News In Brief: June 27-July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022
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Norway's offshore ad row is headed for dispute board, Light & Wonder lowers OpenBet price and Thailand could open five new integrated resorts.

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Norway Media Watchdog Backs Blocking Order

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The Norwegian Media Authority has rejected complaints against its own decision to demand that TV distributors Telenor, Telia Altibox, RiksTV and Allente stop the broadcasting of gambling ads via the Discovery network.

As part of a long-running dispute, the regulator had ordered that ads for Unibet, Betsson, Nordibet and Betsafe be blocked.

Norway’s gambling laws give sole control of the online gambling market to a state-owned monopoly, but a number of Malta-based operators run ads in the country and take players from Norway under what they say are European free trade rules.

The blocking order had been challenged by Telia and Altibox.

The complaint will now move to the Media Complaints Board, which will further review the objections.

The authority is also currently battling Discovery in court over a separate order for the TV network to stop transmitting ads for unlicensed gambling companies in Norway.

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Casino Copenhagen Under Fire Over AML Policies

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The Danish Gambling Authority has reprimanded land-based operator Casino Copenhagen for a series of anti-money laundering (AML) failures.

The partially Casinos Austria-owned venue had failed to properly complete a risk assessment, could not produce customer due diligence policies, did not train its staff well enough and had a failing whistleblower scheme, the regulator said.

The operator must fix the deficiencies or risk the case being handed to the police for further enforcement, the authority said.

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Light & Wonder Amends OpenBet Sales Agreement

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Light & Wonder, formerly known as Scientific Games, has amended its purchase agreement relating to the sale of its sports-betting business, OpenBet, to Endeavor Operating Company and Endeavour Group Holdings, the company said Thursday (June 30).

Under the terms of the amended deal, Light & Wonder will receive $750m in cash and $50m in Class A stock of Endeavor Group Holdings, down 33 percent from the prior $1.2bn price. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter of 2022.

“We’re not surprised to see this given depressed sports betting valuations (down 70 percent to 80 percent) since the deal was originally announced last September,” Barry Jonas, a gaming analyst with Truist Securities, said in a research note.

The recently completed sale of its lottery division and the pending sale of OpenBet will cumulatively generate $5.6bn of estimated net after-tax proceeds, according to the company.

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Florida Gaming Control Board Assumes Regulatory Role

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The Florida Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) on Friday (July 1) officially assumes the duties and responsibilities of the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which is a division in the state's Department of Business.

The FGCC will exercise board regulatory and executive powers with respect to gambling in this state, including pari-mutuel wagering, cardrooms, slot machines facilities, and oversite of criminal gambling prohibitions and gaming compacts, the commission said.

In a memorandum sent to licensees Thursday (June 30), the five-member FGCC said existing valid permits or licenses that do not expire on or before July 1, 2022 will continue to remain valid.

All matters currently pending with the division will not need to be resubmitted. The FGCC will continue to process these matters in ordinary course of business, according to the statement.

Existing statutes and rules under Florida law will also remain in effect, the commission said.

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Thailand Exploring Five-Casino Market In Legalisation Drive

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A Thai parliamentary committee has floated the possibility of approving five integrated resorts around the country, including one in greater Bangkok.

The House of Representatives extraordinary committee, formed in December, also extended its probe into the feasibility of an “entertainment complex” casino industry until at least November as momentum for legalisation grows.

Committee deputy chairman Pichet Chuamuangphan said the feasibility study will examine regulatory best practice in neighbouring states, according to the Bangkok Post.

But the committee has also floated a concession model for casinos, a 30 percent tax rate for operations and financial capacity testing for casino customers, it said.

Meanwhile, committee members are continuing to tour prospective locations for casinos, with a third seminar series scheduled this weekend for Sa Kaew Province, which borders Cambodia.

The first two seminars were held in provinces bordering Myanmar and Laos, suggesting that the government, after years of lamenting the loss of revenue to border casinos, is now interested in casino traffic in the other direction.

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Queensland Names Head Of Star Entertainment Probe

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The government of Australia’s Queensland state has named retired state Supreme Court judge Robert Gotterson as the head of an independent external review into The Star Entertainment Group’s casino operations.

Attorney general Shannon Fentiman said in a statement on Thursday (June 30) that the review will have the powers of a commission of inquiry, including powers to compel testimony.

“Given the weight of evidence that has emerged regarding the operations of The Star Sydney and the shared governance and operational arrangements of Star Group entities more broadly, it is important the inquiry can seek information from anyone it sees fit,” she said.

The inquiry’s terms of reference include anti-money laundering matters, high roller management and bank transactions, the use of China UnionPay bankcards, compliance in customer bans, and responsible gambling policy.

The latest announcement for the Queensland probe follows Monday’s conclusion of public hearings at the Bell Inquiry into Star Entertainment’s suitability to hold a casino licence in New South Wales state, an investigation that triggered resignations of most board members and senior executives.

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MGA Cancels Licences With Links To Galea

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Gambling licences and reportedly pending applications linked to the arrested Maltese consultant Iosif Galea have been cancelled.

The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) announced on Tuesday (June 28) that it had taken the decision to “cancel … any approvals issued in Mr Galea’s regard to act as a director for MGA licensees”.

The Times of Malta also claimed an MGA official had told the publication that 35 pending applications which had links to Galea had been rejected and would need to be resubmitted.

Galea was detained in Italy in May on a German arrest warrant, thought to be linked to unpaid online casino VAT owned in Germany by companies for which the Maltese was acting as an official.

The MGA said that at the time of his arrest he held a directorship position with one licensee, but no longer does so and that he had now been banned from taking part in any activity licensed by the regulator.

