News In Brief: March 27-March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023
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The Greek gambling regulator will use AI to map problem gambling, a Canadian province reorganises its gambling market and a South Carolina sports-betting bill progresses.

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Greek Regulator Exploring Mindway AI Player Protection

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The Hellenic Gaming Commission has signed an agreement to cooperate with Mindway AI to enhance player protection measures across its entire market.

A memorandum of cooperation between the two parties seeks to “elaborate on the risk assessment methodology applied to assess whether a player is about to develop problem gambling behaviour”, according to a press release on March 30.

The Hellenic Gaming Commission will use information gathered from this assessment to improve methods used to handle at-risk gambling behaviour and minimise gambling-related harm.

Mindway AI bills itself as player protection software that uses a mix of AI, neuroscientific insights and expert assessments to identify at-risk gambling behaviour.

“The idea of using our expertise and maybe our software across a full market gambling jurisdiction in Greece is exciting and innovative,” said Rasmus Kjaergaard, the company’s CEO.

“Together with the Hellenic Gambling Commission, we intend to co-create the needed adjustments to adapt to the extra requirements that may occur when this new approach can cover a whole market and not solely individual operators,” he said.

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South Carolina Mobile Sports-Betting Bill Passes Subcommittee

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South Carolina’s House Ways and Means Revenue Policy Legislative Subcommittee on Thursday (March 30) approved an amended bill that would legalize mobile sports betting across the state.

The full Ways and Means Committee will now consider House Bill 3749.

Republican Representative Chris Murphy testified that his bill would only allow for mobile wagering and would link two out of a possible eight licenses to the PGA Tour events in the state and NASCAR’s Darlington Raceway.

Murphy said the bill would set the tax rate at 10 percent of adjusted gross revenue, which is expected to generate “conservatively” $23m annually in tax revenue. The bill would create a new commission to regulate sports betting.

“[This] is conservative because we don’t know what the actual number would be generated by this legislation.”

Murphy said the bill is modeled after one in Tennessee, which was the first state to legalize and regulate mobile-only wagering. During his testimony on his proposal, Murphy said the application fee would be $50,000, and a license fee of $450,000.

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Canada’s Saskatchewan Creates New Lotteries And Gaming Corporation

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The government of the province of Saskatchewan introduced legislation Thursday (March 30) to create Lotteries and Gaming Saskatchewan (LGS), a new commercial Crown corporation that will oversee gaming policy and management in the province.

“Lotteries and Gaming Saskatchewan will take an industry-wide approach to the gaming sector in our province,” Crown Investments Corporation minister Don Morgan said.

Gaming regulation will be consolidated within the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority.

When passed, the legislation will take effect retroactively to April 1, 2023, with full conduct and management powers coming into effect June 1, 2023.

When fully operational, LGS will oversee all casinos, video lottery terminals, online gaming and lotteries in the province.

This new model will improve cohesiveness, consistency and transparency of the sector while eliminating overlap in regulatory and gaming management roles, officials said.

"This new Crown will allow us to keep pace with the rapidly changing gaming landscape while maintaining the unique character of having distinct operators in the province, including Sask Lotteries, SaskGaming and SIGA. Gaming proceeds will continue to benefit local community organizations as the legislation maintains current funding models," Morgan said in a statement.

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GREF Members Increasing Cooperation Against Illegal Operators

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The Gaming Regulators European Forum's (GREF) members say they are committed to working together to tackle illegal gambling.

GREF said “this joint action will result in increased cooperation in the fight against illegal operators, particularly through meetings on a regular basis, the exchange of information, alerts, expertise, best practices and joint actions against illegal sites,” in a public declaration on March 28.

The forum expects this push for joint action to lead to increased cooperation, through meetings on a regular basis, exchanging information, sharing best practices and perhaps most importantly joint action against illegal sites.

“We expect that this common action will enable a constructive dialogue with online platforms, including social media platforms. We also expect that this common action will raise consumer awareness regarding the risks associated with illegal gambling,” GREF said.

There were two main reasons behind the declaration.

Firstly, consumers who access illegal gambling sites are seen by GREF as “particularly vulnerable, as they are exposed to many risks and have no legal protection”.

