News In Brief: January 8-January 12, 2024

January 12, 2024
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888 is fined in Virginia over college sports bets, New Jersey is to consider advertising limits and a Hong Kong controlled Russian casino is to be sold.
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Industry Veteran Richard Flint Won’t Seek Flutter Board Re-Election
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Richard Flint will not seek re-election to the Flutter board of directors at the operators upcoming annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled for May 1,2024.

Flint, who was the former executive chair and CEO of Sky Betting & Gaming, joined the Flutter board in May 2020.

No further details were provided by Flutter in its announcement on Thursday (January 11).

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888 Fined In Virginia Over Unauthorized Wagers
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The Virginia Lottery Board has approved a settlement agreement with 888 US for accepting wagers on in-state college teams, which is a violation of state gaming regulations. 

According to the settlement agreement, in October 2023, it came to the lottery’s attention that 888 may have accepted wagers on Virginia college teams.

In a memorandum dated December 4, 2023, the lottery informed 888 of its belief that these facts constituted alleged violations of the state's sports-betting law and related regulations and that these actions were sanctionable. 

The lottery did not identify the incidents in the four-page settlement agreement. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, 888 will pay $15,000 to the lottery for deposit into the state’s general fund.

Currently, there is a bill being considered in the Virginia General Assembly to allow wagers on in-state college teams. Senate Bill 124 permits betting, with the exception of proposition betting, on Virginia college sports.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.

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New Jersey Considers Gaming Advertising, Racetrack Slots
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The New Jersey Senate will consider two bills, one which restricts gaming advertising and another that would allow slot machines at the state’s racetracks. 

State Senator Joseph Cryan, a Democrat, pre-filed Senate Bill 2156 for the 2024 session that would restrict advertising for casino games and sports betting under certain circumstances.

Both casino and sports-betting licensees would have to ensure their advertisements are not deceptive or fraudulent, do not target self-excluded persons, and do not appeal directly to those under the legal age to gamble. 

Cryan’s bill requires the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) to “promulgate rules to restrict advertisements.”

Republican Senator Joseph Pennacchio also pre-filed SCR 14, a proposed constitutional amendment giving the legislature the authority to establish slot machines at horse racetracks.

The proposed amendment does not set a tax rate but sets aside 60 percent of the revenue for state’s public employees retirement system, 30 percent to Atlantic City casinos, 7 percent to fund programs for the recovery or improvement of Atlantic City and 3 percent to the state’s horsemen. 

Both measures were filed with the Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

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AGA Introduces Anti-Human Trafficking Training
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The American Gaming Association (AGA) has partnered with RG24seven Virtual Training to offer a set of free online training materials to combat human trafficking in the gaming industry.

The materials were released on Thursday (January 11), which was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. 

The materials offered to the industry are based on the AGA’s Guide to Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking and draws on expertise from the association’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, nonprofits, and law enforcement.

“Combating human trafficking is integral to our industry’s commitment to the communities in which we operate,” said Alex Costello, AGA’s vice president, government relations.

“The AGA is proud to lead the industry’s fight against this abhorrent crime and this free training empowers employees at all levels to spot and prevent cases of human trafficking,” she added.

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Asian Investors Dump Stake In Tigre De Cristal
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The Vladivostok casino once developed and controlled by Melco Resorts & Entertainment boss Lawrence Ho and jailed junket titan Alvin Chau is being sold to a Russian interest, apparently ending the region’s experiment with major foreign investment for gambling.

Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent, a company controlled by Ho before ceding board control to Chau in 2019, will sell its entire stake in the Tigre de Cristal casino hotel in the Primorye region’s casino zone through its majority-owned subsidiary Oriental Regent.

The sale was announced by Oriental Regent’s minority owner Firich Investment on Taiwan’s stock exchange on Wednesday (January 10), which noted its loss in investment would be counterbalanced by the termination of exposure to the troubled Russian market.

Once touted as a future regional hub for casino gambling, the Primorye zone has only one other casino, the Russian-owned Shambala.

