News In Brief: January 4-January 7, 2022

January 7, 2022
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ICE organisers issue new dates and operators lobbying in California hit a big ballot milestone.

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ICE Billed For April Return

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The ICE London trade show and its satellite events will take place during the week of April 11, 2022, organisers Clarion Gaming have announced.

The event, originally scheduled to take place in early February, has been delayed because of the latest wave of COVID-19 infections in the UK.

Organisers stressed they were mindful of avoiding a clash with the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention in California, which Clarion also helps to organise and is currently billed for the week after, on April 19.

The ICE VOX conferences and iGB Affiliate London show will take place alongside ICE on the rescheduled dates, Clarion said.

Last year's event was cancelled outright after several postponements over repeated pandemic concerns.

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U.S. Online Giants Reach Crucial Milestone In California

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A ballot initiative to authorize online sports betting in California being proposed by FanDuel, DraftKings and other major U.S. operators has reached the 25 percent threshold for signature collection, according to a letter released Thursday (January 6) by the secretary of state’s office.

The proposed “California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act” needs 997,139 valid signatures to qualify for the November 8 ballot.

If approved, the measure would allow only Indian tribes or qualified sportsbook operators partnering with a tribal casino to offer online wagering on professional, college, electronic sports and other events in the largest state in the U.S.

“Our measure is receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from California voters as we collect signatures,” Nathan Click, a coalition spokesman, said in a statement.

In addition to FanDuel and DraftKings, the mobile wagering initiative is supported by BetMGM, Penn National Gaming/Barstool, WynnBET, Bally’s Corporation and the Jay Z-backed Fanatics Betting and Gaming. The coalition has pledged to spend $100m to qualify its proposal for the 2022 ballot.

“Californians are very supportive of funding solutions to homelessness by regulating and permitting safe and responsible online sports betting,” Click added.

There are two other initiatives to legalize mobile wagering in California — one supported by cardrooms and the other a tribal proposal — that are currently gathering signatures.

Currently, the California Sports Wagering and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act that would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and four racetracks is the only initiative to have qualified for the November general election ballot.

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Dutch Affiliate Penalised Over Promotion of Illegal Gambling

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The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has penalised an affiliate, Onlinecasinobonus.nl, for advertising unlicensed online gambling websites, its fifth such penalty in less than four months.

The regulator issued a cease-and-desist order to the affiliate for offering links to unlicensed websites, which could lead to a fine, in a step revealed this week.

The website operator claimed he operated it as a hobby and stopped the practice immediately, the KSA said.

Each violation would cost between €2,500 and €12,500, the regulator said.

Previously cited were LCB Corp, Casinoscout.nl, Slots Dev and Online Casino Ground.

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Vietnam Issues EGM Regulatory Decree

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Vietnam has issued a comprehensive decree for the regulation of electronic gaming machines (EGMs), paving the way for more rigorous and predictable regulation of the land-based industry.

The Ministry of Finance-proposed Decree No. 121/2021/ND-CP, which applies to foreign customers, was promulgated on December 27.

Its 43 articles and 11 appendices cover general business practices and application criteria, anti-money laundering, foreign currency handling, game information for players, promotional activity, enforcement, and auditing and inspection procedures, among other matters.

Although the detail of the decree is unremarkable, the first appendix restricts the number of EGMs based on casino games such as baccarat and roulette to no more than 15 percent of a property’s inventory.

Traditional slot machines are permitted to make up 100 percent of a property’s EGM offerings.

The decree is the first major advance in Vietnamese gaming policy since the government’s announcement in September that a future sports-betting monopoly will be allowed to offer bets on a much wider range of international competitions, and possibly online.

It is also the most important decree relating to land-based regulation since the issuing of a casino decree in 2017 that legalised local access to the casino floor.

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Morocco Sports Betting, Lottery Operations Tendered

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The Moroccan state lottery has issued a call for applications to run its lottery and sports-betting operations.

Marocainer Des Jeux et Des Sports (MDJS) is seeking an operator to oversee fixed-odds and parimutuel betting, with the exception of horse and greyhound racing. Virtual betting games would also be included under the winning bidder’s remit.

A second tender is for a firm to run MDJS’ lottery draws, but also its “instant sports lotteries” and raffles.

The contracts would begin on January 1, 2023 and run for eight years, with a possible further two-year extension.

Operators can choose to apply for one or both of the tenders and should submit their applications before April 4, MDJS said.

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Amber Fined In Lithuania For Affiliate Ad

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An Isle of Man and Malta-based gambling operator has been fined in Lithuania for gambling breaches.

UAB Amber Gaming was penalised €18,755 for advertising failings that included ads in Lithuanian and English for the brand 7Bet run on affiliate website www.sofascore.com.

