News In Brief: May 13-May 17, 2024

May 17, 2024
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Illinois is the latest state to push back against arcade chain Dave & Buster's over its in-app gambling plan.
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Illinois Arcade Betting Ban Sent To House Floor
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The House Gaming Committee approved an amendment to a horseracing bill that would block a move by Dave & Buster’s to offer peer-to-peer wagering through its loyalty app at its arcades in Illinois. 

Sponsored by Representative Daniel Didech, a Democrat and chair of the Gaming Committee, Amendment 1 to House Bill 394 would establish the Family Amusement Wagering Prohibition Act (FAWPA).

This legislation was introduced upon the announcement that Dave & Buster’s intended to begin facilitating real-money wagering on arcade and carnival games in its locations across the country, prompting scrutiny from gaming regulators in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, as well as lawmakers in Illinois.

“The state of Illinois closely regulates our robust gaming industry to ensure that businesses are operating in a manner that is fair for players and safe for families,” said Didech. “We do not need gambling to irresponsibly expand into family-friendly environments.”

With FAWPA’s approval by the House Gaming Committee, it now goes to the full House for their consideration. The legislature is scheduled to be in session until May 24.

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Finnish Police Accuse British Man Of €800,000 Gambling Fraud
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The Central Criminal Police in Finland said they have completed a preliminary investigation of a British man suspected of exploiting a software glitch to exploit international online casino games to gain about €800,000, and have decided to recommend prosecution.

The 35 year-old man, who was not identified in a police press release, also caused more than €1.3m in damage to the online operators, the police said.

He was arrested in January on suspicion of exploiting a software bug for fraudulent purposes in April and May of 2023, police said on Wednesday (May 15).

At police request, the District Court of Central Finland ordered €1.5m of the suspect’s property to be seized as collateral, the police said.

The investigation revealed that the suspect was using crypto-assets as part of his criminal activities, police wrote.

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Bulgarian President Declines To Veto Gambling Ad Ban
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Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has apparently decided not to veto proposed amendments to gambling law that would ban most kinds of gambling advertisements.

The amendments have now been announced in the State Gazette, and are set to take effect Friday May 17, according to Bulgarian media.  

Radev had previously told journalists that he thought parliament had passed the ban on advertising gambling on TV, radio, newspapers and elsewhere too hastily.

The proposed ban had passed parliament despite objections from several media clubs, sports organisations and gambling companies.

The prohibition does not apply to the government-owned Bulgarian Sports Totalizator, which also operates the state lottery.

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UK Study Calls For Tougher Gambling Harms Warnings
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GambleAware is calling for tougher warnings on gambling ads and promotions, as its study found a widely used slogan, “Take time to think”, inadequate in highlighting risks and harms associated with gambling.

The industry-funded charity said its study suggests that slogans such as “Gambling can be addictive”, “Gambling comes at a cost” and “Gambling can affect anyone” to be “clearer, more impactful, and more memorable” to gamblers and non-gamblers alike.

The study was conducted by YouGov and included support from the Behavioural Insights Team and the University of Bristol.

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Hard Rock Sets July Closing For The Mirage
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The Mirage Hotel and Casino will close July 17 to begin a multi-year remodel to transform the property originally built by Steve Wynn into Hard Rock Las Vegas.

Hard Rock International plans to construct a 700-foot guitar-shaped hotel tower, replacing the resort’s iconic volcano. The company will pay $80m in severance packages to eligible union and non-union employees remaining with the property through its closure. 

The renovated Hard Rock is expected to reopen in May 2027. Hard Rock, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, paid $1.075bn in December 2021 to acquire the operations of the resort, real estate investment trust VICI Properties owns the 77-acre lot on the Las Vegas Strip.

Nevada regulators approved Hard Rock’s gaming license in December 2022. 

Golden Nugget, led by Wynn, purchased the land to build the Mirage in 1986. The Castaways casino-resort occupied part of the property and was demolished to make way for the $630m Mirage. 

The Mirage is the second Las Vegas casino set to close in 2024 following the closing of the Tropicana on April 2 to make way for a stadium for Major League Baseball’s Oakland As, which is expected to open in 2028.

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Australian Federal Minister Chides Sportsbet Over Free App
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The Australian politician deciding the fate of online sports-betting advertising has criticised Flutter subsidiary and market leader Sportsbet for funding a National Rugby League (NRL) gaming app without attribution.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland said on Monday (May 13) that it was “deeply concerning” that Sportsbet sponsored the now defunct NRL Pick’Em app without declaring its interest in the venture.

The Pick’Em app, a free download discontinued in 2022, presented a total of A$100,000 ($67,000) in prize money at the end of each round for players who correctly guessed winning game margins.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that the Sportsbet-backed app spent at least A$10m on television ads without disclosing its involvement, while the ads themselves did not carry responsible gambling caveats.

“These reports are deeply concerning,” Rowland told the AFR. “The government expects online wagering providers to act transparently.”

Sportsbet has denied it breached advertising standards.

Rowland is considering her response to a lower house parliamentary committee’s unanimous recommendation for a complete, albeit phased, ban on sports-betting advertising. The committee issued the report in June 2023.

