News In Brief: May 23-May 27, 2022

May 26, 2022
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The Queensland state government has introduced a new casino control bill in response to the fallout from other state inquiries that have eviscerated management at Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group.

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Queensland Amends Casino Rules, Allows Retail Virtual Wagering

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The Queensland state government will extensively amend casino control legislation in response to the fallout from other state inquiries that have eviscerated management at Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group.

The government on Thursday (May 26) introduced the Casino Control and other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 and explanatory notes to “ensure casino integrity and modernise gambling legislation”.

The bill increases penalties, compels self-reporting of breaches of the law and certain agreements as well as expands data-collection powers for inspectors.

It also paves the way for a transition to cashless gambling by removing “any legislative barriers to the consideration of cashless payment methods” and installing a technical approval mechanism for associated equipment.

But the bill will also allow retail monopoly Tabcorp Holdings to offer wagering on simulated sport and racing events, matching products in other eastern states.

However, such wagering will not be permitted by telephone or online, with customers required to be present at a Tabcorp agency or outlet.

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Louisiana Legislature Approves Sports-Betting Amendment Bill

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Louisiana lawmakers have passed a bill to cap promotional deductions for online sportsbook skins and make other minor changes to the state’s 2021 sports wagering law.

Senate Bill 290 confirms that Louisiana casinos licensed for sports betting can deduct no more than $5m in promotional credits from their reported taxable revenue in any given year and may allocate a portion or all the deductible credits to their contracted online platform partner.

However, casinos cannot split the allocation across their two permitted skins and online platforms partnered with more than one Louisiana casino may not deduct more than the $5m cap, regardless of their contractual terms.

Elsewhere, SB 290 makes various amendments to clarify that existing responsible gambling policies apply to online sports betting platforms, as well as traditional casinos. It also adds an exemption to enable casinos to share the state’s self-exclusion register with platform providers and identity verification companies.

The bill was approved by a vote of 90-3 in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 25), after passing the Senate in April. It will become law once signed by Governor John Bel Edwards.

Still pending in the Louisiana legislature are separate bills to permit pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in casinos’ sportsbooks and to enable online betting accounts to be declared abandoned after three years of inactivity.

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Torch Electronics Sinks $240,000 Into Missouri Political Committees

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A Missouri company accused of operating grey-market games, or skill-based slot machines, made six $40,000 donations this week to six political action committees (PACs) run by its lobbyist.

The Missouri Ethics Commission reported $40,000 donations have been made to Conservative Leaders of Missouri, Missouri Senior PAC, Missouri Growth PAC, MO Majority PAC LLC, Missouri C PAC, and Missouri AG PAC.

Each of the PACs is connected to Steve Tilley, a Republican and former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, who serves as Torch’s lobbyist.

On its website, Torch describes itself “as an industry leader in amusement devices.” The Missouri Lottery estimates that there are as many as 14,000 machines in establishments such as convenience stores.

The Missouri Gaming Commission has described them as gambling devices, which are prohibited outside the state’s 13 licensed casinos, state lottery, charity bingo and raffles.

But efforts in the legislature over the last few sessions to outlaw so-called grey-market games have failed due to the lobbying efforts of Tilley and others. Torch is also involved in several lawsuits with local officials in Missouri over the legality of their games.

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Lottery Protest Threatened In Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic’s director of casinos and gaming is hitting back against the Federation of Lottery Banks (Fenabanca), which is threatening to protest against new regulations in front of the National Palace on Friday (May 27).

Fenabanca is particularly unhappy with directives that it says have left it unable to operate, specifically a measure which requires lottery banks to be spaced at least 200 metres from each other.

Director Teofilo Quico Tabar gave a statement to the press reiterating that the lottery banks of the country were given a grace period to adjust to the new regulations, and that they had held meetings with them as recently as a few days ago.

“We held innumerable meetings with the concessionaires, Fenabanca, sports banks, casinos and with the programmers. Individually and jointly. The last ones were just three days ago. Both the Consultative Council of the Lottery and the Monitoring Council have made innumerable efforts so that those sectors agreed. But the situation between them is difficult.”

Fenabanca, which is made up of 31,000 members, 3900 of whom are owners, demands that the government promises to seek a solution to their complaints. Meanwhile, Tabar asks that the president meet with Fenabanca to back him.

Lottery banks and the gambling sector in the nation have been under fire due to multiple scandals in the past year, including fraudulent lottery draws.

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Lithuania Fines Two Operators For Ad Violations

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The Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority has handed out yet another host of fines to operators that were found to be encouraging players to gamble through promotions on their websites.

Lošimų strateginė grupė has been fined €25,000 and warned that it could lose its licence if it does not remove the promotions from its website by June 20, 2022.

Inspections by the Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority, the most recent being on February 4, 2022, revealed the company’s website had numerous “offers to encourage gambling with promotional sentences or words, to learn more about the company or its service”, according to the regulator.

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, Unigames has received a €12,662 fine for also promoting the participation of gambling on its website.

Unigames also has until June 20, 2022 to remove all the promotions from its website or it risks losing its licence.

The two fines come within weeks of several other fines handed out by the gambling regulator for similar examples of promoting gambling on an operator’s own website.

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Mexico's Casino Industry Demands Tax Reforms

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Mexico’s Association of Permit Holders, Operators and Suppliers of Entertainment and Gambling (AIEJA) is once again demanding that the federal government implement tax reform for the casino industry.

