News In Brief: May 9-May 13, 2022

May 13, 2022
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Mr Green loses another fine appeal, Kyrgyzstan plans gambling law overhaul and Kansas sports-betting bill signed into law.

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Mr Green Loses Swedish Fine Appeal

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Days after confirmation it had lost an appeal over a 2018 Dutch fine, William Hill-owned Mr Green has failed in its legal challenge against a €3m fine in Sweden.

The operator was fined SEK30m in August 2021 for breaches of the country’s anti-money laundering rules.

Sweden’s Administrative Court rejected the appeal on May 5, with the judgment made public on Thursday (May 12).

“The court held that the company had lacked routines regarding the risks of money laundering and that it had violated the Money Laundering Act's rules on customer knowledge regarding the customers in question.

“The court further considered that the company had not fulfilled its obligations under the duty of care regarding the customers in question,” said a statement posted on the website of the Swedish Gambling Authority.

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Kyrgyzstan Government Discussing Gambling Expansion Plans

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Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan have considered new gambling rules in a first reading on May 11, as the country looks for new investment opportunities and ways to increase the national budget.

The draft laws “On Amendments to Some Legislative Acts of the Kyrgyz Republic on Gambling” and “On Gambling in the Kyrgyz Republic” were brought forward by Ulan Sarbanov, chairman of the State Service for Regulation and Supervision of Financial Market under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce.

The laws outline the legal framework for gambling venues, including basic concepts of regulation, how operators would be licensed and what their requirements would be.

“Gambling in the Kyrgyz Republic is a licensed activity and licences are issued on a paid basis. The draft proposes that the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic determine the cost of licence fees,” according to the government announcement.

Some MPs called for the proposed laws to be amended to prohibit local people from gambling, while others demanded online gambling plans be scrapped completely.

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Kansas Governor Signs Sports-Betting Bill Into Law

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As expected, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has enacted a bill to regulate online and land-based sports betting in the state.

Senate Bill 84 was signed into law by Governor Kelly, a Democrat, on Thursday (May 12), two weeks after it was approved by the state's House and Senate.

The bill will authorize retail sports betting at Kansas’ casinos and allow the four properties to deploy four online sportsbook skins each. The casinos can also deploy wagering kiosks at partnering retail locations such as veterans halls.

Among other things, the measure also permits historical horseracing machines at a former dog track in Sedgwick County, near the state capital of Wichita.

Governor Kelly had told VIXIO GamblingCompliance two years ago that she supported sports betting but would not expect to balance the state budget based on its modest tax proceeds.

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Tabcorp Shareholders Vote For De-Merger Into Two Listcos

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Shareholders of Australian wagering and lottery giant Tabcorp Holdings have all but unanimously voted to de-merge the company into wagering and lottery operations.

Ten months after the de-merger was floated, shareholders supported the resolution with 99.83 percent of the vote, according to a Tabcorp filing to the Australian Securities Exchange on Thursday (May 12).

The scheme will be implemented on May 20, pending court approval, with Tabcorp remaining in charge of under-performing wagering and media interests, while shares of the new lottery venture, The Lottery Corporation Limited, will begin trading on May 24.

“We are pleased to have received shareholder approval for the demerger of The Lottery Corporation from Tabcorp,” company chairman Steven Gregg said.

“This is an important milestone in repositioning the Group’s portfolio and setting up Tabcorp and The Lottery Corporation for future success.”

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Norway Launches Consultation On Impending Gambling Law

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Norway’s Ministry of Culture and Gender Equality has launched a consultation on its long-awaited gambling regulation update.

The new Gambling Act proposal was approved during its second reading in the country’s parliament in March and is set to replace the existing Lottery Act, Gambling Act and Totalisator Act, when it enters into force on January 1, 2023.

The main aims of the new law are to prevent problematic gambling and retain gambling revenues from non-profit organisations, partly by strengthening the existing exclusive rights model and making it even harder for foreign operators to advertise in Norway.

The Storting (parliament) has also adopted a proposal to ask the government to expand the definition of gambling on horses to also include digital and virtual games on horses.

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UK Problem Gambling Rate Four Times Higher in Veterans

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A new study has found that problem gambling prevalence is significantly higher in UK armed forces veterans than in their peers.

Veterans were more than four times more likely to have gambled in the past year and took part in more types of gambling activities than non-veterans.

