News In Brief: September 25-September 29, 2023

September 29, 2023
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MGM Resorts can finally proceed with construction of its Osaka integrated resort (IR) after completing formalities with Osaka’s two governments.
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MGM Signs Osaka IR Implementation Agreement
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MGM Resorts International and its Japanese partners have signed an implementation agreement with Osaka’s municipal and prefectural governments to develop the consortium’s integrated resort.

The MGM consortium’s agreement signals the execution phase of the project, including construction of the ¥1.27trn ($8.5bn) facility on the reclaimed island of Yumeshima, and follows the central government’s signing off on the project last week. 

MGM Resorts president and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said: “This is a significant moment for our company as we officially close the certification process and begin to focus on executing our vision, in partnership with [Japanese financial services giant] ORIX, to build a world-class integrated resort in Osaka.”

Attending the signing ceremony were Hornbuckle, Japan-based MGM executive Ed Bowers, ORIX executive officer Toyonori Takahashi, Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura and Mayor Hideyuki Yokoyama. 

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Uganda Operators Must Integrate Into Monitoring System By End Of 2023
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Uganda’s National Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board has warned operators that they need to be integrated into the National Centralised Electronic Monitoring System (NCEMS) by the end of the year, or they won’t have their licences renewed in 2024.

Speaking at an industry engagement event in Kampala on Tuesday (September 26), the CEO of Uganda’s gambling regulator, Denis Mudene Ngabirano, told operators that integrating into NCEMS is aimed at improving tax collection and monitoring. 

Ngabirano also informed operators that legal amendments are in the process of being filed that will address some of their concerns, such as amending the withholding tax to only apply to player winnings as opposed to stakes. 

Ngabirano also said one amendment will address the demand from operators to extend the current licenses from one year to five years “so that operators only file for their taxes and compliance requirements per year.”

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Brazil’s Match-Fixing Inquiry Concludes Without A Vote
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Brazil’s noisy congressional investigation (CPI) into match-fixing has ended without fanfare and without teeth and, it would seem, without real consequences. 

The investigation was rolled out with much fanfare in May to address explosive schemes uncovered by Goiás state police in February. At the time, congress vowed to hold the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) responsible for match-fixing occurring under their noses.

The preliminary report of the CPI was published on September 19, but was not voted on this week after time ran out. 

The leaders of an alleged betting mafia implicated in the match-fixing in Serie B in Goiás never testified, nor did the president of the CBF, Ednaldo Rodrigues. Both had been touted as names that would be called and held to account. 

The CPI was also expected to shape passage of the sports-betting bill. However, the duration of the probe and Chamber of Deputies president Arthur Lira’s eagerness to expedite the legislative process meant the bill rendered the CPI all but irrelevant.

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California Proposes New Cardroom Regulations
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The Bureau of Gambling Control (BGC) has proposed two new regulations governing non-poker games offered at cardrooms throughout California.

One proposal would ban blackjack, while another proposal would lengthen the time a player can deal at a table with at least two players to every 40 minutes, or the game must end.

Should the ban on blackjack be adopted, cardrooms would have one year to comply. According to the five-page proposed regulation, variations of blackjack games would be permitted as long as the rules “prescribe a target point count that is not 21 or any point value greater than 20 and less 22.”

“Game names shall not include the number 21 or the word blackjack,” according to the proposed regulation.

Additional changes to the way card games are dealt include “no more than one third-party provider of proposition player services shall be permitted to offer services at a table where a game that features a rotating player-deal position is being offered for play.”

BGC director Yolanda Morrow reminded stakeholders in a letter that the bureau has not yet initiated the formal rulemaking process for either regulation. A public comment period concludes on October 26.

The BGC is a division of the California Department of Justice.

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Virginia Casino Referendum Campaign Tops $8m
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The Urban One media group of Maryland and Churchill Downs of Kentucky have each committed more than $4m to a committee called Richmond Wins, to support a referendum campaign to build a resort casino in Virginia’s state capital.

Urban One and Churchill Downs contributed $4.024m each, according to campaign finance reports filed on September 15 with the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Voters will decide the fate of the project on November 7. If approved, the referendum would allow Urban One to build a $562m casino and entertainment complex in Richmond.

Richmond voters in 2021 narrowly rejected a similar proposal with 50.95 percent of voters opposed to the project.

Opponents of the casino referendum formed their own committee called No Means No Casino, raising $142,400 between July 28 and August 31 this year, according to campaign finance reports.

Residents in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk have successfully passed casino referendums.

There are three operating casinos in Virginia – Hard Rock Bristol, Rivers Casino Portsmouth and Caesars Virginia. The Virginia Lottery reported total revenues of $55.1m for August, with $9.9m in taxes paid to the Gaming Proceeds Fund.

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Norway To Examine Banks For Unlicensed Gambling Transactions
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The Norwegian Gambling Authority (NGA) said it will inspect nine Norwegian banks to determine if they are complying with laws that bar processing transactions with unlicensed online gambling operators.

The regulator said it has the authority to order banks to reject payments to and from specific companies and accounts.

The banks are being asked to explain measures they have taken to stop transactions related to identified companies and accounts, as well as explain internal policies for complying with the ban.

The banks have three weeks to comply with the regulatory request, according to NGA adviser Rannveig Gram Skår.

Norway, which has two gambling monopolies, has been pressuring foreign online gambling companies to leave the market.

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Australia Slaps 'R' Rating On Simulated Gambling
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The Australian government will amend computer game classification to prohibit minors from playing games with simulated gambling, while loot boxes will attract an advisory rating.

The government on Saturday (September 23) said in a statement that attorneys-general representing federal, state and territory governments were unanimous in updating the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games at a meeting on Friday.

Computer games containing social casino and other simulated gambling content will receive a mandatory “R” rating, which limits their use to people 18 and older.

Loot boxes and other chance-based, in-game purchases will require a minimum “M” rating, an advisory rating for material not recommended for those under 15 years of age.

The “minimum” caveat indicates that classification officers could also impose the restrictive “MA” rating for users 15 years or over, or an “R” rating, for loot box content.

The changes will apply from September 2024 to “give industry time to adjust to the changes”, the statement said.

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Flutter To Buy Serbia’s MaxBet To Expand In Regulated Market
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Flutter Entertainment said it is acquiring a 51 percent stake in MaxBet, Serbia’s second-largest gambling company, for €141m ($149m) in cash, to expand in a regulated market.

Flutter has an option to buy the rest of the company in 2029, it said in an announcement on Wednesday (September 27).

MaxBet has over 400 retail outlets and a 20 percent share of the online gambling market in Serbia, along with 2,400 employees, Flutter said.

In the year to June, MaxBet generated pro forma revenue of €145m, 44 percent of which was generated online, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) of €32m, the company said.

Flutter’s brands include Paddy Power, Betfair, Sky Betting & Gaming, and FanDuel.

Flutter is listed on the London Stock Exchange but shareholders have approved a second listing in the USA.

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of next year. 

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MGM Resorts can finally proceed with construction of its Osaka integrated resort (IR) after completing formalities with Osaka’s two governments.

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