News In Brief: November 6-November 10, 2023

November 10, 2023
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Ohio softens its proposed promotional bonus limits, MGM secures Culinary Union contract and betting rules for U.S. college athletes refined.
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Ohio Regulator Loosens Restrictions On Non-Gaming Promotions
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Ohio's sports-betting regulator will allow several exceptions to its proposed rule that governs offering gaming promotions relating to non-gaming transactions.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) released an updated draft rule Thursday (November 9) that would still prohibit operators from offering a bonus related to a non-gaming consumer transaction, unless the promotion does not target individuals under the age of 21 or those who are ineligible to participate in sports betting.

The promotion also must not target those with gambling problems or other vulnerable individuals and must only be offered to those who are verified as being 21 years of age and not participating in the state’s self-exclusion program.

The issue emerged earlier this year when Fanatics began offering customers in its sports merchandise online store a free bet that matched the dollar amount of their retail transaction.

The OCCC quickly registered its disapproval of the promotion, which was then removed, and in June the commission released proposed rulemaking that addressed the promotion.

“Promotions targeted to consumers based on non-gaming consumer transactions contribute to the normalization of gambling and threaten the integrity of sports gaming by increasing the risk of problem gambling,” the commission wrote in an update to the FAQ on its website.

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MGM Resorts, Culinary Union Avoid Las Vegas Strike
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After nearly 20 hours of negotiating, the Culinary Union Local 226 announced a tentative agreement Thursday (November 9) on a new five-year contract with MGM Resorts International. 

The deal covers approximately 25,400 workers at eight Las Vegas properties. The Culinary Union and MGM reached agreement on the contract prior to the strike deadline of 5 a.m. Friday. MGM is the largest employer in Nevada. 

On Wednesday, the Culinary Union also announced it had reached a tentative agreement with Caesars Entertainment, averting a strike affecting 10,000 union members. The union represents 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno.

“We know from listening to our employees that they are looking for a pay increase, the combat inflation, as well as reduced workloads among other concerns,” MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle said during a third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday.

Hornbuckle said the deal will “result in the largest pay increase in the history of our negotiations with the Culinary Union.”

Jonathan Halkyard, CFO and treasurer with MGM, said they’ve been accruing for an increase since June 1, and will look to technology and process improvements to help offset the incremental labor costs.

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NCAA Eases For Athletes Caught Gambling On Other Schools
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has adjusted punishment guidelines for athletes who bet on other college sports at their own schools.

According to the previous guidelines, gambling on other NCAA sports would have resulted in permanent loss of eligibility, but now will result in a one-year suspension and lost year of eligibility.

Student-athletes will also be required to participate in sports wagering rules and prevention education as a condition of reinstatement. Previous guidelines, as approved in June, prescribed permanent ineligibility for those cases.

The adjusted guidelines may be applied to cases in which student-athletes are currently serving suspensions related to wagering on a different team at their own school, which were reported on or after May 2, 2023. 

"To be clear, Division I members do not encourage student-athletes to engage in sports wagering at any level, and the actions today to modify reinstatement conditions should not be interpreted as support for wagering behaviors," said Jon Steinbrecher, chair of the Council Coordination Committee and commissioner of the Mid-American Conference.

Under current NCAA rules, it remains impermissible for student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators to engage in sports wagering in any sport sponsored by the NCAA, including collegiate and professional sports. 

 

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Advertising Restrictions Added To Brazil Sports-Betting Bill
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The sports committee in Brazil’s Senate voted to approve a closely-watched sports-betting bill on Wednesday (November 8), after senators added two extra amendments to the latest version of the bill as recommended by committee chairman Romário.

One of the two additional amendments will prohibit all sponsorship of sports teams or athletes by sports-betting operators, while also banning any sports-betting advertising via broadcast networks and social media between the hours of 6am and 11pm.

The second adopted amendment would enable Brazil’s national lottery operator, Caixa Econômica Federal, and its licensed retailers to offer fixed-odds betting without requiring a licence.

Romário, the former football star turned federal senator, also amended his proposal to allow licensed sports-betting operators to now offer up to three skins under a licence.

As previously reported by Vixio GamblingCompliance, Romário’s version of the bill PL 3626/2023 differs significantly from that approved by Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies in September by no longer allowing licensed operators to offer online casino games alongside sports wagering. 

The bill is due to receive further consideration by a separate Senate committee on economic affairs in the coming days, before being put up for a vote by all senators on the Senate floor and then returned to the lower house of Congress for final approval likely before the end of the year.

