News In Brief: March 13-March 17, 2023

March 17, 2023
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Maryland moves to prevent gambling marketing on college campuses and Western Australia backs post-scandal reforms to Crown casinos.

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Maryland Lawmakers Back Bills To Restrict College Betting Partnerships

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Both chambers of Maryland’s General Assembly have passed separate bills to prohibit certain types of marketing partnerships between sports-betting operators and the state’s colleges and universities.

Senate Bill 620 was passed unanimously by the Senate on Thursday (March 16), one day after House Bill 802 was similarly approved without any dissent in the state’s House of Delegates.

The two identical proposals, which will now have to be reconciled and signed into law by the state’s governor, would not altogether prohibit marketing partnerships between sportsbooks and Maryland colleges.

Instead, the ban only would apply in the event either the college or its sports marketing agent “receives a commission, a bonus, or any other incentive payment based on the success of securing student participation in sports wagering or online sports wagering.”

In December 2021, PointsBet was named the official partner of the University of Maryland’s athletics department. The same operator recently amended a similar agreement with the University of Colorado to remove incentive-based payments.

Regulations to fully prohibit sports-betting advertising on college campuses have recently been approved in several states, including Arizona, Ohio, Massachusetts and New York.

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Western Australia Backs Probe Reforms For Crown Perth

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The Western Australia state government has strongly backed the recommendations of the Perth Casino Royal Commission, cementing ongoing major reform for the Crown Resorts property.

In addition to numerous regulatory changes and governance reforms for the Blackstone Group-owned operator, the government said it supports cashless gaming and a mandatory pre-commitment and limited play period regime for electronic gaming machines (EGMs).

This scheme will be in effect by December 1, 2025, the government said on Thursday (March 16) in notes on the Royal Commission’s recommendations, some of which have already been issued to the casino by the Gaming and Wagering Commission.

Play restrictions will include 15-minute breaks after three continuous hours, a maximum 12-hour play period within a 24-hour period, and no more than 28 hours of play within seven days.

A maximum bet size of A$10 ($6.70) on EGMs has also been agreed to and will be in force by July 1 this year.

VIP players will also be required to demonstrate financial capacity.

The government confirmed there will be no state-wide easing of a ban on slot machines outside the casino.

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Kentucky Senate Committee Approves Sports-Betting Bill

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After previous efforts have fallen short, sports betting is now even closer to legalization in Kentucky after a Senate committee overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday (March 15).

The Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee approved House Bill 551 by a 9-1 vote, with chairman Republican John Schickel casting the lone vote in opposition.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday evening by a vote of 63-24.

HB 551 headed to the Senate floor on Wednesday, where the bill received the first of three readings it needs before lining up for a potential vote prior to the legislature adjourning on March 30. If the Senate passes the bill HB 551, Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is expected to sign the measure.

Republican Representative Michael Meredith, primary sponsor of HB 551, explained during Wednesday’s hearing the bill allows all nine licensed racetracks in Kentucky to offer retail and mobile wagering. Each track can partner with up to three mobile sports-betting operators.

Tracks would pay an initial fee of $500,000 for a license and an annual renewal fee of $50,000 to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Sports betting operators will be required to pay a $50,000 license fee and a $10,000 renewal fee.

The bill sets the retail tax rate at 9.75 percent and the mobile sports betting tax rate at 14.25 percent on adjusted gross revenue.

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Barstool’s 'Can’t Lose' Promotion On Massachusetts Regulators Agenda

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Massachusetts gaming regulators will hold a hearing to consider whether a Barstool Sportsbook promotional offering is acceptable under the state’s advertising guidelines.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted Wednesday (March 15) to hold an adjudicatory hearing to consider whether Barstool’s “can’t lose parlay” promotional offering violates state law or regulations.

Loretta Lillios, director of the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, said the question of the legality of the promotion was raised last weekend, largely through press inquiries.

Among the concerns Lillios referenced was that the promotion could be in violation of rules against deceptive marketing, as well as the commission’s regulation prohibiting the promotion of wagers that are “risk-free.”

