News In Brief: September 11-September 15, 2023

September 15, 2023
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The UK Gambling Commission to set up an industry forum and Sweden's regulator will get more money to combat match-fixing and illegal operators.
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UK Regulator To Appoint Industry Advisors
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The UK Gambling Commission has announced the creation of an “Industry Forum” to gather the views of gambling operators.

The regulator said the panel of British gambling industry representatives will allow it to gain “further insight into the view of operators”.

Marcus Boyle, commission chair, said: “We’ve always listened to the views of the industry when deciding how best to make progress but this new forum will give us another way to work with representatives from the industry we regulate.”

The Gambling Commission already hosts panels on lived experience, safer gambling and its Digital Advisory Panel.

“The Forum will share industry views on areas a such as account management, consultations and the Commission’s data programme,” the regulator said.

Recruitment for members and a chair to hold a three-year term will begin in September, the commission said.

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Swedish Government Proposes Increased Funding For SGA
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Sweden’s government, in agreement with the Sweden Democrats party, has proposed to increase the amount of funding for the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) to tackle match-fixing and illegal gambling.

A press release from the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Social Affairs on September 14 said the proposed funding for the SGA in the 2024 budget will increase to SEK10.8m (€908,000), rising to SEK16.6m (€1.4m) for 2025 and SEK18.6m (€1.6m) in 2026.

Sports minister Jakob Forssmed said: “Fixed sports competitions and other forms of match-fixing are against the fundamental values of sport and are a serious threat to the future of sport. Reinforcement of the Spelinspektionen's work contributes to protecting Swedish sports from being undermined by organised crime.”

SGA director general Camilla Rosenberg, in a separate press release by the regulator, said: "Countering the illegal game and match-fixing is of the highest priority for a safe and secure gaming market for the consumer. With even greater collaboration with the Financial Supervisory Authority, we can become sharper in supervision. I see the proposal for increased resources as very positive.”

The government also wants to increase the Financial Supervisory Authority's funding by SEK4.5m starting in 2024 to strengthen its work and cooperation with the SGA “in order to block payment mediation to and from illegal gambling operations”.

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Five Sports-Betting Operators Submit Vermont Bids
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BetMGM, Betfair Interactive U.S, DraftKings, Fanatics Betting and Gaming, and Penn Entertainment have submitted bids to offer sports betting in Vermont three months after Republican Governor Phil Scott signed a bill into law to permit up to six operators to offer mobile wagering across the state.

Caesars Entertainment, which submitted comments on sports-betting regulations, was not on the list of companies submitting bids to the Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery (DLL).

The bids were due by September 6. The bids themselves are not yet available, although a minimum 20 percent revenue share with the state is required.

The DLL can license up to six mobile betting operators, along with providing a sliding scale for licensing fees.

If the bidding process fails to result in at least two acceptable operators, DLL may opt to either decline to authorize any operators or to allow a single operator to open a sportsbook.

The DLL can enter a minimum three-year contract with an operator at a cost of $550,000 for a license, but an operator can agree to a five-year contract at a cost of $110,000 annually for each of the five years.

Following the selection of operators, sports betting is expected to launch in the state in either late 2023 or early 2024.

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Ransomware Group Takes Credit For MGM Cyberattack
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VX-Underground, a malware research group, has posted that ransomware-as-a-service group ALPHV, also known as BlackCat, has claimed responsibility for the cyberattack on MGM Resorts International.

The group claimed they used social engineering to identify on LinkedIn an MGM employee who worked in IT support, and then they called the help desk. The post on X, formerly Twitter, claimed the attack took about ten minutes to execute on Sunday (September 10), causing MGM to shut down some systems to prevent the incident from getting worse.

Neither MGM nor the FBI has described the incident as a cyberattack. As of late Wednesday (September 13), the MGM website was still unavailable with the company apologizing for the inconvenience.

Although ALPHV’s responsibility for the attack has not been verified, cybersecurity experts told Forbes magazine on Wednesday that VX-Underground was a reliable source.

It is also still not clear what ALPHV has acquired from hacking into MGM’s computer systems or if the publicly traded company has paid a ransom. The company on filed an 8-K report with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday only disclosing the “cybersecurity issue” occurred.

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Michigan Shuts Down Golden Hearts Games
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Golden Hearts Games, which described itself on its website as a free-to-play social casino where players can win cash prizes, has agreed to stop offering its games and shut down immediately in Michigan, according to a statement from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

The Massachusetts-based company agreed to the Assurance of Discontinuance order after being informed they were violating state law by offering their online gambling games to Michigan consumers with the requisite gaming license.

State gaming regulators began investigating Golden Hearts in August 2021 and found the company’s activity constituted illegal gaming, as it did not hold a license to offer gaming in Michigan.

In 2022, the attorney general issued a cease-and-desist letter to Golden Hearts advising that it was illegally operating. Despite the letter, Golden Hearts continued to offer its product in the state.

The attorney general’s office followed up with a notice of its intent to file a lawsuit in state court, which led to Golden Hearts decision to agree to stop offering its games.

Steve Kane, CEO of Golden Hearts, said the company has admitted to no wrongdoing or legal or regulatory violations of any kind.

