News In Brief: March 14-March 18, 2022

March 17, 2022
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The UK government is to scrutinise Allywn's lottery victory, Swedish pandemic measures of uncertain effectiveness and Ontario's regulator issues a reminder.

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UK Government To Review National Lottery Award

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A committee at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is set to review the award of the UK National Lottery licence to Allwyn.

Earlier this week, the Gambling Commission announced that the company formerly known as Sazka was its preferred bidder for the lucrative lottery contract.

Canadian-owned Camelot has run the National Lottery since its inception in 1994.

A government committee announced on Wednesday (March 16) that it was inviting submissions on the process to choose the preferred bidder, as part of an ongoing inquiry. It said it would also be “scrutinising the preferred bidder”.

“To ensure the best outcome for the National Lottery and the many good causes it supports, it is vital that the process to find an operator is run in a fair, open and transparent way,” said committee chair and MP Julian Knight.

“We will be scrutinising the Gambling Commission’s process in awarding the licence to Allwyn and how future competitions might be better run. We would welcome submissions from anyone with an interest in the process and in lotteries in general.”

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Swedish Regulator Cannot Say If COVID-19 Measures Were A Success

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The Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) has sent a report to government seeking to assess the effectiveness of the country’s temporary COVID-19 player protection measures.

The government controversially introduced SEK5,000 per week deposit limits and a bonus cap of SEK100 for large periods of 2020 and 2021.

The regulator had been asked to assess how well these measures actually protected players, but has said in its report that the recent reforms of the country’s online gambling market complicated its investigation.

“It is difficult to assess which parts of the development are due to the temporary regulation, the pandemic or the new gambling regulation. It is not possible to determine what the development of gambling and problem gambling would have looked like if the temporary regulation had not been introduced,” it said in a statement.

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Entain Applies To Polish Competition Watchdog To Acquire Local Bookmaker

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Entain, the company behind the UK’s Ladbrokes and Coral brands, has applied to the Polish competition watchdog UOKiK for permission to take over local bookmaker Totolotek S.A.

“Totolotek S.A. organises online betting … [and] is a company controlled by Gauselmann Familienstiftung, a German family foundation. Gauselmann Familienstiftung controls a group of companies that are active in the gaming and gambling industry,” the UOKiK said in a statement.

In 2019, Gauselmann bought Totolotek S.A. from Greece’s Intralot group. The Polish bookmaker has operated online betting since 2013.

The watchdog’s approval is prerequisite to finalising all market concentrations, including acquisitions and mergers of Poland-based companies, if the concerned entities posted total revenues of at least €1bn worldwide, or €50m in the Polish market in the year that precedes the deal.

After the acquiring company submits an application for the UOKiK’s approval, the watchdog typically completes its proceedings within one month if there are no competition concerns.

In more complex cases, the UOKiK can extend its approval proceedings by a further four months.

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Countdown Continues To Ontario Online Launch

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) published a guidance memo on Wednesday (March 16) to remind registered and prospective online gambling operators of the province’s forthcoming standards on advertising, including a ban on public ads that include gambling inducements.

To date, 14 private operators are registered with the AGCO to launch in the Ontario market, according to agency records. The list includes European brands bet365, Unibet, LeoVegas and 888, alongside North Americans theScore, FanDuel and BetRivers.

Any companies with existing grey-market operations in Ontario will have to curtail them upon receiving a registration. However, contrary to some published reports, approved operators are not facing any kind of blackout, because their registrations will not be effective until at least the official launch of Ontario market on April 4 and even then could be extended to a later start date.

On advertising, the AGCO reminded operators that they are responsible for ensuring that contracted third-parties including affiliates meet the same standards that apply to operators themselves.

The standards prohibit any advertising of bonuses or credits, apart from on the website of the operator.

As many as 30 operators could launch in Ontario on April 4, although dozens more have either submitted applications or expressed interest, VIXIO GamblingCompliance understands.

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Enjoy To Challenge Chile Casino License Revocation

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Santiago-listed casino operator Enjoy will take “all pertinent legal actions” to protect its interests, after Chile’s national casino regulator revoked its license for a casino in the city of Puerto Varas.

Enjoy issued a notice to the Santiago Stock Exchange on Tuesday (March 15), hours after the Chile’s Casino Gaming Superintendence (SCJ) announced that its subsidiary’s concession had been revoked for a failure to complete development of the casino within the window of two years allowed by regulations.