Lillios said that Penn Entertainment, which owns and operates the Barstool Sportsbook, had pledged not to offer the promotion temporarily both in Massachusetts or in any other state while the matter was being considered.

The “can’t lose parlay” is associated with Barstool personality Dan “Big Cat” Katz, and Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden has previously defended the promotion before the commission as being an ironic joke.

“He is admittedly one of the worst gamblers on the planet, and so it's meant to be funny,” Snowden told the commission in December. “It's not meant to push something as being viewed as can't lose.”

A date for the hearing has not been set.

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Playtech Acquires Hard Rock Stake In Partnership

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Playtech announced it has reached a strategic partnership with Hard Rock Digital, the interactive gaming and sports-betting division for Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming.

Details of the deal emerged Tuesday (March 14) in a filing with the London Stock Exchange. Playtech will pay $85m for a low, single-digit percentage stake in Hard Rock Digital, with proceeds from the deal to fund the company’s global expansion.

Currently, Hard Rock Digital operates in seven U.S. states, including Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. Hard Rock also plans to extend its online sportsbook and iGaming offerings to select international markets over the next several years.

“For Playtech, this partnership significantly advances our position in the North American market and is very much in line with our B2B strategy,” CEO Mor Weizer said in a statement.

As part of the deal with Playtech, Hard Rock Digital will license a range of the developer’s technology solutions and iGaming content. In the U.S. and Canada, Hard Rock Digital customers will be able to play a selection of Playtech’s slots and live dealer table games through the company's existing platform.

"This partnership will act as an accelerator to Hard Rock Digital's planned strategic initiative to expand its online gaming offerings to international markets, becoming the first operator with a global omni-channel offering under a singular, irreplaceable brand," said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International.

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Kentucky Approves Grey-Market Machine Ban

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The Kentucky Senate on Tuesday (March 14) approved a bill to ban so-called skill-based games, also known as grey-market machines, that have proliferated throughout the state.

The machines, which are similar to slot machines, can be found in convenience stores, gas stations and taverns. Estimates place the number of grey-market machines at upwards of 40,000, an increase from around 12,000 in 2022.

The Senate passed House Bill 594 by a 29-6 vote, sending the measure to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. The governor will have the option to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

Mark Guilfoyle, executive director of Kentuckians Against Illegal Gambling (KAIG), praised the General Assembly for passing the measure to deal with the “dangers of grey machine gambling.” He urged Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, to “swiftly sign HB 594 and make it the law of the land.”

Violators who manage or operate the machines could face a $25,000 fine payable to the local county government.

The Kentucky Merchants and Amusement Coalition, a group representing skill-game companies and small businesses that offer the games, has opposed the ban, instead lobbying for legislation that would regulate and tax the machines.

“We are obviously very disappointed in this decision,” said Wes Jackson, the group’s president. “It’s clear that some lawmakers are committed to putting the requests of one constituent, Churchill Downs inc., over the needs of thousands of their constituents who are relying on the income of legal skill games."

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Ad Fine Apparently Levied In Germany

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Germany’s gambling regulator, the GGL, claims to have handed out its first “severe fine” to a gambling operator after taking full control of the market from this year.

The regulator said it issued a five-digit penalty for advertising failings at the start of March, but does not name the operator, only saying it has a licence to offer gambling in Germany.

The offender advertised its games on a website which also advertised operators that do not have a local licence, something that goes against the country’s Interstate Treaty on Gambling, the GGL said.

“We consider these advertising regulations to be very good and justified. GGL consistently monitors offers from legal providers. In the event of violations, we levy heavy fines. The withdrawal of the licence in the event of repeated violations of the provisions of the State Treaty on Gaming is a measure that we do not shy away from," said GGL CEO Ronald Benter.

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Bill Filed To Legalize Mobile Sports-Betting In North Carolina

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After failing short by one vote last year, a North Carolina lawmaker on Monday (March 13) signaled that legislators will try again in 2023 with the filing of a bill with bipartisan support to legalize mobile sports betting.