Additionally, GREF warned that illegal sites are not held to the same standards as licensed operators, therefore posing a threat to the regulated market.

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UK Gamblers More Likely To Be Struggling in Economic Slump

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UK parents who have gambled at harmful levels are more than twice as likely to have gone without essentials such as food or clothes washing than parents in general, according to a new GamCare study.

Half of those gambling at harmful levels went without food or other items, compared with 20 percent of UK parents in general, according to the YouGov study of 4,200 UK adults.

Those gambling at harmful levels were twice as likely to be worried about job security than the rest of the UK population, by a 50 percent to 26 percent margin, according to the study.

They were also seven times more likely to say they plan to gamble more to keep up with the rising cost of living, by a 42 percent to a 6 percent margin, the report said.

GamCare said it is rolling out its Money Guidance Service nationwide, a service which works with those who have been financially harmed by gambling to get back on track.

It is available nationwide to those calling the National Gambling Helpline or accessing its support services.

GamCare’s biggest funding source is the industry-funded charity, GambleAware.

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British Prison Gambling Study Examines Bullying, Violence

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Gambling in British prisons is often viewed as a way to occupy inmates’ time but it can include “serious acts of bullying, manipulation and violence”, according to a new Howard League study.

In prison, gambling has a variety of purposes, including “fulfilling the need to feel, engineering freedom, enabling survival and developing meaningful relationships”.

But negative impacts included fracturing of community relationships, loss, feelings of powerlessness, the dismantling of coping mechanisms and mental health issues, according to the report.

Gambling harms were intensified in prison and the environment was harmful to those already experiencing addiction issues, the report said.

Although gambling is banned in prison, staff tended to view it as harmless or a low-level problem, and a way to keep prisoners quiet, the report said.

The study recommends more training and education, and the development of better alternatives to gambling, along with collaboration with those who have experienced prison and gambling.

About 140 people participated in the research: 90 prisoners; 24 staff; 17 family members of someone in prison; and ten ex-prisoners.

It was commissioned by the Commission on Crime and Gambling Related Harm.

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Rhode Island College Betting Bill Passes Senate, Heads To House

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A bill that would allow for wagers to be placed on Rhode Island-based college sports teams or on in-state tournaments, options that are currently prohibited, was referred to the House Finance Committee on Wednesday (March 29) after being approved by the state's Senate.

Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a Democrat, was passed by the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 32-4. As currently written, permitted college sports wagering involving Rhode Island schools would be limited to events where in-state colleges “are participating in tournaments that consist of four or more teams.”

Ruggerio’s bill does not amend the provision of the state law regarding video lottery games, table games and sports wagering that prohibits wagers on the performance or the statistics of individual players.

“This legislation will enable Rhode Islanders to wager on their favorite college teams when they are participating in highly anticipated events like March Madness,” Ruggerio said.

Ruggerio added that his proposal makes a very small change that brings Rhode Island in line with neighboring states, including Massachusetts, which took the same approach when it legalized sports betting last year.

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Illinois Senate Passes Sports-Betting Supplier, Responsible Wagering Bills

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The Illinois Senate voted to approve two separate sports-betting bills on Wednesday (March 29).

Senate Bill 323 would amend the state’s 2019 sports wagering law to require licensed sports-betting suppliers to pay a renewal fee of $50,000 every four years, rather than $150,000 annually. An initial licensing fee of $150,000 would continue to apply.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1508 would require licensed online sports-betting operators to display a pop-up message every hour to advise players of both the time elapsed and money wagered since they logged into their account. The messages would have to include links and telephone numbers for services that offer gambling addiction assistance.

SB 323 was passed by a vote of 55-1, while SB 1508 was approved unanimously by a vote of 54-0.

Both bills will now be considered by the Illinois House of Representatives, with the state’s General Assembly scheduled to adjourn its 2023 session on May 19.

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Australia Backs Adult Rating For Social Gambling Games

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Australia’s federal government is pushing for a mandatory adult rating for all video games that simulate gambling activity, and an advisory rating for all games containing loot boxes.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland told ABC News on Wednesday (March 29) that the proposal takes a hard line on simulated or social gambling content, requiring the federal Classification Board to slap “R” (restricted to 18 years and over) ratings on games with even fleeting interactive gambling simulations.

