News In Brief: June 10-June 14, 2024

June 14, 2024
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Sweden's gambling regulator is to appeal a ruling that forced it to end enforcement against payments company Zimpler and Indonesia's President has begun a new crackdown on all forms of gambling.
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Swedish Regulator To Appeal Zimpler Setback
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The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has not ended its battle with payments provider Zimpler and is set to appeal its latest legal defeat.

The regulator announced on Thursday (June 13) that it would appeal an administrative court ruling that it did not have the legal standing to take enforcement action against Zimpler.

The SGA had attempted to fine the payments company for what it alleged was facilitating illegal online gambling.

"The Gaming Authority does not share the administrative court's assessment and is therefore appealing the verdict to the Court of Appeal in Jönköping," the regulator said in a statement.

"Contrary to the administrative law, the [SGA] believes that Zimpler AB's payment intermediary service means that the games in question are aimed at Sweden. By providing its payment service, Zimpler AB has promoted illegal gambling."

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Indonesia Announces Anti-Online Gambling Task Force
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The Indonesian President has condemned online gambling anew, promising that a new, punitive task force will maintain the government’s “serious” approach to “eradicating and combating” the underground industry.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said in Jakarta on Wednesday (June 12) that the Gambling Eradication Task Force is set to be formed to confront “economic and social disasters”, and publicise gambling’s harm to families and its links to “bankruptcy, divorce, violence and murder”, the official Antara news agency reported.

The president said online gambling “constitutes a transboundary and transnational organised crime [phenomenon] that [ought to prompt] people to take independent actions to resist and avoid it rather than solely relying on the government's measures”, the report said.

Jokowi said the government has “taken down 2.1m gambling websites so far”, according to a video address in Indonesian that the government uploaded to YouTube.

"Don’t engage in gambling, either offline or online. If you have spare money, save it or use it to start a business," Jokowi said.

More moderate voices in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation have occasionally flirted with regulation of gambling as a means of better controlling aberrant social outcomes, but the prospects for substantive reform remain dim.

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UK Prime Minister's Aide Placed Bet On Election Date
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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s close senior aide Craig WIlliams has admitted to placing a bet on when the general election would take place days before it was announced. 

Williams, who has served as parliamentary private secretary to the Prime Minister since October 2022, confirmed on social media: "I've been contacted by a journalist about Gambling Commission inquiries into one of my accounts and thought it best to be totally transparent.

“I put a flutter on the general election some weeks ago. This has resulted in some routine inquiries and I confirm I will fully cooperate with these. I don't want to be a distraction from the campaign, I should have thought through how it looked,” he said. 

Media reports claimed before Williams' announcement that he had placed a £100 bet on a July election that would payout £500. 

Williams is standing for election in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr.

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Arkansas Approves Cherokee Nation Casino Proposal
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The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) voted Wednesday (June 12) to proceed with the application from Cherokee Nation Entertainment to build its Legends Casino project in Pope County, after the project received a letter of support from local leaders. 

The Cherokee Nation’s next step will be a presentation to the commission on June 27 and to have their application receive a formal score. Once those steps are completed, the ARC will vote on granting a gaming license. 

Mississippi-based Gulfside Casino Partnerships also submitted an application that was rejected by commissioners due to it lacking a letter of support from local leaders.

This is the commission’s third attempt at issuing a casino license in Pope County. State courts have voided the previous licenses to Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Business.

Voters approved Amendment 100 to the Arkansas State Constitution on November 5, 2018, to allow four casinos in the state. Currently, Saracen Casino is operational in Pine Bluff, while casino gaming is also offered at Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Gaming & Racing in West Memphis.

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Brazil Delays Voting On Bill 2234/22
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Brazil’s Senate Constitution and Justice Committee (CCJ) has again delayed voting on Bill 2234/22, which would legalise the operation of casinos, bingo, Jogo do Bicho and other online games not addressed by Law 14,790/2023. 

After 45 minutes of heated discussion, the president of the CCJ, Davi Alcolumbre, postponed the vote in frustration to next Wednesday (June 19), when it will be the exclusive item on the agenda “because all the senators will be here to vote with their fingers next week”, he said. 

