News In Brief: January 3-January 6, 2023

January 6, 2023
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Ukraine's gambling tax income is nearing pre-war levels, the country's regulator has said.

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Ukrainian Annual Tax Contribution Near Pre-War Estimate

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Ukraine’s Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) has said it has contributed more than UAH1.16bn (€29.9m) to the country’s budget in 2022.

The figure equates to 98 percent of its pre-war estimate for the industry’s contribution to the state, according to an update by KRAIL on January 4.

Ivan Rudy, the regulator's chairman, said the authority is continuing to implement measures aimed at the timely payment of fees by licensees.

“The business does not give up: with adaptation to permanent shutdowns, measures to relocate gambling establishments, but with its significant contribution to the victory of Ukraine, resume work. The commission continues to promote the adaptation of gambling organisers to today's conditions and the improvement of the investment climate in the country in order to strengthen the economic front of Ukraine,” Rudy said.

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Romanian Regulator Clarifies Advertising Rules

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Romania’s gambling regulator has clarified existing advertising laws to address the “various opinions” on its interpretation held by licensees.

The National Office for Games of Chance (ONJN) posted the clarification on the front page of its website for all operators to be able to see it.

Dan Iliovici, vice president of the trade association Rombet, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that “what ONJN has published are just clarifications for the implementation of the existing legislation. There are no legislative changes so far”.

The ONJN clarified advertising about the value of the prizes and jackpots offered on any banners, advertisements and posts or any other marketing/advertising material visible outside gambling locations is prohibited.

Cristina Popescu, a partner at law firm CMS’ Bucharest office, wrote in an article: “The rule also applies to the advertising of any goods or products that gambling operators may offer through bonuses, promotions or jackpots. Also, any other type of advertising material used to support marketing campaigns that is distributed outside of the gaming location should not include information on the value or the products/goods granted by gambling operators via bonuses, promotions or jackpots.”

The lawyer warns that breaching these requirements can lead to fines ranging from RON50,000 (€10,140) to RON100,000, as well as possible licence revocations.

In its message, the ONJN requests that “the organisers of gambling games take the necessary steps by January 3, 2023 so that the promotional activity complies with the relevant legal provisions”.

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Minnesota Tribes Support Legalizing Sports Betting

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The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) announced Wednesday (January 4) it would support another effort by state lawmakers this session to pass a sports-betting bill to legalize both retail and mobile wagering.

The Minnesota legislature convened Tuesday for its 2023 session, but no sports-betting bill had been filed on the first day in either the House of Representatives or Senate.

Andy Platto, MIGA’s executive director, said he expected a bill to be introduced soon.

Last year, a bill passed the Democratic-controlled House that would have allowed the state’s 11 federally-recognized tribes to offer bot retail and mobile wagering, but the Republican-controlled Senate amended the bill to include betting at the state’s two racetracks.

That amendment eliminated any chance of passage in the Senate, as including racetracks was something opposed by the MIGA, its ten members and Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat. In November, Democrats won control of both chambers, but they hold a 34-33 edge in the Senate.

“Tribes are best positioned to provide this new offering to the state’s consumers,” Platto said.

“MIGA and its members will be closely following the progress of state legislation and look forward to working with other stakeholders to develop an approach that benefits Minnesotans while protecting the Indian gaming operations that tribal and rural communities relay on for jobs and economic health.”

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Virginia Lawmakers Set To Debate Casino Bill

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A bill that would allow a casino project to be built in Petersburg is expected to be taken up by a Senate committee shortly after lawmakers return to Richmond for the Virginia General Assembly’s 2023 session on Wednesday (January 11).

Senate Bill 780 would amend state law overseeing which cities in Virginia are eligible to host casinos. Representative Joe Morrissey, a Democrat, co-sponsored the bill to allow Petersburg residents the opportunity to host a public referendum on a casino proposal.

In October, the Petersburg City Council approved a proposal by The Cordish Cos. to develop a casino in the city if the General Assembly approved it. The project was estimated to be worth $1.4bn in total commercial development.

The bill would require that when an “eligible city is located within 25 miles of another eligible host city, the governing body of any such city that holds a local referendum … that subsequently fails shall be prohibited from holding another local referendum on the same question until the other eligible host city has had a reasonable opportunity to hold a local referendum.”

Petersburg is 23.7 miles south of Richmond. According to the 2022 biennium state budget, Richmond is barred from holding another referendum on a casino until November 2023.

If approved, the bill would delay any ballot measure being voted on in Richmond until Petersburg residents held a vote on the Cordish Cos. project.

Morrissey, whose district includes Petersburg and parts of Richmond, filed a similar measure last session that failed.

Morrissey’s latest proposal has received bipartisan support, with Republican Delegate Kim Taylor, who represents Petersburg, carrying the House version of his casino bill.

