News In Brief: May 22-May 26, 2023

May 25, 2023
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Caliente powers strong Playtech results despite fees dispute, Pennsylvania hands out six-digit casino fines and a Sportradar sign-up in Brazil amid the ongoing match-fixing scandal.

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Caliente Boosts Playtech’s Q1 Results Despite Dispute

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Playtech has announced a strong start to 2023 with its Q1 results buoyed by Caliente’s strong performance in Latin America and Snaitech’s continued profit.

The London-listed company said that it expected results to level out somewhat over the course of the year, but that the strong first four months in B2B and B2C segments had set them up for a strong 2023.

Playtech nixed plans to sell off Italian firm Snaitech last fall in the wake of its strong performance, boosted by interest in the football World Cup.

Caliente, the Mexican gaming giant, is business partners with Playtech, although the two are currently embroiled in a joint venture dispute in the English court system over Caliplay Mexico.

Playtech believes that its Caliente’s right to claim additional services fee has expired, with Caliente arguing the opposite.

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Pennsylvania Gaming Regulator Levies $100,350 In Fines

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved two consent agreements on Wednesday (May 24) totaling $100,305 reached by the PGCB’s Office of Enforcement Counsel regarding violations that occurred with a casino and gaming manufacturer.

Penn Entertainment’s Mountainview Thoroughbred Racing Association LLC, operator of Hollywood Casino York, was fined $78,000 for failure to meet minimum staffing requirements in its security department. Each casino in the state is required to adhere to a minimum staffing plan submitted to gaming regulators.

Hollywood Casino York is one of four “mini-casinos” in Pennsylvania operating with 750 or fewer slot machines. The violations took place on 55 days between May and September 2022.

Michael Fabius, an attorney with Ballard Spahr who represented Hollywood Casino York before the board, said the company agrees with the facts of the consent agreement.

“The consent agreement included a summary of the efforts Hollywood Casino York undertook to recruit and increase its staffing,” Fabius said. “It was, at times, a little bit two steps forward, one step back.”

In a second consent agreement approved Wednesday, John Huxley America Inc., a table games manufacturer, was fined $22,350 for failing to file necessary principal licensing applicants on time for two of its officials.

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Colorado Governor Vetos Casino Credit Bill

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Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, has vetoed a bill that would have allowed Colorado casino operators to extend lines of credit to customers.

“I appreciate the bill sponsors’ efforts to increase the appeal of Colorado’s gaming sector,” Polis said in his veto letter released late Tuesday (May 23). “The key element I take issue with here is whether persons with a gambling disorder can meaningfully consent to a transaction.”

Under Senate Bill 23-259, casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek would have been required to determine whether a patron is creditworthy and check other factors, such as whether they have unpaid debt due to the state or owe child support or restitution, before approving a line of credit.

The minimum line of credit is at least $1,000, and the financial obligations created must be fully paid back within 150 days.

“If the purported target of this bill is out-of-state ‘high-rollers,’ then the credit line should be geared specifically to those patrons,” Polis wrote.

“However, as currently written and passed, I worry that the bill would contribute to problematic gaming activities and hurt Coloradans, in particular those of limited means, by facilitating dubious instances of consent from persons who are suffering from addiction.”

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First Brazilian Platform Signs Onto Sportradar’s Integrity Exchange, Despite Doubts

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The first Brazilian platform, NSX, has inked a deal to use Sportradar’s Integrity Exchange Network, which helps identify and combat suspicious gambling activities. It is the same system that the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) allegedly used in 2022, a year during which Brazil’s match-fixing scandal took place.

NSX brands itself as a sports-betting ecosystem and counts Betnacional, Mr. Jack, Pagbet, TVbet as a part of its platform. Its bookmakers will now be able to report suspect activity.

The move comes in the midst of Brazil’s match-fixing scandal, which has overwhelmed and overtaken the sports-betting regulation process.

On Wednesday (May 24), the congressional investigation received an additional 26 summons to be analysed, bringing the total to 122. The summons include 17 of the 20 football Serie A club presidents.