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UK Affiliate Ad Banned
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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has censured affiliate company Festival Free Bets for breaking rules around young people in advertising and refusing to engage with the regulator.

An ad featuring internet personality Astrid Wett was banned because she is under the age of 25, which is a direct breach of the UK’s advertising codes.

The ASA also said it was “concerned by Festival Free Bets' lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code”.

The regulator added that although Festival Free Bets was not itself a licensed gambling company, it still promoted gambling and so had to follow the same rules about featuring individuals under 25 in its marketing.

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New York Fantasy Sports Bill Voted Out Of Committee
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A bill that seeks to expand New York’s regulatory structure to include new fantasy sports operators and contests such as pick’em and peer-to-peer contests was approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday (May 14). 

The Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee voted 4-1 to approve Senate Bill 9044A, sending it to the Finance Committee for further consideration. 

Authored by Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., the bill would allow the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) to charge a $5m license fee to new operators and a renewal fee of 1 percent of gross revenues every five years. 

Addabbo admitted that fantasy sports generated between $3m and $4m annually in tax revenue. 

According to the NYSGC, 15 companies have applied for and received temporary permits to operate interactive fantasy sports, including DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo. 

Prize Picks, Underdog, Sleeper and Betr are four operators not licensed in New York. Addabbo’s bill expands fantasy sports to include pick’em and peer-to-peer contests allowing the companies to receive a temporary permit to operate in the state.

"New York's paid fantasy sports laws have not been updated since they were first passed in 2016 and this legislation is a thoughtful step forward,” a Prize Picks spokeswoman said in a statement.

“We are grateful that Sen. Addabbo has made growing New York's fantasy sports market a priority." 

Addabbo’s bill would also raise the age to play from 18 to 21, bringing fantasy sports in line with sports betting. 

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Nevada Regulators Say No To Dave & Buster's Gaming
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Nevada has become the latest state to block a move by prominent arcade chain Dave & Buster’s to incorporate peer-to-peer wagering into its loyalty app for those aged 18 and older, noting it would violate state gaming laws. 

Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman Kirk Hendrick confirmed that enforcement agents had spoken with Dave & Buster’s, who assured them they have “no plans to offer any wagering” in the state.  The company operates two restaurants in Las Vegas and Henderson in southern Nevada. 

“The Nevada Gaming Control Board takes a hardline stance against any company that may be engaged in unlicensed gaming,” Hendrick said in an email early Tuesday (May 14). “Furthermore, the NGCB consistently opposes activities that could promote underage gambling.”

Regulators in Maryland and Ohio recently told Vixio GamblingCompliance they have serious concerns about the proposal, with both agencies believing Dave & Buster’s would need to be licensed to offer peer-to-peer wagering.

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CFTC Seeks To Ban Election Betting
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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has proposed banning election betting in the U.S. derivatives market, saying the wagers fail to serve the economic purpose of the futures market.

The CFTC voted 3-2 on Friday (May 10) to issue a new rule proposal that would ban event contracts that effectively function as wagers. The proposal would also prohibit those contracts related to sporting events and awards ceremonies such as the Oscars or Grammys.

Comments on the proposal must be received by July 9, the agency said.

Rostin Behnam, chairman of the CFTC, said this is not a new phenomenon for the Wall Street regulator.

“Over the course of the last 20 years, the CFTC has remained steadfast — through many administrations — that election or political contracts should not be allowed on the U.S. futures and options markets,” Behnam said in a statement. 

“Such contracts not only fail to serve the economic purpose of the futures markets, they are illegal in several states and could potentially and impermissibly preempt State responsibilities for overseeing federal elections.

Commissioners Caroline Pham and Summer Mersinger voted against the proposal, saying it fundamentally misunderstands how the CFTC regulates derivatives and the state regulates gaming.

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Inquiry Counsel Declares Star Entertainment Unsuitable
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Counsel assisting the second Bell Inquiry into Australian casino operator The Star Entertainment Group has said in a closing submission that the company remains unsuitable to hold a casino licence, while leaving open a door for its survival.

Caspar Conde, counsel assisting inquiry head Adam Bell SC, said on Monday (May 13) that Star Entertainment had wasted most of the 20 months it had to pursue remediation since Bell’s first inquiry ended in 2022.

Under unsuitable management and amid combative relations with the regulator and special manager Nicholas Weeks, the company had made around six months of progress, but “the remaining 14 months have been lost”, Conde said.

Conde said witnesses and critics who appeared before the inquiry had conceded across the board that Star, whose licence Weeks temporarily holds, is still incapable of responsible operations without oversight.

However, Conde did not recommend that Star Entertainment’s Sydney casino be shut down, leaving any such argument to Bell ahead of delivering his report to the New South Wales state gambling regulator, which will determine Star’s fate. The report is due by July 31.

The company’s corporate profile has been trashed all over again during the hearing, with chairman David Foster ousted by the board after his testimony, and several other senior staff resigning ahead of and during the hearings.

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Illinois is the latest state to push back against arcade chain Dave & Buster's over its in-app gambling plan.

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