Just over 43.1 percent of veterans, compared with 6.5 percent of non-veterans, experienced problem gambling, according to the study. Veterans' motivation to gamble are also seven times more likely to be driven by negative reinforcement compared with non-veterans.

The “Gambling problems among United Kingdom armed forces veterans” study says it is likely the rate is higher among veterans as they require a coping mechanism for mental health conditions and is driven by a need to avoid or escape distress.

The study was supported by a grant from Forces in Mind Trust with an endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund; however, the funding source had no involvement in the study.

“In veterans, problem gambling co-occurred with, for the first time, C-PTSD. Screening for problem gambling should be undertaken to provide improved treatment and support,” according to the study.

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Veikkaus Games Available In Sweden, Norway

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Finnish state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus has launched its subsidiary Fennica Gaming as it looks to raise revenues by selling gambling services and products to international customers.

Fennica Gaming signed its first contract with the Lotteries Entertainment Innovation Alliance (LEIA), a joint venture company between Danske Lotteri Spil, Française des Jeux, Norsk Tipping, Svenska Spel and Veikkaus.

The deal has already seen Veikkaus games being made available to Norsk Tipping and Svenska Spel customers.

Finland’s Lottery Act amendments entered into force on January 1, 2022 and permitted Veikkaus subsidiaries to “engage in activities other than gambling”.

Veikkaus was also given the ability to advertise previously-prohibited betting games, to achieve higher channelisation rates.

Hans Erland Ringsvold, head of gaming operations at Norsk Tipping, said: “This initiative supports our endeavours to encourage our players to adopt games involving lower risks of generating problematic player behaviour. It is, as such, also one of Norsk Tipping’s many effective measures to promote responsible gaming."

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Maltese Government Praises Launch Of Esports Association

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The Malta Esports Association (MESA) was launched on May 6, releasing a detailed manifesto that include a list of measures it envisages will help grow the industry.

The manifesto is based on the aim of making Malta a regional hub for the esports industry by creating new jobs in the sector, shaping the business landscape through favourable taxes and granting access to existing government programmes to encourage growth and attract foreign businesses, as well as providing education on esports to adults and children.

MESA president Michele Magro, who worked for the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) for more than eight years, said the organisation wants to “standardise [and] professionalise” esports to help it become a “sustainable and reliable competitive activity, educational tool, and an attractive economic niche and advertising medium”.

The MESA aims to partner with the government of Malta.

The MESA will run the national esports team and is a member of the European Esports Federation and the International Esports Federation.

Clifton Grima, the minister for education, sports, youth, research and innovation, attended the MESA launch.

“I am happy to see that among the goals of the association is to attract international players to our country and to see that there are also opportunities for Maltese nationals to officially represent the country in international competitions,” Grima said.

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California Tribes Delay Mobile Sports Wagering Initiative Until 2024

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A constitutional referendum to allow mobile sports betting proposed by a coalition of California tribes that includes the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians will not try to qualify for this November’s ballot, a spokesman confirmed to VIXIO GamblingCompliance on Monday (May 9).

Rather than try to qualify for this year’s ballot, which already includes a tribal-backed retail sports-betting measure and is likely to also include an online wagering initiative supported by FanDuel, DraftKings and other companies, supporters of the third initiative instead plan to put their proposal on the 2024 ballot.

Rob Stutzman, a spokesman for Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, said tribes will be collecting signatures through July and then will submit them to the secretary of state’s office to qualify the measure for the 2024 election.

If approved by voters, only tribes could operate mobile sportsbooks, with brands required to reflect established tribal casinos and in-person registration required for online wagering accounts.

“We see the corporate operators measure collapsing in polling, especially after the ads we’ve been running and the strategic course is to defeat the measure this year and come back in 2024 with ours,” Stutzman said in an email.

As of Monday, San Manuel has contributed more than $25m to the campaign, while the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians has contributed $10m, according to figures released by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

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BetMGM Strikes Sports-Betting Partnership In Texas

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BetMGM has agreed a deal to become the exclusive sports-betting partner of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, according to an announcement on Monday (May 9).

The agreement will provide BetMGM with a range of marketing and sponsorship opportunities at the Astros’ home stadium in Texas and see the pair collaborate on “special betting promotions for BetMGM customers in Louisiana,” where the Entain-MGM partnership launched mobile sports wagering earlier this year.