The AIEJA states that the 384 gaming rooms that operated before the coronavirus pandemic paid a little over $250m to the federal government and just over $125m to local governments in taxes. Proportionally, this makes gambling one of the most heavily taxed industries in the country.

Dr. Ochoa, president of the AIEJA, said that AIEJA members need a “single tax payment system” to level the financial playing field. Currently, casino taxation rates are determined by individual municipalities.

The outcry was a reaction to an announcement from the Governor of Nuevo Leon, who decided to increase a tax of 10 percent that is levied on players to 15 percent.

Ochoa explained: “In general, taxes fiscally strangle this industry and indirectly promote clandestine and illegal gambling. They also alienate investments, so we welcome a measure to boost the economy.”

The AIEJA is proposing that taxes are reduced but that the tax base is expanded, which it says will attract investment and create jobs in an industry still recovering from the pandemic.

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Mohegan Tribe, Yale University Form Problem Gambling Initiative

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The Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut announced on Tuesday (May 24) that it will contribute more than $2m to Yale University to fund a new initiative aimed at expanding treatment options for problem gamblers.

Under the initiative, Yale’s School of Medicine will build on decades of cognitive behavioral therapy research to develop state-of-the-art tools specifically designed to address problem gambling.

The work will include clinical trials and peer-reviewed data, designed to ensure any eventual treatment options are safe and effective.

“Using digital platforms such as mobile phones to provide treatment offers the potential to get help to more people,” said Brian Kiluk, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. “The hope is to identify effective new ways to expand access to treatment as easily and seamlessly as possible and provide a means to help improve the lives of people with gambling problems, their loved ones, and their communities."

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Second Victoria Bill Tightens Scrutiny Of Crown Resorts

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The Victoria state government in Australia has introduced a second tranche of legislation implementing reform of casino regulation and strengthening responsible gambling measures.

Under the bill introduced on Tuesday (May 24), Crown Resorts’ Melbourne casino will be subject to enhanced, real-time regulator scrutiny and immediate disciplinary action in the event of any breach of the casino’s Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct.

The bill also removes liquor regulation from the purview of the recently created Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, allowing its bureaucrats to focus their work entirely on the gambling sector.

Other details include expansion of reportable conduct in the casino by inspectors, and mandatory provision of such information to “appropriate” agencies, including law enforcement.

The changes follow a devastating Royal Commission into Crown Resorts operations in Australia and China that recommended strict new controls on the company, including a two-year probationary period under the control of a state-appointed manager.

Gaming minister Melissa Horne said on Tuesday in a statement that “further reforms [are] to be introduced later this year” in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

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California Tribe Must Arbitrate Casino-Union Dispute

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A federal appeals court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling ordering the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation to arbitrate a dispute with a union seeking to represent their casino employees.

In a 17-page ruling Friday (May 20), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the tribe agreed in their gambling compact with the state of California to arbitrate any dispute they have with the union, in this case, Unite Here Local 30.

Judge Milan Smith Junior wrote that “the district court was correct that the arbitrator should decide issues of contract validity.” The tribe owns and operates the Sycuan Resort and Casino in San Diego.

The Sycuan Band’s compact with the state, which was approved in 2015, provides a process for eligible” workers at casinos over 250 employees to engage in collective bargaining. Known as the Tribal Labor Relations Ordinance (TLRO), the laws are similar to the state’s labor laws.

Dealers, security, tribal commission staff, and cash counters are excluded. Sycuan had argued that federal labor law pre-empts their compact with California that had required the tribe to enter into a contract with Unite Here.

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Bally’s Chicago Casino Clears Key Committee

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A special Chicago City Council committee approved an ordinance on Monday (May 23) authorizing Bally’s Corporation to build a $1.7bn casino and a host agreement with the gaming company.

The host agreement covers the labor deal and other financial, contracting, and hiring commitments the company has made to the city.

The 27-3 vote sets up a final City Council vote on the project for Wednesday.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Alderman Brendan Reilly and Alderman Briand Hopkins failed to convince their colleagues to reject Bally’s bid. They argued that Bally’s has never built a casino from the ground up.

During Monday’s committee hearing, Reilly accused Mayor Lori Lightfoot of paying too much attention to the $40m upfront payment and not enough to their revenue projections, which include $200m in annual revenues after 2027.

Bally’s proposal won Lightfoot’s support on May 5, despite proposals from Rush Street Gaming and Hard Rock International.

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Peruvian Government Backs Online Gambling Bill

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President Pedro Castillo’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved draft legislation to regulate online gaming and sports betting and will soon introduce a bill to be considered by the National Congress.

A draft bill was submitted to the Cabinet in March by the Ministry of Tourism and International Trade.

Among other things, the legislation is expected to regulate betting and gaming websites under the authority of the tourism ministry and establish new penalties and restrictions for unauthorised operators.

A statement from the ministry last Tuesday (May 17) said the proposal was approved unanimously by President Castillo’s Cabinet.

“The Cabinet of Ministers was in favour of the proposal because it establishes a legal framework that will ensure the transparency of gaming and integrity of sports, the promotion of responsible gaming, the establishment of access controls to protect vulnerable people and prevent money laundering and terrorism financing,” said tourism minister Roberto Sánchez.

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The Queensland state government has introduced a new casino control bill in response to the fallout from other state inquiries that have eviscerated management at Crown Resorts and The Star Entertainment Group.

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