News In Brief: March 21-March 25, 2022

March 25, 2022
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European operators to pool anti-cybercrime resources, a Missouri betting bill makes progress, while another in Minnesota narrowly survives its latest vote.

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European Trade Group To Fight Cybercrime

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The European Gambling and Betting Association has established a new expert group designed to protect online gambling companies from cybercrime.

The group will allow its members to share strategies to combat internet attacks and pool information on potential threats, the trade group said.

The EGBA cited data from security firm Imperva, which said that automated cyber threats accounted for 28 percent of all traffic to gambling websites in 2020.

“Cyber criminals are increasingly determined and sophisticated in their efforts to try to hack into gambling websites to steal customer data and money,” said EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer.

“Cyber threats tend to be cross-border in nature, affect operators in the same ways, and are a common threat to the industry. That’s why it is crucially important that operators work closer together to strengthen cyber security protocols and procedures, find common solutions to the latest threats and security vulnerabilities, and implement the highest security standards,” he said.

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Missouri House Approves Sports-Betting Bill

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Missouri’s House of Representatives voted on Thursday (March 24) to officially pass a bill to regulate retail and mobile sports betting via the state’s casinos, major sports teams and their partners.

The 115-33 vote on the House floor came 24 hours after members approved an amended version of House Bill 2502 on second reading, making passage by the chamber more of a formality.

The bill will now be considered by the Missouri Senate, with lawmakers facing a May 13 deadline to enact the legislation before the 2022 session adjourns.

Thursday’s final House vote was quickly welcomed by iDEA Growth, an association of online gambling companies active in the U.S. market, including DraftKings, FanDuel, Entain and Kindred.

“iDEA Growth applauds the Missouri House for taking action to ensure consumers are protected and the state benefits from legal, accountable and taxable sports betting. We urge the Senate to take this bill up for a vote as soon as possible,” the association said in a statement.

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Minnesota Sports-Betting Bill Narrowly Passes Another Committee

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A bill legalizing retail and mobile sports betting in Minnesota narrowly passed out of its latest committee by a vote of 9-6 but the measure still needs to gain approval from several other committees before a vote on the House floor.

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee approved the legislation on Thursday (March 24), sending it to the House Taxes Committee, where it is expected to be considered as early as next week.

The bill, House File 778, sponsored by Representative Zack Stephenson, a Democrat, will enable in-person wagering at tribal casinos and create up to two master online sports betting licenses for tribes and a maximum of 11 skins. It denies the state’s racetracks the opportunity to offer wagering on sports in any capacity.

The Minnesota Indian Gaming Association has voiced its support for Stephenson’s proposal, while the Electronic Gaming Group, which represents charitable gaming interests in the state, and racetracks asked lawmakers to be included in the bill.

Previously, Stephenson’s bill passed out of the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee and State Government Finance and Elections Committee.

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Atlantic City Seeks Its Cut Of Sports-Betting Revenue

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The New Jersey Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee voted 3-2 Thursday (March 24) to approve a bill that would divert some of the tax revenue generated by mobile and retail sports betting to Atlantic City.

Senate Bill 854 would divert 1.25 percent of state sports-betting tax revenue that currently goes to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to promote Atlantic City to instead be used for local property tax relief.

Democratic Senator Troy Singleton, sponsor of the bill, said the amount transferred annually is about $2m.

Mayor Marty Small reminded lawmakers that Atlantic City does not benefit financially from a variety of taxes imposed on the casino and hospitality industry, including parking and hotel room taxes.

“When the bill was passed in 2018, the only municipality left out of benefiting from sports betting was Atlantic City,” Small said. “Make that make sense when we have all our casinos with sports gaming parlors and the city doesn’t benefit at all.”

Republican Senator Vincent Polistina, whose district includes Atlantic City, agreed that greater investment was needed in Atlantic City and was “open to a broader conversation” but opposed the bill.

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PointsBet Canada Inks Ottawa Redblacks Jersey Ad Deal

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PointsBet Canada’s logo will be displayed on the jerseys of the Canadian Football League’s Ottawa Redblacks when the 2022 regular season begins in June as part of a multi-year partnership announced on Thursday (March 24).