The marketing was in breach of Article 10 of the Gambling Act, the regulator said.

Amber Gaming was also fined €12,705 for “entering into remote gambling agreements with six foreign citizens who are not in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania”, in violation of Article 20 of the gambling law, the authority said.

The decisions can be appealed.

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888 YouTuber Taxi Ad Not In Breach, Says Ad Regulator

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888 has been cleared of wrongdoing by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over ads created by YouTube personality Callum Airey.

Complaints were issued over two videos promoting the operator’s poker app, which it was alleged have a strong appeal to Airey’s large under-18 following.

One depicted the online influencer driving fellow YouTubers around London in a taxi, while the other featured costumed games of poker. Both videos began with a short piece of marketing read by Airey for 888 poker.

Airey supplied the ASA with data showing that less than 10 percent of the viewership of the videos had been under-18.

The regulator said that gambling companies and advertisers only have a responsibility to ensure that underage viewers make up less than 25 percent of the total and so rejected that element of the complaint.

It also disagreed that either the taxi skit or humorous poker game had “particular” appeal to children.

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New Dutch Minister At Gambling Helm

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The Dutch minister who has overseen the pivotal switch to the country’s open licensing regime for online gambling has lost his post in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Sander Dekker is set to be replaced after nine years as the minister for legal protection by Franc Weerwind, who was serving as mayor of the city of Almere.

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Tribes Ask California Supreme Court To Toss Sports-Betting Lawsuit

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California gaming tribes have responded to a lawsuit filed by two cardrooms with the state's Supreme Court seeking to invalidate a sports-betting initiative on the November ballot legalizing retail wagering at casinos and four racetracks.

In a 30-page filing, supporters of the initiative argue that by asking the California Supreme Court for a pre-election review of the initiative, the cardrooms “are asking the court to become immersed in a political fight between various interest groups seeking to expand gaming in California.”

Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova sued California Secretary of State Shirley Weber on December 21, claiming the initiative violates the state constitution’s mandate that ballot initiatives in California must be limited to a single subject.

The cardrooms want the state’s high court to block Weber from publishing the California Sports Wagering and Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act on the November 8 general election ballot.

Election officials verified last year that the initiative had garnered enough signatures to be on the ballot.

Besides sports betting, the initiative allows tribes to offer games such as roulette and craps at their casinos and enables private citizens to launch civil enforcement actions against illegal gambling violations not being pursued by the state attorney general.

Weber is named a defendant in the filing. The Coalition to Authorize Regulated Sports Wagering, which includes nine tribes, along with the chairmen of California-based tribes are listed as “real parties in interest” in the case.

According to the filing, petitioners argue the single-subject rule argument falls far short of demonstrating the strong likelihood of success necessary for pre-election review.

“Petitioners have known about the initiative for over two years; by delaying in bringing this action they have created their own sense of urgency when in fact no such urgency exists,” the filing reads.

There are three other measures trying to gain inclusion on the 2022 ballot including a proposal by cardrooms to offer sports betting throughout the state.

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El Salvador Sets Stage For Online Gambling

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El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly passed a new lottery law on December 21 granting the Loteria Nacional de Beneficencia (LNB) authority to offer a full range of online gambling products.

The new legislation updates a 1960 law and permits the national lottery to operate online lottery and casino-style games, as well as sports betting. The lottery can either operate online gambling directly or through third-party concession- or licence-holders, while all unauthorised lottery offerings are to be expressly prohibited.

Casinos and other physical establishments will continue to be separately regulated under the authority of El Salvador’s Ministry of Economy.

The new law, which has yet to be published in the El Salvadorean government’s official gazette, appears to confirm the LNB’s authority to expand its product offerings following recent controversy over a contract it reportedly agreed with lottery and gaming provider Tenlot that became subject to legal challenges.

The LNB last March launched its Dale.sv online gaming platform.

“With the new law we hope that in a couple of years the lottery will be on the level of other countries in Latin America,” LNB director Javier Milián told lawmakers during debate on the bill.

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Colombian Lottery Tender Abandoned

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A tender process for a concession to run Colombia’s Baloto national lottery game was declared null and void after no valid offer was presented to regulatory authority Coljuegos by a December 28 deadline.

Baloto is one of two main national lottery draw games in Colombia and is currently operated by IGT, with the Super Astro game run by Betplay owner Corredor Empresarial.

In a statement confirming the aborted tender process, Coljuegos said it would “evaluate all the legally permitted alternatives to guarantee the continuity of the operation of the [Baloto] game and the generation of revenues destined for the financing of health services of Colombians”.