Other foreign plans for the zone are yet to bear fruit, with South Korean investors yet to open a property and Cambodia’s NagaCorp pulling out of the market.

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Sports-Betting Bills Alive In Washington Legislature
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Two bills supported by Washington’s largest cardroom operator to authorize sports betting at cardrooms and racetracks remain viable pieces of legislation as state lawmakers are now into the second half of their biennium session.

House Bill 1630, and companion measure Senate Bill 5587, would only let existing licensed cardrooms and racetracks apply for a sports-betting license. 

Both bills would also legalize fantasy sports while making so-called pick’em style games illegal games based solely on the performance of an individual athlete, or the score, point spread, or any performance of any single team or combination of real teams.

The 60-day legislative session began on Monday (January 8). HB 1630 remains in the Committee on Regulated Substances and Gaming, while SB 5587 is waiting for a vote in the Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services, Gaming and Trade. 

Maverick Gaming supports expanding sports betting beyond tribal casinos. The company has also sought a court ruling to invalidate tribal-state compacts and its case is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. 

“I know that our perspective on sports betting is at odds with those who prefer a monopoly for tribal casinos, but I respect their right to advocate for their members,” said Maverick CEO Eric Persson. 

“Maverick Gaming will one day offer sports betting at its properties in our state, either following a ruling by the United States Supreme Court or an inclusive policy discussion by the state legislature that is founded in facts."

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IGT Drops UK National Lottery Appeal
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The UK Gambling Commission has announced that supplier IGT will no longer pursue a claim for damages against it for awarding the fourth National Lottery licence to Allwyn.

The Gambling Commission said in a press release that it remains “resolute that we have run a fair and robust competition, and that our evaluation has been carried out fairly and lawfully in accordance with our statutory duties".

“Our priority is to continue to work to implement our decision for the benefit of participants and good causes. The Fourth National Lottery Licence is due to be granted on 1 February 2024.”

On September 21, IGT applied for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal to overturn a High Court decision on July 28, 2023 that ruled IGT did not have the legal standing to pursue a claim for damages against the Gambling Commission.

On January 9, 2024, the Court of Appeal granted IGT’s request to dismiss its appeal.

Former National Lottery licence holder Camelot’s legal challenges ended in September 2022 when it was purchased by Allwyn.

Before being absorbed by Allwyn, Camelot had complained that the Gambling Commission’s points system for reviewing bids over-indexed a “risk factor” in ways that punished the incumbent operator and that Allwyn’s claims it could radically increase the amount given to good causes, to around £38bn over the length of the ten-year licence period, were unrealistic.

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Uganda To Dramatically Boost Gambling Tax Revenue, Says Regulator
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Uganda’s gambling regulator predicts it will collect Shs$160bn (€38.47m) from gambling fees in the 2023/24 financial year and Shs$300bn the year after.

The prediction was made by Denis Ngabirano, the CEO of the National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board (NLGRB), during a meeting with MPs on January 8.

In the 2022/23 financial year, the NLGRB collected Shs$151bn, according to Ngabirano, a large increase from the Shs$17.4bn in 2015/16.

The NLGRB is hoping the launch of its National Lottery on May 4, 2024, with 60 percent of the proceeds set aside as gambling taxes and 40 percent for good causes, will help it achieve its prediction. In August 2023, the NLGRB announced it had issued the National Lottery licence to Ithuba Uganda.

Additionally, the long-awaited establishment of an online sports betting and casino national central monitoring system is also predicted to help the NLGRB increase tax revenue collection, according to Ngabirano.

“All online operators are required to interact with the system before the end of June 2024,” Ngabirano said.

The head of the regulator also gave an update on recent enforcement action, with the NLGRB blocking access to 17 illegal gambling sites and confiscating more than 2,8000 pieces of illegal gambling equipment in recent months.

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Enjoy Suspended From Santiago Stock Exchange
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Chilean casino conglomerate Enjoy has been temporarily pulled from the Santiago Stock Exchange after a mysterious 26 percent rise in the value of its stocks. 

Trading was suspended for the company at 2pm on Monday afternoon (January 8.)

