News In Brief: March 7-March 11, 2022

March 11, 2022
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Tennessee adds three new operators and Philippines inquiry launched over cockfighting abductions.

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Tennessee Approves Three Mobile Sportsbooks, Adopts Regulations

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The Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC) approved three additional online sports-betting licensees on Thursday (March 10), as the mobile-only market continues to expand under a new regulatory authority.

The SWAC approved licenses for Bally Bet, SuperBook and the Delaware North and Gaming1 joint venture Gamewise for its Betly brand. The three new operators will join Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, WynnBet, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars, TwinSpires, fubo, Wagr and Tennessee Action 24/7.

In addition to approving three new operators, the SWAC approved its permanent regulations for online sports wagering.

Adopted on an emergency basis in December, the revised rules maintain the controversial payout cap that requires mobile sportsbook operators to hold at least 10 percent of annual wagers.

But the new regulations include a change to the way it is enforced.

Previously, regulators could fine an operator $25,000 if it failed to meet the 10 percent hold requirement in a given 12-month period. Now, operators can make “true-up” tax payments to cure any regulatory violations of the payout rule.

The SWAC regulations make additional changes by, among other things, removing a pre-approval requirement for all marketing materials and enabling operators to cancel wagers in the case of an “obvious error” as defined by their house rules.

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Philippines Orders Cockfighting Probes After 31 Men Disappear

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The Presidential Office of the Philippines has ordered gambling regulator PAGCOR to investigate e-sabong (online cockfighting) licensees following the disappearance of 31 gamblers and amid a Senate call for suspension of all operations.

Executive secretary Salvador Medialdea on Tuesday (March 8) ordered PAGCOR to ensure e-sabong licensees are complying with their licence requirements, including security and on-site surveillance systems.

Medialdea also directed the national police and National Bureau of Investigation to investigate and report back within 30 days, according to a Presidential Office memo.

The growing scandal prompted the Philippine Senate to pass a resolution in late February calling for all e-sabong operations to be halted while investigations continue. However, Medialdea this week ruled this out.

A Senate committee is probing the e-sabong sector in response to the disappearances, first reported in early-to-mid-February.

Committee member Risa Hontiveros, a gambling industry sceptic, alleged earlier this month that the disappearances involve “game fixing, the participation of armed men [and a] supposed lack of CCTV footage”.

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Dutch Punishment Of EA Over Loot Boxes Overturned

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The Dutch Council of State has overturned a Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) ruling that could have penalised Electronic Arts (EA) up to €5m over its opinion that EA’s loot boxes in its FIFA games constituted unlicensed gambling.

The court, the highest in the Netherlands, overruled an October 2020 District Court of the Hague decision which sided with the KSA, which will now have to pay costs to California-based EA.

The KSA had argued that the packs or loot boxes of virtual football players which can be traded on an online transfer market constituted unlicensed gambling because the content of the packs are determined randomly and have economic value.

But on Wednesday (March 9), the Council of State agreed with EA’s arguments that the packs do not constitute a separate game and therefore are not a game of chance and do not require a licence.

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Cyprus Publishes Advertising Code Practical Guide

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The National Betting Authority (NBA) of Cyprus has released a practical guide to help licensees navigate its new gambling advertising code, which came into force in July 2021.

The practical guide also “clarifies existing restrictions delineated in the code” and “provides for a quarterly expenditure report regarding advertising and marketing”, according to the NBA.

Under the practical guide, all advertising and promotional plans should be submitted to the NBA to be reviewed before they are published.

A licence holder may publish an advertisement without the NBA’s approval when the maximum review period of working days from the submission date has ended.

It is prohibited to promote an advertisement or behaviour that implies “a player may have sure or secured winnings through their betting activity”, according to the guidance.

Adverts may be deemed as misleading if they present vague terms and conditions or an unclear statement on the terms of participating in betting or promotional action, such as registration or deposit bonuses, which are promoted as “free”.

The advertising code does not prohibit the use of well-known or attractive people “as long as their positive features are not presented as attributed to their betting activity”.

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Illinois Imposes Russia Betting Ban

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State gaming regulators in Illinois have followed the move of counterparts in Colorado to expressly ban any wagering on sporting events in Russia or Belarus following the former’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) is set to approve the restriction at a meeting today (March 10), following an order from IGB administrator Marcus Fruchter that was published on the agency’s website on Wednesday (March 9).