“But for the last time, I'm not taking care of those who submitted the motion and withdrew it. I'm not catering to those who presented it at the time and thought they were going to win or lose, and who today have changed to the opposition. I'm trying to be faithful to the chair of the committee, to try as best I can to give the go-ahead,” Alcolumbre warned.

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Connecticut Targets Bovada With Cease-And-Desist Letter
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The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s (DCP) Gaming Division confirmed Tuesday (June 11) that it will be sending a cease-and-desist letter to Bovada, becoming the second state to target the offshore online sports betting and casino operator. 

“There are only three platforms licensed to operate in the state of Connecticut,” a DCP spokeswoman told Vixio GamblingCompliance in an email. Those operators are DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics Sportsbook. 

The cease-and-desist letter will be sent to Curaçao-based Harp Media B.V., which operates Bovada.com and Bovada.lv.

The prominent offshore sportsbook and online casino operates in most U.S. states, but is unavailable to residents of Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Delaware, which were all either early adopters of regulated internet gaming or have been the location of federal prosecutions against offshore gambling.

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Alabama Gaming Bill Sponsor Disappointed Over Its Failure
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Republican Representative Andy Whitt expressed his disappointment with the legislature’s inability to pass a watered-down gambling and lottery bill during the 2024 session. 

Whitt, who chairs the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, told Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal program that after 16 months of work on the issue, he thought we had a good bill. He believed that the state missed out on an opportunity to benefit from gaming legislation.

A conference committee of the Alabama House and Senate agreed on proposals to legalize a state lottery plus slot machines at four racetracks and three existing bingo facilities.

Despite a consensus in that committee, the compromise measure was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 20-15, one vote short of the 21 votes required to formally approve the legislation by the required three-fifths majority.

“Our biggest loser, once again, is the citizens of Alabama,” he said. “We’ve let them down again, and not allowing them to vote on a piece of legislation for lottery. And it was an education lottery.”

Whitt said he was a firm believer that the voters of Alabama should be allowed to decide if they want a lottery. 

“And again, they unfortunately, have been let down and we’ll have to wait another year to see if it comes back.”

Whitt made it clear that if legislation is introduced next year, it will have to come from the Senate.

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Rhode Island House Begins Credit Limit Bill Review
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The House Finance Committee voted to approve Senate Bill 3040A without debate on Monday (June 10), a vote that brings a doubling of the credit limit at Rhode Island’s casinos operated by Bally’s Corp. one step closer to reality.

On Thursday (June 6), the Senate voted 28-5 to pass an amended bill by Senator Frank Ciccone III, a Democrat, that increases the maximum line of credit Bally’s Twin River Lincoln and Tiverton casinos can offer customers from $50,000 to $100,000.   

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Democratic Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, would make sure Rhode Island casinos are competitive with casinos in Connecticut and Massachusetts. 

Casinos in Massachusetts have no limits placed on the gaming credit they issue, while figures for the two tribal casinos in Connecticut were not available. 

Since 2014, when table games were introduced at Twin River, the maximum credit available has been $50,000.

Companion legislation, sponsored by Democratic Representative Gregory Costantino, was also amended and passed by the Finance Committee. Both bills will be sent to the House floor for consideration within the next couple of days, according to a committee spokesman.

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Ohio Regulators Submit 'Use It Or Lost It' Rules
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The Common Sense Initiative (CSI) office has until June 21 to review amendments to a new regulation that grants the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s executive director greater discretion when it comes to revoking the licenses of sports-betting operators that have yet to launch in the state. 

Ohio sports-betting regulations include a “use it or lose it” provision that was supposed to revoke the license of any operator that was not accepting wagers by January 1, 2024, or within one year of the market’s launch. In November, the commission granted another six-month extension to the provision.

That new deadline was supposed to be June 30, but last month the OCCC approved a waiver that immediately granted the executive director the latitude to extend the deadline for an operator to launch on a case-by-case basis.

That decision to approve a waiver means the deadline no longer exists.

Another amendment submitted to CSI would not allow a licensee to renew its license if the five-year license goes unused and expires. If that happens, the company must wait a year before applying for another license. 

The CSI was established to review business-impacting rules and oversee any initiative to improve Ohio’s regulatory climate. Since 2019 through the end of last year, CSI has reviewed more than 11,400 agency regulations.