Eliseo Gracia, the company's general manager, claimed that Enjoy had no idea what could have caused such a jump. 

Others speculated that it could be because the company are looking for an asset buyer.

Enjoy announced in August that it was working on “strategic plans to regain profitability and alternatives for  a strategic transaction”.

Last year, Chile’s National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) crushed an announced merger between Dreams and Enjoy due to concerns that together they would control too much of the land-based market. The FNE made the announcement after a lengthy antitrust investigation.

Both casino groups have used their collective lobbying power to prevent online operators from entering the market over the past 18 months as Congress debates a bill that would legalize their operations.

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Caesars, MGM Resorts New Jersey Forfeitures Top $50,000
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Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International have been ordered to forfeit $52,386.72 over dozens of incidents of underage individuals or failed to produce adequate identification, according to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

Tropicana Atlantic City forfeited a total of $35,910.82 to settle three complaints that included a total of 98 incidents of underage gambling or patrons not providing adequate identification. 

The three separate orders did not offer any specific details about the incidents beyond the DGE noting that lawyers for the Tropicana had no objections to the forfeiture order. 

Tropicana Atlantic City is owned by Gaming and Leisure Properties and operated by Caesars. 

In addition, Caesars Atlantic City was ordered to forfeit $13,942.93 from 17 individuals, while the Borgata, operated by MGM, forfeited $2,532.97 from 27 underage individuals. 

The orders were signed by DGE director David Rebuck on December 19 and included within the “Actions of the Director” release dated December 16 to December 31, 2023.

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New Year, Same Sports-Betting Debate In Missouri
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As lawmakers returned to work in Missouri on Monday (January 8) waiting for them were two bills to legalize sports betting in the state setting up the same debate over legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs) that stalled previous efforts.

Republican state Senator Tony Luetkemeyer filed Senate Bill 852, which would legalize mobile wagering and allow riverboat casinos to partner with three online sportsbooks. The bill also allows each Missouri professional sports franchise to partner with a mobile operator.

Luetkemeyer’s bill would tax sports betting at 12 percent, with tax revenue going to the state’s education fund.

The second bill, Senate Bill 824, was filed by Republican state Senator Denny Hoskins and sets a 10 percent tax and allows riverboat casinos to partner with two mobile operators. But the primary goal of his bill is to legalize VLTs.

Hoskins has served as the biggest roadblock to legislation in the Senate due to Senate rules that allow a single legislator to filibuster legislation.

Missouri sports team representatives have maintained that they prefer a legislative solution to a ballot initiative and have not given up hope for that outcome this year. 

Bill DeWitt III, president of the St. Louis Cardinals, and other franchise executives have submitted potential ballot initiatives with the Missouri secretary of state to put forward to the voters in case the legislature is unable to reach a compromise this session.

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BetMGM, DraftKings Reach Deals In North Carolina
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BetMGM and DraftKings announced agreements on Friday (January 5) to operate in North Carolina once mobile sports betting launches in the state later this year.

BetMGM has partnered with Charlotte Motor Speedway for market-access to offer mobile wagering, while DraftKings announced a partnership with NASCAR.

Both companies had not previously announced their partnerships even though they were among the seven operators to have submitted license applications with the North Carolina Lottery Commission by a December 27 deadline.

Under North Carolina’s revised sports-betting law, sportsbook operators must have an agreement with a sports franchise or league to operate in the state.

ESPN BET is partnering with Quail Hollow Club, a PGA Tour venue in Charlotte, while FanDuel has an existing partnership with the PGA Tour.

Fanatics is partnering with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and bet365 has joined forces with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Of the seven initial applicants, only Underdog has yet to announce a market-access partnership. 

DraftKings also confirmed its plans to launch mobile sports betting in Vermont this Thursday (January 11). The company was one of three operators, along with FanDuel and Fanatics, chosen to offer online betting by state gaming regulators.

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888 is fined in Virginia over college sports bets, New Jersey is to consider advertising limits and a Hong Kong controlled Russian casino is to be sold.

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