Another day, another US sports betting bill, but West Virginia’s proposed legislation has riled up the major sporting leagues.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) have slammed WV’s bills, which would legalise betting on sports in the state’s five casinos should the Supreme Court repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992.
Although there are two floating around parliament, with one in the House of Delegates and the other in the Senate, the NBA and MLB argue the lack of an integrity fee doesn’t do enough to protect sports.
The idea for an integrity fee first came about when the state of Indiana included it in its bill, addressing the likelihood sports betting legalisation. Local media revealed that the NBA and MLB pressured the state to add a one percent tax on all bets, which would flow into sporting leagues.
NBA General Council, Dan Spillane, confirmed the reports in a written testimony addressed at the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, held in New York to discuss the potential of legalising sports betting in the state. Spillane revealed that the NBA was not opposed to sanctioning sportsbooks on a state-by-state basis, on the condition specific provisions are included, like the integrity fee.
Both the NBA and the MLB have taken issue with the lack of integrity fee included in the two WV bills, arguing the legislation falls short of their goal to protect their respective leagues.
“Any sports betting legislation must include clear, robust, enforceable protections to mitigate any possible risks to our game,” the MLB said in a statement.
“We appreciate the legislature’s work on the subject of legalized sports betting; however, we do not believe the bill currently under consideration will achieve the critical goals of protecting consumers and the integrity of our league,” the NBA added in a statement of its own.
The two leagues are calling upon the state’s legislature to review the bills and make necessary amendments to meet their contractual expectations. They added that they would be happy to work with lawmakers and the appropriate regulatory bodies, including the West Virginia Lottery, to “improve the current language”.
In other words, add in the integrity fee.
The American Gaming Association (AGA), a pioneer in lobbying the general public to get on board with sports betting due to the hundreds of billions of dollars wagered illegally, disapproves of the fee.
AGA President and CEO, Geoff Freeman, said that it’s happy the NBA has come on board with legalising sports betting in America but eliminating the illegal market and protecting consumers “does not include transferring money from bettors to multi-billion dollar sports leagues.”
The AGA argues that it’s not viable since a Nevada sportsbook only makes 3.5 to 5 percent in revenue, and a one percent integrity fee on all money wagered by Americans would amount to 20-29 percent of total revenue.
It also believes that the taxed money would detract from the amount taxable by state governments, which “fund vital community services.”
Those in favour of legalising sports betting in WV argue it would deliver revenue to the state, suggesting those first to do so will benefit the most.
More than 20 states are reportedly preparing for the US Supreme Court to lift a federal ban on sports betting this year. The remaining states would join the likes of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana with these states amending laws before the enactment of PASPA.
Welcome back to our global gambling column, where you can learn about how sports, racing and gaming industries operate around the world. We include the latest legislative announcements, plus any important news which might impact the global gambling industry. Stay up to date, and come back each week.
This week, an Australian betting site ventured into the world of bitcoin betting, though it didn’t last long. We also touch on what’s been happening at the ICE Totally Gaming 2018 event and check out what’s making news around the rest of the world including Germany, the Philippines and Russia.
Australian betting site launches bitcoin betting
Australian licensed online betting site, Neds.com.au, recently launched a cryptocurrency betting platform, which was taken down within hours. The crypto betting platform, developed by the online bookmaker’s technology team, allowed registered punters to deposit, bet and withdraw with bitcoin. However, within a few hours the Northern Territory gambling regulator, which licenses all Australian betting sites, sent an email ordering all cryptocurrency operators to stop services. The instantaneous response leaves the future of bitcoin betting in Australia in the dark.
Australian pay TV wants exemptions to gambling ad restrictions, set to come into effect in March, arguing several of its channels attract a small viewership. Last year, the government announced a media reform package, including clamping down on gambling ads TV and radio networks broadcast during sporting events. Free TV and Commercial Radio Australia has released draft codes including exemptions to the 5:30am to 8:30pm gambling ad ban during live sporting events. Although online bookmakers have slammed the loopholes, supporting a critical response to concerns children are being exposed to gambling, Foxtel believes its niche channels attract a small audience in contrast to the mass exposure free-to-air channels provide.