Enjoy was awarded the license in 2018 through a process to re-tender seven casino licenses that were previously under the authority of municipal governments. The SCJ started the revocation process in August 2021.

The existing casino in Puerto Varas, run by Enjoy’s rival turned merger partner Dreams, can remain in operation “until the new operator of the casino that must be licensed becomes functional,” the SCJ said.

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Poland Toughens Law On Unlicensed Machines

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Continuing its fight against illegal slots, the Polish Ministry of Justice has drafted an amendment to the penal fiscal code which penalises the owners of facilities that are used to host unlicensed operations.

With this latest move, the ministry hopes to extend its crackdown on unregistered slot halls from the persons who own the devices to those who provide their facilities that accommodate the machines.

When Polish law enforcement has clamped down on illegal slot halls in the past, owners of such facilities have often rejected any responsibility for their activities, claiming they had no knowledge of how their properties were used.

In reality, they often are aware of the illegal nature of the activities that take place at their facilities and use the existing loopholes in Poland’s fiscal law to shield themselves from potential legal sanctions, according to the ministry.

“In many cases, depending on the factual state, such persons could be charged with the offence of participation” in criminal activities, the ministry said.

Under the draft bill, owners of unregistered slots could face fines of between PLN7,224.48 (€1,507.73) and PLN28,895,997.60 (€6,045,974.20), calculated based on revenue; three years in prison; or both sanctions combined.

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Minnesota Sports Betting Narrowly Survives Committee Vote

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A bill to legalize retail and mobile sports betting in Minnesota narrowly advanced on to another committee Tuesday (March 15), as opponents expressed concern over potential increases in problem gambling rates and its impact on other gaming interests in the state.

The House State Government Finance and Elections Committee voted 7-5 to send House File 778 to the Judiciary Committee for their consideration.

The bill, sponsored by Democrat Representative Zack Stephenson, would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and authorizes tribes to issue licenses to mobile operators.

The Senate version, authored by Republican Senator Roger Chamberlain, would also allow retail sportsbooks at the state’s two racetracks.

Representative Jim Koznick, a Republican and committee member, expressed concern Tuesday over Stephenson’s decision to leave the state’s racing industry out of his measure.

Stephenson told Koznick he had spoken with the racetracks, but believes that with such a “big change in our gaming law” it makes sense to go with the tribes, who have the most experience and are highly regulated.

“You’re picking winners and losers, which is a problem for a lot of us,” said Koznick, who along with four other Republican committee members voted against HF 778.

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Massachusetts Mulls New Advertising Rules

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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) opened a public consultation on Tuesday (March 15) on a draft white paper proposing new restrictions and requirements related to gambling advertising.

Massachusetts does not yet have legal sports betting and any new restrictions would apply, for the time being, only to the state’s three land-based casinos.

The advent of targeted social media ads has changed the nature of advertising since Massachusetts adopted initial casino gaming regulations in 2014 and commissioners may wish to consider updating the rules in light of that, Mark Vander Linden, the MGC’s director of research and responsible gaming, said during a public meeting on Monday.

MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein said a review of ad regulations was “somewhat overdue,” citing “at least in respect to sports betting, a proliferation of advertising.”

The white paper recommends tighter restrictions to prevent advertising to under-age players, require a proportion of operators’ marketing budgets to be dedicated exclusively to responsible gambling messaging and also prohibit any “advertising placed with such intensity and frequency that it saturates that communication medium, or in some cases, location.”

The paper also calls for additional training and research, and a process by which members of the public could complain about advertising practices.

Comments on the white paper are due by March 29.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has twice approved legislation to legalize retail and mobile sports wagering but bills have not yet advanced in the state's Senate.

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Cyprus To Tackle Female Knowledge Gap

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The Cyprus National Betting Authority has said it will address the gap in understanding how women are affected by gambling harm.

In a blog post, the regulator said that conventional wisdom that women gambled less than men and were less affected by problems needed to be challenged by better data.

The authority said it already collected information around gender as part of its screening for gambling problems and would step up its efforts to understand how women are placed at risk of gambling harm.

It also committed to ensuring that communication around safer gambling was not aimed predominantly at men, as has traditionally been the case around the world.

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Macau Casino Stocks Hit Year Lows In Hong Kong, Stateside

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COVID-19 outbreaks across China and the invasion of Ukraine sent Macau casino stocks crashing to year lows in Hong Kong on Tuesday (March 15) and on Wall Street overnight.