Loot boxes would attract a non-restrictive “M” rating (suitable for 15 years and over).

The Classification Board is a national body that classifies or bans content on behalf of Australia’s six state and two territory governments. The policy change requires support from those governments, which wield veto power over the exhibition and sale of film, literature and video products, although that power is almost never used.

The shift in classification policy is likely to have an impact on Aristocrat Leisure and other gambling companies with social gaming investments in Australia.

If the changes are approved, traditional video game distributors would be required to edit out gambling and loot box content to secure lower age ratings.

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New Zealand TAB Selects Entain For 25-Year Deal

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New Zealand’s TAB has announced a 25-year strategic partnering deal with Entain Group that guarantees funding for a recovering racing industry and employment for TAB NZ staff for at least two years.

TAB NZ announced on Monday (March 27) that Entain was selected over other candidates because of its “operational expertise, cultural alignment with TAB NZ and the commitment … to uplifting TAB NZ’s harm minimisation and responsible gambling efforts”.

The deal, whose details have not been fully disclosed, will ensure that racing and sports codes “not only survive but thrive”, TAB NZ chief executive Mike Tod said in a statement.

The deal delivers NZ$1bn ($625m) in funding to the racing industry over five years, including upfront payments, 24-month employment guarantees and a potential NZ$5bn “total uplift” against the TAB’s “declining commercial performance”, it said.

Entain’s selection requires approval from the racing minister.

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U.S. Gambling Lobbyist Urges Passage Of Kentucky Sports-Betting Bill

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The American Gaming Association (AGA) sent a letter to senators in Kentucky on Tuesday (March 28) urging them to pass a bill to legalize retail and mobile sports betting.

The Kentucky Senate is scheduled to return on Wednesday (March 29) for the last two days of its 2023 legislative session.

House Bill 551 would create a competitive environment by authorizing the state’s licensed horse tracks to partner with up to three sports-betting skins, which would allow a maximum of 27 operators in Kentucky

“This diversity of operators would not only give Kentuckians a multitude of legal options to choose from, but also eliminate the chance of a single monopoly controlling the market,” AGA president and CEO Bill Miller wrote in a two-page letter.

Miller noted that AGA estimates that almost $64bn a year is bet with illegal sportsbooks.

“These illicit operators pay no taxes, lack any requirements to pay winning bettors, do not implement age verification requirements to protect minors, and offer no responsible gaming resources to identify and help those who need it,” Miller wrote.

Under HB 551, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission would regulate the sports-betting industry. The state’s nine racetracks would be permitted to obtain a license through the commission for retail sportsbooks at the tracks and their offsite venues offering historical horseracing machines (HHR).

Retail bets would be taxed at 9.75 percent, while mobile wagers would be taxed at 14.25 percent, mirroring the equivalent tax rates already in place in New Jersey.

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Lawsuit Filed To Overturn Kentucky’s Grey-Market Ban

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A group of businesses and game manufacturers filed a lawsuit Tuesday (March 28) asking a Kentucky state court to block the implementation of House Bill 594, which bans grey-market machines, also known as skill-based games.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, signed the legislation earlier this month that explicitly states that machines that involve any element of chance, as well as an automatic payout, are now considered illegal gambling devices under state law.

"Pace-O-Matic, along with several other skill game operators, locations and players, can confirm that we have filed this complaint," Pace-O-Matic spokesperson Michael Barley said in a statement.

“Legislation banning skill games is unconstitutional and we are prepared to defend the legality of our games in court. Our priority is, and always has been, protecting the rights of Kentucky small businesses and fraternal organizations who rely on legal games of skill for income," Barley said.

Estimates place the number of so-called grey-market machines in Kentucky gas stations, convenience stores, and bars at upwards of 40,000, an increase from around 12,000 in 2022.

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

According to the lawsuit, Pace-O-Matic called the ban unconstitutional and asked for a temporary and permanent injunction against state attorney general Daniel Cameron and law enforcement from enforcing the ban.

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Dutch Regulator Warns Poker Network

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Winning Poker Network has been ordered to stop allowing Dutch players to register and play or face fines.