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Justice Department Urged To Act On Illegal Gambling

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More than two-dozen members of Congress submitted a letter Wednesday (June 29) to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) urging federal authorities to make a concerted effort to investigate and take enforcement action to deal with illegal offshore sportsbooks.

“As the nascent legal market continues to expand, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the illegal market is thriving and operating unfettered,” wrote Democratic Representative Dina Titus of Nevada and 27 of her colleagues.

“These offshore operations, including Bovada, MyBookie and BetOnline, have developed sophisticated platforms that are nearly indistinguishable from those of legal providers,” the letter reads.

Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), urged the DOJ to eradicate these websites, and all form of illegal gambling.

“Offshore gambling websites are a significant threat to consumer protections and the economic benefits legal gaming provides for communities across the country,” Miller said.

Miller noted that the AGA reached out to the DOJ in April to express its concerns over illegal gambling. He said the latest letter to attorney general Merrick Garland demonstrates the broad interest in addressing this subject.

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Maryland Making Progress Toward Mobile Wagering Launch

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The Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) has discussed draft regulations and applications as it gets ready to issue mobile sports-betting licenses later this year.

“It is our continued hope that we may begin accepting applications in late summer,” Thomas Brandt, SWARC chairman, said Wednesday (June 29) at the beginning of the meeting.

Brandt explained that once approved by SWARC, the regulations need to be approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review. Once approved, the rules are subject to a 30-day public comment period.

Brandt said he expected comments to be submitted by the industry and businesses during the public comment period, which may lead to additional changes to the regulations before they are implemented.

A majority of the hour-long meeting was taken up by a discussion on the mobile and retail draft applications submitted by Taft, a law firm working with SWARC.

“Are we over doing it?” Brandt said. “Are we making it too hard with all the stuff we are looking for. It’s a lot for a restaurant or startup.”

Kimberly Copp, a partner and co-chair of Taft’s Gaming Industry Group, admitted that it was not an easy undertaking but as much as regulators may not want the application to be that stringent, these businesses are “taking wagers from citizens … and we need to protect that integrity.”

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Swiss Court Rules Against Offshore Incursion

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Switzerland’s Supreme Court has reportedly ruled against a quartet of operators attempting to dismantle the country’s blacklist.

According to a story by Reuters, the Federal Administrative Court said the “domain name system” for blocking access to unlicensed online gambling sites was fair and proportionate.

Cases were brought by Bet-at-Home, Interwetten, Videoslots and Lopoco Gaming.

Online casino licences in Switzerland are restricted to those that already hold a matching land-based licence, while betting and lottery products are monopoly controlled.

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AGA Publishes Guide To Tackle Human Trafficking

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The American Gaming Association (AGA) on Tuesday (June 28) released a new in-depth resource, Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking in the Gaming Industry, aimed at helping boost the industry’s efforts to prevent and tackle human trafficking.

The 25-page report was a first step by the AGA’s newly created Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force and builds on efforts by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury to guide the industry on applying anti-human trafficking practices.

“The AGA, our members, and the entire gaming industry are committed to stamping out all forms of human trafficking,” Bill Miller, AGA’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

The AGA sets out five main points in its report, including: educating individuals on what constitutes human trafficking and the risks it poses to the gaming industry; empowering gaming employees to act when they notice human trafficking; and preventing human trafficking from occurring or being facilitated at gaming operations.

Furthermore, the measures should address the needs of gaming executives as they institute anti-trafficking policies; and protect patrons and employees from human trafficking.

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New York Governor Reviewing Problem Gambling Advisory Council Bill

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Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul is currently reviewing legislation that would establish the Problem Gambling Advisory Council (PGAC), a spokesman said Tuesday (June 28).

The bill, co-sponsored by Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., a Democrat, was unanimously approved by the 63-member Senate earlier this month and sent to the governor for her signature.

Senate Bill 409 would establish the PGAC to identify issues affecting those suffering from a problem gambling disorder and recommend ways to make prevention and treatment more accessible.

With the launch of mobile sports betting earlier this year, and with plans for three additional downstate casinos, Addabbo said it was important to “provide additional resources and raise awareness for problem gambling in our state”.

The PGAC will consist of 13 members, including the commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the chair of the New York State Gaming Commission.

A recent survey by the OASAS determined by 5 percent of adults in New York have shown problem gambling behaviors in the past year. In a statement released Monday (June 27), Addabbo said the bill demonstrates that they haven’t forgotten to prioritize problem gambling.

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California Online Sports-Betting Initiative Cleared For November Ballot

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California’s Secretary of State on Monday (June 27) confirmed that a mobile sports-betting initiative supported by FanDuel, DraftKings and other commercial gaming companies has qualified for the November 8 ballot after crossing the threshold of almost 1.1m valid state voter signatures.

The coalition submitted about 1.6m signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office for verification last month. Any ballot measure in California needs 8 percent of the total votes cast for the governor in the preceding general election to qualify.

The proposed initiative would permit mobile sports betting throughout the most populous state in the U.S. through partnerships between operators and California Indian tribes. It will be formally certified for the ballot on Thursday (June 30).

A separate initiative allowing tribal casino operators and racetracks to operate retail sports wagering in the state has already qualified for the November 8 ballot, and a coalition of Indian tribes and other groups supporting the tribal-backed initiative immediately issued a statement pledging to “defeat [the] deceptive corporate online gambling proposition which is now eligible for [the] November 2022 ballot.”

“We will run a vigorous campaign against this measure and are confident the voters will see through the deceptive promises being made by these out-of-state gambling corporations,” said Cody Martinez, chair of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.

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Norway's offshore ad row is headed for dispute board, Light & Wonder lowers OpenBet price and Thailand could open five new integrated resorts.

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