News In Brief: May 6-May 10, 2024

May 10, 2024
Zimpler under investigation in Sweden, Wyoming may ban college bets, Colombia's regulator opens investigations and the UN calls for a casino union boss to be released from Cambodian jail.
Swedish Financial Regulator Investigates Zimpler

Sweden’s Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) has announced it will investigate Swedish payments company Zimpler.

The authority said it would investigate how well Zimpler complied with anti-money laundering rules and its risk assessment policies.

“The gaming industry is considered to run a high risk of being used for money laundering and terrorist financing, which places special demands on those who are exposed to it,” the watchdog said, in explaining why it had decided to open an investigation. 

Last year, the Swedish Gambling Authority issued Zimpler with a SEK25m (€2.1m) fine for allegedly permitted payments to unlicensed operators that target Sweden. The payments company is appealing the enforcement action.

Wyoming Considers College Pro Bet Ban

The Wyoming Gaming Commission on Wednesday (May 8) asked staff to prepare proposed rules to prohibit college player prop bets and punishments for athlete harassment to be decided upon at a future meeting.

The decision of a possible ban came at the request of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which submitted a letter to the commission seeking to eliminate college player prop bets from the state’s wagering catalog.

In its letter, the NCAA noted that 30 percent of Division I men’s basketball players reported receiving betting-related harassment.

Austin Meo, the assistant director of government relations at the NCAA, told commissioners that most of the harassment associated with prop bets comes via social media but sometimes on campus and in stadiums.

Currently, 20 states with legal sports betting allow prop bets on college athletes. Meo said the NCAA began its campaign in Ohio, where regulators approved a measure to ban the wagers.

That was followed by Vermont and Louisiana, with bills introduced in New Jersey and North Carolina to prohibit prop bets on college athletes. 

“This is a major issue for us,” Meo said. “It is something that we deeply care about, not only the harassment that student athletes face from bets but also the risk of insider information that takes place with prop bet as well as the risk of student athletes betting on themselves, which is another issue we have seen very rarely.”

New York Seeks To Declare Online Poker A Game Of Skill

New York state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr, a Democrat, has filed a bill that would legalize internet poker across the state by declaring it a game of skill. 

The decision to introduce Senate Bill 9226 comes after a bill introduced by Addabbo this session, which would have legalized online casino games and online poker failed to garner enough support and was excluded from Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget in January.

Addabbo’s proposal would authorize up to ten licenses to operate internet poker, with each license costing $10m and in effect for ten years. A brief fiscal note released with S 9226, estimated up to $100m in one-time revenue from licensing fees, along with an additional $2m to $5m in tax revenue annually. 

“This license fee shall be applied as an offset against the taxes paid over the first 60 months of operation,” the bill reads. The New York State Gaming Commission also would promulgate regulations, and online poker would be taxed at 15 percent.

PlayAGS Taken Private In $1.1bn Deal

PlayAGS, a maker of slot machines, table games and internet gaming products, has agreed to be acquired by the private equity firm Brightstar Capital Partners for approximately $1.1bn. 

The deal for $12.50 per share represents a 41 percent premium on PlayAGS’ volume-weighted average price (VWAP) over the last 90 days and a 40 percent premium to the company’s closing price of $8.96 on Wednesday.

The deal has been unanimously approved by the board of directors, PlayAGS said in a statement Thursday (May 9) announcing the deal.

PlayAGS executives believe Brightstar’s resources and guidance will help the company make targeted investments in research and development in addition to attracting top talent, accelerating their global footprint. Currently, the Las Vegas-based company has operations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. 

The deal with Brightstar comes less than a year after PlayAGS ended a merger discussion with Inspired Entertainment in September. Inspired offered $10 a share in cash, valuing the company at $370m.

Brightstar’s acquisition of PlayAGS is expected to close in the second half of 2025.

Colombia’s Coljuegos Announces Investigation Into Routine Complaints

Colombian regulator Coljuegos has publicly declared the opening of an investigation into platforms that it has received complaints about. 

In a press release, its president, Marco Emilio Hincapié, announced that complaints from citizens were being taken very seriously with regard to “inconsistencies.”

Among citizen complaints to Coljuegos were reports that online portals were not recharging their balances even after money was paid, a delay in responding to complaints, non-payment of prizes and difficulties withdrawing money. 

“We invite you to continue accessing the entity's official communication channels and continue making complaints,” said Hincapié.

“From Coljuegos, we will carry out the respective monitoring to protect the interests of bettors and monitor the correct functioning of the operators.” 

UN Calls For NagaWorld Union Leader’s Release

The UN Human Rights Office has denounced the Cambodian Supreme Court’s upholding of a jail sentence for Chhim Sithar, a NagaWorld integrated resort union leader who organised protests in 2021 over the firing of 1,300 employees.