Richmond voters narrowly defeated a referendum in November 2021 that would have allowed Urban One to build a $565m casino-resort. Voters in Bristol, Portsmouth, Danville and Norfolk approved local casino projects, which are now under construction.

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Brazil Announces Structure For Ministries Overseeing Gambling

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Freshly inaugurated Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has in his first days in office released the organisational structure for various government ministries.

According to the missive published in the official gazette, which is a routine measure for an incoming administration, the Ministry of Economy will be divided into four divisions. Finance, planning and budget, management and innovation of Public Services and Development, Industry and Foreign Trade. Lotteries, betting and commercial promotions will remain under the Ministry of Economy’s control.

The gazette text indicates that the ministry’s duties will include the distribution of prizes from raffles, lotteries, sweepstakes and horseracing.

The Undersecretariat for Regulation and Competition will have three general coordinators for competitions: regulation and competition, betting and trade promotions. It falls under the umbrella of the Secretariat for Economic Reforms, which is a part of the Ministry of Finance and will be led by Marcos Barbosa Pinto.

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Uruguay’s Football Association Wants Change To Online Gambling Bill

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The delay of the online gambling bill in Uruguay is getting more complicated, as local deputies reveal further reasons for being unhappy with the current draft.

As previously reported by VIXIO, a major point of contention has been the separation of the regulation of online gaming and online sports betting, with the latter remaining under the supervision and control of the executive branch’s monopoly.

Opponents, such as former regulator Luis Gama, believe that having two regulatory bodies makes little sense and is unprecedented in the world of gambling regulation.

Other political adversaries have mounting concerns about gambling safety, saying that a sample study done in the Argentine province of Santa Fe was not comparable.

Now, according to local paper El Observador, the Uruguay Football Association (AUF), supported by the Cabildo Abierto party, wants any law to allow advertising sponsorships between teams and online operators. Even foreign tournaments played on Uruguayan soil have been fined for displaying ads from gambling operators.

Eduardo Ache, AUF committee member, said the association made $500,000 from the state monopoly Supermatch, compared with what he estimates is the $5m the AUF could make from partnerships. He claims that the money is needed to finance youth leagues.

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UK Parliamentary Committee To Assess Gambling Regulation

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The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Committee has launched an inquiry into the government’s handling of gambling regulation.

The cross-party committee scrutinises the work of the DCMS, which has been due to publish its white paper on plans to reform the 2005 Gambling Act for more than a year.

The committee said it will assess “the government’s approach to the regulation of gambling, following warnings that more needs to be done to protect people, including children, from gambling-related harm”.

Written evidence is being accepted until February 10, with questions including what respondents believe should be covered in the white paper and whether it is possible for a regulator to keep up with the online market.

“Gambling acts as an enjoyable pastime for large numbers of players, but regulation is struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing way in which it happens today. This puts people at risk of the devastating harm it can sometimes cause to lives,” said committee member Julie Elliott.

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Swedish Regulator To Probe Offshore Gambling

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The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has been told by the country’s government to survey gamblers on self-exclusion and unlicensed gambling.

The regulator said it had been asked to quiz players on why they choose to enter the Spelpaus national self-exclusion system and opt to use operators that do not have a licence in Sweden.

The SGA will also assess whether Spelpaus should become more flexible and modular in the length of suspensions available or by offering exclusion from only certain types of gambling.

The regulator has until October 31 to report to the government.

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Maltese Regulator Extends Virtual Asset Sandbox Framework

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has extended its ongoing regulatory sandbox framework exploring how the gambling sector can accept virtual assets, such as cryptocurrencies and virtual tokens.

The sandbox has been extended to February 28, 2023, according to an MGA update on December 29, 2022, just two days prior to when it had previously been set to conclude.

“In the interim, the MGA shall continue to work towards consolidating the extensive feedback received through the closed consultation process concerning the proposed Policy on the Use of Innovative Technology Arrangements and the acceptance of Virtual Financial Assets and Virtual Tokens, which ended on 14 December 2022,” according to the MGA.

At least two companies have already been granted authority to accept cryptocurrency under the framework that was initially set to be replaced with a new regime in January.

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Fourth Fine In A Year For Top Sport UAB In Lithuania

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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority (LGCA) has fined Top Sport UAB for the fourth time in less than a year.

The LCGA imposed a €15,000 penalty for the improper installation of digital video recording systems at its betting points in Lithuania, which led to some images being blurry or unclear.

Additionally, the operator was found to have failed to save video recordings related to an inspection performed by the regulator, according to an announcement on January 2.

In September 2022, the LGCA similarly fined Top Sport €15,000 for the improper installation of digital video recording systems at its betting points.