PointsBet is expected to launch online casino gaming and sports betting in Ontario starting April 4. The deal with the Redblacks also includes PointsBet branding throughout the team’s stadium, including presenting sponsor rights for the team’s premium seating area.

“It is hard to imagine anything more Canadian than the Canadian Football League in Ottawa,” said Scott Vanderwel, CEO of PointsBet Canada.

PointsBet is headquartered in Australia, with operations in the United States, Canada and Ireland.

Currently, the company has no similar agreement in place with the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League.

Nic Sulsky, chief commercial officer for PointsBet Canada, told the Ottawa Sun the company has had conversations with the Senators but the Redblacks “were just the best fit for how we wanted to build our brand.”

“This deal is nothing negative to do with the Senators; it’s just focusing on the Redblacks,” Sulsky said.

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ANJ Rebukes Winamax, Warns Monopolies Over Advertising

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French gambling regulator ANJ has published criticism of several operators’ marketing plans, after it completed an annual review of its 15 licence-holders’ advertising strategies.

Winamax, which recently had an ad banned by the regulator, had its promotional strategy completely rejected by the regulator.

ANJ said it would see the excessive targeting of young adults and would see an overwhelming amount of advertising hit the market.

The company has one month to file a new strategy with the regulator.

Lottery and horseracing betting monopoly operators FDJ and PMU were also criticised by the regulator and told they should plan to reduce the volume of their ads.

PMU was also warned it should not present gambling as a “family leisure activity”.

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Prospects For Sports Betting Dim In Kentucky

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Despite saying he was optimistic about legalizing sports betting after the House of Representatives passed a bill last week, Republican Majority Leader Damon Thayer now believes the prospects are dim for the bill to pass in the Kentucky Senate.

House Bill 606, which passed Friday (March 18) on a 58-30 vote, legalizes online poker, fantasy sports and sports betting. Shortly after the vote, Thayer confirmed his support for legalizing sports betting, saying he would be reviewing the bill and assessing its chances in the Senate.

In an interview with WLKY in Louisville, Thayer said he was impressed that Representative Adam Koenig, a Republican, could get his bill through the House but it has “an uphill battle in the Senate.”

“I’m not sure I can overcome the opposition to it to get it passed,” Thayer said.

Koenig led similar efforts in 2019 and 2020 that saw sports-betting bills advance to the House floor but die there without a vote.

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California Cities, Politicians Oppose Tribal Sports-Betting Initiative

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A coalition of politicians and organizations representing California cities with cardrooms on Wednesday (March 23) announced their opposition to a ballot initiative that would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks in the state.

Besides sports betting, the initiative allows tribes to offer games such as roulette and craps at their casinos and enables private citizens to launch civil enforcement actions against illegal gambling violations not being pursued by the state attorney general.

Tribes have for years claimed that state officials have not done enough to eradicate allegedly unlawful card games offered by cardrooms.

Marcel Rodarte, executive director with California Contract Cities Association, warned that the initiative exploits the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004, opening the floodgates for frivolous lawsuits that will harm city revenues that fund vital programs.

Rodarte said the provision puts $5.5bn in total economic impact and $500m in annual tax revenue at risk.

The coalition’s retail wagering initiative is one of four sports betting ballot measures introduced in California.

The other three measures trying to gain inclusion on the 2022 ballot include a proposal by cardrooms to offer sports betting throughout the state, and another measure submitted by DraftKings, FanDuel and other leading sportsbook brands to operate online sports betting through tribal partnerships.

A fourth measure that was amended would similarly authorize California tribes to amend their gaming compacts and offer retail and mobile sports betting, craps, and roulette on Indian lands.

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UK Gambling Minister Maintains Line On Impending Review

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The government minister in charge of gambling policy in the UK has once again said that the white paper laying out plans for a review of the Gambling Act is “imminent”.

