News In Brief: November 1-November 5, 2021

November 5, 2021
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A Northern Irish political pressure group has recommended full affordability measures be introduced and Maryland disappoints again on sports-betting progress.

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Northern Ireland Politicians Want £100 Affordability

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A Northern Ireland parliamentary group has concluded a seven-month inquiry by recommending a range of new policies, including tough affordability measures.

Members of the NI Assembly All Party Group (APG) on Reducing Harm Related To Gambling have said they want all gambling websites in the country to be accessed via a single sign-on portal so that affordability checks can be applied.

They also want a “soft cap” of £100 per month placed on gamblers, after which enhanced financial due diligence would need to be undertaken.

These are the most high profile of 38 recommendations in the full report, which also include calls for more funding for addiction services.

“The APG is not abolitionist about gambling — we recognise there is a place for gambling in society, if properly regulated. However, our inquiry has shown that the current regulation is wholly inadequate for the digital age,” said APG chair Robbie Butler.

“Northern Ireland has the highest incidence of problem gambling in these islands. Despite this, we have no gambling regulator, no Health and Social Care treatment services for gambling related harm and no mandatory education programmes in our schools on the dangers of gambling,” he said.

Earlier this week, Northern Ireland communities minister Deirdre Hargey outlined several planned changes for gambling regulations in the country, including a ban on credit cards.

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Frustration As Maryland Sports Betting Delayed Until 2022

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John Martin, director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming, said Thursday that the lack of license approvals by the state's Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC) will delay the launch of sports betting in the state until early next year.

“At this point, we are hoping to make the NFL playoffs in January and the Super Bowl in February,” Martin said in a statement.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency (MLGCA) on Thursday approved licenses for the sports wagering operator partners of five casinos, all of which are still awaiting their own license approvals from the SWARC.

In October, the MLGCA agreed that five casinos were qualified to conduct sports betting and forwarded their applications to the SWARC.

For the second time, no action was taken on the five licenses during a SWARC meeting this week.

The commission postponed an October 14 meeting and then again on Wednesday declined to take up the licenses, instead asking for more information about the casinos’ owners before they adjourned, according to Maryland Matters.

The commission is next scheduled to meet on November 18.

“We’re obviously disappointed by the lack of progress in yesterday’s SWARC meeting, but we’re pleased that we’ve moved forward in other areas,” Martin said in a statement.

The licenses for the five companies approved Thursday do not require approval by the SWARC.

The companies and the casinos with which they are partnered are as follows: Barstool Sports, partner of Hollywood Casino in Perryville; Caesars Sportsbook, partner of Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore; FanDuel Sportsbook, partner with Live! Casino in Hanover; BetMGM, partner of MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill; and TwinSpires, partner with Ocean Down Casino in Berlin.

“In the meantime, there are numerous steps that don’t involve the SWARC, and we are working closely with each facility to complete those tasks,” Martin added. “We’re also continuing investigations of additional facility applicants so we can forward more of them to the SWARC.”

“We are forging ahead in spite of the delays,” he said.

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Aspinalls Loses Discrimination Case

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London casino Aspinalls racially discriminated against staff when it gave in to customer demands for white, female croupiers, a court has ruled.

A London employment tribunal has ruled on a case brought by a former employee of the casino, which is owned by Australia’s Crown Resorts.

The venue admitted to barring ex-croupier Semhar Tesfagiorgis and others from going on duty in 2019 because of a high-spending gambler’s demands for “western-looking female staff”, according to the judgment.

“The direct discrimination myself and other black colleagues received was not an isolated incident. Although the tribunal could not rule on past events due to time limits, they have acknowledged this was the case and for once Crown Aspinalls will finally be forced to do the same, for this I am grateful to the employment tribunal,” said Tesfagiorgis.

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Nevada Regulators Appoint Esports Technical Advisory Committee

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The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) voted unanimously Wednesday to appoint seven gaming, esports and business executives to the Esports Technical Advisory Committee in accordance with a new law enacted by lawmakers earlier this year.

“Esports is a new market, new territory for us and you need to look no further than the formation of this committee as an acknowledgement of that,” said board member Philip Katsaros. “It has proved wildly popular, and it is going to continue to grow, there is little doubt about that.”

The members of the new committee are: Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute; Paul Hamilton, president and CEO for the Greenspun Corporation; Seth Schorr, CEO of Firth Street Gaming and chairman of the Downtown Grand Casino; and Lovell Walker, vice president of business development at Penn National Gaming.

Christian Bishop, chief revenue officer of Method; Jud Hannigan, CEO of Allied Esports; and Brandon Snow, head of Activision Blizzard Esports, were also named to the committee. The NGCB approved Hamilton as chairman of the committee, which is scheduled to meet four times a year.

Katsaros said what gives regulators pause about esports is “game integrity.” He added that the control board was “looking to this committee to be able to provide advise and recommendations in that regard.”

Board member Brittnie Watkins agreed, saying this committee was something the esports industry needs.

One of the major issues for the committee to consider is how to advise the NGCB on revising how it allows wagers to be made on esports events. Nevada currently handles esports by requiring sportsbooks to submit an application for each event that is reviewed and subject to approval by the control board.

