News In Brief: October 4-October 8, 2021

October 8, 2021
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The Malta Gaming Authority has updated its rules and regulations surrounding match-fixing and suspicious betting events.

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Malta Bolsters Anti-Match Fixing Protocols

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The Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) has updated its regulations surrounding sports integrity.

New rules require both operators and suppliers involved in the “critical supply” to allow for betting on a sporting event, as well as the operator actually taking the bets, to notify the regulator of any suspicious activity.

The MGA said it has also improved its systems for notifying licence-holders of tips it has received about potentially compromised sporting events.

The changes came into effect from October 1.

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Chilean Casino Giants Set For Merger

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Chile's two largest casino companies are close to agreeing a deal to merge their operations.

Enjoy and Sun Dreams initially disclosed in February that they were in talks over a potential merger to create one of the largest operators of casino-resorts in the Latin American region.

On Monday, Enjoy told the Santiago Stock Exchange that the two companies had now reached a "preliminary understanding" on the terms of a deal that would see Enjoy shareholders own 36.1 percent of the combined entity, with its rival formerly co-owned by South Africa's Sun International controlling the remainder.

The agreement will now be subject to further due diligence over the next six to eight weeks, and any deal must receive various shareholder and regulatory approvals before closing, Enjoy said.

Enjoy operates nine land-based casinos in Chile, while Dreams operates seven, including the market-leading Monticello Grand resort near Santiago. Combined, Enjoy and Dreams would own 60 percent of the Chilean casino market by number of properties and 75 percent by annual revenue. The two companies also own several casinos in Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.

The potential deal comes as Chile's Gaming Control Board is re-tendering the licences for casinos that were awarded under a 2005 law. Rival operators have alleged that the process would benefit Enjoy and threatened legal action on grounds that their current concessions should be extended for a second 15-year term.

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Three Maryland Casinos Get Preliminary Approval For Sports Betting

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Three casinos have met the qualification requirements for retail sports-betting licenses, the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Commission announced on Wednesday.

The applications from Caesars Entertainment's Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Cordish Companies' Live! Casino & Hotel in Hanover and MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill will now go for final approval by the Maryland Sports Wagering Application Review Commission (SWARC), which is responsible for awarding the licenses.

The three casinos are among the 17 entities that were designated in the state's sports wagering law to conduct retail sports wagering operations, pending review of their qualifications.

Voters in Maryland approved a sports-betting referendum in November 2020, and earlier this year Republican Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill authorizing retail and online sports betting.

“We’re pleased to have these three applicants approved and move them along to the SWARC,” said John Martin, director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming.

“Our team is diligently implementing the sports wagering law, and we're one step closer to the first in-person wagers, which we hope will take place by late fall.”

The commission determined that Horseshoe, Live! and MGM are qualified because they each have state gaming licenses. The SWARC is scheduled to meet on October 14 to formally approve the licenses.

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Westpac Bank Expands Card Block For Gambling

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One of Australia’s largest banks has expanded its digital gambling block service for credit cards and debit cards to three banking subsidiaries, affecting more than 2m customers.

Westpac Group said on October 1 in a statement that an optional block on Merchant Category Code 7995 for casinos, sports-betting agencies, gambling websites and certain other services is now available at subsidiary banks St.George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne.

However, the block will apply automatically for cardholders under the age of 18, it said.

Gambling blocks can be removed within two business days of a customer request, it added.

The expansion of credit card blocking at Westpac is part of a wider trend in Australia that started with Macquarie Bank in 2019.

An Australian federal parliament committee is currently exploring regulation or prohibition of credit cards and digital wallets as payment methods for online gambling.

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Dutch Trade Groups Still Driving At Ad Code

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Despite being unable to agree an advertising code before the launch of the Dutch licensed online gambling market on October 1, two of the country’s trade groups say they are committed to pushing forward with an agreement.

Licensed Dutch Online Gaming Providers (VNLOK) and VAN Kansspelen, which largely represent incumbent operators such as state-owned Holland Casino, say they will continue to consult with their members to develop an market code that goes beyond what is required by legislation.

“It is a pity that we have not been able to come up with a definitive advertising code for the opening of the online gambling market on 1 October,” said Helma Lodders, chairman of VNLOK.

"We remain committed to arriving at a definitive advertising code. We have seen it in countries around us. If you don't make proportional agreements, you risk an abundance of untargeted advertising and that provokes irritation and resistance among consumers," he said.