In a parliamentary debate sparked by the coroner’s inquest into the suicide of Jack Ritchie, whose parents went on to found the Gambling With Lives charity, Chris Philp again appeared to hint at tough new measures in some areas, but restraint in others, without revealing any details.

“The gambling review will take the significant additional steps needed to protect people like Jack and to protect everybody who is gambling," he said.

"We want to be proportionate in taking those steps — we do not want to prevent people who want to gamble on a leisure basis from doing so or put unreasonable obstacles in the way — but we do need to take action.”

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New York’s Highest Court Deems Fantasy Sports Constitutional

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New York’s Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday (March 22) that fantasy sports contests are allowed under the state constitution, settling a long-standing legal challenge.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court reversed an appeals court’s decision last year that found fantasy sports as authorized by law in 2016 violated the state constitution’s general ban on gambling.

“Today, we clarify that the historic prohibition on gambling (in state law) does not encompass skill-based competitions in which participants who exercise substantial influence over the outcome of the contest are awarded predetermined fixed prizes by a neutral operator,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote.

The fantasy sports bill signed by then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016 opened the door for FanDuel, DraftKings, Yahoo! and other fantasy-sports providers to become regulated and operate in New York.

FanDuel and DraftKings said they were pleased with the decision.

“New York state is FanDuel’s home and our New York customers have enjoyed playing daily fantasy for years,” FanDuel spokesman Kevin Hennessy said in a statement. “We are pleased that New Yorkers will continue to have access to fantasy sports contests.”

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision, which ensures New Yorkers can continue to enjoy DraftKings’ industry-leading fantasy sports product,” a DraftKings spokesman added.

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Michigan Moves Closer To Interstate Internet Poker

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The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has published guidelines for multistate online poker, in a clear sign that the state is preparing to join Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware in an interstate compact.

The MGCB’s “potential tasks and considerations” for multistate poker notes that pooled games cannot begin until Michigan formally enters into an interstate agreement but offers guidance on supplier and key employee licensing, board approval of out-of-state servers, platform approvals and geolocation, among other things.

It also clarifies that Michigan poker operators may either introduce “a new platform in Michigan to support multistate poker or may migrate its entire poker operation to a platform located in another state.” The memo was first reported on Tuesday (March 22) by PokerFuse.

Michigan legislators approved a bill in late 2020 to clarify that interstate poker is permitted under the state’s internet gaming law, which was passed a year earlier.

BetMGM and PokerStars are currently the only two operators offering online poker games in Michigan’s hugely successful internet gaming market. However, 888 has said it plans to launch in the state soon in partnership with Caesars and its World Series of Poker brand, which is already active on an interstate basis in Nevada and New Jersey, and on a ring-fenced platform in Pennsylvania.

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Three Finalists Chosen For Chicago Casino

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has narrowed down the city’s five casino proposals to three finalists with bids from Bally’s Corporation, Hard Rock International and Rush Street Gaming making the list, the city announced Tuesday (March 22).

“We have spent countless hours analyzing each proposal for Chicago’s casino license and have determined Bally’s Tribune, Hard Rock Chicago, and Rivers 78 best fit the core goals we want to achieve for the City's first integrated casino-resort,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

Lightfoot said her teams are looking forward to discussions with the finalists and moving to bringing a Chicago casino-resort project to fruition. Community engagement meetings are scheduled for Hard Rock on April 5, Bally’s on April 6, and Rush Street on April 7.

Once a finalist is selected, a host community agreement will be prepared but the formal development process will not begin until after approval by the Chicago City Council and Illinois Gaming Board.

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Firm Fined In Sweden For Board Blunder

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Bayton Limited has been fined SEK35,000 (€3,360) for failure to inform the regulator of changes to the makeup of its board.

The regulator said it had investigated the online operator in Summer 2020 and found it had failed to tell the regulator a year earlier when one board member had resigned and been replaced.

Bayton runs the websites jackpotcitycasino.se, rubyfortune.se and spincasino.se in Sweden.

The company said it had prepared a report to the regulator, but internal failings meant it had never been submitted. It has reviewed its internal processes, according to the regulator’s enforcement notice.

