News In Brief: November 20-November 24, 2023

November 24, 2023
Chile's online gambling bill is finally heading for the political limelight, a gambling operator is sentenced to 20 years in jail in the Philippines and Star Entertainment's watchdog in Australia has its term extended.
Chile's Online Gaming Bill Goes Before Plenary At Last

Chile’s finance commission has unanimously passed the country's online gambling bill, which now will go before the lower house and then on to the Senate. 

The bill has finally completed its journey through various commissions in the Chamber of Deputies since it was first penned over 18 months ago in March 2022. 

In the time since, the tax burden was revealed to be a 20 percent overhead rate, in addition to value added tax, which puts the overall tax rate at around 38 percent, a number that panicked operators. 

Grey market operators are also extremely unhappy with the 12 month cooling-off period that is in the current version of the bill, which they have vowed to fight in the Senate. 

The finance commission’s evaluation took one session, as its approval is a matter of accounting rather than a policy debate. 

Whether the bill passes into law is another matter, with insiders saying that, at this point, the beleaguered measure has about a 50 percent chance due to unending lawsuits and controversy. 

POGO-linked Chinese National Jailed For 20 Years

A Philippine court has sentenced a Chinese national who operated a foreign-facing online gambling venture to 20 years in jail for human trafficking.

The Las Piñas Regional Trial Court in southern Metro Manila sentenced Andy Chen on October 27 to 20 years in jail and fined him 1.4m pesos ($25,300) for human trafficking offences, the Philippine Star reported on Thursday (November 23).

The Xincheng Network Technology boss was prosecuted for trafficking a Chinese woman who was rescued in a raid in December 2021.

The same company, referred to as “XinChuang Network Technology” in some media reports, was raided again in June this year, resulting in the rescue of more than 2,700 enslaved workers, including some 1,200 foreign nationals.

Online gaming regulator PAGCOR had listed Xincheng Network Technology as a registered service provider to foreign-facing online gambling licensees (POGO), but its data has been removed from PAGCOR’s online lists of current and cancelled operators.

Further details of the court decision, which comes as congressional and executive pressure builds on PAGCOR to eliminate POGOs altogether, were not immediately available.

Dual Role Of Star Entertainment's Overseer Extended

The Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) state governments have extended their appointments of The Star Entertainment Group’s external special manager as remediation processes for the troubled casino operator advance.

Star Entertainment said in a statement on Friday (November 24) that Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath approved its remediation plan for casino operations filed in response to damaging state government probes and heavy fines.

Special manager Nicholas Weeks will now oversee operations for an additional year until December 8, 2024, and supervise the remediation plan’s 100-plus reforms.

D’Ath accordingly further deferred licence suspensions for Star’s two Queensland casinos until May 31, 2024.

In a separate statement on Friday, Star Entertainment said the NSW Independent Casino Commission (NICC) advised that Weeks’ tandem role as special manager of The Star casino in Sydney will be extended to no later than June 30, 2024 and not renewed.

The NSW extension gives Star Entertainment more time to “satisfy the NICC that it is capable of undertaking the remedial action” to regain licence suitability, it said.

On Tuesday, Star Entertainment said it had signed a binding agreement with the NSW government on tax obligations, fleshing out an earlier, less detailed agreement.

UK Gambling Commission Set To Consult On Free Bets, Bonuses

The UK Gambling Commission will shortly be publishing another round of consultations on topics including ensuring that free bets and bonuses do not encourage harmful or excessive gambling, the regulator’s chief executive has said.

Other items going out to consultation include player tools such as deposit and time limits and transparency of measures to protect consumer funds, said CEO Andrew Rhodes.

Rhodes was speaking on Wednesday (November 22) at the annual meeting of bacta, the UK’s amusement industry trade group. The consultations are part of the British government’s plan to update the 2005 Gambling Act, along the lines of plans announced in a white paper that was released in April.

The commission will also consult on proposals to help clarify the methods the regulator uses to calculate financial penalties, and how it will seek to ensure that the penalties exceed any potential gains from non-compliance with regulations, Rhodes said.

Rhodes also said he found the amusement industry’s level of compliance with gambling regulations to be “broadly positive”.

“We are not routinely finding failings in your part of the gambling industry that require us to take dramatic enforcement action,” he said. 

Also at the meeting, Stuart Andrew, the minister in charge of gambling issues, told the trade group members that the government plans to publish its proposals for gambling reform early next year, with implementation on target for Summer 2024.

California Tribal Opposition Solid Against Sports-Betting Initiatives

James Siva, chairman of the California Nationals Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), warned those behind two sports-betting initiatives that voters in the state have no appetite to revisit the issue next year.

“At least a dozen polls have shown the California voter is not ready for retail. That tends to poll even worse for online,” Siva said Wednesday (November 22) during a webinar hosted by the Indian Gaming Association. 

Siva said 30 percent of the state’s population is anti-gambling, and always has been. 

The two initiatives, the "Sports Wagering Regulation and Tribal Gaming Protection Act" and the "Tribal Gaming Protection Act", are facing a November 27 deadline for public comments.

Siva also dismissed reports of tribes submitting amendments to the ballot initiatives. Both proposals face a December 1 deadline to submit amendments.

“They are willing to make amendments,” Siva said. “Why would we risk our credibility by partnering with them.” 

Pala Interactive co-founders Kasey Thompson and Reeve Collins created Eagle 1 Acquisition Company LLC and are the authors of the two proposals. 

Missouri Sports Betting Swings From Legislature To Ballot

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has approved final ballot language for several initiatives submitted by professional sports teams to let voters, not the legislature, decide the fate of sports betting. 