João Studart, the CEO of NSX, was summoned to provide clarity that “Betnacional is complying with the laws and regulations related to sports betting”.

Juan Matías Menendez, Sportradar's legal representative, was also summoned, “in order to provide clarifications about the monitoring system contracted by the Brazilian Football Confederation to investigate alleged sports fraud”.

The commission emphasised that his appearance would be of great importance, as it would like to know why the system appears to have failed.

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Maine’s Top Gaming Regulator On Leave

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The Maine Gambling Control Unit declined to comment Tuesday (May 23) on how the decision to put executive director Milton Champion on administrative leave might impact the rollout of sports betting in the state, or his future as head of the regulatory agency.

Champion was placed on administrative leave on May 17 after issuing tweets that used a sexist slur and replied to a post that showed a white nationalist group marching in Washington, D.C.

“At least they are not burning down cities and looting store,” Champion posted. The two tweets have since been deleted, but his Twitter account remains active with 69 followers as of Tuesday.

The decision to place him on leave was first reported Monday by the Portland Press Herald.

“I can confirm that director Champion has been placed on administrative leave, pending a review that is being conducted by the Bureau of Human Resources,” said Maine State Police Lt. Thomas Pickering, acting spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

“Given that this is an ongoing, personnel-related matter, the department is unable to comment further,” Pickering said.

The Gambling Control Unit is overseen by the Department of Public Safety. Chapman has been Maine’s top gaming regulator since 2016 and has been overseeing the implementation of mobile and retail sports betting in Maine under a law signed in 2021 by Democratic Governor Janet Mills.

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Online Gaming Operators Promote Regulation In Quebec

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A coalition of sports betting and internet gaming operators, including Flutter and Entain, have formed the Quebec Online Gaming Coalition (QOGC) to collaborate with the provincial government to develop a regulatory framework for online gambling in the province.

Other members include DraftKings, Betway, Bet99, Games Global and Rush Street, which are partnering with Apricot Investments to form the coalition.

Their objective, according to a statement released Tuesday (May 23), is to address growing concerns within Quebec about consumer safety, responsible gaming, advertising, and substantially increasing government revenues based on a new license regime for qualified private operators.

The coalition was founded in response to a recent survey conducted by Leger Marketing, which found that two-thirds, or 66 percent, of respondents were in favor of regulating the Quebec gaming market.

As justification for regulating the market, the QOGC cited the development of the Ontario market from a former grey-gaming market to a regulated market following its launch in April 2022.

According to Ipsos data supplied by the QOGC from a March 2023 survey, 85.3 percent of players in Ontario played on regulated sites during the first year of the province’s regulated gaming market.

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Kindred’s Betchoice/Unibet Arm Fined In NSW

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Kindred Group’s Australian corporate bookmaking arm Betchoice has been fined A$60,000 ($40,000) plus costs in New South Wales (NSW) for its fourth breach of the state’s gambling advertising legislation.

Betchoice, trading as Unibet, was convicted in a local court in Sydney on Monday (May 22) on two counts of offering “illegal gambling inducements to NSW residents”, Liquor & Gaming NSW said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The advertisements, the subject of this most recent case, were designed to entice people to engage with gambling products using special or enhanced odds, which is a breach of the legislation,” said Jane Lin, executive director of the regulator’s operations and enforcement wing.

The ads contained inducements to “participate in gambling activity and open a betting account in the form of ‘price push’ offers”, the statement said.

Betchoice was fined nearly A$52,000, including costs, for similar offences in July 2021, its third offence since the state government began to target corporate bookmaker advertising.

The company was also fined A$25,000 in December 2019 over online newspaper and website promotions and fined A$12,500 in 2016.

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888 Sells Latvian Arm To Paf

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888 has sold its Latvian business to Nordic operator Paf for an initial €24m, with a potential earn-out of up to €4.25m.

The operation will continue under the William Hill and Mr Green brands through a licensing deal, for a limited period.