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South Dakota Governor Approves Sports Betting Tax Deduction

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South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed Senate Bill 98 into law on Friday (March 18), clearing the way for sportsbooks at casinos in the mountain town of Deadwood to deduct federal excise tax payments from taxable sports wagering revenue.

The state legalized sports betting last year and sportsbook operations began last September, in accordance with regulations adopted by the South Dakota Commission on Gaming.

During the rulemaking process, however, officials concluded that the regulator did not have legal authority to permit operators to deduct the 0.25 percent of handle paid in federal wagering taxes from their revenue subject to a state revenue tax of 9 percent.

SB 98 was approved unanimously by the South Dakota House and Senate in February, even as lawmakers rejected a proposal to expand the state’s market to mobile sports wagering.

“It’s to make sure we’re not imposing a tax on a tax,” Representative Scott Odenbach, the Republican House sponsor of the bill, told lawmakers during a February 25 committee hearing.

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Puerto Rico Supreme Court Clears Slot-Route Rules

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Puerto Rico regulations governing slot-route operations have been upheld by the island’s Supreme Court but are facing ongoing scrutiny from a federal fiscal oversight board set up to monitor the territory’s budgetary situation.

Supreme Court judges voted 5-2 on March 14 to deny a legal challenge brought by local amusement machine operator Electronic Games against rules that were initially adopted in 2020 to implement legislation passed by Puerto Rican lawmakers two years earlier.

The operator claimed the Gaming Commission of Puerto Rico lacked legal authority over the regime governing up to 45,000 slot machines across the island, as it was not established until 2019 and the law instead empowered the island’s Tourism Company with oversight.

Despite victory in court, the rules are still subject to final sign-off by the U.S. federal government’s Financial Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico.

In a March 9 letter, the board’s general counsel criticized the gaming commission for delays in providing an official translation of the rules and warned that it retained powers to prevent their implementation and enforcement.

“We hope that such action will be unnecessary,” wrote Jaime El Koury in the letter to the commission’s executive director.

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Kentucky House Passes Problem Gambling, Tax Bills

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The Kentucky House of Representatives on Monday (March 21) passed a bill establishing one of the largest funds to treat and prevent problem gambling in the United States.

Lawmakers voted 81-14 to pass House Bill 609 to create the Kentucky Problem Gambling Assistance Fund.

The fund uses $225m of the $300m settled agreed with Flutter Entertainment last year related to the former activities of PokerStars in Kentucky to create the fund that will provide services for residents dealing with a gambling addiction.

The House also passed HB 607 which sets taxes for all pari-mutuel wagering at 1.5 percent, including historical horseracing machines, simulcast bets and advance-deposit wagering.

Currently, advance-deposit wagering is taxed at .5 percent, and bets on simulcasts are taxed at 3 percent, while wagering at racetracks are taxed at 1.5 percent.

“I’m sure all of those tax rates made sense at one point, but we don’t they make sense anymore,” Republican Representative Adam Koenig said.

The measure is expected to increase tax revenues for Kentucky by $27m per year, according to Koenig, who sponsored both bills.

Both bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

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ANJ's Exercises Ad Ban Powers For First Time

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France’s gambling regulator (ANJ) has ordered sports betting and poker operator Winamax to withdraw its advertising campaign “Tout pour la daronne” within one month.

ANJ judged a series of adverts, featuring videos ranging from 30 seconds to 2 minutes with a man rising up an elevator passing more and more luxurious floors with his mother following a winning bet, linking sports betting to social success, which is prohibited.

The decision was made on March 17. ANJ originally alerted Winamax to its concerns via email on February 23, it said.

It follows the adoption of new advertising guidelines published in February after the conclusion of a consultation launched in the wake of an “unprecedented” amount of sports-betting adverts in the first half of 2021, as a result of the UEFA European Football Championship.

This is the first time the French regulator has used its power to demand the withdrawal of a gambling advert.

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European operators to pool anti-cybercrime resources, a Missouri betting bill makes progress, while another in Minnesota narrowly survives its latest vote.

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