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Manila Casino Owner Denies Purge Of Executives
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The company that controls Manila’s Entertainment City property Newport World Resorts has denied media speculation that the departure of three top executives was related to financial misconduct.

Alliance Global Group, Inc (AGI) said in a Friday (June 7) filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange that major changes to subsidiary Travellers International Hotel Group’s leadership were part of a “transition plan”.

Traveller president Kingson Sian, COO Hakan Dagtas and CFO Bernard Than left the company earlier this month without warning, triggering speculation in Philippine media that AGI had cracked down on the company's “embezzlement”.

AGI cited a report by the online Bilyonaryo newspaper that quoted Tan at a town hall meeting as saying: “Anyone who crosses the line, whether long-serving or new, regardless of their position, will face consequences for wrongdoing.”

AGI said Tan’s comment merely “articulates the policy implemented across the AGI Group, underscoring the significance of integrity among its ranks”.

It added that Sian had deferred retirement to lead Travellers through a “transition period” to full AGI ownership of the company and that Dagtas and Than’s positions were also part of the transition plan.

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Arizona Reopens Sports-Betting Licensing Window
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The Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) announced Friday (June 7) that it will begin accepting additional applications for sports wagering licenses in July.

The ADG will accept applications for at least one event wagering license reserved for Arizona tribes, and at least one license reserved for a sports franchise in the state. The application window for licenses will open on July 8, 2024, and will close on July 19, 2024.

Applicants must submit their completed applications within this timeframe to be considered for a license, the ADG said in a news release. Under the state’s sports-betting law, there are a total of 20 licenses available, with ten licenses available to the state’s Class III gaming tribes and ten to professional sports franchises and facilities. 

Sports betting in Arizona launched on September 9, 2021. There are currently 17 licensees active in Arizona, with Fanatics Sportsbook and bet365 entering the market earlier this year. 

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New York Lawmakers Approve Bill To Accelerate Downstate Casino Licensing
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New York lawmakers have sent a message to regulators charged with awarding three new casino-resort licenses by voting to pass a bill to accelerate the licensing process.

As approved by the Senate and Assembly on Friday (June 7), Bill S.9673A would require regulators to accept applications for the three licenses no later than August 31.

The Gaming Facility Location Board would then have to make its licensing recommendations by December 31, 2025, with the possibility of no more than a 30-day delay, and the New York State Gaming Commission would be obliged to formally award the licenses within 30 days after that.

The legislative does not actually deviate too far from the current intended timeline of Gaming Facility Location Board to award the licenses. Still, it would establish various statutory deadlines to ensure that regulators could not encounter further delays due to local community approval requirements.

The slow-moving licensing process, as mandated by a 2022 state budget law, has been the subject of increasing criticism in recent months from various stakeholders, including several major casino operators.

Friday’s votes were among the last orders of business for the Assembly and Senate as the New York legislature prepared to adjourn its 2024 session. It is not clear whether Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, intends to sign S.9673A into law. 

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Courts Confirm SkyCity AML Fine, Grant Casino Tax Appeal
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Australia’s Federal Court has confirmed that SkyCity Entertainment Group will pay a A$67m fine ($44m) plus A$3m in legal fees over its Adelaide casino’s breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) legislation.

In a hearing on Friday (June 7), Justice Michael Lee accepted the civil penalty agreed to between financial transactions regulator AUSTRAC and company subsidiary SkyCity Adelaide, AUSTRAC said in a statement.

AUSTRAC said SkyCity was punished for years of non-compliance with AML/CTF requirements, allowing high-risk customers to move cash through the casino with insufficient scrutiny.

This included a lack of risk-based controls and the absence of a board and management oversight framework, it said.

Company remediation is ongoing, the statement said.

In better news for SkyCity, the High Court of Australia on Thursday granted the company leave to appeal a South Australian state court of appeal’s ruling on calculation of casino duty from loyalty points converted to electronic gaming machine play.

At stake is almost A$23m in penalty interest on additional casino duty, depending on rulings by the High Court and the South Australian Supreme Court, SkyCity said in a statement.

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Sweden's gambling regulator is to appeal a ruling that forced it to end enforcement against payments company Zimpler and Indonesia's President has begun a new crackdown on all forms of gambling.

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