The prohibition will apply to any bets on sporting events or leagues in the two countries, wagering on any Russian or Belarussian teams or individual athletes, or on any events sanctioned by a Russian or Belarussian league.

Allowing bets on Russian or Belarussian events poses a “serious risk to the integrity of the Illinois sports wagering industry,” Fruchter wrote, citing “the unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine and resulting humanitarian crisis.”

The Colorado Division of Gaming published a similar directive on Friday (March 4), while many leading sports-betting operators and data providers have already suspended any Russia-related operations.

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Armenia Approves Ad Ban

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Armenia is set to ban almost all forms of gambling advertising outside highly specific locations, after a government-backed bill passed its second reading.

MPs in Yerevan voted overwhelmingly in favour of the draft legislation last week, meaning gambling venue frontages, border checkpoints and four or five-star hotels will be the only place gambling can legally be marketed.

Media firms have warned they could lose up to 70 percent of their income through a ban on ads for online operators, but the government disputes this figure.

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Malta Makes Greylist Progress

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Malta has been told by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that it is making progress in its work to come off the watchdog’s financial greylist.

In June 2021, Malta became the first EU country to be greylisted.

Last week, FATF said an assessment in February had shown the country has “substantially completed its action plan” to improve its anti-money laundering (AML) credentials.

Officials from the watchdog say they will visit the island in the near future “to verify that the implementation of ... reforms has begun and is being sustained, and that the necessary political commitment remains in place”.

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Ad Regulator Tells Paddy Power To Speak Up

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The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has rebuked Paddy Power because its terms and conditions were read too quietly on a radio advert.

A December 2021 radio spot encouraging listeners to use the bookmaker’s BetBuilder service, via a free bet offer, was investigated after complaints that the terms and conditions were so quiet they could not be understood.

The ad watchdog upheld the complaint and said that an important part of the bonus offer’s terms were spoken at a quieter volume than the rest of the ad and at a much faster pace.

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Chubut Province Joins Argentina Online Rush

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The province of Chubut in southern Argentina has become the latest to move forward with regulated online gambling.

The Chubut lottery announced last week that a Casino Club-branded online casino would be available from Monday (March 7). Casino Club operates the majority of the province’s land-based casinos and its online equivalent includes a range of virtual casino and bingo games, but not sports betting.

In a statement, the Chubut Lottery said that “any game offered in a physical casino can have its online equivalent, like roulette, poker, blackjack and slots.”

“These online game types are duly regulated under our legislation, guaranteeing that the authorised operator offers a site with legal, secure and responsible gaming, exclusively for the residents of the province who are aged over 18.”

Chubut is the 16th of Argentina’s 24 provinces to regulate online gambling, joining Santa Fe and others in limiting licences to incumbent land-based casinos. In contrast, the province and city of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and Corrientes have passed laws to establish licensing regimes for online operators.

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California Cardrooms Try Again To Keep Tribal Sports Betting Off Ballot

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After the California Supreme Court last month denied a legal effort by two cardrooms to invalidate a sports-betting initiative on this year’s ballot, an attorney representing the two businesses has filed a similar suit in Los Angeles Superior Court once again challenging the legality of the proposal.

The initiative would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and racetracks, allow roulette and craps at tribal casinos, and enable private citizens to launch civil enforcement actions against illegal gambling violations not being pursued by the state attorney general.

The cardrooms – Hollywood Park Casino and Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova – are asking the Superior Court to remove the initiative from the November 8 ballot because it violates California’s constitutional rule that ballot initiatives can involve only a single subject.

“Resolution of this challenge prior to the November 2022 election is critical to protecting the integrity of voters’ most precious right to speak clearly through the ballot initiative process,” Maurice Suh, an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles, representing the cardrooms, wrote in the lawsuit.

Suh asked the court to rule before the ballot-printing deadline of September 2. As of Tuesday (March 8), no hearing in the case had been scheduled.

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Cambodia Arrests 180 NagaWorld Strikers

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Cambodian police have arrested another 180 former and current employees of Phnom Penh casino monopoly NagaWorld as strike action over mass lay-offs approaches its fourth month.

Citing health regulations, police on Monday herded the strikers onto buses and took them to a quarantine facility, where a number of them refused to be tested for COVID-19, Radio Free Asia and the pro-government Phnom Penh Post reported.