In May 2022, the LGCA handed out its biggest fine to Top Sport of €25,000 for violating provisions of the law that prohibit the promotion of gambling.

Most recently, in November 2022, Top Sport UAB was fined €15,000 for accepting an online customer from outside Lithuania.

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Allwyn To Buy Camelot's US Operations

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Czech-headquartered lottery operator Allwyn has announced its intention to purchase the Camelot Lottery Solutions (LS) group of companies from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board for an undisclosed sum.

Allwyn will unseat Camelot as the operator of the UK National Lottery in February 2024 and is already set to buy its UK operations for £100m.

The Camelot LS group is based in Chicago and currently manages the Illinois Lottery and supports the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. The group also supplies lottery solutions to a number of companies internationally.

“We have always viewed the US market as an important part of Allwyn’s future growth story, and the acquisition of Camelot LS Group is the right step,” said Robert Chvátal, the company’s chief executive.

“Allwyn’s goal is building better lotteries, and helping them raise more for good causes, through innovation, technology, efficiency and safety in our quest for enhanced player engagement. Both Allwyn and Camelot share a passion about the lottery business, delivering value to our customers, and growing lottery returns to communities.”

Allwyn said it expects the transaction to complete in the first quarter of 2023.

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Sports-Betting Bill Filed In Oklahoma

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Sports betting is once again on the legislative agenda in Oklahoma after Republican state representative Ken Luttrell filed a measure last week that would allow tribes to amend the state’s model tribal gaming compact to offer retail and mobile wagering.

Luttrell proposed a similar bill last session but it failed to reach the House floor.

House Bill 1027 would allow sports betting with no regulations on operators the tribes partner with and would implement a sliding scale on fees owed to the state depending on how much revenue is generated.

The bill would implement a 4 percent fee on the first $5m of monthly net win received by a tribe in a calendar year for sports betting, followed by 5 percent of the next $5m of adjusted gross revenues earned by a tribe in a calendar year, and 6 percent of all subsequent adjusted gross revenues earned in a calendar year.

“I have had conversations with our gaming tribes during the interim to gauge their interest on this topic,” Luttrell said in a statement. “I feel the time is right for Oklahoma to partner with the tribes and ensure a level, competitive gaming playing field with surrounding states.”

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, who has had a strained relationship with tribes in Oklahoma, said he is open to legalizing sports betting.

“As long as it’s transparent and it’s fair for Oklahomans, then 100 percent I’m absolutely open to it,” Stitt told Fox 23 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Legislators have until January 20 to formally introduce bills and joint resolutions for the upcoming session that begins February 7.

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Fontainebleau Project Secures $2.2bn In Financing

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Fontainebleau Development and Koch Real Estate Investments have secured a $2.2bn construction loan through J.P. Morgan, SMBC, Blackstone Real Estate Debt Strategies, Goldman Sachs, Guggenheim and real-estate investment trust VICI Properties.

The long-stalled Fontainebleau project along the Las Vegas Strip was restarted in November 2021 after the original developer reacquired the site nine months earlier, but the resort’s developers now expect to complete the 3,700-room resort by the fourth quarter of the year.

The property is located on 25 acres directly adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Upon completion, Bowtie Hospitality LLC, a subsidiary of Fontainebleau Development, will be the sole operator of Fontainebleau Las Vegas.

“Securing $2.2bn in financing in today’s market speaks to the widespread confidence in this project, and the team that’s come together to bring it to Las Vegas,” said Jacob Francis, president of Koch Real Estate Investments, a subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Fontainebleau Development walked away from the $2bn project in 2009 when its financing ran out and the 67-story resort was 75 percent complete. During that time, the project went through a bankruptcy foreclosure and had two different owners before Fontainebleau Development reacquired the property.

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Cambodian Border Casino Fire Kills 27

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At least 27 people died in a massive blaze at a casino hotel in the Cambodian border town of Poipet, with many still missing, as witnesses report being trapped in rooms whose doors locked when the power failed.

The fire erupted late Wednesday (December 28) at The Grand Diamond City casino and hotel, mostly killing Thai gamblers visiting from across the border, according to government and media reports.

Video footage of the fire showed victims jumping from windows. At least another 150 workers and guests were injured and the building that housed the casino and hotel was destroyed.

Witnesses said Cambodian authorities were ill-equipped to fight the blaze and needed assistance from delayed response teams in Thailand, while property workers reported poor safety infrastructure, a lack of alarms and internal communication, and the locking of doors when the building’s power shut off.

Cambodian authorities say no locals were killed, but online news portal VOD reported on Tuesday (January 3) that several Cambodian families have been unable to contact relatives who worked in the building.

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Ukraine's gambling tax income is nearing pre-war levels, the country's regulator has said.

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