News In Brief: October 30-November 3, 2023

November 3, 2023
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Dubai officials have reportedly delayed the approval of casinos and the Culinary Union has set a strike deadline for Las Vegas workers.
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Dubai Reportedly Puts Casino Plans On Hold
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MGM Resorts International has made its ambitions clear that it wants to operate a casino in the United Arab Emirates, but Dubai officials have reportedly delayed approval of casinos.

MGM, with its partner Wasl Hospitality and Leisure, opened a branded hotel in Dubai in 2021. CEO Bill Hornbuckle has confirmed the company was monitoring the situation and had 150,000 square feet at its Dubai property for a potential casino.

Bloomberg reported that Dubai may look instead to bring a poker series to the city. The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah have emerged as frontrunners to introduce casinos before Dubai. 

The United Arab Emirates set up a framework for legalised gambling and a lottery in September, naming ex-MGM boss Jim Murren as chairman and one-time Missouri Gaming Commission executive director Kevin Mullally as CEO.

Bloomberg reported that Abu Dhabi is considering Yas Island for a casino. In Ras Al Khaimah, north of Dubai, Wynn Resorts plans to build a $3.9bn integrated resort on the man-made Al Marjan Island that is due to open in 2026.

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Culinary Union Sets Strike Deadline For Las Vegas Workers
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One of the most influential unions in the U.S. has set a strike deadline of 5am on Friday (November 10) if a new five-year contract agreement is not reached.

Culinary Union Local 226 leaders said Thursday (November 2) that the date was six days before the city hosts the Formula One (F1) Las Vegas Grand Prix with an estimated 100,000 visitors in town. 

Contracts expired at MGM Resorts International, Caesars International and Wynn Resorts in September, leaving about 35,000 members working under expired contracts at 18 properties, excluding The Cosmopolitan.

“I don’t think companies should be surprised by this announcement,” Culinary Union secretary-treasurer Ted Pappageorge said. The last Culinary strike was in 1984, when 17,000 union members walked off the job for 75-days, costing Las Vegas resorts more than $100m. 

Caesars CEO Tom Reeg told analysts on Tuesday that these are “complex contracts that cover a long period and we’re going to do the work with the union to make sure that we do it right for all parties.” 

“You should expect that when we reach agreement on a contract it is going to be the largest increase that our employees have seen in the four decades since we started interacting with the Culinary Union,” Reeg said.

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Pennsylvania Legislative To Consider Ban On Skill Games
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Lawmakers in Pennsylvania will consider new legislation that would ban so-called skill games, also known as grey-market machines, even as another measure would legalize and regulate the terminals found in gas stations and bars.

“In addition to preying on users of the machines, skill games also steal money that should be going to Pennsylvania Lottery programs that support programs for our senior citizens,” said Representative Mark Rozzi, a Democrat.

“These games also divert casino patrons and negatively affect legal slot machine revenue,” Rozzi said.

Rozzi’s legislation, which is currently circulating for co-sponsors, is a companion bill to Democratic Senator Amanda Cappelletti’s Senate Bill 969.

Both pieces of legislation would, among other provisions, amend Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Crimes and Offenses) to incorporate the definition of a “slot machine” as outlined in the Gaming Act. 

In the 2017 amendments to the Gaming Act, the definition of a slot machine was expanded to include all forms of skill games. Under Section 5513 of Title 18, slot machines in the state are illegal unless they fit within certain narrow exceptions, including slot machines authorized by the Gaming Control Board for placement in regulated casino facilities.

Senate Bill 950, sponsored by Republican Senator Gene Yaw, would require skill games to be licensed, regulated and taxed at 16 percent. It designates the state's Department of Revenue to regulate skill games, not state gaming regulators.

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UK Ad Regulator Bans Boxing Ad
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The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has censured an advertisement by Betfred featuring celebrity boxer Anthony Joshua ahead of his fight against Jermaine Franklin in April.

The advertising regulator said the series of social media posts, including interviews with Joshua, presented a “moderate risk” of being of strong appeal to individuals aged under-18.