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DraftKings Talked With 888 About Takeover, Newspaper Says
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Massachusetts-based DraftKings held preliminary acquisition talks with UK-listed 888 Holdings in June and July, according to the Financial Times.

DraftKings chief executive Jason Robins met with shareholders FS Gaming about an all-stock offer for 888, the owner of William Hill brand in Europe, the British newspaper said.

FS Gaming is led by former GVC chief executive Kenny Alexander, then a top-5 888 shareholder, and ex-GVC chair Lee Feldman, the FT said.

Plans included an opportunity for Alexander to take over 888 as CEO, according to the newspaper.

DraftKings ended the talks after 888 chair Jonathan Mendelsohn revealed in July that the UK Gambling Commission had placed 888’s licence under review after concerns about a tax bribery investigation into GVC’s business in Turkey during Alexander’s period as CEO.

Since then, Per Widerström has been named 888's chief executive.

DraftKings told the FT that “we speak to a variety of companies regarding various matters in the normal course of business, and it is our general policy not to comment on the specifics of any of those discussions”.

888 and FS Gaming did not comment, the newspaper said.

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West Flagler Files Motion To Suspend Florida Sports Betting
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West Flagler Associates has filed a motion for the Florida Supreme Court to suspend online sports betting in the state in which the court issues a final ruling on its lawsuit challenging provisions of a 2021 tribal gaming compact between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

The motion was filed less than 24 hours after the tribe relaunched its Hard Rock-branded mobile sportsbook in Florida, and one week after the Seminole Tribe also announced the planned opening of retail sports betting at its tribal casinos starting next month.

Raquel Rodriguez, an attorney representing West Flagler and Bonita-Fort Myers Corp., filed the motion late Tuesday (November 7) claiming “this exigency has been created by the launch of the Seminole Tribe’s mobile betting application … without prior warning.”

“Taking advantage of the distraction created by their carefully crafted announcement on November 1, the tribe has sought to surprise the petitioners and this court by presenting a ‘fait accompli’ on November 7,” Rodriguez wrote. 

The only solution, Rodriguez argued, is for the court to immediately suspend online sports betting until the court has the opportunity to rule on West Flagler’s lawsuit. 

Attorneys representing Republican Governor Ron DeSantis have until December 1 to file a response to West Flagler’s lawsuit.

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Caesars, Culinary Union Reach New Contract
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The Culinary Union Local 226 reached a tentative agreement Wednesday (November 8) on a new five-year contract with Caesars Entertainment covering some 10,000 hospitality workers at nine Las Vegas properties. 

The new deal was reached two days before a strike deadline was set to expire. The terms of the new deal were not disclosed, but follow seven months of negotiations.

In a statement, Caesars called the contract a “landmark agreement” that will see “meaningful wage increases that align with our past performance.” 

The contracts were scheduled to expire on June 1, but were extended until September. Recently, the union began to urge the companies to agree to a new contract while preparing to go on strike at 5am on Friday (November 10).

The Culinary Union was also negotiating with MGM Resorts International on Wednesday and Wynn Resorts on Thursday to avert a strike at resorts operated by the companies. 

Some 25,000 union workers at MGM and Wynn are set to walk off the job if a new deal cannot be reached.

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Virginia Defeat Not Material To Churchill Downs
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A day after Virginia voters rejected two gaming projects backed by Churchill Downs, a leading gaming analyst advised that investors were not ascribing much value to these referendums given the history of the Richmond electorate and the general materiality of the initiatives.

Voters in the cities of Richmond and Manassas Park on Tuesday (November 7) rejected two local referendums to expand Virginia’s gaming market through a new casino resort and major historic horseracing facility.

“We think the recently reinstituted ban on grey games in Virginia and completed Exacta transaction should bolster Churchill Downs’ already strong position in the state,” Barry Jonas, an analyst with Truist Securities, wrote in a report referencing a state Supreme Court move to eliminate unregulated gaming machines as well as Churchill Downs’ separate move to acquire the primary system provider in the U.S. historical horseracing market.

Overall, Jonas said that the referendum results were “not thesis changing, while we also see the re-election of Governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky as a positive for the company.” Beshear won a second term on Tuesday by defeating Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican. 

Churchill Downs, which partnered with Urban One on a planned casino resort in Richmond, conceded defeat Tuesday after spending $10m on the campaign. Brendan Bussmann, managing partner with B Global in Las Vegas, said he believed the referendum “outcome was more indicative of local politics, not widespread anti-gaming sentiment.”