Retail sports betting is currently legal in North Carolina and offered in several of the state’s tribal casinos.

House Bill 347, filed by Republican Representative Jason Saine, would allow between ten to 12 mobile sports-betting operators. Licenses are $1m for five years and sets the state’s tax rate at 14 percent on adjusted gross revenue.

It also allows wagering esports, Olympic games and on in-state collegiate sports, which was removed over fears of a point shaving scandal from the Senate bill last session. By a 50-51 vote, the House rejected Senate Bill 688 in 2022 that would have legalized sports betting.

Operators will be able to deduct promotional wagers and bonuses from their taxable revenue with no limitations through 2024, but the deduction rate will decline to 2.5 percent in 2025, followed by 2 percent in 2026 before being prohibited starting January 1, 2027.

Saine’s bill has yet to be assigned to a House committee. If approved, the bill allows mobile wagering to begin by January 1, 2024.

Under the bill, sports betting in the state will be regulated by the North Carolina State Lottery Commission, which would also issue licenses.

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Kentucky House Passes Sports-Betting Bill

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The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed House Bill 551 by a vote of 63-34, receiving the necessary three-fifths majority to legalize retail and mobile sports betting, sending the measure to the Senate for consideration.

The bill allows all nine licensed racetracks in Kentucky to offer retail and mobile wagering. Each track can partner with up to three mobile sports-betting operators.

Republican Representative Michael Meredith said the total handle in Kentucky is estimated at $2.3bn to $2.4bn annually, which translates into $23m in taxes each year for the state.

Lawmakers on Monday (March 13) also voted down amendments to prohibit credit cards to fund mobile accounts or to place bets, as well as raising the age to participate in wagering from 18 to 21 were voted down.

Meredith reminded his colleagues that 18-year-olds can go to a racetrack in Kentucky and place a wager. Under HB 551, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would regulate the sports-betting industry.

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Bet365 Operator Fined For Dutch Ads

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Hillside New Media Malta, which operates as bet365 in the Netherlands and elsewhere, has been fined €400,000 by the Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) for advertising to young people.

An investigation by the regulator found that between October 2021 and February 2022, at the very start of the re-regulated Dutch market, Hillside did not exclude players aged 18-24 from marketing for its bet365.nl website.

Operators in the Netherlands should not target young adults with gambling marketing, according to the country’s gambling act.

Hillside argued that although it did not exclude 18-24-year-olds for several months after it began operating in the country’s newly-opened online gambling market, it was not specifically targeting them.

The regulator disagreed and assessed the company with a €400,000 fine on Friday (March 10). The decision can be appealed.

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Iowa iGaming Bill Back On The Table

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Legislation to authorize online casino gaming has been reintroduced in Iowa’s House of Representatives.

House Study Bill 227 was filed on Wednesday (March 8) by the House Ways and Means Committee and is due to be considered initially by a subcommittee made up of three lawmakers.

The bill would authorize Iowa’s incumbent casinos to obtain licenses to offer “advance deposit gambling games” via a maximum of two platforms or skins.

A similar measure was approved by a subcommittee last year but was never advanced for a vote on the House floor.

HSB 227 is supported by major Iowa online sports betting operators being represented by the Sports Betting Alliance, as well as by Iowa casino operator Wild Rose Entertainment.

The Iowa Casino Association, Elite Casino Resorts and Iowa Harness Horsemen’s Association are all undecided on the bill, according to lobbyist declarations posted on the state legislature’s website.

Separately, the House Ways and Means Committee introduced a further bill last week that would prohibit the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission from issuing sports wagering licenses to any company that accepts or assists in online wagers from any country where online gambling is illegal.

The commission would also be required to revoke the current license of any Iowa operator under the same circumstances.

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Maryland moves to prevent gambling marketing on college campuses and Western Australia backs post-scandal reforms to Crown casinos.

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