That put it in violation of the ASA’s advertising codes and Betfred was told not to use the marketing again and to avoid using persons or characters who had strong appeal to the underage in future.

Betfred had argued before the authority that Joshua was not of interest to children because he had not won a world title since 2021 and had not appeared on any reality TV shows.

The ASA countered that he was still a very high-profile athlete and had appeared on chat shows including Graham Norton Show in 2017 and Jonathan Ross in 2021. He also read a CBeebies Bedtime Story in 2022.

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Court Backs German Enforcement Against Maltese Operator
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Germany’s gambling regulator, the GGL, has celebrated support from a Saxony-Anhalt court for its enforcement action against Red Rhino casino.

The operator had appealed a €50,000 fine issued in September for breaching a so-called “prohibition order”. The regulator said at the time that the operator had closed its dot.de website, but that the dot.com version was still available to German players.

The state’s Higher Administrative Court said in an announcement on October 27 that it had rejected Malta-based Red Rhino’s appeal.

It also added judicial backing to the GGL’s efforts to restrict black market operations by targeted payment providers.

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London Government To Assess Gambling Harm
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London’s local government, known as the London Assembly, has launched an investigation into the health impacts of gambling on the UK capital.

The research will seek to understand the extent of gambling harm in London, how an individual’s health can be negatively affected by problem gambling and what support services are available in London.

The assembly’s job is, in part, to hold London Mayor Sadiq Khan to account and the project will also assess what his office is doing to reduce gambling harms in the city.

Interested parties have until November 29 to respond.

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United Nations Eyes Money Laundering From Mekong Casinos
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An office within the United Nations (UN) believes transnational criminal gangs have been using the shadow banking and digital gaming industries throughout Southeast Asia to covertly move and launder dirty money. 

The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) also identified the region’s casinos as helping to move hundreds, if not billions of dollars a year in profits from illegal gambling, drug trafficking, cyberscams and other organised crime.

UN officials noted that most of the activity has been taking place in the lower Mekong River countries, such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. 

The UNODC told the Voice of America (VOA) that the region’s gambling industry benefitted from China’s crackdown on illegal gambling and cross-border money transfers several years ago. 

Following the crackdown, many gambling operators looking for countries with a lighter regulatory touch found a home in the Mekong region.

Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC deputy representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told the VOA that casinos have long played a role in money laundering in the region, but “the surge of online gambling has accelerated this in ways that weren’t expected”.

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Malta's Top Regulator To Step Down
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Carl Brincat is to step down as the head of the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) in January 2024 when his contract expires.

The regulator announced on Friday (October 27) that Brincat would not seek a new term and said that it was beginning recruitment for a new chief executive.

“Leaving the MGA is a very hard decision to make," said Brincat.

"The past nine years have been a rollercoaster of experiences which contributed to the person I am today, and it has been a privilege to lead the Authority for the past three years. Looking back, I am proud of the work that we have done together, and of the highly motivated team that surrounds me."

The new head of the MGA will be appointed on January 26 next year, according to the authority.

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Virginia Starts Crackdown On Illegal Machines
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Virginia Beach law enforcement officials have issued a notice that they will enforce the state's electronic skill-game ban beginning in late November.

Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin D. Stolle made it clear in a statement that “playing or offering for play skill games is a criminal activity.”

In 2020, the General Assembly enacted laws declaring skill games to be illegal gambling devices. That law was put on hold for a year, while the machines were charged a monthly $150 fee to raise funds for Virginia during the coronavirus pandemic.

The laws were amended in 2022, to make the machines illegal once again but a state court judge issued a temporary order blocking the state from enforcing the ban. The Virginia Supreme Court overturned the temporary order on October 13.

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Virginia Beach will resume enforcement of the illegal gambling code sections related to skill games beginning in November 26.

Stolle was joined by City Attorney Mark D. Stiles and Chief of Police Paul W. Neudigate in announcing the resumed enforcement activity. 

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Dubai officials have reportedly delayed the approval of casinos and the Culinary Union has set a strike deadline for Las Vegas workers.

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