The “big six” Macau casino stocks in Hong Kong were down an average 9 percent at 2:10pm on Tuesday, with Melco Resorts & Entertainment parent Melco International Development down 12 percent, Wynn Macau down 9.4 percent and Sands China down 8.5 percent.

All six stocks hit new year lows following an initial slide on Monday.

On Wall Street overnight, Las Vegas Sands, Melco Resorts and Wynn Resorts also slumped to year lows, falling 11.9 percent, 9.5 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. MGM Resorts International fell 3.3 percent.

An additional possible concern for US companies with Chinese interests is Beijing's sympathy for the Russian government as it wages war in Ukraine, eliciting warnings from the White House overnight that Beijing should not undermine NATO sanctions against Moscow.

China’s vulnerability to the Omicron variant and sub-variant of the coronavirus has resulted in the worst outbreak in two years, leading authorities to institute a hard lockdown for people in Shenzhen and northeastern Jilin Province.

A handful of cases are also emerging across the country, including in Beijing and Shanghai.

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Ontario Set For Staggered Online Rollout

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The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has issued new guidance to prospective operators and advised that not all of those who have submitted applications will be ready to launch by the April 4 go-live date for the province’s competitive online gambling market.

On Friday (March 11), the AGCO said it had updated its Internet Gaming Go-Live Compliance Guide to clarify restrictions on the advertising of internet gaming at retail locations in Ontario and confirm its expectations for the re-certification of technology modifications. It also said it was providing additional flexibility for operators to become compliant with its full standards in certain low-risk circumstances, to “facilitate operations at market launch.”

It is understood that as many as 30 operators could be ready to launch in early April, but dozens more are in the process of submitting applications.

“Not every operator will be ready to launch their services on day one. Some are more ready than others,” the AGCO said in a statement. “This means Ontario’s new iGaming market will steadily expand in the weeks and months following the market’s launch.”

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West Virginia Passes Esports Betting Bill

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West Virginia’s online sportsbooks should soon be able to offer bets on esports competitions after lawmakers approved legislation to allow it.

House Bill 4826 was passed on Friday (March 11) by the state's Senate, with members of the House agreeing a day later to concur with a minor amendment made to the bill by senators. The measure, which will add “esports events” to the list of sporting events eligible for wagering in West Virginia, now just needs to be signed by Republican Governor Jim Justice, who appears unlikely to object to it.

Esports betting is expressly permitted in the laws of at least a dozen states, but its status based on West Virginia’s original 2018 sports-betting law was less clear.

Lawmakers in Iowa are similarly advancing legislation this year to facilitate esports wagering, with a bill passing the House earlier this month now being considering in the Senate.

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Chile Casino Regulator Chasing Online Operators

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Chile’s national regulatory authority for land-based casinos (SCJ) has filed formal complaints since 2019 against 22 online operators active in the country, according to a report in the prominent La Tercera newspaper on Saturday (March 12).

The report followed an announcement last week by the operator of Chile’s Dreams Monticello casino-resort, the country’s largest, that it had submitted its own complaint against Betsson for alleged violations of Chilean law.

La Tercera reported that the SCJ’s complaints have been made against several major brands, including Betsson Betway and Betfair. Chile’s Public Ministry acknowledged receiving the complaints but did not comment further to La Tercera.

Increased local media scrutiny of the legal status of offshore gambling sites follows the filing of legislation in Chile’s Congress last week to regulate online gaming and sports betting.

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Singapore Passes Laws Streamlining Regulation

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Singapore’s parliament has passed two gambling bills that unify regulation and clarify product classification, including a ban on proxy gambling and “class licensing” for low-risk games.

Lawmakers on Friday (March 11) passed the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Act 2022 and the Gambling Control Act 2022, laws that combine disparate gaming regulators under the Gambling Regulatory Authority (GRA) and streamline regulation of non-casino gambling.

The bills passed parliament with no substantive changes and minimal criticism from lawmakers.

The existing Casino Regulatory Authority will now upgrade to the GRA and have regulatory authority over all gambling activity.

The Gambling Control Act 2022, meanwhile, repeals various laws to provide the GRA with a unified regulatory mechanism, including for lower-risk products such as loot boxes, while allowing social gambling at home if not online.

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The UK government is to scrutinise Allywn's lottery victory, Swedish pandemic measures of uncertain effectiveness and Ontario's regulator issues a reminder.

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