News In Brief: June 6-June 10, 2022

June 9, 2022
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Blackstone Group gets green light for Crown Resorts acquisition and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says controversial Barry Diller is suitable for a gaming license.

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Blackstone Gets Western Australia's Nod To Acquire Crown Resorts

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US-based Blackstone Group has received approval from the Western Australia (WA) state government and gaming regulator to acquire casino operator Crown Resorts, the last of three green lights required from state gambling regulators.

Blackstone can acquire Crown provided it meets several conditions mirroring those imposed by Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) states, the WA government said in a statement on Friday (June 10).

The conditions include enhanced anti-money laundering, responsible gambling and auditing criteria, as well as blocking structural, financial and investment changes to Crown operations without government permission, it said.

Final approval for the takeover must come from the Federal Court, although this is likely a formality.

The Victoria and NSW state governments approved the Blackstone takeover on Thursday (June 9). The approvals followed lengthy, high-level probes in each state into chronic Crown misconduct that eviscerated its board and executive line-ups.

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Massachusetts Approves Gaming License For Barry Diller

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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) announced Thursday (June 9) that it had found Barry Diller suitable for a gaming license, despite concerns over the ongoing federal investigation into stock trades and a $60m profit he made in January in Activision Blizzard shortly before Microsoft Corporation acquired it.

Diller is chairman of IAC/Interactive Corp., which is the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts International with a 14 percent ownership stake. The commission also approved a gaming license for IAC but attached a condition to both license approvals.

Todd Grossman, MGC’s general counsel, told the commission the stock trades were under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a condition of their license, Grossman said Diller and IAC must “report any material information with the progress of either the SEC or DOJ investigation within 48 hours of receipt of any such information.” He said the condition will make sure the MGFC is well informed as to the proceedings.

Last month, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved a two-year limited license allowing Diller to be a board member for MGM.

A two-year limited license allows Diller to move forward with MGM, but he must come back to regulators after a period of time and update regulators. An unlimited license puts the burden on the Nevada Gaming Control Board, should the SEC or DOJ report any illegal activity.

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New Jersey Licenses 1-800-GAMBLER For Use Across U.S.

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The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has entered into a six-year agreement with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) for the use of their 1-800-GAMBLER in all territories, states, and the District of Columbia.

“Our goal is simple, to continue to make sure 1-800-GAMBLER provides aid to anyone who needs its as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Fred Hogan CCGNJ’s board president, said in a statement.

NCPG board president Maureen Greeley said the agreement is a vital step forward as we work to increase awareness and access to services for those impacted by problem gambling.

“With collaboration as one of our core values, we are grateful for this partnership with our NCPG Affiliate, CCGNJ, that will significantly advance our shared priorities of improving health and wellness by offering the most effective programs and services possible,” Greeley said.

The current national helpline network number, 800-522-4700, and 1-800-GAMBLER will continue to operate uninterrupted as will the current routing of helpline calls.

In the coming months, NCPG will work closely with the CCGNJ, state affiliates, and helpline call centers to ensure a smooth transition and prevent any gaps in services as adjustments are made in the National Helpline Number and Network.

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First Online Slots Operator Live In Germany

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Mernov, the Gauselmann linked company that is so far the only operator to be granted a nationwide virtual slots licence in Germany, has launched.

The company said in a press release on Wednesday (June 8) that its JackpotPiraten.de and BingBong.de offerings had gone live, after it secured approval for its games and connected to the controversial LUGAS IT system, which will allow players to be tracked across multiple operators.

“In an increasingly digitally oriented society, the gaming market in Germany has now arrived in the online age on the basis of nationwide regulation. We are pleased that with Mernov, a reliable provider based in Germany, has secured the first licence for legal online gambling and is today giving the go-ahead for safe gaming,” said Dirk Quermann, president of the German Online Casino Association (DOCV).

A number of other companies are believed to have applied for virtual slots licences, which have been technically available since July 2021.

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Supreme Court To Rule On Sweden Scratchcard Case

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A case brought by private gambling operators in Sweden against a TV scratchcard segment is headed for the country’s Supreme Court.

The Swedish Trade Association for Online Gambling (BOS) and its members have complained since 2019 that a popular TV segment which sees a lottery scratchcard scratched off is a form of covert advertising and should carry responsible gambling warnings.

Scratchcards are exclusively offered by state-owned Svenska Spel, which competes with private operators in the online betting and casino sectors.

The case was picked up by the Swedish Consumer Agency in 2020, which won an initial ruling requiring Svenska Spel to turn over its contract with channel TV4.

Svenska Spel successfully challenged that ruling at a higher court, but after a further appeal, the Supreme Court has agreed to pick up the case and issue a final verdict.

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Florida Gaming Regulators Warned About Grey-Market Machines

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Gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar has urged Florida’s new Gaming Control Commission (FGCC) to get the word out to local law enforcement agencies and elected officials that they exist and begin cracking down on so-called “grey-market” slot machines.