Trade group NOGA, which represents private online gambling companies, most of whom are still awaiting licensing approval, does not appear to be included in the discussions.

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U.S. Online Giants File Amended California Ballot Measure

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A coalition of the largest U.S. sports-betting operators has filed an amended version of their ballot proposal to authorize online sports wagering in California through a November 2022 referendum.

Among a series of mostly minor changes to the ballot initiative that was initially filed with California's attorney general on August 31 include new provisions specifying that platform providers running online betting sites on behalf of tribal casinos should pay a $10m upfront licensing fee, rather than the tribe that owns the casino brand.

Larger online operators already active in at least ten U.S. markets can also partner with a California Indian tribe and pay a $100m upfront fee to deploy an online sportsbook using their own brands.

The proposed ballot measure will now receive a fiscal analysis report from state officials before the end of October, then an official summary and title from the attorney general around November 4. At that stage, proponents can begin collecting the roughly 998,000 voter signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

The online measure is written to dovetail with a retail-only initiative backed by major California Indian tribes that is already qualified for a referendum next November. A third and competing measure has also been proposed by a coalition of California cities backed by cardroom interests.

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Scientific Games, IGT Expand Cashless Gaming Options

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Two of the gaming industry’s largest suppliers have expanded their presence in the cashless wagering space through two deal announcements made during the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, Scientific Games announced the acquisition of Automated Cashless Systems’ cashless solution for table games known as PlayOn.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The PlayOn product allows gamblers to swipe their debit cards and enter their PIN to access cash and chips at live table games.

When the deal closes, the ACS PlayOn product will be called AToM, or Access To On Demand Money.

According to Scientific Games, the AToM product is currently live on 600 table games in California, Nevada, and New Mexico.

Separately, International Game Technology (IGT) announced a new partnership with Sightline Payments to deliver cashless gaming via Sightline’s digital commerce platform Play+ and IGT’s IGTPay Resort Wallet and PlaySports sports-betting platform.

The Sightline payments system has been added as a funding method for IGT’s cashless systems, allowing players to fund their Resort Wallet accounts via Play+ and use those funds for gaming and entertainment at casinos.

“The demand for cashless gaming solutions is at an all-time high and increasing rapidly, so this partnership will help operators give their patrons the convenience they’re looking for in a safe, secure, and seamless manner,” said Ryan Reddy, IGT senior vice president for VLTs, systems and payments, in a statement.

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Portuguese Push For Gambling Ad Limits

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A series of bills were introduced in the Portuguese parliament last week that would ban gambling advertising during the daytime.

Four separate pieces of draft legislation were proposed that would apply the same limits to gambling ads as those placed on alcohol advertising.

That would prohibit ads from running on TV between 7am and 10:30pm.

All four bills were approved after a first-stage debate, but all four are the work of minor parties or independent members of the Portuguese Assembly.

They now sit with the Committee on Economy, Innovation, Works, Public and Housing for further analysis.

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BetMGM Partners Puyallup Tribe In Washington

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BetMGM has announced a deal to partner with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to operate branded retail sportsbooks at the tribe’s two Emerald Queen casinos in Washington State.

The agreement makes Washington the fourth state where the MGM-Entain joint venture is partnered with a tribe for sports betting.

A BetMGM sportsbook is already open in Oregon at the Spirit Mountain Casino owned by the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde.

BetMGM is set to open sportsbooks at the three tribal casinos owned by the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, as part of a broader partnership that also includes the Arizona Cardinals.

The company also has a partnership with the United Auburn Indian Community in California, although that will not become active until California voters approve sports wagering.

A March 2020 law authorized Washington tribes to offer on-reservation sports betting.

Flutter’s FanDuel announced a partnership last month with the Suquamish Tribe, while DraftKings, Caesars, Betfred and Rush Street Interactive have also applied for licenses from the Washington State Gambling Commission.

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Scientific Games Scores Pennsylvania Lottery Contracts

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Scientific Games has retained a key partnership with the Pennsylvania Lottery after announcing a new, ten-year contract to provide lottery gaming systems services.

In addition, Scientific Games said it would provide the Pennsylvania Lottery with instant games and related services under a separate deal set for a ten-year initial term.

Pennsylvania is the largest state lottery to which Scientific Games provides a central system and the company has faced competition for the contract from chief rival IGT through a procurement process that began several years ago.

The agreement comes after Scientific Games earlier this year announced plans to divest its lottery business, either through a sale or potentially a spin-off public listing that would see the company retain a minority interest.

