News In Brief: July 3-July 7, 2023

July 7, 2023
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Debate around tribal exclusivity over sports betting in Washington state is set to continue in court.

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Maverick Gaming Appeals Washington Sports-Betting Case

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Maverick Gaming has filed an appeal in its case challenging the exclusivity of tribes to offer sports betting in Washington state, claiming a federal judge went too far in allowing a tribe to seek dismissal of the case, the company said Thursday (July 6).

U.S. District Court Judge David Estudillo dismissed the case in February agreeing with the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, who intervened in the case, that Maverick’s lawsuit was attempting to “invalidate tribal gaming compacts, an acknowledged legal entitlement.”

The gaming company filed its brief on Monday (July 3) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

“We respectfully disagree with the district court’s decision to dismiss the case,” Theodore Olson, lead attorney for Maverick Gaming, said in a statement.

“The rule adopted by the court would entirely foreclose judicial review of any approval by the Secretary of the Interior of a Tribal-State compact,” Olson said. “Federal law does not allow tribes to insulate these federal actions from judicial scrutiny.”

Eric Persson, CEO of Maverick Gaming, admitted their perspective on sports betting is at odds with “those who prefer a monopoly for tribal casinos” but expressed confidence that either the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in their favor, or the state legislature will pass a new bill.

In its statement, Maverick stressed that it respects tribal sovereignty, but is appealing the case to overturn a monopoly created by state law in 2020.

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New Jersey Regulators Issue $61,000 In Forfeiture Orders

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The New Jersey Division on Gaming Enforcement (DGE) issued a total of $61,000 in forfeiture orders on Thursday (July 5) for a series of violations, including customers failing to provide adequate identification or were otherwise prohibited from gambling.

Caesars Entertainment was issued a forfeiture order of $21,212.65 in gaming winnings owed to 17 customers, who failed to have the proper identification, abandoned assets, or were prohibited from engaging in gambling.

According to the DGE, the order was adjusted from $22,738.29 for administrative causes and payment to one individual identified as S.C. who subsequently provided adequate identification following the confiscation of their funds.

Among the forfeiture orders approved by the DGE between June 16 and June 30, 2023 were $22,942.89 for the Golden Nugget, $11,399.95 for the Tropicana, and $5,272.09 for Ocean Casino Resort.

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Light & Wonder CFO Steps Down

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Light & Wonder’s announcement that Connie James would step down as executive vice president and chief financial officer next month for an opportunity outside gambling came as somewhat of a surprise to gaming analysts.

Barry Jonas, an analyst with Truist Securities, said he believed that James offered strong financial leadership during the company’s recent transformation. Oliver Chow, current senior vice president corporate finance, will assume the interim position.

The Light & Wonder board of directors has initiated a search process to identify the company’s next CFO.

James was appointed CFO in October 2021 after having joined the company as CFO of the gaming division in January 2020. She helped the company get through the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the sale of the lottery and sports-betting businesses, and the subsequent deleveraging.

“In our view, she was well-respected by investors and seen as a highly competent executive with a deep understanding of the business,” Chad Beynon, an analyst with Macquarie Capital, wrote in a note to clients.

“As the company embarks on advancing its cross-platform strategy, we believe the major pieces have been put in place, reducing the risk of any transition disruption,” Beynon wrote.

The company also reiterated its 2025 adjusted EBITDA target of $1.4bn.

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Chile Announces New Responsible Gambling Plan

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Chile’s regulator, the Superintendency of Gaming Casinos (SCJ), announced its new National Responsible Gaming Strategy at a mental health seminar at the University of Concepción last week.

Vivien Villagrán, the superintendent, presented the three-part initiative, which includes educating players, encouraging responsible gaming practices and informing the public about pathological gambling addiction.

The initiative includes designing a problem gambling prevention model, yet to be determined.

“There are currently no public mental health programs around pathological gambling, whose prevalence rate would be around 2 percent. In addition, the Superintendency does not have powers regarding responsible gambling, so one of our objectives is to propose changes to the Casino Law and others, which include the protection of players and the recognition of pathological gambling as a health condition,” said Villagrán in a press release.

The law which regulates casinos gives the SCJ specific authority over establishing self-exclusion, but it does not explicitly give them the power to have an extensive healthy gambling plan. This initiative aims to remedy that oversight.