American state opens online gambling applications
Pennsylvania’s Gaming Control Board will open applications for online gambling licenses from April 2, cementing Pennsylvania as the fourth state to legalise and regulate online gambling in the US. There are 13 gambling licenses up for grabs, with one available per land-based casino operator under the H 271, which passed last year. The bill also includes regulations allowing sports betting to be offered in the state if the Supreme Court rules in favour of New Jersey repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992.
Americans reportedly wagered a record $USD158.6 million at Nevada’s legal sportsbooks on the 2018 Super Bowl, with more expected to be wagered offshore (estimated at around $4.76 billion). Sportsbooks reportedly only kept $1.2 million, recording a win of just 0.7 percent, the lowest it has been in 10 years.
US casino tycoon, Steve Wynn, has stepped down as CEO of Wynn Resorts, following sexual assault allegations. Several women have come forward revealing their stories of unwanted advances and sexual misconduct. Wynn Resorts released a statement asserting that Matt Maddox has left his role as president to resume the position.
UK gambling regulator calls for sexism crackdown
Bonus terms are about to become a lot clearer to UK gamblers after an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) prompted regulatory intervention. The CMA found five online bookmakers featured vague terms attached to bonus bets, including William Hill, forcing the operators to change or face possible disciplinary action. As a result of the investigation, the CMA wants the whole sector upholds total transparency when issuing offering online gambling promotions, including removing wagering requirements before withdrawals.
The CMA has also launched an inquiry into the proposed merger between gambling giants GVC and Ladbrokes Coral. The watchdog will review if the merger meets the provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and whether it will weaken industry competition. Interested parties have been invited to comment by February 21.
The ICE Totally Gaming Conference 2018 commenced in London this week, featuring keynote speaker Sky Bet CEO, Richard Flint, who discussed the industry’s problem gambling rates. Highlighting the urgent need for the industry to address that it has a problem, Flint has urged operators to use data available to them to monitor customer behaviour, educate on gambling harms and intervene when necessary. He also called for the establishment of an industry ombudsman to free up the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS) for other responsible gambling issues.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) doesn’t just have a problem with gambling harm, but inequality within the industry. The regulator called out sexist behaviour at ICE, where female pole dancers, a Playboy show by Microgaming, and hostesses wearing swimsuits were in attendance. The UKGC’s chief executive, Sarah Harrison, threatened to boycott the event if it didn’t attempt to stamp out sexism in the gambling industry, which is seeing a rise in female gamblers. Her warning preluded hostesses revealing male guests harassed them at the event.
Denmark to block 24 gambling websites
Denmark Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have begun blocking 24 offshore gambling sites in the coming weeks, as ordered by the country’s gaming regulator. Gambling operators can only accept Danish players if they have a license from the regulator, Spillemyndigheden, but it found 24 sites targeting Denmark gamblers without a license. After successfully winning a court case to order ISPs to block access on January 23, the 24 illegal gambling sites, including online casinos and bookmakers, will all be blocked. According to an announcement made on the regulator’s website, six of the 24 sites include skin betting sites, which have a reputation for underage gambling. The Danish Gambling Authority reiterated that a site must have a license to accept Denmark players, with an electronic search system detecting sites which breach the law.
Russian bookmakers add Mastercard
After the country announced new legislation to make signing up to online bookmakers easier, Mastercard has made it easier for Russians to fund their wagers. The financial company announced plans to return to the gambling market this week, after exiting before the government regulated sports betting. Mastercard has authorised the MCC 7995 transaction code for gambling transactions, with Russian-licensed bookmakers eligible to accept the payment method. The financial services corporation re-entry suggests it is confident punters won’t use the payment method at offshore sites due to the country’s restrictions, such as a ban on VPNs and Russia’s gambling regulator blocking blacklisted sites.
Portuguese to verse Spanish and French poker players
Portuguese players will soon join the Spanish and French in the one poker room, as the country’s regulator approved the requirements to complete the shared liquidity deal. The Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) recently announced Portuguese poker players would soon be able to test their skills against those in Spain and France via the Stars Group (formerly the Amaya Group) PokerStars software. While the regulator has not revealed an exact date for the poker room expansion, reports suggest the Portuguese will have access to a greater prize pool within the coming months.