The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) found in September 2022 it was possible for Dutch players to gamble on the Costa Rica-based online poker website and warned the operator that it faced fines if it did not begin to block Dutch IP addresses.

In a subsequent re-check, the regulator said it found players from the Netherlands had been blocked, but that it was still possible to register and play from a Dutch IP on a sister website.

The operator, which bills itself as “the most trusted U.S. online Poker Network”, has again been warned and told it faces weekly fines of €25,000, up to a total of €75,000 if it does not more completely block Dutch players.

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Illinois Senators Tweak Sports-Betting Warnings Bill

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A bill to require responsible gambling pop-up warnings for online sports betting has been amended on the floor of the Illinois Senate.

As introduced, Senate Bill 1508 would have required a pop-up notification advising Illinois sports bettors of available problem gambling resources after every ten wagers placed by the individual.

The amended bill would instead “require a licensed online sports wagering operator to, at least once every hour, display a message advising the individual of the time elapsed since logging on, advising the individual of the amount of money wagered since logging on, and including hyperlinks to websites and telephone numbers that offer gambling addiction assistance”.

SB 1508 was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on March 8. It is now being co-sponsored by a total of 12 of the 59 members of the Illinois Senate.

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North Carolina Governor's Budget Proposal Includes VLTs

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North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s proposed budget would spend more than $67bn on education, healthcare and other priorities over the next two years, but tucked inside the 195-page document are regulations to govern video lottery terminals (VLTs).

The North Carolina Lottery Commission would oversee VLTs, including licensing a manufacturer to operate and maintain the network for the terminals. Some 18,551 businesses with North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control System permits would be allowed to apply for a license.

Truck stops in the state that sell at least 25,000 gallons of commercial fuel per month would also be eligible for a license. Each machine in a licensed establishment would carry a tag noting the terminal was approved and registered with the commission.

According to the proposal, each retailer could operate up to six VLTs per location and may allow up to an additional four per location, while truck stops would be eligible to host ten terminals.

Messages left Monday (March 27) with the governor’s office were not returned. Van Denton, a spokesman with the North Carolina Lottery, declined to comment beyond a brief statement.

“Any decision on VLTs in North Carolina would be a decision made by the North Carolina General Assembly,” Denton told VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Monday (March 27).

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Kansas To Debate Tribal Sports Betting

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The Kansas Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Monday (March 27) will consider a bill to allow federally-recognized gaming tribes in Kansas to enter into a state-tribal gaming compact to offer sports betting “outside the boundaries of Indian land.”

The one-page bill, Senate Bill 322, would repeal the prohibition of tribes offering “sports wagering beyond the boundaries of the compacting tribe’s Indian lands, within the meaning of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).”

No other details were included in the measure.

Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 84 in May 2022 legalizing retail and mobile sports betting throughout the state. The Kansas Lottery oversees the state’s four commercial casinos' betting operations.

In addition, SB 84 would allow federally-recognized tribes to offer retail and mobile wagering on tribal lands in accordance with IGRA.

The Senate bill has been filed as the federal government consults over proposed regulations to expressly allow state-wide online betting under a compact, a concept also being considered by federal courts in the context of Florida's 2021 compact with the Seminole Tribe.

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Kolkata University To Open Gaming Law Centre

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The movement of online skill gaming towards the mainstream in India is continuing with the announcement by a leading legal studies institution that it will establish a centre for technology, gaming and sports laws.

The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences said on March 19 that it was set to sign a memorandum of understanding with online gaming platform Gameskraft, which will fund the centre with a 10m rupee ($121,000) grant.

University vice chancellor Nirmal Kanti Chakrabarti said the Kolkata-based centre will conduct research and offer lectures and training to undergraduates on legal aspects of the industries, as well as certificate courses for lawyers and law students, the Times of India reported.

The centre will also look to influence government policy, including on betting and gambling matters, he said.

The university's announcement comes as India's central government advances a reformist position on online skill gaming with stakes and other gambling activity, dovetailing with higher court support for skill gaming enterprises.

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The Greek gambling regulator will use AI to map problem gambling, a Canadian province reorganises its gambling market and a South Carolina sports-betting bill progresses.

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