The next step would be for esports to be considered a sport that would allow wagers to be placed with event-specific approval.

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Public Like UK Credit Ban, Says Regulator

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A report by the UK Gambling Commission to assess the performance of its ban on gambling with credit cards has found that the prohibition is popular with consumers.

Monitoring by the regulator found that members of the public thought the ban was helping keep people safe and that there had not been a rise in gambling with other forms of borrowed money since it took effect, the commission said.

A full and independent evaluation of the credit card ban by NatCen Social Research and Gambling Research Exchange Ontario is due to be completed in early 2023.

“The successful implementation of the ban across the industry and the impact on consumer behaviour and financial spend we have monitored so far is an encouraging sign that the ban has reduced consumer reliance on gambling with borrowed money. We look forward to NatCen’s report on the long-term impacts of the ban and how this can inform our future policies,” said interim commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes.

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Credit Card Ban Among Impending Northern Ireland Changes

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Northern Ireland communities minister Deirdre Hargey has said she will introduce new gambling rules to the Assembly (parliament) in an effort to make gambling safer in the region.

These will create new offences which make it illegal for under-18s to be in areas where high stakes gambling machines are located, give future ministers the powers to introduce a statutory levy and provide “clarification” of the rules around prize competitions, she said.

Hargey also announced plans to consult on a mandatory code of practice for the gambling industry with key stakeholders this week.

The code is expected to include a ban on the use of credit cards in gambling transactions, a ban on reverse withdrawals and improvements to age verification.

“I am planning to make compliance with the Code a condition of the licence. I am determined to drive up standards in the industry and make operators take greater responsibility for the harm caused to some customers,” she said.

Although Northern Ireland is part of the UK it is not covered by the 2005 Gambling Act and does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Gambling Commission.

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Polish Bookmakers Dislike Reporting Requirements Draft

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Poland’s Ministry of Finance has released a draft regulation that introduces new reporting requirements for local gambling industry firms.

The draft ordinance introduces new forms that are to be submitted by local companies on a quarterly basis, starting in the first quarter of 2022.

Although the ministry claims its aim is to simplify the existing reporting procedures, numerous gambling companies say various provisions of the proposed regulation are impossible to comply with.

In consultation remarks, local bookmaker Betfan criticised the way in which bookmakers would be required to submit data on players’ activities, including the total placed bets and their breakdown into bets placed with the use of players’ actual own funds, bets placed with the use of players’ previous winnings and bets placed with the use of bonus funds.

The Polish offshoot of Romanian bookmaker Superbet declared the requirement under which companies would need to report players’ gender “could prove to be impossible” to comply with.

Another bookmaker, Totolotek, said it had doubts “over the usefulness of the data” the ministry wishes to obtain from local companies as part of its oversight responsibilities.

The Polish subsidiary of Czech bookmaker Fortuna raised another issue, related to requiring bookmakers to report the number of downloads of their mobile apps.

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Seminoles Launch Online Sports Betting In Florida

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The Seminole Tribe has quietly launched its Hard Rock-branded online sportsbook in Florida — four days before a critical federal court hearing on the legality of the new offering.

A new tribal-state gaming compact ratified in May and deemed approved by the federal government in early August authorized the tribe to begin offering mobile sports betting to players throughout Florida effective October 15.

Two Florida commercial gaming operators and a coalition of anti-gambling interests have filed separate lawsuits against the compact, with a hearing on motions to enjoin the tribe and overturn the compact set to be heard in federal district court in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

The Hard Rock sportsbook appears to be in a soft launch phase, with no official statement announcing its debut for Floridians on Monday.

The new Seminole compact’s approach to online sports betting is unique, with its provisions deeming the bets to occur at the site of servers located on the tribe’s reservation, and therefore constituting a form of tribal gaming occurring on Indian lands.

Opponents argue the offering violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Wire Act and Florida state law requiring voter approval of new forms of gambling.

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Sportradar Scores UEFA Betting Data Deal

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Sportradar will exclusively provide official betting data from all UEFA competitions through to the end of the 2023-24 football season, the company announced on Monday.

The agreement covers more than 1,500 matches from various UEFA competitions, including the Champions League, Europa League, Nations League and Euro 2024, and marks the first time UEFA has sold official betting data rights to an exclusive partner through a competitive tender process.

The deal also extends an existing integrity-monitoring partnership between Sportradar and European football’s governing body.

The UEFA agreement comes less than two months after the Swiss-headquartered sports data and services provider went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Earlier this year, Sportradar was unseated as the official data partner of the NFL, losing the rights to chief rival Genius Sports. The company also provides official betting data feeds from the NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball and International Tennis Federation, among others.

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Karnataka Minister Backs Casinos Near Goa

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The labour minister for India’s Karnataka state has announced support for opening land-based casinos in the coastal district of Uttara Kannada, which lies on the southern border of casino hub Goa.

The pro-development Shivaram Hebbar told reporters on Monday that casinos would appeal to tourists and residents alike and that Uttara Kannada should compete with Goa for tourism revenue.