German officials investigate loot boxes
Another week, another country joining the investigation into whether loot boxes within video games constitute as gambling. Germany authorities are the latest to review in-game purchases in video games, which are played by children around the world. According to local media outlets, the country’s Commission for Youth Media Protection might follow in Belgium’s footsteps in considering a ban on loot boxes, which are virtual add-ons players buy to upgrade and improve gameplay. Belgium’s gambling regulator launched an investigation late last year, as did New Zealand, Australian and American state regulators. The UK maintains its stance that loot boxes do not meet the definition of gambling under current legislation.
Philippines stops accepting casino licenses
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has closed its application process for new licenses to give the industry time to grow. Following orders from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has become concerned with the country’s high number of land-based casinos, the regulator has frozen license applications too. PAGCOR chair, Andrea Domingo, said the president sent out the order on January 11, and the regulator halted processing applications from January 13. According to Domingo, PAGCOR has approved licenses for the construction of three casinos on the island of Cebu, owned by the Udenna Group, the Hong Kong-based Asian Gaming Group, and the Gokongwei group. The regulator is also in the process of offloading the casinos it operates to mitigate any conflict of interest.
UK online bookmakers have agreed to change gambling promotion terms after increasing pressure from the regulator.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced online gambling operators have to be transparent with their bonus terms, during an investigation into fairer gaming in the UK.
The CMA found that William Hill, Ladbrokes and PT Entertainment, were at risk of breaching consumer protection law, with the betting companies agreeing alter promotions surrounding their their casino games.
The investigation revealed some terms in the promotions were unfair and could mislead punters who thought they would be able to cash out straight away, instead of wagering more to complete the requirements.
The regulator said for gambling operators to comply with the law, gamblers must be able to withdraw funds whenever they want.
“The CMA is here to make sure businesses’ terms and practices are fair for their customers,” CMA Director, George Lusty, said.
“We welcome the commitment from these leading firms to address the problems our investigation uncovered, by making important changes to their terms and conditions.”
The CMA has urged all licensed online gambling operators in the UK to adopt the same approach to changing their terms or face possible disciplinary action, meaning:
- Players won’t be required to meet wagering requirements before they can withdraw their own money
- Gambling firms have to make sure any gameplay restrictions are clarified to players, and cannot use vague terms as an excuse to confiscate players’ money
- Gambling firms must not force players to take part in publicity when collecting winnings
The changes apply to all promotions, and all terms must be clear without any inclusion of vague conditions.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has worked with CMA to determine the best practices for the whole sector, with detailed guidance expected to be published later this year.
“As the gambling regulator, we will not hesitate to take action against those that do not treat their customers fairly,” Gambling Commission executive director, Sarah Gardner, said in a media release.
“The principles set out by the CMA today make real progress in making gambling fairer and safer for customers.
“Gambling firms must now ensure that the terms applied to their promotions are clear so that customers can understand the deals they are signing up to and what they need to do to fully benefit from promotions.”
William Hill released a statement, commenting on the investigation and its willingness to be compliant with the CMA.
“We welcome the standards and principles that the CMA has outlined, and we look forward to their adoption across the industry,” the bookmaker said in the statement.
Ladbrokes Coral also commented on the outcome, stating that it realised transparency around bonus terms had “unintentionally gone too far”.
The UK bookmaker added that the rules would improve transparency.
“It is never comfortable being in the spotlight on these sorts of issues, but we are pleased that a way forward has now been identified and are committed to ensuring we meet the standards set,” the company said.
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EACH week the team at BettingPlanet takes a look at the latest happenings around the world in terms of gambling legislation changes. From the legalisation of sports betting to a ban on payment methods, these are the issues which can take place worldwide, and we review each country’s news for any changes which may affect you as a punter.
This week, the Australian bookmaker industry is facing the pressure of regulatory changes, while America is gearing up for a record-breaking amount of wagers on the Super Bowl despite a sports betting ban. There are a few notable regulative changes around the rest of the world too, including in Argentina, Portugal, Philippines and Greece. Keep reading to find out more.
Australia bookmaker cans deal
An Australian gambling regulator is wrapping up its eight-month investigation into Tennis Australia, and whether the independent body is doing enough to prevent match-fixing. If the Victorian Commission of Gambling and Liquor Regulation find that former gaming minister, Tony Robinson’s complaints are correct, Tennis Australia will lose its right to claim cuts from bets made on Australian tennis, as well as sponsorship agreements. Robinson complained that a board member of the tennis body is also a director of Crown Resorts, which used to own online betting site, CrownBet, before announcing the sale of its stake earlier this year. He pointed to the sport’s code of conduct, which said those who are associated with tennis cannot accept wagers. A decision will be handed down soon, with insiders suggesting it will result in tightening security protocols.
