-betting startup Betr, which announced last week that it planned to not renew its temporary license in Massachusetts, citing economic decisions for the reason.

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NFL Investigating Player Charged With Underage betting
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Jeff Miller, executive vice president communications, public affairs and policy with the National Football League (NFL), confirmed the league was aware of Kayshon Boutte’s arrest by the Louisiana State Police for underage gambling. 

“It is under an ongoing investigation,” Miller said Tuesday (January 30) during a press conference to discuss sports betting prior to Super Bowl 58 between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on February 11 in Las Vegas. 

“So not a lot more to be said about it. When there is news to report, we will certainly share it.”

Boutte, 21, a wide receiver for the New England Patriots, was arrested on a felony charge of computer fraud and a misdemeanor charge of gaming prohibited for persons under the age of 21. 

Police alleged that Boutte placed more than 8,900 wagers between April 2022 and May 2023, when he was only 20 years old and an active player on the Louisiana State University (LSU) football team.

Miller also said players, team personnel and league staff will be prohibited from gambling in Las Vegas.

“Certainly, the rules are not different for the participating teams … as they would be for any other game,” Miller told reporters. “When on business there is not gambling, whether it’s sports betting or otherwise.”

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Arkansas Regulators Approve Revisions To Casino Rules
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The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) has unanimously approved proposed revisions to its casino licensing rules, as regulators take a step forward in the process of approving a fourth casino for Pope County. 

The commission’s proposed changes will need to be approved by Arkansas Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders before the ARC accepts public comment on them for 30 days. Following public comment, the commission will consider approving the revised rules before sending them to the Legislative Council for its review. 

Doralee Chandler, deputy state attorney general for state agencies, told commissioners they can expect to consider approving the revised rules in March. 

After the Legislative Council reviews the ARC’s proposed rules, the commission’s next step will be to approve a new application for the Pope County casino license.

Chandler recommended last week that the commission approve the revisions “to allow for a path forward” for them to open up a new application period and eliminate legal challenges.

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FanDuel Parent Begins Trading On NYSE
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Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of FanDuel, Betfair, and Paddy Power among others, began trading Monday (January 29) on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares of Flutter will open Tuesday in New York at $205.50, after gaining 50 cents, or 0.24 percent, on a volume of 1.49m shares traded during its first day listed on the NYSE.  

Until listing on the NYSE, Flutter’s shares were listed on the London Stock Exchange. On Monday, the company’s secondary Dublin listing was canceled.  

The Ireland-based gaming company has said a primary U.S. listing would offer “access to much deeper capital markets”, as well as new investors. 

"With our NYSE listing effective today, this is a pivotal moment for the Group as we make Flutter more accessible to US-based investors and gain access to deeper capital markets,” CEO Peter Jackson said in a statement. 

Jackson added that the company believes a U.S. primary listing is a natural home for Flutter given FanDuel’s number one position in the U.S., “a market which we expect to contribute the largest proportion of profits in the near future.”

Before Flutter’s listing on the NYSE, the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday (January 25) approved the licensing of Holly Koeppel, a senior independent director on Flutter’s board and chair of their audit committee.

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Alaska Considers Gaming To Fund Ferry Transportation
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A Republican lawmaker has proposed legalizing slot machines and other forms of gambling aboard Alaska Marine Highway System ferries to raise revenue for the state-operated transportation system. 

House Bill 197, authored by state Representative Jesse Sumner, would allow gambling on the ferries as long as they sail beyond three miles offshore. Cruise ships that visit Alaska already can operate slot machines and table games if they are more than three miles offshore. 

The bill, which was introduced in the first part of the 33rd legislature, was expected to raise $20m annually. Currently, pull-tabs and bingo are the two forms of gaming offered in Alaska. 

“This bill would generate revenue for our failing ferry system, which has not turned a profit since its inception,” Sumner said in a sponsor statement to HB197.

Republican Representative Louise Stutes was not opposed to the proposal but stressed that the state highway system was not intended to make a profit. Sumner’s measure is among the list of bills being considered during the second part of the 2023-2024 session by the House Transportation Committee. 

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea necessarily. I really don’t,” said Stutes. “I’m a proponent of anything that is going to enhance the marine highway system, and it is just like the bars on the marine highway system, when you have a captive audience, if you can’t make a couple of bucks, you got a problem.”

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Belgian Trade Group Vents Anger Over New Rules
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The Belgian Association of Gambling Operators (BAGO) has lamented the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives which introduces tough advertising rules, among other changes.

The trade group particularly objects to new rules requiring players to have separate accounts for different gambling verticals with the same operator. 

BAGO said this will make it harder to track players to check for signs of harmful gambling.

It also complained that the National Lottery was excluded from both measures.

"BAGO calls on the government not to just pat itself on the back but to effectively measure the results of its policy on player protection," the group said in a press release.

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Star Entertainment Fined Over Alcohol Abuse
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The New South Wales Independent Casino Commission (NICC) has fined Star Entertainment Group A$60,000 ($39,000) for breaching alcohol service provisions.

The NICC found that the company’s Star casino in Sydney served 12 drinks in under four hours to a woman gambler in the VIP area who vomited on herself and the floor before being removed in a wheelchair, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday (January 26).

The incident occurred in December 2001, prior to the release of an inquiry report by gambling regulator Liquor & Gaming NSW into the company that resulted in a board purge and massive fines for compliance failures. 

Liquor & Gaming NSW brought the complaint to the NICC, which last month announced that Star Entertainment has six months to prove it can operate without supervision.

Star Entertainment on Thursday announced the appointment of Janelle Campbell, a former Melco Resorts & Entertainment vice president for finance, as The Star’s chief executive, answering to group CEO Robbie Cooke.

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Allwyn and the UK Gambling Commission address Russia allegations, the National Collegiate Athletic Association bans insider betting coach and Nigeria launches its monitoring system.

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