News of the abandoned Baloto tender came one month after Coljuegos announced the launch of a new national instant lottery game, Raspa y Listo. The entity said it expects the new instant win game, operated by Colombian company Supergiros, to generate total sales of almost US$500m within the first five years of operation.

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Florida Governor Appoints New Gambling Commission

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Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has chosen Department of Business and Professional Regulation secretary Julie Brown to lead the newly created Florida Gaming Control Commission that will oversee all gambling in Florida in accordance with legislation enacted in May last year.

DeSantis then named Melanie Griffin, a lawyer at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick in Tampa, to replace Brown as head of the state agency.

Michael Yaworsky of Tallahassee, who is chief of staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, was named vice chairman, and Charles Drago, of Chuluota and founder and president of Drago Professional Consultants, was also named to the five-member panel.

The governor needs to make two other appointments, with all of the positions requiring confirmation by the Florida Senate.

State lawmakers created the gambling commission during a May special session of the legislature, when they also approved a 30-year tribal-state gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe negotiated by the governor.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in November vacated the gaming compact, ruling that it violated the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) over a provision allowing state-wide mobile sports betting with servers based on tribal lands.

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Arizona Reports $777m In Sports-Betting Handle

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The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) released its first two months of sports-betting handle and revenue on New Year's Eve, with the state's two retail sportsbooks and nine mobile operators posting more than $777m in wagering handle for September and October.

The ADG reported $291.2m in combined wagers for September, followed by $486.1m in the first full month of operations in October.

That made Arizona the seventh largest U.S. market by handle in October, just behind Colorado in sixth and ahead of Indiana and Virginia. Total monthly gross revenue, before deduction of free bets and other promotions, came in at $36.3m or more than all states other than New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Retail sports betting is taxed at 8 percent, while mobile is taxed at 10 percent, meaning operators paid $31,393 in privilege fees in September and $1.02m in October following deductions.

DraftKings and FanDuel ranked in first and second place in total handle for the first two months of legal sports betting in Arizona with more than $244.1m and $180.3m respectively. Caesars Entertainment, which operates both retail and mobile wagering, reported more than $114.1m in wagers, while BetMGM, which operates mobile betting only, posted $150.9m in handle.

Meanwhile, the ADG on Friday reported that gaming tribes and recently launched sports betting and daily fantasy sports (DFS) operations contributed $129m to the state last year.

Tribal contributions totaled $113.6m in the 2021 calendar year. That includes more than $21m in tribal gaming contributions in the fourth quarter of the year, which is reported as the second quarter of the state’s fiscal year.

Since sports betting and fantasy sports launched last year, the new lines of business have contributed more than $15m to the state’s general fund. Arizona operators paid more than $14m in licensing fees, as well as $1m in sports betting and DFS operating fees.

“Without a doubt, newly legalized casino games, event wagering and fantasy sports have already increased revenues to the state and will continue to do so for years to come,” said ADG director Ted Vogt.

Sports betting and other forms of gaming were legalized in April after Republican Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation followed by amended tribal-state gaming compacts with 16 tribal leaders. The updated compacts allow tribes to offer new games such as craps, baccarat and roulette, as well as on-reservation sports wagering.

“Arizona’s event wagering and fantasy sports is off to a strong start here in the state and will only increase as the market matures,” Vogt said in a statement on Friday.

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Wynn Macau's Allan Zeman Backs Raid On Online Media

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Wynn Macau chairman Allan Zeman has defended police raids on a leading, now-shuttered, Hong Kong online media outlet, accusing its owners of being agents for individuals who “fled” Hong Kong and posing a security threat to the city.

Zeman, a naturalised Chinese citizen and prominent hardline supporter of Hong Kong officials as they dismantle democratic institutions, told the Sing Tao Daily newspaper on Tuesday that the Stand News media organisation had “incited hatred” and that police had to enforce the law.

“If you play with fire and cross the red line, then you take responsibility for it,” Zeman said in remarks translated into Chinese.

Stand News and fellow online media group Citizen News have closed down within a matter of days, as Hong Kong’s media industry reels over strict enforcement of Hong Kong’s National Security Law.

The law criminalises speech and actions that were previously commonplace in the city and has sent numerous people to jail, attracting global criticism from politicians, the media and the private sector.

Zeman, who was not speaking in his capacity as Wynn Macau chairman, also attacked a recent Wall Street Journal headline reading “No One is Safe In Hong Kong”, and said press freedom is unaffected.

In time, “I believe people will eventually forget” about such incidents as business opportunities grow, he said.

“So long as there is money to be made, they’ll keep coming,” he said.

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ICE organisers issue new dates and operators lobbying in California hit a big ballot milestone.

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