CrownBet has officially announced it is dumping a deal with New South Wales clubs, penned at the beginning of 2017. The 10-year commercial agreement, which would have seen CrownBet cash-out machines rolled out in participating clubs in NSW, dissolved due to “ongoing regulatory uncertainty”, according to ClubsNSW chief executive, Anthony Ball. The partnership would have generated a commission for club owners for every punter who signed up via the CrownBet app. But with the ongoing regulatory changes, including a ban on sign up inducements and extending lines of credit, there’s a lot of pressure on Australian bookmakers. Ball revealed that the deal did not have clear regulatory direction, ending the lucrative partnership.
US to wager 97 percent of Super Bowl bets illegally
In the lead-up to the Super Bowl LII, the American Gaming Association has pointed out that US bettors will wager $USD4.76 billion on the match, with 97 percent done illegally. The AGA is awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court, with New Jersey seeking to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 1992, enabling states to legalise sports betting. The independent gambling body argued that $150 billion is wagered illegally every year, and wants SCOTUS to rule in favour of NJ. At the same time, NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, has maintained the NFL’s stance when it comes to regulating sports betting, stating the integrity of the game needs protecting. The NBA has come around, however, stating it will support a PASPA repeal if one percent of every bet goes to sporting leagues.
After a world investigation into whether loot boxes in video games count as a form of gambling, Washington DC has joined the likes of the UK, Australia and Belgium in determining its status. Washington State Senator, Kevin Ranker (D), wants the Gambling Commission to review whether in-game purchases count as gambling and should be prohibited. Last year’s release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 put loot boxes in the public eye since players (many under the age of 18) can purchase them to improve their gameplay. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) said they didn’t meet the definition of gambling, Belgian’s regulator said the opposite and state regulators in Australia split in their opinion.
A new task force has been set up in Nevada after an investigation by the Review-Journal revealed some US casinos have failed to update their emergency response plans. Several Las Vegas casinos have neglected to revise plans from as far back as 2008, prompting the Nevada Division of Emergency Management to create a team to ensure all response plans are updated. The investigation followed the October 1 massacre at the Route 91 festival at Mandalay Bay Hotel, where 58 people died with more than 500 people injured. There’s no evidence to suggest Mandalay’s Emergency Response Plan, which remained unreviewed since 2012, contributed to the tragic incident.
UK gambling regulator opens new regulations to public comment
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has opened the floor for interested parties to comment on new compliance protocols. The UK gaming regulator has updated its compliance terms for licensed gambling operators, including changes to marketing and advertising, unfair terms attached to bonuses, and complaints and disputes. Consumers, gambling businesses, stakeholders and the general public can have their say up until April 22, with changes proposed to reduce consumer harm and respond to the declining attitude towards gambling advertising in the country.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton, based in Wales, is calling on the UK government to improve its gambling advertising restrictions while supporting a mandatory levy on operators, as suggested by think-tank ResPublica. He said after working for four years in Canada, he was shocked with the amount gambling had expanded in the country when he returned. He acknowledged the benefits, including licensed gambling generating revenue for the government, but noted the harmful impacts on the minority who cannot gamble responsibly. He added that the stigma around getting help needs to be removed so more people get treatment.
Meanwhile, Wales will see new laws in 2018, including the Wales Act 2017 reducing stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £10, similarly to plans in Britain to reduce the maximum stake to £2. However, the rules do not apply to premises which feature a dog or horse racing track too.
Argentina makes no money off gaming tax
A lot of governments around the world regulate gambling to generate revenue, but it appears it didn’t work in Argentina. In 2016, Argentinian voters approved a two percent federal tax on all bets placed online with credit and debit cards, effective as of January 1, 2017. While the government estimated making ARS1 billion a year, players have been depositing with alternative payment methods at offshore online gambling sites. Individual states, which have the power to regulate online gambling, have also been reluctant in agreeing with the federal tax, urging players to choose web wallets or other payment options. This has left the government’s plans in shambles and could cause a crackdown on offshore sites.