“It’s important that you communicate your existence,” Dunbar told the commission Wednesday (June 8). “I don’t think every chief of police, sheriff and local elected officials even know that this body exists.”

But more importantly, Dunbar said, they do not know what the commission’s authority is that has been given to you by the legislature. He cited news reports that Jacksonville City councilman Garrett Dennis is considering introducing an ordinance to legalize the machines.

“I think it is important that as you move forward … that you take that part of the industry extremely seriously because we’ve had known organized crime, we’ve had shootings, we’ve had actually murders involved in the grey-market industry in Florida,” Dunbar said.

The five-member commission was established by the legislature through a law passed in May 2021 along with a new gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

“Many law enforcement agencies aren’t familiar enough with the grey-market machines … to really understand it and make the cases they need to make,” commissioner Chuck Drago said.

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Kindred Group Says It Has Gained Dutch Licence

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Kindred Group said it has been granted an operating licence by the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA), effective Wednesday (June 8).

The Stockholm-listed company said it plans to launch its Unibet brand in the country under a unibet.nl website "in the coming days".

Kindred profit has been pounded by the fact it was forced to pull out of the Dutch market last October as the market opened, along with other operators who wanted to apply for a licence.

At the time, it said the Dutch pullout was costing it £12m in EBITDA per month.

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Curaçao Minister Expects New Law This Year

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Curaçao’s finance minister, Javier Silvania, has said that he expects the offshore hub to have a new gambling law in place by the end of 2022.

Work on the new law is well underway, he said in a press release issued this week. Draft legislation will be presented in June, with passage expected in December of this year, he said.

The new National Ordinance on Gambling (LOK) will create the Curaçao Gaming Authority as an independent regulator and will create new obligations around safer gambling, the minister said.

“A new era of gambling policy is coming to Curaçao — it is modern, responsible and future-proof,” said Silvania.

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Phil Mickelson Calls Gambling Habit 'Reckless And Embarrassing'

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Professional golfer Phil Mickelson called his gambling habit “reckless and embarrassing” in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

Mickelson told the magazine that he had to address his gambling habit.

“And I’ve been addressing it for a number of years. And for hundreds of hours of therapy. I feel good where I’m at there. My family and I are and have been financially secure for some time.”

Alan Shipnuk, author of a recent Mickelson biography, wrote in his book that Mickelson lost an estimated $40m between 2010 and 2014.

“Gambling has been part of my life ever since I can remember,” Mickelson said. “But about a decade ago is when I would say I became reckless. It’s embarrassing. I don’t like that people know.”

Mickelson reiterated that his gambling habit was not “a threat to me or my financial security.”

Mickelson spoke with the magazine before travelling to London to participate in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. He has not participated in a professional competition since February after making derogatory comments towards both the LIV Golf Series and the PGA Tour.

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South African Excluded Casino Player Fails To Recoup Losses

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A self-excluded businessman from the South African province of Gauteng has lost a court case against land-based casino operator Sun International, as well as both the national and a regional gambling regulator, after trying to recoup R5.2m (€320,000) in losses incurred over several years.

Suhail Essack, who requested to be self-excluded in November 2017, claimed that not only had the operator breached its statutory duty when letting him play but that it also allowed him to use his wife’s credit card to gamble, meaning it should fully reimburse him.

However, the court ruled on May 24, 2022 that “sight should not be lost of the fact that the first plaintiff is the author of his own misfortune. Having voluntarily placed himself on the list of people excluded from gambling, he nonetheless went to the Sun City Casino and, on his own version, lost a substantial amount of money.”

The judge added that existing regulations in South Africa do not allow players to be afforded a civil remedy where a licensee does not adhere to the prescripts of regulation.

Essack had also tried to take on the National Gambling Board, as well as the provincial North West Gambling Board, which were both named as defendants alongside the casino operator.

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BGC Says Members Are On Track To Deliver 15,000 Tech Jobs

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The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has said its members are on track to deliver 15,000 technology jobs across the UK in the next five years.

However, Michael Dugher, the chief executive of the BGC, warned that “the only thing that risks that growth will be poorly conceived regulations that hamper business and threaten jobs”.

Dugher’s comments follow the publication of the BGC’s “Levelling Up Impact Report”, compiled by the Purpose Coalition.

In the report, the BGC's members are praised for making a highly significant economic contribution to diverse communities and for taking a proactive approach to consumer protections.

“The sector now faces a fresh challenge of persuading the government to modernise its regulatory framework in a way that allows its positive economic impact to continue despite tighter restrictions to protect vulnerable consumers,” according to the report.

Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, which is home to the headquarters of bet365, welcomed the report and stressed the importance of the gambling industry and the role it plays as the UK deals with the legacy of COVID-19 and challenges such as the rising cost of living.

