News In Brief: March 11-March 15, 2024

March 14, 2024
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Maryland passes bill to legalise online gaming, Louisiana bill to ban TV gambling ads awaits committee hearing and Pennsylvania lawmaker wants the state to join the Multi-State Internet Agreement.
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Maryland House Committee Passes Online Gaming Bill
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An amended bill to legalize online gaming in Maryland was passed Wednesday (March 13) by the House Ways and Means Committee, sending it to the House floor for consideration.

Among the proposed changes, committee chair Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, a Democrat, wants to increase the total number of licenses from 12 to 30 available to the state's six land-based casinos and so-called Class B sports wagering facility licenses, including off-track betting outlets and charitable bingo halls.

The state’s six brick-and-mortar casinos would be entitled to one and three licenses.

Atterbeary noted House Bill 1319 bans credit cards to fund iGaming accounts, requires operators to set limits on deposits and play, as well as creates a voluntary exclusion list of patrons identified as problem gamblers.

If approved by the Maryland legislature and signed by Democratic Governor Wes Moore, the issue of legalizing iGaming will be placed on the November ballot. 

Delegate Chao Wu, a Democrat, said his yes vote on Wednesday was due to his concern over a lack of funding for the state’s education system.

“Personally, I don’t support gambling,” Wu said. “I’m afraid of job losses and some other issues. This bill will support education, which I support. I really trust our voters to make an informed decision at election time.”

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Louisiana Considers Ban On Sports-Betting, Fantasy Sports Ads
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Representative Shaun Mena, a Democrat from New Orleans, has introduced a bill banning any television advertising for sports betting and fantasy sports in Louisiana. 

Mena’s two-page bill states that any advertising “shall result in revocation of the sports wagering license.”

House Bill 727 has been referred to the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. As of Wednesday (March 13), Mena’s measure was pending a committee hearing.

This is not the first bill introduced in Louisiana to restrict sports-betting advertising. Last year, the legislature passed, and former Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed, Senate Bill 191 prohibiting any state college or university from entering a sports-betting marketing or advertising partnership.

The passage of SB 1919 led to Louisiana State University ending its multi-year deal with Caesars Entertainment, which was announced in September 2021 but came under scrutiny after The New York Times reported that mass emails were sent to LSU students promoting wagering with Caesars Sportsbook.  Caesars executives told The Times the email was mistakenly sent to underage students.

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Pennsylvania Seeks Entry Into Multi-State Gaming Agreement
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In an effort to allow in-state online poker players to compete with those in other states, Republican state Representative George Dunbar has filed a bill that would allow Pennsylvania to join the Multi-State Internet Agreement (MSIGA).

House Bill 2078 has been referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee. If approved, Pennsylvania would join West Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey as a member of MSIGA.

“This action, also known as ‘shared liquidity,’ is critical to a healthy on-line poker system,” Dunbar said in a memo to his colleagues. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported online poker revenue of $2.65m in January, down 8.18 percent from $2.89m in the same month last year.

“Much like what we have seen with multistate lottery contests, joining MSIGA will mean more players in the overall player pool,” Dunbar said. “This makes for bigger tournaments allowing operators to offer bigger guarantees.”

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UK Regulator Appoints Industry Forum
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The UK Gambling Commission has selected the members of its industry forum, which it says will provide the regulator with insights directly from operators on new and proposed regulations.

From more than 40 applications, the commission selected ten members, including representatives from Merkur, Flutter, Entain and Rank Group.

The forum is chaired by the former head of the British Horseracing Authority and ex-Ladbrokes executive, Nick Rust. 

“We had more than 40 applications from across the gambling industry from people wanting to take an active role in the inaugural Industry Forum.

“It was difficult to leave quite a few of those people out, but I’m delighted with the quality and experience of the appointees, and hope as a group we can offer perspectives from across all parts of the industry which the Commission can draw upon to help evolve and improve its performance as the regulator.”

The full list of members includes: Tony Boulton; Kirsty Caldwell; Charles Cohen; Ashley Padgett; Mark Pearson; Nigel Roddis; Leo Walker; Helen Walton; and David Williams.

The group will hold its first meeting on March 21.

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Pennsylvania May Ban Credit Cards For Online Gambling
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A Pennsylvania lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would ban credit cards from being used to fund online gaming accounts, including sports betting. 

Credit cards would also be prohibited from use in funding internet lottery, online casino games, and fantasy sports, according to a co-sponsorship memo issued by state Senator Wayne Fontana, a Democrat.

Fontana said he believed that gambling and credit card debt often go hand in hand as problem gambling can lead to financial problems that affect one’s ability to pay off debt. 

“With the average Pennsylvanian having a credit card balance that exceeds $5,640, online gaming should not be another scenario to accumulate more debt,” Fontana said.

Other states that prohibit the use of credit cards to fund online gaming and sports-betting accounts include Iowa, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. 

As of Monday (March 11), Fontana had yet to introduce his measure.

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Standard General Proposes Taking Bally’s Private
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Standard General submitted a proposal on Monday (March 11) to purchase the remaining shares in Bally’s Corp. and take the gaming company private. 

The $15 per share offer is a 41 percent premium on Friday’s close of $10.42, with shares in Bally’s gaining $3.02, or 28.44 percent to close Monday at $13.64 on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Currently, Standard General is the company’s largest shareholder with 23.2 percent and whose principal Soohyung Kim is chairman of the board of Bally’s. 

