News In Brief: June 26-June 30, 2023

June 30, 2023
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Belgium's ban on gambling ads is set to go ahead after it avoided defeat by legal challenges spearheaded by sports teams.

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Belgian Add Ban Survives Court Barrage

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Numerous legal challenges to an impending ban on gambling advertising in Belgium have been defeated, according to reports.

Gambling operators and sports teams had banded together to launch 11 different legal challenges to the royal decree, but all have been defeated, according to reports.

Although appeals are possible, the ban’s current launch date of July 1 is set to go ahead.

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Malta Regulator Issues €236,789 Fine to Glitnor Services Limited

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Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) has issued a penalty of €236,789, a reprimand and a follow-up directive to Glitnor Services Limited due to a raft of anti-money laundering (AML) failures.

In the FIAU’s notice published on June 26, it explained that understanding risk is the “pillar for the comprehensive implementation of an effective AML/CFT regime”.

The committee responsible for deciding the penalty was particularly concerned with lax efforts to ascertain players' affordability and an “inability, at times, to at least cross-check the players’ gaming activity against basic information on the employment and the inability to manage heightened risks of certain customers serviced by it”.

A compliance review was carried out by the FIAU in 2019, revealing several breaches of legal provisions, including business and customer risk assessment failures.

There were also issues with the operator's money laundering processes and procedures, including not mentioning and explaining the requirement to develop a customer business and risk profile.

Identification and verification issues included failing to obtain proof of identity and residential address documents within the 30-day legal timeframe.

The administrative penalty is not final and can be appealed before the Court of Appeal.

Malta-based Glitnor operates a range of gambling-related brands, such as HappyCasino, LuckyCasino and Swintt.

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Pennsylvania Regulators Fine Harrah’s, SportsHub

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved a $35,000 fine and consent agreement with Chester Downs and Marina, doing business as Harrah’s Philadelphia, on Wednesday (June 28) for allowing four individuals under 21 to gain access to the casino floor and gamble.

According to the PGCB on March 19, five underage patrons tried to gain access to the casino floor but were turned away. Subsequently, four of the individuals successfully gained access to the floor with one 20-year-old simply walking into the casino and spending an hour and 13 minutes during which time he played a slot machine.

Three others gained access by using a couch to climb over a glass partition that separated the casino floor from the non-gaming area of the resort. One was able to play blackjack before being carded and the other two did not gamble, the PGCB said.

“We agree with the facts and the terms of the consent agreement. Harrah’s wants to reiterate that it has a very strong culture of compliance and takes this issue very seriously,” said Greg Bailey, an attorney with Blank Rome, who represented Harrah’s Philadelphia, a Caesars Entertainment resort, at Wednesday’s hearing.

Prior to approving the consent agreement, PGCB chair Denise Smyler asked if the couch had been removed. Matthew Conner, vice president of Harrah’s casino operations, assured Smyler that the couch had been removed and no one else had climbed over the glass partition.

On Wednesday, the PGCB also approved a $13,000 fine against fantasy sports operator SportsHub PA for a change of control of its license without board approval.

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NCAA Adopts New Policies For Sports-Betting Violations

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After a series of wagering controversies at several high-profile universities, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) on Wednesday (June 28) released revised penalties for future sports-betting violations.

Previously, athletes who were wagering on sports at any level would lose one full season of college eligibility. The new guidelines went into effect for any violations reported after May 2.

Under the new rules, student-athletes who engage in activities to influence the outcomes of their own games or knowingly provide information to individuals involved in sports-betting activities will potentially face permanent loss of collegiate eligibility in all sports.

This would also apply to student-athletes who wager on their own games or on other sports at their own schools, but a student who wagers on their own sport at another school will undergo training on sports betting rules and prevention and could lose 50 percent of one season of eligibility.

For all other wagering-related violations, such as wagering on professional sports, cumulative dollar value of the wagers will be taken into consideration for reinstatement.

"These new guidelines modernize penalties for college athletes at a time when sports wagering has been legalized in dozens of states and is easily accessible nationwide with online betting platforms," said Alex Ricker-Gilbert, athletics director at Jacksonville and chair of the DI Legislative Committee.

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Vetnos Sues PrizePicks For Patent Infringement

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Vetnos LLC, a business-to-business sports gaming technology company, has filed a patent and trade secret lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator PrizePicks.

The 59-page lawsuit filed Tuesday (June 27) claims PrizePicks’ deliberately and wilfully infringed and misappropriated Vetnos’ “patent- and trade-secret-protected technology.” Vetnos holds eight patents, according to a list on the company’s website.

“By copying the Vetnos Technology, PrizePicks was able to launch a fixed-odds daily fantasy sports game and learn to effectively manage the risk associated with offering such a game without engaging in the significant trial, error, and loss that Vetnos’ predecessor engaged in to develop the [technology],” the lawsuit reads.

Messages left with PrizePicks and Vetnos seeking comment were not returned Wednesday.

Vetnos also claimed that, prior to joining PrizePicks, its former employee, Steven Kerstein, secretly sent confidential information concerning the Vetnos Technology to his personal email account in breach of his confidentiality obligations.

Vetnos has repeatedly cautioned PrizePicks against relying on Vetnos’ patent- and trade-secret-protected technology, but PrizePicks has ignored these warnings, instead bringing to market a product that depends on the Vetnos Technology, according to the lawsuit.