Ashcroft approved the language on Tuesday (November 21), leaving supporters to choose between one of eight versions to put before the voters. Missouri’s professional sports teams, including the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, will need to collect 170,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. 

The decision to take the issue to Missouri voters comes after years of failed attempts by the legislature to legalize mobile and retail sports betting. The coalition of professional sports teams filed eight proposed ballot questions with some versions allowing one retail and mobile license while others would allow four mobile licenses.

The petitions, which were initially filed on October 4, would impose a 10 percent tax on revenues. Each of Missouri’s professional franchises and the 13 casinos in the state could offer retail and mobile betting. 

The plan also calls for establishing a $5m problem gambling fund.

Former Wynn Macau Director Solicited Bribes

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Tuesday (November 21) has found that an unnamed former Wynn Macau director solicited or received HK$1m ($128,000) in contractor bribes between 2014 and 2017.

The ICAC finding for the unnamed director was included in a press statement on prison sentences handed to two air-conditioning maintenance contractors who bribed the director.

The contractors — a director and a senior sales manager — were sentenced to two years and 18 months, respectively, for receiving payments totalling HK$450,000 in 2014 and 2015 and then another HK$560,000 in late 2016 and early 2017.

The ICAC statement did not name the former Wynn Macau director or the director’s nationality, nor account for the missing information.

ICAC thanked its Macau counterpart for help with the probe and noted that Wynn Macau “rendered full assistance” to its investigation.

Regulators Agree Trans-Atlantic Pact

The Gambling Regulators European Forum (GREF) and the North America Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA) have agreed a partnership to cement cross-continental relationships between regulators.

The authorities represented by the two groups will hold joint meetings, invite each other to speak at their yearly events and jointly host seminars on emerging regulatory risks, the bodies said.

“With a public opinion across the globe more and more concerned about the risks related to excessive gambling offer and with the increase of gambling markets and innovations, exchange between regulators worldwide is crucial. Regulators of GREF and NAGRA face the same issues and I believe that this collaboration will improve the protection of our consumers,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chair of GREF and French regulator ANJ.

Ryan Winfield of the Arizona Department of Gaming and the president of NAGRA said: “The power of partnership and collaboration between GREF and NAGRA is important in this ever evolving industry.  The changing landscape and the future of gaming makes it imperative that we reach out to other organisations in the industry in order to remain informed as we tirelessly serve our communities. This commitment to collaboration and communication will serve people across the globe.”

West Flagler Requests U.S. Supreme Court Filing Extension

West Flagler Associates submitted a request to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (November 20) seeking an extension to file its writ of certiorari until February 9 in its efforts to seek review of a federal court ruling upholding the approval of a landmark 2021 Florida gambling compact.

“On September 11, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied rehearing of the June 30, 2023, order at issue in this litigation,” wrote Hamish Hume, attorney for West Flagler. “Unless extended, applicants’ time for filing a petition will expire on December 11, 2023, the first business day after the ninetieth day from the denial of rehearing.”

In support of its seven-page application, Hume reminded the High Court that this case concerns the propriety of the approval under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of tribal-state gaming compact. 

Hume said IGRA only authorizes the U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to authorize sports betting that takes place on tribal land.

He also wrote that West Flagler and the Bonita-Fort Myers Corporation, doing business as Bonita Springs Poker Room, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Lawsuit Challenges Ecuador’s Betting Advertising Ban

A lawsuit has been filed against President Guillermo Lasso’s Law of Communication, which banned sports-betting advertising from the end of August. 

The former mayor of Quito, Santiago Guarderas, and the head of the Association of Newspaper Editors of Ecuador (AEDEP) filed the lawsuit, calling it unconstitutional. 

According to the text of the decree under the Law of Communication: “Misleading advertising is prohibited, as well as all types of advertising or propaganda of child pornography, cigarettes, controlled substances and all types of betting or sports prediction systems."

The lawsuit challenges Lasso’s power to even issue such a regulatory decree, writing that “the National Assembly is the body that, according to the constitution, has the authority to impose limits on people's behaviour”. 

The filing also included protest against the seventh general provision of the law, concerning renewal rights of radio and television broadcasts.

This lawsuit does not come as a surprise. A representative for Ecuador’s LigaPro football tournament told audiences at SBC Barcelona back in September that they planned to continue with sports-betting partnerships, under the assumption that the bans would not stand or would require further enforcement.

Crown Sydney Cuts 180 Jobs, Opening Hours

Blackstone Group-controlled Australian casino operator Crown Resorts will slash another 180 jobs at its Sydney casino and cease 24-hour trading amid revenue woes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday (November 20).

The 180 jobs are mostly gaming floor and related positions, with many likely to be shifted to sister operations in Melbourne and Perth, the Herald quoted Crown Sydney CEO Mark McWhinnie as saying.

The latest retrenchments or redeployments amount to 275 job losses at Crown Sydney since the casino opened in August 2022, the daily said.

Sliding revenue amid tighter regulation, pandemic impacts and China’s block on gambling tourism saw Crown shutter the VIP property’s mahogany gaming area three months ago.

The remaining crystal gaming area will now no longer be a 24-hour casino, with opening hours cut back to 10am to 2am from Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4am on Fridays, 2pm to 4am on Saturdays, and 2pm to 2am on Sundays.


Chile's online gambling bill is finally heading for the political limelight, a gambling operator is sentenced to 20 years in jail in the Philippines and Star Entertainment's watchdog in Australia has its term extended.

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