News In Brief: May 16-May 20, 2022

May 19, 2022
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UK Gambling Commission acts against bookmaker Goldchip, Puerto Rico prepares to audit Light & Wonder's lottery operations and Dominican Republic moves against its scandal-ridden lottery operation.

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UK Gambling Commission Suspends Goldchip Over AML

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The UK Gambling Commission has suspended the operating licence of Leeds-based Goldchip over suspected failures in anti-money laundering (AML) and social responsibility policies.

“The review and consequent suspension follows concerns that activities may have been carried out contrary to the [2005 Gambling Act], not in accordance with conditions of their licence and that the licensee may be unsuitable to carry on the licensed activities,” the commission said.

During this suspension, which took effect on Tuesday (May 17), the company should “focus on treating consumers fairly and keeping them fully informed of any developments which impact them”, the commission said.

“The suspension does not prevent the operator from allowing consumers to access their accounts and withdrawing funds”, and players should contact the company through its website, it said.

The company’s website announced the suspension and said it is “working with the Gambling Commission to resolve this as soon as possible”.

Goldchip, which bills itself as “premier betting”, was founded in 2004.

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Danish Regulator Says Checks Led To Police Reports

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The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has said it conducted more than 4,000 compliance checks at pubs and gambling arcades that led to 255 reports to police.

The regulator said it has no power to issue orders or reprimands if it finds breaches of regulations on gaming machines or at the venue, so it must refer potential problems to the police.

This situation may change, however, as a political agreement in February would give the regulator increased inspection powers, the DGA said on Wednesday (May 18).

“With the agreement, we see an opportunity to act ourselves if our employees find that children are allowed to gamble at a gambling arcade,” said the authority’s director, Anders Dorph. “We are very pleased about this and look forward to the further development of the rules.”

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Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Launches Wondr Nation

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The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut has launched online gaming company Wondr Nation, formerly Mashantucket Pequot Interactive, which will partner with gaming platforms to leverage emerging technologies, the tribe announced on Wednesday (May 18).

“The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation has always championed innovation and empowerment, which are core values incorporated into Wondr Nation’s foundation,” tribal chairman Rodney Butler said.

Wondr Nation will focus on expanding the tribe’s digital footprint while partnering with other Native American tribes and technology companies.

Anika Howard, who previously worked at Foxwoods casino, International Game Technology and Caesars Entertainment, will serve as the first CEO of Wondr Nation.

The company manages Foxwoods’ social casino, Foxwoods Online, and works in a partnership with DraftKings on a co-branded online gaming and sports-betting business in Connecticut.

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Puerto Rico To Audit National Lottery Operator

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Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives will carry out an audit of the performance of gaming company Light & Wonder (formerly Scientific Games), which currently has the contract for operation of online lotteries.

The House of Representatives insists that the audit is routine, and a part of an extension to Light & Wonder’s $131.9m contract that began in 2016 and will run until 2024.

Jesús Manuel Ortiz González, president of the House Government Commission, said the primary purpose of the audit is to investigate beneficiaries of lottery revenues.

“[It will] evaluate the performance of operations, but above all, the proper use of funds that by law must reach certain populations such as housing for the elderly, municipalities, public health and scholarship fund of the University of Puerto Rico,” he said.

He also acknowledged that the audit will determine if there will be any impact on Puerto Rico from the sale of Light & Wonder to Brookfield Business Partners in January.

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Dominican Republic’s National Lottery Under Scrutiny

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The Dominican Republic is considering dissolution of the national lottery after repeated scandals, after which the Ministry of Finance would become wholly responsible for overseeing the nation’s gambling.

The move comes after a video of the May 1 lottery draw showed the winning number on the screen before it was drawn.

It has been claimed that the error was due to a broadcast delay, but the lottery operator asked the public ministry of the province of Santiago to investigate.

The industry was enveloped in scandal last year when an unauthorised and fraudulent lottery draw involving high-profile officials sold nearly $8m in tickets.

As a result, the Dominican Republic began overhauling the lottery industry, including regulation of more than 100,000 “lottery banks” — referring to often illegal private operators — and creating new regulatory bodies.

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Early Launch Unlikely For Ohio Sports Betting

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The launch date for Ohio’s sports-betting market is unlikely to be much earlier than the January 1 deadline set by legislation enacted late last year, the Ohio Casino Control Commission advised on Wednesday (May 18).

“Ohio is undertaking the largest gaming expansion in its history and largest-ever simultaneous launch of sports gaming in the United States, with all eligible online applications, brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and kiosks in bars and taverns eligible to start on the exact same date,” the commission said in a statement.