Sports betting is not yet legal in Texas, but lawmakers are expected to pursue legislation during next year’s session similar to Ohio and Arizona to grant major pro sports teams control over market access.

Fubo earlier this year announced a market-access partnership with Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer that would see the company serve as the designated sports-betting operator of the team, pending legislative approval.

BetMGM’s announcement did not directly reference market access for legal sports betting in Texas but such a partnership appears likely given the exclusive nature of Monday’s agreement.

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Former Paraguay Gambling Officials Demand Overhaul

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Javier Balbuena, Paraguay’s former director general of gaming, gave a wide ranging television interview last week lambasting the state of the gaming regulations in the country and its regulatory authority, Conajzar.

He appeared alongside ex-Uruguayan lottery director Luis Gama and both men demanded stricter laws, complaining that the sector was a free-for-all, losing the country significant amounts of tax revenue.

“There is no control in Paraguay, as there is in other countries, where clandestine gaming websites are blocked. Here, a little before leaving my position, I had left everything ready for [change], but that process of control and inspection did not continue, as we expected. Today, the state should be receiving about two million dollars a month,” said Balbuena.

He elaborated that although 30-35 operators are licensed in Paraguay, the pandemic worsened the spread of illegal online operations.

Conajzar is already in the midst of ongoing changes and scrutiny.

A few weeks ago, President Abdo Benitez signed Law 6930 which outlawed slot machines in shops and gave oversight of gambling machine licensing to municipalities.

The legislation also voided the slot and games machine contract Conajzar had with the company iCrop SA after they were caught exchanging messages discussing money laundering last year.

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Don't Let Sanctioned Players Gamble, Warns Denmark

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The Danish Gambling Authority (DGA) has warned its licence holders to comply with EU sanctions, in the wake of increasing restrictions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

A growing list of individuals sanctioned by the EU includes those likely to have gambling accounts. The DGA has reminded Danish operators that these accounts should be frozen.

With new measures rolled out on a regular basis as the war in Ukraine continues, licence holders have been warned they must keep track as new individuals are added to the sanctions register.

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Colorado Senate Passes Responsible Gaming Bill

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As the Colorado legislature prepares to adjourn on Wednesday (May 11), lawmakers are preparing to apply the final touches to a bill to allocate more money to problem gambling services and limit tax deductions for sports-betting bonuses.

House Bill 1402 was passed by the Colorado Senate last Thursday (May 5) through a vote of 26-7, three days after it was earlier approved in the House.

House members are set to reconsider the bill this week, however, after senators added an amendment to require an annual appropriation of monies in a new responsible gaming fund.

The new fund will be administered by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission and receive $2.5m each fiscal year for the purpose of promoting responsible gambling and addressing problem gaming in the state.

Further provisions of HB 1402 will also limit online sports-betting operators to deducting from their taxable revenue no more than the equivalent of 2.5 percent of annual handle in promotional credits and bonuses. That limit will gradually drop down to 1.75 percent by 2026.

Elsewhere, the Colorado state lottery would receive $200,000 in annual responsible gambling funding and no longer be limited to cash-only sales of lottery tickets or instant games.

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Puerto Rico Lawmaker Calls For Gambling Inquiry

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José Aponte Hernández, the former president of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, has demanded an investigation into the state of the island’s gambling industry.

He formally filed Chamber Resolution 720, which, if passed, gives the Tourism and Cooperativism Commission of the House 180 days to complete the inquiry.

“Given the recent changes in the legislation and regulations applicable to the entire gaming industry in Puerto Rico, as well as the new draws for the Traditional and Electronic Lottery, this House of Representatives considers it worthwhile to investigate the state of the gaming industry in Puerto Rico,” Aponte Hernández wrote in his memorandum.

The inquiry has a broad remit, including gaming, horseracing and lotteries. Aponte Hernández has also requested a look into exact government earnings from each sector of gambling.

The resolution states that the industry is oversaturated with various games and lotteries across the industry, and under-regulated.

The news comes in the wake of the resignation of Orlando Rivera Carrión, the director of the Gaming Commission. He filed his official resignation this week after months of calls for his dismissal. He stands accused of accepting bribes and favors.

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Mr Green loses another fine appeal, Kyrgyzstan plans gambling law overhaul and Kansas sports-betting bill signed into law.

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