Jeremy Laurence, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, called for the immediate release of Sithar, who is serving a two-year jail term.

The president of the Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld was sentenced in May 2023 after months of protests in the capital Phnom Penh against resort operator and Hong Kong listco NagaCorp.

Laurence said Sithar’s sentence and those of several fellow protesters should be quashed.

“They were convicted for simply exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, protected by both the Cambodian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Cambodia in 1992,” he said in a statement.

Sithar received a US State Department award for the defence of human rights in February, with the US ambassador to Cambodia at the time calling her “courageous and tenacious”.

Malaysia Probing Bloomberg Journalists Over Casino Report

Malaysian police are investigating Bloomberg journalists over a report that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim met two gambling moguls to discuss development of a casino at the Forest City precinct near Singapore.

Bloomberg’s report is being probed for possible “sedition”, defamation and other charges after Berjaya Group founder Vincent Tan complained to police, Free Malaysia Today reported on Monday (May 6).

One of the report’s authors, Ram Anand, was questioned at police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

The report alleged that Tan and Genting Group CEO Lim Kok Thay met the prime minister to discuss developing a casino project at the struggling Forest City development, potentially adding a second casino to the national market.

Anwar and the two companies have denied discussing the matter, with Anwar last week indicating that Berjaya or Genting should take “necessary action”.

However, communications minister Fahmi Fadzil on Wednesday said the probe was launched after receiving the Berjaya complaint, and did not originate with the government itself.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Now reported on Friday that Anwar is set to speak next week at the Qatar Economic Forum, which is “powered by Bloomberg”, according to the event’s website.

Bacta Claims Banks Withdrew Services To Some Members

UK-based trade group Bacta has claimed that some of its members had their bank services withdrawn, blaming corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies.

Bacta, representing the interests of Great Britain’s amusements and high-street gaming manufacturers and operators, made the claim in the latest report session of the House of Commons Treasury Committee on SME Finance published on May 8.

“The banks consider gambling to pose a reputational risk which, they say, offends their CSR. Gambling (and not all we do is gambling) is a lawful, well-regulated part of our economy. Irrespective of anyone’s moral perspective on gambling, there should be no circumstances other than illegality, for a bank not to offer banking services to any of our members,” Bacta said.

The committee put these allegations of debanking to Andrew Harrison, the head of customer propositions and delivery at NatWest.

Harrison stated: “Most account closures and refusals of service were for fraud and financial crime concerns, and that the rules around this limited how transparent a bank could be with its client,” according to the report.

“99 percent of any exit we make as an institution is for fraud and financial crime reasons. In those situations, because of law and regulation, we are very limited in what we can say to those businesses without tripping over some of the legal aspects around tipping off,” Harrison said.

Data included in the report revealed that more than 140,000 business accounts were closed at the instigation of the lender in 2023.

Fraud and financial crime, as well as a failure to comply with information sharing under "know your customer" regulations, are the main reasons given for account closures.

However, NatWest, Santander and Barclays cited "risk appetite" as another reason for the closure of some, accounting for 4,214 account closures.

Louisiana's Top Gaming Regulator Retires

Louisiana Gaming Control Board chairman Ronnie Johns has notified Republican Governor Jeff Landry that he will resign his position effective June 30. 

Johns was appointed chairman by former Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, in 2021. His first order of business as chairman was to develop the rules and regulations for sports betting that was approved by 55 of 64 parishes in a state-wide referendum in 2020 and then formally approved by the Louisiana legislature in 2021.

Final approval for retail sports betting was granted by the control board in November 2021 and then mobile wagering in late January 2022.

“I will leave the board knowing that I did my work as a regulator with the integrity that it calls for with fairness to the industry but with absolute compliance of our strict gaming laws and rules that we must adhere to,” Johns said in a statement Wednesday (May 8).

Landry has yet to name Johns replacement.

Former Shohei Ohtani Interpreter Pleads Guilty

The former interpreter for Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges Wednesday (May 8) in connection with illegally transferring almost $17m, without Ohtani’s knowledge or permission, to pay off his gambling debts. 

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Ippei Mizuhara, 39, wagered through an illegal bookmaking operation. He has agreed to plead guilty to one count of bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison, and one count of filing a false tax return, which carries a sentence of up to three years.

The plea agreement says Mizuhara will be required to pay Ohtani restitution that could total $17m, as well as more than $1.1m to the IRS. 

Mizuhara will enter a guilty plea and is set to be arraigned on Tuesday (May 14), the DOJ said. Ohtani is said to be cooperating with investigators.

California Names New Gaming Agency Executive Director

The California Gambling Control Board (CGCC) has chosen Lisa Wardall to be its next executive director, replacing Stacey Luna Baxter, who was named to the five-member commission. 