“One cannot stop people from spending money in casinos,” the Times of India quoted Hebbar as saying.

“People from Uttara Kannada and other districts go to Goa and spend it in casinos. So if we set up casinos here, money will be spent in our district.”

It was not immediately clear how much support from the state's Cabinet Hebbar might receive for casino liberalisation, given his recent change in political party, sensitivity to casino gambling in India and recent contested legislation in Karnataka that criminalises all online gambling.

As with Goa, which has proposed relocating major casinos from riverboats to a precinct near an under-construction international airport, Uttara Kannada's capital Karwar, which borders Goa, will open a major airport in the next few years.

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UK Commission Inquiry Extends Deadline

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A UK parliamentary group has extended the deadline of its investigation into the Gambling Commission until December 1, citing what it says is an overwhelming amount of evidence already submitted.

The usually pro-gambling All Party Betting and Gaming Group has opened an inquiry into the UK gambling regulator, citing its belief that the commission has overstepped its bounds and delivered a poor level of service.

Group officials say they have been “overwhelmed by the volume and severity of the evidence submitted to its investigation into the competence and effectiveness of the gambling industry’s regulator”.

Scott Benton MP, co-chair of the Parliamentary All Party Betting & Gaming Group said: “We have been shocked by two things since we launched this investigation, the sheer scale and severity of evidence that has been submitted to us and the abject terror that the industry has of recriminations by the regulator.

“Much of our efforts so far have been of assuring operators and their advisors of their anonymity. Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of our investigation it does appear that this regulator has not been acting like any normal regulator for quite some time.”

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Four Louisiana Casinos Launch Sports Betting

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Four Louisiana commercial casinos have been licensed to begin taking sports bets, according to state gaming regulators.

Caesars Entertainment began retail operations on Sunday at Harrah’s New Orleans and Horseshoe Bossier City Hotel & Casino. Boomtown Casino in Harvey and L’Auberge in Baton Rouge, which are operated by Penn National Gaming, were expected to open their sportsbooks on Monday, The Advocate newspaper reported.

Nine other state-licensed riverboat casinos and racinos have applied for sports betting licenses, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB) said.

Legal sports wagering began in Louisiana in early October when a Betfred sportsbook was opened at the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe's Paragon Casino Resort. As a tribal gaming facility, the tribal sportsbook did not require a state license from the LGCB.

In a statement, Caesars said while mobile wagering is still pending regulatory approval, its Caesars Sportsbook app is available for download in Louisiana for customers to register their accounts and deposits funds.

Ronnie Johns, chairman of the LGCB, told The Advocate that mobile wagering is still a couple of months away as vendors for sports-betting websites and apps are still being investigated and their technology is being tested.

Johns will join regulatory counterparts from two other new sports-betting markets in Arizona and Maryland as a speaker on an exclusive VIXIO GamblingCompliance webinar on November 16.

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Five Bids Filed For Chicago Casino-Resort

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After a two-month extension to submit formal plans for building a Chicago casino, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Friday that the city has received five proposals from four different bidders and will now begin the process of choosing which will partner with the city to build and operate its first casino.

Lightfoot took a critical step in the process in April, asking gaming companies to submit formal proposals for the project, including a proposed location. Four months later she extended the deadline by two months, as several major Las Vegas operators withdrew their interest.

Bally’s Corporation and Rush Street Gaming both submitted two proposals for two different sites, and Hard Rock International submitted an application.

“We are thrilled to have received five high-caliber proposals,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “We look forward to the next phase of discussions to bring this world-class entertainment experience to our city.”

A review committee consisting of several city departments will now evaluate the bids and recommend a proposal to the mayor, who will seek City Council approval for her choice. Final approval is not likely until next year.

Lightfoot said more information on the proposal summaries will be released in the coming weeks.

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California Tribe’s Unfair Cardroom Competition Lawsuit Dismissed

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Tribes in California lack legal standing to sue non-tribal cardrooms under the state’s unfair competition and public nuisance laws because of their status as sovereign governments, a state appellate court has ruled.

The Rincon Band of Luiseno Indiana, Santa Yenz Band of Chumash Indians, as well as several affiliated businesses and individual tribal members, who sued owners and operators of commercial cardrooms in Southern California, had appealed a decision by a San Diego Superior Court judge that found they had no standing to file the lawsuit.

The tribes argued the cardrooms offered house-banked card games outside of tribal lands in violation of state law. The California Constitution gives tribes the exclusive right to offer casino-style banked games.

The tribes alleged losses of $18m each per year between 2013 and 2017 as a result cardrooms offering house-banked games, like blackjack. Under state law, cardrooms can offer games where the role of the dealer rotates among all players where everyone at the table takes a turn to deal and be the banker.

The law also says the deal must be “continuously and systematically rotated” among all players.

Tribes have argued for years that cardroom operators have violated the law with the use of player-backed games, where a player is seated at the table with a large bankroll effectively acting as the house.

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A Northern Irish political pressure group has recommended full affordability measures be introduced and Maryland disappoints again on sports-betting progress.

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