“This will necessitate the commission to undertake due diligence investigations and ensure compliance requirements for approximately 3,000 applications in time for the Universal Start Date.”

The regulator said it will announce its launch date at its June 1 meeting, “but stakeholders should anticipate the Universal Start Date will be close to January 1, 2023.”

The commission last month announced that Ohio casinos, online sportsbook operators and platform suppliers will have to submit license applications between June 15 and July 15 to launch on day one of the market.

At least 60 days before go-live, operators will also have to submit formal responsible gaming plans, house rules and other procedures for commission approval, while sports-betting equipment must be ready for verification 30 days in advance, according to a timeline published by the commission.

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Bristol To Host Gambling Research Hub

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A new UK research centre billing itself as the “first of its kind” has been established at the University of Bristol to study the effects of gambling addiction.

Funded by GambleAware, the Gambling Harms Research Centre (GHRC) said it is the “first academic research centre in Great Britain specialising in new and multidisciplinary approaches to gambling harms”.

“We desperately need interdisciplinary research on a large scale to truly understand the complexities of gambling harm as a serious, current public health issue,” said the centre’s co-director, Agnes Nairn.

“The University of Bristol … has already brought together researchers from every Faculty to be part of the new Hub. Our aim is to attract the very best international researchers from computer scientists to anthropologists to work with us on tackling this very under-researched area,” she said.

The creation of the research centre was welcomed by gambling minister Chris Philp.

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U.S. Government Sues Steve Wynn Over Failure To Register As Foreign Agent

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has sued former gaming executive Steve Wynn for not registering as a foreign agent, alleging in a complaint that he lobbied former President Donald Trump on behalf of the Chinese government when he was chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts.

In a statement, DOJ officials said Wynn had been advised to register as a foreign agent on behalf of China but declined.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday (May 17) in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleged Wynn contacted the Trump and administration officials between June 2017 and August 2017 on behalf of the Chinese government, which was asking to have a Chinese national deported.

Wynn resigned his position at Wynn Resorts in 2018 amid sexual misconduct allegations.

“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, attorneys with Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C., said in a statement emailed to VIXIO GamblingCompliance.

“We respectively disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court,” the statement said.

Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general, the case against Wynn is the “first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades.”

Wynn engaged in these efforts at the request of Sun Lijun, then-vice minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security, the Justice Department said.

The Justice Department alleges that Wynn acted at the request of China out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau. Wynn Resorts operates three casinos in Macau.

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Lithuanian Regulator Dishes Out Another Advertising Fine

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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority has ordered Amber Gaming to pay €6,789 after an investigation into the company’s website determined it was encouraging visitors to participate in gambling through its promotions.

The regulator listed several examples of descriptions found on the company's website 7bet.lt for different games, which included promotional phrases such as “for those who want a greater sense of excitement”.

In January 2022, Amber Gaming also received a separate €18,755 fine, as well as a warning that it could lose its licence after it was ruled to have violated gambling advertising restrictions and for concluding illegal agreements with foreign citizens.

Lithuania’s gambling laws prohibit any kind of promotion of gambling. Decisions made by the gambling regulator are not final and can be appealed.

This is the fourth fine handed out this month by the gambling regulator.

At the start of March, Lošimų strateginė grupė and Olympic Casino Group Baltija received two separate fines of €25,000 for the promotion of a poker tournament.

Soon after, the regulator announced a separate fine of €25,000 for Top Sport after it was also ruled to have breached advertising rules.

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Virginia Lawmaker Gets Delay In Skill-Games Lawsuit

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A Virginia judge has granted a request to move a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on skill-based games to November.

Republican state Senator Bill Stanley invoked his duties as a sitting lawmaker to request a delay. The Greensville Circuit Court records indicate a hearing scheduled for next week has been moved to November 2.

Stanley is suing the state on behalf of former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler, who owns several businesses that host the grey-market games that lawmakers have been trying to outlaw.

The Virginia Mercury reported that Sadler Brothers Oil Company, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is one of Stanley’s campaign donors.

In a two-page letter dated April 15, Stanley requested a continuance of the hearing date considering recent events in the General Assembly.

“The General Assembly took no action on skill games during the most recent legislative session, and there will be an extended special session to work out a new two-year budget bill, which may impact skill games,” Stanley wrote.

“It is likely that the budget issues and any new legislation governing skill games will not be resolved until well after our current May 18 final hearing, and all parties agree that it would be best to continue the final hearing until after this special session concludes.”

The General Assembly has until June 30 to finalize a state budget.

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Kyrgyzstan Progresses Casino, Online Bill

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Kyrgyzstan’s parliament has adopted a bill in the first reading that would permit casinos, slot machines and online operations.