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Jake Paul Ad Lands Ladbrokes In Hot Water

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Entain-owned Ladbrokes has been censured for a Twitter ad featuring influencer-turned boxer Jake Paul.

The Twitter poll posted by the bookmaker featured an image of the YouTube star and referenced Paul’s recent loss to Tommy Fury and invited readers to vote on his next move.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that despite boxing being a sport that typically appealed to adults, and therefore unlikely to be in breach of UK ad rules, the presence of Jake Paul meant the advert risked being of strong appeal to under-18s.

Among its assessment, the ASA noted that Jake Paul featured on Disney Channel kid show Bizaardvark in 2018, which was still available on UK streaming platforms and some of whose contemporary audience was still likely to be under 18.

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Dutch Government Indicates Loot Boxes Will Be Banned

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In an email to gaming expert and academic Leon Xiao, the Dutch government appears to confirm that loot boxes will be banned in the Netherlands.

In a screenshot of the email, published on Xiao’s Twitter account, the Public Information Service of the Government of the Netherlands wrote: “As of this moment, there are plans for the Dutch government to improve the regulations for in-game purchases. One of the goals is to ban loot boxes in games.”

Last week the government gave a similar response in a press release, writing that the Netherlands had led the European Commission to improve digital consumer protection.

“Now it is important to keep these rules up to date and to respond to rapid digital developments, something that the European Commission wants to do.

"As far as the cabinet is concerned, there will in any case be a ban on loot boxes.”

At the time, Xiao wrote that he believes this means that a loot box ban in the EU could be coming soon.

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Tanzania Wants Citizens To Own Stake In Gambling Businesses

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Tanzania has proposed that no less than 25 percent of shares in a gambling business should be owned by Tanzanian citizens.

The proposal is in the Finance Bill 2023. It aims to increase “local participation in the gaming sector, hence facilitating the transfer of business knowledge to locals”, according to law firm DLA Piper’s overview.

Additionally, the bill would reduce the gross gaming revenue (GGR) tax in venues with 40 machines or more from 25 percent to 18 percent.

Tanzanian minister for finance and planning Mwigulu Lameck Nchemba explained that the government plan is to focus on accelerating the economy's recovery in his National Budget speech on June 15, 2023.

Nchemba is targeting GDP growth of 5.2 percent by the end of 2023 and to contain inflation at a single-digit range between 3 percent and 7 percent in the medium term.

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Fugitives Among 2,700 Rescued Workers In Manila

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At least six of the more than 2,700 enslaved workers rescued from a massive illegal online gambling operation in Manila last week are international fugitives, Philippine police said.

Cross-checking with diplomatic personnel established that four Chinese and two Taiwanese workers were in hiding in the Philippines before being trapped in online gaming and scam operations at the Las Piñas City compound, the Manila Bulletin reported on Tuesday (July 4).

The four Chinese suspects have been turned over to the Chinese Embassy for repatriation, police said. It was not clear if the Taiwanese had been returned to Taipei’s unofficial mission in Manila.

Police and other enforcement agencies raided the compound on June 27, freeing more than 1,500 Filipinos and another 1,200 foreign nationals from at least 17 countries, mostly in Southeast Asia but also including African and Middle Eastern nations.

Around half of the foreign nationals remain in custody as the authorities process their deportation, police said.

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NHS Opens More Clinics As Demand Spikes

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The UK's National Health Service has said it is nearly doubling the number of gambling addiction clinics to 15 after a record number of referrals.

Some 1,389 patients were referred for gambling support in 2022-23. This is up from 775 two years prior.

When the full set of 15 NHS facilities are open across England, the health service hopes to be able to treat 3,000 patients a year, using techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

The seven new clinics are in Blackpool, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Sheffield and Thurrock in Essex. These are in addition to others already running in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford.

An eighth clinic in London exists to treat not only gambling but also gaming addiction in children and young people.

The new addiction facilities were described as "heartening" by the charity Gambling with Lives, whose strategy director Will Prochaska said the clinics "couldn't come at a more pertinent moment, whilst gambling advertising lures more people into harm".

The Liberal Democrats said news of record addiction referrals showed the Conservatives were not doing enough to protect gamblers.

"Far too many people are suffering from gambling harms," said health spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP.

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Debate around tribal exclusivity over sports betting in Washington state is set to continue in court.

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