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AGEM Appoints New Executive Director

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The Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) has named Daron Dorsey as its new executive director.

Dorsey, an attorney, will succeed Marcus Prater in the role effective March 1, 2022. Prater has led the association representing major suppliers of gaming machines and other technologies and services to the global gambling industry since 2008.

Dorsey is a former general counsel and group compliance officer for Ainsworth Game Technology and general counsel for William Hill US in Las Vegas. He has been an AGEM officer since 2016.

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Kenyan Capital Plans To Severely Limit Gambling

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Nairobi City Council deputy majority whip Waithera Chege wants to limit gambling activities in Kenya’s capital between 8pm and 5am.

Chege told local media she will propose the restrictions in an amendment to the council’s Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act, which was only implemented in May this year.

The deputy majority whip said the amendments are needed to protect young people from gambling harms.

Nairobi City is home to over 4.4m people.

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Vietnam Busts $66m Online Gaming Syndicate

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Vietnamese police on Sunday said they had cracked an online gambling syndicate in Hanoi with turnover of $66m and 6m customers.

Eighteen suspects have been detained over the 1.5trn dong ($66m) operation, which was led by 32-year-old Nguyen Minh Thanh, a university dropout, Tuoi Tre News reported on Monday.

Launched in early 2020, the app-driven operation targeting cellphones and desktops was employing 160 online dealers at the time it was raided and was generating revenue of almost $450,000 a month.

Police seized six apartments, 13 luxury cars, computer equipment, 20,000 SIM cards and cash amounting to $430,000 in Vietnamese dong or US dollars, as well as some $220,000 in corporate bonds, the report said.

The authorities also froze bank accounts worth $440,000, it said.

Online gambling remains illegal in Vietnam, although the government is attempting to establish a monopoly sportsbook tender that includes online products.

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California Sports-Betting Ballot Measure Receives Favorable Fiscal Report

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A cardroom-backed ballot initiative to permit online and retail sports wagering in California could generate “mid-hundreds of millions of dollars annually”, more than offsetting regulatory oversight costs, according to an official fiscal analysis published on Friday.

A ballot initiative titled the California Sports Wagering and Consumer Protection Act was first submitted to the state attorney general in mid-August by local officials representing three California cities that host cardroom venues.

The measure has since been amended to add provisions to authorize craps and roulette at tribal casinos, lower a sports-betting tax rate from 25 to 15 percent, and more clearly allocate tax revenue to funds addressing homelessness and mental health.

The amendments to the initiative appear to more closely align the ballot proposal with alternative measures filed by Indian tribes and major online sportsbook operators.

A tribal initiative to permit retail-only sports wagering, craps and roulette at tribal casinos plus sportsbooks at racetracks is already qualified for the November 8, 2022 ballot. Tribes vehemently oppose the cardroom-backed initiative, which would enable card clubs to apply for sports-betting licenses and legitimize controversial third-party card games at their venues.

A coalition led by DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM has proposed a third online-only ballot measure tethering licenses to tribes and raising tax revenue for homelessness and mental-health initiatives.

A public comment period on that measure ended last Thursday and proponents have just a few more days to submit any amendments. A fiscal analysis report should be published by October 20.

California’s attorney general is mandated to review all proposed ballot initiatives and provide an official summary before proponents can start the process to collect the almost 1m voter signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

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Massachusetts Senate In No Rush On Sports Betting

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Sports wagering is not a priority for the Massachusetts Senate this fall and senators may not have enough "bandwidth" to take up legislation this year, Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said last week.

A bill to permit retail and mobile betting was passed by the House in July but must also clear the Senate before reaching the desk of Republican Governor Charlie Baker, a proponent who has consistently implored the legislature to regulate sports wagering to ensure Massachusetts keeps up with neighboring states Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

Spilka noted legislation is currently being reviewed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee but told the State House News Service that senators will be focused on five other priority issues including the budget and redistricting.

It was a similar situation last year when the House passed sports betting as part of a broader economic development bill but the Senate declined to do the same and never revisited the issue on a standalone basis before adjourning.

Eight states passed legislation to authorize sports betting during the first half of 2021 but Massachusetts and Ohio are the only states still in play for the remaining months of the year.

Massachusetts lawmakers will be in session at least until mid-November, but any bills not passed will also carry over into 2022.

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The Malta Gaming Authority has updated its rules and regulations surrounding match-fixing and suspicious betting events.

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