Lawmakers had been working on legalisation of gambling in the Issyk-Kul region only, but have decided to go further and allow casino operations throughout the entire country. A total of 56 deputies voted for the new bill, 13 against.

Ulan Sarbanov, chairman of the Financial Market Regulation and Supervision Service, said the purpose of the reforms were to attract investment and create conditions for replenishing the budget. He added that by the second reading the draft will be amended, taking into account the opinion of the deputies.

“Citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic will be prohibited from visiting casinos. The mechanism will be spelled out in the corresponding regulations. Now we are consulting with the Ministry of Internal Affairs,” Sarbanov said at a parliamentary meeting.

The casino licence, according to the project, will be issued for ten years, but its cost has not yet been determined, it will be established by the Cabinet of Ministers later. The law also provides for a fine of 100,000 soms ($1,200) for violators of the ban on visiting gambling establishments by citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

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Top Macau Court Upholds Concessionaire Liability

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Macau’s Court of Final Appeal has confirmed lower court rulings that casino concessionaires are jointly liable for customer cash deposits with junkets that are not honoured.

The court ruled that Wynn Macau and MGM China were liable to pay out portions of deposits with the defunct Dore and Suncity junkets, respectively, according to a report in the Chinese-language Macao Daily News on Tuesday (May 17).

The top court’s ruling, following a similar ruling in November 2021, covered eight lawsuits involving Wynn/Dore and one involving MGM/Suncity.

The final verdict, along with pending legislation banning non-gaming deposits in junkets, closes legal loopholes relating to a multimillion dollar heist at the Dore junket at Wynn Macau in 2015.

The Court of Final Appeal’s original ruling in November was a body blow for junket operations as it corroded the viability of the operator-junket relationship by making the former fiscally accountable for junket misconduct.

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Peru Online Bill Moves On

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Peru’s Commission for Economy, Banking, Finance and Financial Intelligence has unanimously approved a bill that will regulate online sports betting and introduce a 20 percent tax. The bill, which was in committee, will now go before parliament.

Bill No. 168/2021-CR, the project of Congresswoman Diana Gonzales, will tax online betting. It also would introduce 12 different infractions, with penalties that range from fines to revoked licences.

The goal of the legislation is said to be tax revenue, but also takes aim at money laundering in an online industry that is currently operating unchecked in the country.

The bill proposes tax revenue would be allocated to the Peruvian Sports Institute and licences would be granted for six years with the possibility of renewal.

"This bill seeks to raise more resources for the state for the benefit of the population and in particular the national athletes who need more support to represent us," Gonzales told Diario Correo.

According to the document, online sports betting would be placed under the supervision of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Superintendence of Banking, Insurance and Pensions. Licensing would be under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism.

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Buenos Aires Watchdog Laments Gambling Status

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Walter Martello, deputy ombudsman of Buenos Aires Province, gave an interview on local program Lado P lambasting gambling regulations in the province.

In January 2021, seven Argentine operators with an international partner were given licences to operate online gambling in Buenos Aires. Martello claims that their exclusive rights have not been enforced and that illegal gambling operators are still rampant.

He is further concerned for the implications lax enforcement of the law will have on sports betting.

“Sports betting in the long term, in five or six years, will be as important for football as television rights.” Martello told the show.

He also has misgivings about the unresolved relationship between football and online gaming, as “football is under the governance of a national organisation that is the Argentine Football Association, and gaming is in the Province. When the football clubs demand part of the rights, what will happen?”

Martello is a long-time critic of the connection between gambling and corruption, and published a book on the subject called No Va Más in 2012.

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Lithuanian Regulator Fines Top Sport €25,000

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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority has announced a fine of €25,000 for Top Sport after it was ruled to have breached advertising rules.

During several different inspections by the regulator, Top Sport’s Lithuanian website was found to include a raft of messages such as "TOPSport betting company is the first and the largest betting company in Lithuania" and "TOPsport you can find the largest selection of casino games in Lithuania where you can try great slot machines".

Some of these messages were deemed to be encouraging people to participate in gambling activities.

Lithuania’s gambling laws prohibit any kind of promotion of gambling.

Decisions made by the gambling regulator are not final and can be appealed.

Separately, the regulator issued another notice on May 11, just a day after the fine was announced, claiming it has received a large number of notifications from gamblers that have all had their online accounts blocked after they won more than €1,000 on Top Sport’s website.

The regulator said it is looking into the situation to clarify why the accounts have been blocked.

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UK Gambling Commission acts against bookmaker Goldchip, Puerto Rico prepares to audit Light & Wonder's lottery operations and Dominican Republic moves against its scandal-ridden lottery operation.

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