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Sega Sammy Set To Acquire GAN
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Japan’s Sega Sammy Holdings has agreed on a deal to acquire online gambling technology provider GAN Limited, according to an announcement made early Wednesday morning Tokyo time.

The acquisition will be made via the Sega Sammy Creation subsidiary and values GAN at $1.97 per share, or approximately $107m.

The transaction is supported by GAN’s board of directors, but still requires shareholder and regulatory approvals, the companies said.

GAN, originally GameAccount Network, provides a platform and other services to various online casino and sportsbook operators in the U.S. and also operates online gambling directly in international markets via the Coolbet brand.

In a statement on the transaction, Sega Sammy said it had been evaluating investment opportunities in the international online gambling market for some time, with a particular focus on the U.S. where online casino games are still legal in just six states.

“If we can enter the U.S. iGaming market before broad legalization, it could provide a promising opportunity to grow our presence in the U.S. iGaming market,” the company said.

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Argentina’s Cordoba Province will Launch Online Betting On November 21
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After nearly a year of delays, Cordoba’s online betting market will go live on November 21. 

The four licensed operators able to launch their operations on that day are Casino de Victoria in partnership with Betsson, PlayCET in partnership with Daruma Sam, Bplay in association with SG Digital, and Slot Machine’s brand Jugadon. 

Although eight companies were approved for licences, only four went through with the process due to rising costs and delays that pushed the launch back until after the 2023 football World Cup. 

The licences are viable for 15 years and cost each operator ARS$200m, which is $570,000 at the official exchange rate. If companies exchange money at the local “blue rate”, which buys and sells dollars for twice the price, the licence costs around $229,000.

For the first 45 days, companies will be limited to demos of their products, with players keeping a balance of zero, in the name of safety. That restriction will be lifted on January 5, 2024. 

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'Urgent' Calls For NHS Gambling Services In Wales
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Academics from Swansea University have “urgently” called for NHS gambling harms services to be established in Wales.

“The ongoing absence of treatment services is unacceptable,” a press release from the University's School of Psychology and members of the Gambling Research, Education and Treatment (GREAT) Network Wales stated on Friday (November 3).

There has been an increase year-on-year of referrals to NHS gambling harms service clinics in England, which in 2022 stood at 1,400, according to the press release. 

There will soon be 15 clinics in England, but none are set to open in Wales and Scotland.

Swansea University professor Simon Dymond, who is also the director of GREAT Network Wales, said he “hopes that the proposed introduction of a statutory levy will provide a potential means of funding this essential service, but we shouldn't wait for that to happen. We need NHS investment in gambling harms services for Wales, now."

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UNLV Names Executive Director For Gaming Regulation
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Megan Basson has been named executive director for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' (UNLV) International Center for Gaming Regulation (ICGR). Basson brings almost two decades of gaming-related experience to the position, having served more than 14 years as the head of the licensing department for the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board in South Africa.

Basson previously worked as a legal advisor and mediator at a legal advisory company and served as a deputy director and chief financial analyst for the Western Cape Provincial Treasury.

The ICGR is a partnership between UNLV’s International Gaming Institute and the William S. Boyd School of Law. The center was launched in 2016 to serve as a resource for global gaming regulations, providing educational programs, research, and consultancy. 

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Chile Appoints New Members To Licensing Governing Body
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The Resolution Council of the Superintendency of Gaming Casinos (SCJ), which is the regulatory body governing brick and mortar gaming in the country, has announced two new members. 

President Gustavo Petro has nominated Susana García Echazú and Gustavo Rivera Urrutia to replace the outgoing Luis Eduardo Bresciani and Raphael Bergoeing. 

García Echazú is the corporate personnel manager at Enjoy S.A., one of the country's largest casino operators. 

Rivera Urrutia was deputy superintendent of banks and financial institutions.

The outgoing Bergoeing is an academic and economist, while Bresciani is an architect who is the director of the school of architecture at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica.

The Resoultion Council has complete power over licensing, including revoking them.

The appointees will assume their roles during a time of turmoil, as the SCJ pushes for an online gambling bill that is most favourable to land-based casinos. 

The selection of Enjoy’s García Echazú indicates that there will be no change of position for the agency, which has staunchly opposed the passage of regulation with everything from statements to lawsuits.  

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Ohio softens its proposed promotional bonus limits, MGM secures Culinary Union contract and betting rules for U.S. college athletes refined.

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