This is not the first time Standard General has attempted to take Bally’s private. On January 25, 2022, Standard General proposed a $38 per share offer, which the board rejected. Bally’s board will appoint a special independent committee to consider the transaction. 

Standard General will not move forward unless approved. 

“We believe that the prospects for the company have changed meaningfully since Standard General’s January 2022 offer,” Truist Securities analyst Barry Jonas said in a research note.  

Jonas wrote that Bally’s has not proven formidable in the North American interactive gaming market. The company is building a casino in Chicago, the company underwent a management transition early in 2023, and has announced plans to close its Tropicana casino in Las Vegas and replace it with a baseball stadium.

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West Virginia Harassment Bill Sent To Governor
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A bill that would amend the state’s 2018 sports-betting law to allow the West Virginia State Lottery to ban patrons from wagering on sports apps and at retail locations if they are found to have harassed players, coaches, or officials is heading to the governor’s desk.  

House Bill 4700, sponsored by Democratic Delegate Shawn Fluharty, would ban the gamblers if they are determined to have “harassed or show a harmful pattern of conduct” to an athlete, coach or official. 

Its unclear whether Republican Governor Jim Justice will sign the measure. If the measure becomes law, then the lottery commission will promulgate rules relating to banning patrons. 

Ohio enacted similar legislation last year after Republican Governor Mike DeWine called for imposing involuntary exclusion on anyone found to have harassed athletes, coaches or game officials. 

The West Virginia bill also comes after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) began lobbying state lawmakers in October with the goal of identifying legislation that would offer stronger protections of student athletes, coaches and game officials from harassment. NCAA president Charlie Baker noted that some states already have policies on the books but “more needs to be done.”

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Alabama Gaming Bills Headed To Conference Committee
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The effort to pass comprehensive gambling legislation in Alabama took a significant step forward last week as the Senate approved two bills by a 22-11 vote, but with the upper chamber making major changes, the details of the final proposal will be settled in a conference committee.

House Bill 151 is a constitutional amendment authorizing gambling, while House Bill 152 is enabling legislation setting out licensing, enforcement and taxation, among other things.

The measures, both sponsored by Republican Representative Chris Blackshear, originally proposed the creation of a state lottery and a state gambling commission, while authorizing mobile sports betting and seven casino locations in the state. It also directed Republican Governor Kay Ivey to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The Poarch Band operate Class II casinos in Atmore, Montgomery, and Wetumpka.

The Senate version keeps the lottery and tribal gaming compact language but eliminated any mention of sports betting or casinos. Pari-mutuel wagering and historic horseracing machines would also be allowed.

The bills now go back to the House of Representatives. Republican Representative Andy Whitt told the Alabama Reflector that eliminating illegal gaming remains his top priority. 

If the House approves the changes, a special election on the gaming referendum will be held on September 10. 

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Nevada Regulator Seeks $500,000 From Laughlin Casino
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The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has agreed to a $500,000 fine from the Riverside Resort & Casino in Laughlin to settle a two count complaint of unsuitable conduct by the casino’s security staff.

On August 9, a casino employee suspected of smoking marijuana during their shift within the casino was escorted to the security office. The employee denied smoking marijuana and surveillance cameras did not show the employee smoking marijuana.

The casino’s human resources department sent the employee home, but security officers did not allow the employee to leave and instead instructed him that he could take a drug test or immediately resign.

After a verbal exchange one of the security officers informed the employee he was terminated. The employee was prevented from leaving the office, thrown to the floor and punched several times, according to the complaint.

The complaint also found the employee was unconscious for about 18 minutes after striking his head on a metal holding cell wall while handcuffed. After an investigation, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found the employee did not commit a crime.

All four security guards were arrested on March 27, 2023 and charged with coercion with physical force, a felony, and false imprisonment, a gross misdemeanor. 

Another incident took place on July 5, 2022 when security officers allegedly injured a patron while he was removed from the casino for alleged interference with a slot drop.

Neither incident was reported to the control board. 

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Bill Proposes Sports Betting, Slots In Missouri
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Lawmakers in Missouri have spent the last few years trying to legalize sports betting only to come up short each time due to some legislators' support for simultaneously regulating skill games or legalizing video lottery terminals (VLTs).

Currently, there are four bills in the Senate and four bills in the House that would legalize sports betting, skill games and VLTs. Representative Crystal Quade, a Democrat and House Minority Leader, recently introduced House Bill 2835, another measure that legalizes sports betting and skill games.

“Unregulated slot machines are not going away, and it’s past time for the legislature to act,” Quade told KY3 News in Springfield.

Quade’s proposal would limit businesses to no more than five machines, and they would have to be located in a restricted area away from children. The bill would tax skill-game operators at 33 percent.

Her bill would also allow individual cities to impose their own bans on the terminals. Last month, Springfield became the first city in Missouri to ban skill games, which resulted in a lawsuit being filed by distributor Torch Electronics.

Quade, who is also running for governor, proposes to legalize sports betting and authorize the Missouri Gaming Commission to regulate and tax wagering operations. 

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Maryland passes bill to legalise online gaming, Louisiana bill to ban TV gambling ads awaits committee hearing and Pennsylvania lawmaker wants the state to join the Multi-State Internet Agreement.

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