“By doing so, PrizePicks has taken a reckless approach to Vetnos’ intellectual property rights,” the company claims.

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Australian Capital Territory Lifts POC tax to 25 Percent

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The government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will increase its point of consumption (POC) tax on online wagering from 20 percent to 25 percent on July 1, according to budget documents released this week.

The increase means the ACT’s Betting Operations Tax will be the largest wagering POC tax in Australia, with Queensland at 20 percent and all other states at 15 percent.

“The revenue raised by this initiative supports the government’s contributions to all wellbeing domains and significantly contributes to the wellbeing domain of [the] economy,” according to the 2023-2024 Budget Outlook paper released on Tuesday (June 27).

State-by-state increases in the tax have placed pressure on corporate bookmaker margins amid competition with retail monopoly holder Tabcorp Holdings, which has lobbied for the increases in certain jurisdictions.

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New Zealand Toughens Slots Venue Precautions

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New Zealand has introduced a raft of regulatory amendments for operation of slot machine venues, with changes to be implemented in three phases by December.

The Gambling Harm Prevention and Minimisation Amendment Regulations 2023 enhance enforcement in the sector, extend venue staff training requirements and tighten advertising and jackpot branding.

The Department of Internal Affairs said in a June 15 update that venue managers will no longer be accountable for jackpot advertising and branding, but that any licence holders and venue operators will be more heavily punished for any breaches of restrictions.

From September 1, all venue staff will need to be trained to monitor and intervene when problem gambling becomes apparent on site.

Finally, from December 1, a full package of staff and venue requirements will be introduced, including annual training top-up sessions, three recorded gaming area sweeps per hour to detect problem gambling behaviour, layout requirements to ensure that ATMs are properly monitored, and associated infringement offences.

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Sri Lanka To Create Gambling Regulator

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The Sri Lankan Cabinet has approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a gambling regulator, the Ministry of Mass Media said on Wednesday (June 28).

The Cabinet decision on Monday to create the Gambling Regularization Authority will apply to “all the gambling establishment operators in charging expected tariffs from gambling, prevention of crimes related to gambling, minimising the negative impact on individuals and society through gambling, etc”, the ministry said in a statement.

Draft legislation relating to the regulator and its jurisdiction is yet to be released.

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Mexico Trade Association Demands Legal Reform

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The Association of Permit Holders, Operators and Suppliers of the Entertainment and Gambling Industry in Mexico (AIEJA) has once again requested that the Federal Law on Sweepstakes and Games be changed.

The law, which was first published in 1947, does not reflect the current state of gaming, according to the association.

AIEJA reports that 60 percent of online casino operators do not contribute financially to taxes or adhere to regulation either because they have been licensed offshore or through existing loopholes.

As they do not adhere to regulations, AIEJA said, it leaves at-risk players exposed.

The group cited, among other things, the lack of a voluntary self-exclusion button for players, which has not yet been introduced in Mexico. By AIEJA’s estimates, 1.3 percent of gamblers have a gambling disorder.

The request was submitted to the federal government, which AIEJA announced at Mexico’s International Gaming Convention.

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Betr Raises $35m, Microbetting Sportsbook Valued At $300m

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Betr Holdings, a sports-betting start-up with a focus on media, sports betting and microbetting, announced on Tuesday (June 27) that it had raised $35m in Series A2 funding.

The funding comes from Roger Ehrenberg, managing partner of IA Sports Ventures, Eberg Capital and Fuel Venture Capital. Fuel expanded its investment in Betr from $10m to $20m.

Both co-founders, Joey Levy via a personal investment and Jake Paul with Anti Fund, participated in the latest funding round. The total of their investment in Betr was not disclosed.

The new round of funding comes as Betr’s new online sports-betting products have launched in Ohio and Massachusetts, and the product is licensed in Virginia with a launch date expected soon.

Betr also holds market access to Indiana and other jurisdictions that will be announced soon, the company said.

Last month, Betr closed its acquisition of the Chameleon platform from FansUnited Entertainment for more than $7.4m, which will enable Betr Gaming to launch its initial version of its online sports betting product, Betr Betting.

The company closed a $30m Series A in early 2022 led by Florida Funders. That round was oversubscribed, so Betr raised an additional $20m Series A1 in August 2022 led by Aliya Capital Partners and Fuel Venture Capital.

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Chinese Contractor Appeals Baha Mar Ruling

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The Chinese state-owned contractor that built the Baha Mar integrated resort in the Bahamas has appealed a New York court’s ruling that billionaire developer Sarkis Izmirlian can proceed with a $2.25bn fraud lawsuit against it.

China Construction America (CCA), a subsidiary of the state-owned colossus China State Construction and Engineering Corp, said in a Friday (June 23) filing to the New York State Supreme Court that it wished to appeal the judgment of a single judge of the court in late May.

CCA told the court on Friday that the judge’s rejection of its request for summary dismissal of the case and its counterclaim “should be reversed in its entirety”.

The case follows Izmirlian’s bankruptcy protection application in the US in 2015 over CCA’s alleged strategic disruption of construction deadlines.

The dispute led to the takeover and sale of the property by its financier, the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China, to jewellery and gaming giant Chow Tai Fook.

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Belgium's ban on gambling ads is set to go ahead after it avoided defeat by legal challenges spearheaded by sports teams.

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