“And the company and its counsel believe it has never violated any Michigan (or any other) laws or regulations,’ Kane said in an email Wednesday (September 13).

"But the Michigan attorney general’s office threatened civil litigation (under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act), so to avoid protracted, expensive litigation, Golden Hearts Games decided to voluntarily withdraw from MI for the time being.”

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Dutch Regulator Instructs Two Licensees
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The Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) has issued mandatory instructions to two licensees, BetEnt and Play North Ltd, for shortcomings in anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing policies.

Last year, the KSA served notice to the two companies because they did not adequately check the playing behaviour of customers or the source of funds for those with big losses.

The regulator said it made the sanction decisions public to inform the public about its activities and to inform licensees about legitimate behaviour. 

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Virginia Lottery Issues $63,000 In Sports-Betting Penalties
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The Virginia Lottery has issued more than $63,000 in fines against FanDuel and Hard Rock International for violations of timely notices to the IRS and for failure to ensure that prohibited customers were blocked from placing sports bets.

Both settlement agreements were signed by Tony Russell, executive director of the Virginia Lottery, on Thursday (September 7).

As a result of an audit conducted by compliance staff, the lottery found that FanDuel had failed in July 2022 to ensure that a customer on the lottery’s exclusion list was prohibited from placing wagers on FanDuel’s app and from receiving marketing materials.

According to the settlement, FanDuel agreed to pay the Virginia Lottery $15,000 and pay an additional $15,000 to the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling.

In a separate settlement agreement, Hard Rock International agreed to pay the Virginia Lottery $33,451.87 for failing to file an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) form in a timely manner and for accepting wagers on unapproved events since its launch in the state.

Hard Rock told regulators that it has taken corrective action to comply with state sports-betting regulations.

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888 Names Superbet CFO To Its Top Financial Job
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888 Holdings, parent of William Hill and Mr Green brands, has named Sean Wilkins as its new chief financial officer.

Wilkins is currently CFO of Romania-based Superbet, and was formerly CFO for Domino’s Pizza, Tesco Malaysia and Big Bus Tours.

The announcement today (September 13) comes as he will replace Yariv Davna, who steps down on October 2.

Vaughan Lewis, the company’s chief strategy officer, will be interim CFO until Wilkins joins the company, on February 1.

Wilkins prepares to join the company as Per Widerström expects to assume the role of chief executive on October 16. 

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MGM Resorts Computer System Down After Apparent Cyberattack
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MGM Resorts International reported on Monday (September 11) that a cybersecurity issue has taken down many of its computer systems, including its website.

“MGM Resorts recently identified a cybersecurity issue affecting some of the company’s systems,” a company spokesman said in a statement.

In a message on its website (mgmresorts.com), MGM posted phone numbers for its 11 Las Vegas Strip and seven regional properties and asked customers to contact the concierge of each property with any questions.

“Promptly after detecting the issue, we quickly began an investigation with assistance from leading external cybersecurity experts. We also notified law enforcement and took prompt action to protect our systems and data, including shutting down certain systems.”

The outage, which began Sunday night, is companywide. MGM operates properties in eight states and Macau.

“Our investigation is ongoing, and we are working diligently to determine the nature and scope of the matter,” MGM said in a statement.

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DraftKings Apologizes For Offer Referencing September 11 Terror Attacks
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DraftKings apologized Monday (September 11) after using the September 11, 2021, terror attacks in an offer to get people to wager on baseball and football games on the anniversary of the incident that killed nearly 3,000 people and launched the global war on terror.

“We sincerely apologize for the featured parlay that was shared briefly in our commemoration of 9/11,” DraftKings said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“We respect the significance of this day for our country and especially for the families of those who were directly affected.”

The company offered customers a 9/11-themed parlay promotion Sunday night titled “Never Forget that required three New York-based teams, the Yankees, Mets and Jets to win their games Monday". After a backlash on social media, DraftKings took it down and apologized.

The United States on Monday marked the 22nd anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the downing of United Flight 93 in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

“This was reprehensible. We expect all licensees to exercise sensitivity,” the New York State Gaming Commission said in a statement.

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Bolivia Cracks Open Match-Fixing With Audio Recording Of Bribe
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Bolivia is embroiled in its own match-fixing scandal, the latest in the region, and has cancelled its two current professional football tournaments, in addition to suspending the entirety of the referees association as the drama unfolds. 

Brazil is in the middle of a match-fixing scandal, while Chile has been inspired to kick off an investigation in its leagues. However, both of those cases are, unlike Bolivia, investigating instances of purposeful penalties. 

The Bolivian Football Federation (FBF), by contrast, got its hands on a recording of football club Vaca Diez president Marcos Rodríguez blatantly arranging with a referee to predetermine the result of an entire match for cash.  

In the recording he can be heard asking the referee for help ensuring that at least three goals are scored by one side in the first half. 

The FBF has filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s offices for aggravated fraud and criminal association against those involved. 

A new tournament is expected to kick off in the coming days and last until December to replace those that have been cancelled, amid loud complaints from league players. 

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The UK Gambling Commission to set up an industry forum and Sweden's regulator will get more money to combat match-fixing and illegal operators.

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