In 2022, the Latvian brands posted EBITDA of €2.5m, according to 888.

Janis Tregers, the head of 888’s Latvian board, said: “We launched in 2012 as 11.lv, and in 10 years, have built a market-leading position in Latvia, with over 10 percent market share.

“In 2018, we sold 75% of the business to Mr Green at an enterprise value of €3.7 million, and this transaction to sell the entire business for a valuation of up to €28 million reflects the hard work of our team across the business resulting in significant value creation.”

Paf CEO Christer Fahlstedt said: “We are thrilled to get the opportunity to continue to build on a great Latvian success story. With a long-term perspective, we are convinced that the Latvian market is moving in the direction of increased player protection and thereby a great strategic fit for Paf.”

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Brazil’s Paraná State To License Sports-Betting Operators

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The Paraná government published a decree on Friday (May 19) to allow the accreditation of sports-betting operators in the southern Brazilian state of more than 11m people.

As with a similar state-level framework announced last month in Rio de Janeiro, approved operators in Paraná will have to pay an upfront fee of R$5m, or approximately US$1m. They must also pay 1 percent of monthly gross receipts to the Paraná state lottery, as well as 5 percent to social causes.

“The accreditation system is important because we are going to attract serious companies to operate in Paraná, based on technical specifications,” Daniel Romanowski, director of the newly created Lottopar state lottery, said in a statement.

Paraná’s move is the latest by Brazil’s 26 states to capitalise on a September 2020 Supreme Court ruling granting them equal rights to the federal government to operate and regulate approved lottery games.

Fixed-odds betting on sporting events was recognised as an approved lottery modality through a federal law signed in December 2018, which is still in the process of being implemented at national level.

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Maryland Attorney General Issues Warning Over Betting Bonuses

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Attorney general Anthony Brown published a consumer alert on Friday (May 19) warning Marylanders to “always be aware of deceptive online sports betting companies.”

Licensed online sports-betting platforms in Maryland “have enticed bettors with aggressive marketing, such as so-called ‘risk-free’ bets. However, these enticements often appear more attractive than they actually are. The fine print may contain limitations that negate the promised benefits,” Brown wrote.

Brown also warned that online sportsbook platforms can be a target for cybercriminals.

The alert from Maryland’s attorney general followed a similar warning from his counterpart in New York early last year, which also raised concern as to the terms and conditions of player bonus offers that accompanied the launch of mobile sports wagering.

Brown said Marylanders should carefully check the terms and conditions of any promotions and ensure that any betting sites they use are licensed and regulated by the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.

“I urge all Marylanders to remain vigilant, conduct thorough research, and exercise caution to avoid financial loss due to misleading tactics,” Brown said in a statement. “We will protect Maryland residents and their hard-earned money from deception by online sports gaming companies.”

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Illinois Extends Session But Sports-Betting Bills Stalled

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Illinois lawmakers agreed on Friday (May 19) to delay adjournment of the 2023 legislative session by at least a week to tackle unresolved issues including a state budget.

Time is already running out for several pending gambling proposals, however.

Earlier on Friday, the Illinois House stripped language from Senate Bill 1508 that would require pop-up responsible gaming messages for every hour players spend on online sports-betting platforms. A new version of the bill to instead require the Illinois Lottery to establish a series of special instant lottery games was then passed on the House floor.

In its original form, SB 1508 passed the Illinois Senate unanimously in March and did not receive any opposition when it was considered by the House’s gaming committee.

Other Senate-approved bills now looking unlikely to pass the House include measures to lower licensing fees for sports wagering suppliers and tighten restrictions on unregulated gaming devices supposedly based on player skill.

Three bills to authorize internet gaming have not advanced to date in either the House or Senate, while a last-ditch lobbying effort to attach a more limited iGaming proposal to a state budget bill had yet to materialize as of Friday.

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Caliente powers strong Playtech results despite fees dispute, Pennsylvania hands out six-digit casino fines and a Sportradar sign-up in Brazil amid the ongoing match-fixing scandal.

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