Most recently, Wardell was the assistant director of the state Department of Justice’s Bureau of Gambling Control (BGC), which involved developing policies to regulate gaming in California. Baxter has served as executive director since November 2015.

The CGCC, which was founded in 2001, regulates cardrooms and third-party providers of proposition services, as well as tribal casinos, under the commission’s authority under tribal-state gaming compacts. The commission also sets policy, establishes regulations, determines suitability and issues licenses. 

The BGC has law enforcement authority over gaming in the state. The agency also receives applications, fees and conducts criminal background investigations and audits.

Ex-MGM Executive Sentence In Federal Court

Former MGM Grand president Scott Sibella was sentenced Wednesday (May 8) to one year’s probation and fined $9,500 for violating the federal Bank Secrecy Act in connection with an illegal bookmaking operation. 

Sibella, who pleaded guilty on January 24, failed to file suspicious transaction reports required of casinos while leading the MGM Grand between August 2017 and February 2019. 

According to his plea agreement, Sibella knew that a casino patron, Wayne Nix, ran and operated an illegal bookmaking business. 

Despite Nix’s illegal activity, Sibella allowed him to gamble at MGM Grand, and affiliated properties with revenue generated from his illegal gambling business without notifying the casino’s compliance department.

Sibella also authorized Nix to receive complimentary benefits at the casino, including trips with high-net-worth customers of the casino to further encourage Nix to patronize the casino or other affiliated properties. 

Sibella, 61, had faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Nix pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate and illegal gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return.

Nix’s scheduled sentencing in March was postponed.

No More Casinos In Sweden

Casino gambling is to effectively end in Sweden after the government announced plans to close the final Casino Cosmopol in Stockholm.

Operated by state-owned Svenska Spel, the Casino Cosmopol in Sweden is the last of the troubled venues remaining open, with several having closed across Sweden in the past few years.

Announcing its closure, the Ministry of Finance also submitted amendments making it illegal for any company to operate casinos in Sweden.

Bulgarian Leader May Block Ad Ban

Bulgaria's President has reportedly said he may veto the bill that will outlaw gambling advertising.

In comments reported in the local media, Rumen Radev said he is considering blocking several bills which were passed too quickly and without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

A veto would be unlikely to end attempts to limit gambling advertising in Bulgaria, which have been ongoing for several months and succeeded in a second reading earlier this month.

Pennsylvania Bill Seeks Sports-Betting Impact Study

Pennsylvania lawmakers are set to consider a resolution to direct the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on the impact of sports betting in the Commonwealth and make recommendations to enhance responsible gambling protections.

House Resolution 418, which was filed on Friday (May 3), would specifically direct the commission to study how sports-betting platforms utilize promotions, in-game advertisements and celebrity endorsements, among other strategies, to encourage people to wager on sports.

Ultimately, the commission would publish recommendations on ways to reduce problem gambling behaviors, gambling debt and the exposure of children to sports-betting advertisements. Should HR 418 be adopted, the commission would have a year to produce its report.

The resolution was introduced by Patrick Harkins, a Democrat and chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, along with four of his colleagues. HR 418 has been referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

In a memorandum, the resolution’s co-sponsors noted the intention was to consider potential safeguards for the continued growth of responsible sports betting in Pennsylvania.

“As the sports-betting industry continues to grow, we must investigate ways to protect Pennsylvania consumers and minors from the harmful effects of the problem and underage gambling,” the lawmakers said.

Arkansas Sets Application Period For Casino License

Arkansas will again accept applications on Sunday (May 12) for a license to build and operate the state’s fourth and final casino in Pope County.

The Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC) unanimously approved opening the new 30-day application window after debating whether to reopen the process on a Sunday, but agreed that it would allow them to reach residents state-wide through an advertisement online and in the print edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

This will be the commission’s third attempt at issuing a casino license in Pope County since Arkansas voters approved four casinos in the state through a November 2018 referendum. State courts have voided the previous licenses to Gulfside Casino Partnership and Cherokee Nation Business.

The 30-day window is set to close on June 11, which then starts another 30-day process for commissioners to choose a new licensee in Pope County. 

Commissioners on Wednesday also approved racing dates for Oaklawn but did not discuss a letter submitted last month asking regulators to authorize internet casino games.

In a letter dated March 13, Carlton Saffa, chief marketing officer at Saracen Casino Resort, wrote to commission chairman Alex Lieblong asking for the change in the regulations. 

Saffa noted that the regulations authorizing interactive gaming are already among the state’s gaming regulations. Known as ARC Rule 5, it already authorizes interactive gaming for Arkansas casinos to operate poker games online.


Zimpler under investigation in Sweden, Wyoming may ban college bets, Colombia's regulator opens investigations and the UN calls for a casino union boss to be released from Cambodian jail.

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