The government then warned that the city government would fine and possibly prosecute those who do not cooperate with quarantine regulations.

Interior minister Sar Kheng is set to meet with fellow ministers, law enforcement officials, city government officials and prosecutors to discuss the dispute. NagaCorp's culling of some 1,300 staff and targeting of unionists in December have alarmed global labour and human rights groups, including the International Labor Organization.

Police have previously rounded up and prosecuted strike organisers, but Monday's action was the largest yet in terms of detentions.

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California Retail Sports-Betting Initiative Gains Support

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The California-Hawaii state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has announced its support for an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize retail sports betting at tribal casinos and four racetracks in California.

The decision to support the initiative was made in late January but announced over the weekend at the California Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles.

“As the nation’s largest … civil rights organization, the NAACP has long been a steadfast ally in the fight for justice, self-sufficiency, and sovereignty for Indigenous people,” Rick Callender, president of the NAACP, said in a statement.

“For far too long have the tribes been excluded from the table of creating economic self-sufficiency,” Callender said. “The California-Hawaii NAACP has stood with California Indian tribes in their fight to establish and protect gaming on their own tribal lands. Our support of the (initiative) is consistent with that long-standing position for disenfranchised communities of color to become self-sufficient.”

The organization also announced its opposition to a ballot initiative proposed by FanDuel, DraftKings and other major U.S. operators that would allow Indian tribes or qualified sportsbook operators in partnership with tribal casinos to offer mobile wagering.

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Sydney Rugby League Teams Reject Gambling Links

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Corporate pushback against omnipresent gambling advertising and sponsorship is continuing in Australia, with two teams of the National Rugby League (NRL) severing financial links with betting interests.

Sydney clubs Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and South Sydney Rabbitohs are the first teams in the NRL to join the New South Wales (NSW) state government’s Reclaim the Game initiative and block corporate bookmaker and other gambling advertising and sponsorship funds.

While several sporting codes around Australia have joined similar initiatives, this latest development is notable given the dominance of NRL coverage in traditional media and its dominance of NSW betting volume.

“The NRL fan base is huge and gambling advertising is everywhere, which means if you’re a supporter you can’t avoid seeing it,” Natalie Wright, NSW Office of Responsible Gambling director, said.

“Sports betting companies know that visibility works, which is why they invest so much in advertising on the most popular code in NSW.”

The NRL itself is sponsored by powerhouse corporate bookmaker Sportsbet.

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Colorado Bans Betting On Russian Events

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Sports betting operators in Colorado can no longer accept wagers on any sports events in either Russia or Belarus, according to an industry bulletin published on Friday (March 4) by the Colorado Division of Gaming.

The state regulator said it had reviewed its catalog of permitted wagering events and removed all that involve leagues or teams in the two countries.

“However, sports betting operations are highly encouraged to review their offerings to identify additional governing bodies, leagues, teams, players, and events representing Russia and Belarus and suspend them from their wager offerings,” the division said in its notice.

The restriction does not apply to Russian or Belarusian players participating in leagues in other countries.

Although Colorado’s directive is the first by a state regulator, the announcement came after several leading U.S. operators, including DraftKings and FanDuel, independently withdrew Russian and Belarusian markets from their sportsbook platforms in all states.

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American Gaming Association Supports Slot Tax Increase

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The American Gaming Association (AGA) expressed its support on Friday (March 4) for federal legislation introduced by Democrat Dina Titus of Nevada and Republican Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania to raise the slot tax reporting threshold to $5,000 and provide a mechanism for future increases based on inflation.

The current $1,200 slot tax threshold has not been adjusted for inflation since 1977, causing a dramatic increase in the number of slot jackpots that gamblers must report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

“Increasing the slot tax threshold to account for inflation is a long overdue change that will alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens on casino operators, their customers and an understaffed and overwhelmed IRS,” said AGA president and CEO Bill Miller.

Miller said the legislation builds on efforts by the AGA and the Congressional Gaming Caucus that led Congress to direct the U.S. Department of the Treasury to investigate updating the threshold through regulation.

The treasury department has not yet submitted that report to Congress, the AGA said.

“[The] legislation provides Congress a direct path to modernize the slot reporting threshold,” Miller said.

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Tennessee adds three new sports-betting operators and Philippines inquiry launched over cockfighting abductions.

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