The BGC launched its own “Plan for Jobs” in September 2021, pledging to create 5,000 new apprenticeships across the betting and gaming industry by 2025 and promising that most of these will be outside London. It is currently estimated that the UK’s regulated betting and gaming sector supports 119,000 jobs and generates £4.5bn in taxes for the Treasury.

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British Columbia Lottery To Support Saskatchewan Online Gaming

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The British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s (BCLC) PlayNow.com online casino and sportsbook platform will be expanded into the province of Saskatchewan under an agreement between BCLC and the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) announced on Monday (June 6).

Saskatchewan announced an agreement last September for SIGA to have exclusive rights to operate all online gambling throughout the province.

SIGA, which also operates seven land-based casinos, said it selected PlayNow to be its online provider “after an extensive RFP process.”

BCLC launched PlayNow in British Columbia in 2010 and in Manitoba three years later through an agreement with Manitoba’s lottery corporation.

SIGA said the PlayNow platform is expected to launch in 2022 after being “customized for the Saskatchewan market.”

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Manhandled Okada Manila Executives Sue Kazuo Okada

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Executives forcibly removed last week from integrated resort Okada Manila in a takeover incident have launched legal action against mogul Kazuo Okada and his Philippine associates for kidnapping and illegal detention.

Tiger Resort, Leisure & Entertainment Inc (TRLEI) co-vice chair Michiaki Satate told a media conference in Manila on Monday (June 6) that he and a number of TRLEI directors had filed the complaints after Okada’s associates and a security team manhandled and ejected them before taking physical control of the property on May 31.

Okada, who built the casino before being removed from Japanese parent company Universal Entertainment and its subsidiaries in a family feud, says the act was justified by a Philippine Supreme Court ruling in April that ordered the resumption of TRLEI’s management status quo prior to his expulsion.

A Universal Entertainment statement on June 1 said the plaintiffs would also sue Okada, his associates and the security company over trespassing, theft and assault, among other allegations.

Gambling regulator PAGCOR, whose staff witnessed the incident and has been all but silent on coercive actions by Okada’s associates, said on Monday that it maintains a neutral position on the matter and that “all [it] did was to follow the law and court processes”.

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NSW Solicits Feedback On Regulatory Reforms For Wagering

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The New South Wales (NSW) state government has announced the repeal of current betting and racing regulations and totalisator regulations in September and is seeking feedback for regulations to replace them.

A statement from Liquor & Gaming NSW on Monday (June 6) said proposed changes will strengthen but diversify penalties to “capture the interests of all stakeholders to ensure a thriving wagering industry can also operate in the community’s interests”.

Proposals include bans on “free entry” inducements for competitions related to betting accounts and “special odds” offers, an expansion of penalty notice offences in lieu of appearances in court, inflation adjustments for collected fees and unlocking the government's problem gambling initiatives and orders from legislative parameters.

Liquor & Gaming NSW will accept feedback on the Draft Betting and Racing Regulation 2022 and Draft Totalisator Regulation 2022 until June 22.

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Sri Lanka To Hike Gaming Levies, Pressure Casinos

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A destabilising economic and political crisis in Sri Lanka has prompted the tax authority to move to amend betting and gaming tax provisions and level steep increases in levies on casinos and betting activity.

The Inland Revenue Department is also pursuing tax arrears of 760m rupees ($2m) from the Rank Entertainment Holdings-owned Marina Colombo casino and 575m rupees from Bally’s Casino Colombo, among other delinquent operators, the Sunday Times reported on June 5.

Proposed changes to the tax law include a more than doubling of the annual gaming levy from 200m rupees to 500m rupees, and increases between 25 percent and 100 percent in other levies on agents, telecast gaming, and betting centres.

Sri Lanka’s turmoil, driven in part by the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, national debt and inept governance, has resulted in massive disruption to food distribution, fuel and power supplies, and other essential commodities.

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Gibraltar Prepares to Update Gambling Act 2005

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The government of Gibraltar has issued what it calls a command paper on its planned reform and replacement of its Gambling Act 2005.

Consultation on the act, which will redefine the activities to be licensed, will be held through the end of August, the government said.

The act will allow the minister for digital and financial services to set regulation and the gambling commissioner to set codes.

Work on the updating of the act was stalled twice, first for Brexit and then for COVID-19 lockdowns, the government said.

Gibraltar was not included in the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed at the end of 2020, and negotiations continue for a treaty that would cover Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory located on the southern part of Spain.

“The current Gambling Act has been very durable, but the nature of the industry has changed and the act needed modernising to ensure that Gibraltar remains as a primary gambling hub for businesses that are increasingly multijurisdictional,” said minister Albert Isola.

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Blackstone Group gets green light for Crown Resorts acquisition and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says controversial Barry Diller is suitable for a gaming license.

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