Portugal to join shared poker liquidity soon
While French poker players can currently verse the Spanish thanks to a shared liquidity agreement between France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, the Portuguese are patiently waiting to join the rooms. The President of ARJEL, Charles Coppolani, told local media that Portugal is close to joining in on the project, which will see Portuguese poker players able to verse French and Spanish players. Portugal’s gambling industry is still very young (established in 2015), and it took a year from when online gambling was legalised to the approval of licenses. While Italy has been reluctant to join due to regulatory issues, the country’s government confirmed it would still be entering the agreement earlier this week.
Greece slaps GVC with large tax bill
Greece has slapped GVC Holdings with a €186.77 million fine for one of its subsidiaries operating with a Greek license. The tax, which can still be appealed, reportedly comes from Sportingbet trading in 2010 and 2011, two years before GVC took over the brand. GVC, which is currently attempting to acquire Ladbrokes, may take the bill to court while paying monthly repayments of €7.8 million into an account, as agreed to by the Greek Audit Center for Large Enterprises. If GVC beats the Greek taxman, it will be able to retrieve the funds from the account.
Philippines remains strong on anti-gambling stance
The Philippines is continuing its fight against illegal gambling, warning government officials they will be prosecuted if found engaging in any form of wagering. This week, Philippine National Police Director General, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, unveiled a sign which warns government employees they will be arrested if caught gambling. A ceremony took place at the Solaire Resort and Casino in Parañaque City as part of a national campaign requiring police to display appropriate signage to keep officials away from casinos and gambling venues. President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown his support behind the campaign, calling for a stricter implementation of the ban.
The 2018 Super Bowl will take place this weekend, with illegal sports betting at the forefront as America awaits the outcome of the Supreme Court sports betting case.
The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the New England Patriots on February 2, with Nevada sportsbooks expecting a record-breaking amount of wagers to be made, totalling more than $USD138.5 million.
But according to the American Gaming Association (AGA), that amount is just a small percentage of what will be wagered by the whole of America, with US bettors set to spend $4.76 billion on the NFL sports betting markets.
The AGA added offshore bookmakers would take 97 percent of the bets.
Under current law, Nevada is one of the four states where bookmakers can accept sports bets from residents. The rest of the US failed to change states laws before the enactment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992.
The state of New Jersey has been attempting to allow sports betting at its racetracks and casinos, not without several legal challenges mounted by the major sporting leagues.
Last year, the Supreme Court heard the arguments to overturn PASPA and allow individual states to legalise sports betting, with a decision set to be handed down before June 2018.
Unfortunately, it won’t be in time for the Super Bowl LII.
“Thanks to the failed federal ban on sports betting, Americans are sending billions of their hard-earned dollars to corner bookies, shady offshore operators, and other criminal enterprises,” AGA President Geoff Freeman said in a press release.
“The big question we’re asking: Is 2018 finally the year when governments, sporting bodies, and the gaming industry work together to put the illegal sports betting market out of business?”
While several sporting leagues have become more open to the idea of legalising sports betting, with the NBA supporting the legislative change provided one percent of every bet goes to the sporting industry, the NFL has maintained its stance against sportsbooks.
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, recently expressed his concern about the ban being potentially lifted, given all signs are pointing to a favourable outcome.
Goodell spoke to ESPN Radio this week, stating that he is predominantly concerned with the potential threat to the integrity of pro football.
“You want to be certain that there are no outside influences on our game and that fans don’t even have any issue with that, they understand, whether there’s a perception or not, that there’s no influence in our game,” he said.
“And that’s something that we stand firmly behind on the integrity of our game.”
But the AGA says that sports betting will happen regardless, and it’s better to regulate to have the appropriate bodies in place to deal with external factors which could threaten the integrity of sports.
“As President-elect Donald Trump has acknowledged, illegal sports betting is a thriving industry,” Freeman said.
“The 24-year-old federal ban – which is breathing life into a $150 billion illegal sports betting market — threatens the integrity of games, presents fundamental questions about states’ sovereignty to define their own laws and combat crime within their borders, and prevents fans from engaging with the sports they enjoy in a safe, legal way.”
The AGA is urging the Supreme Court to consider NJ’s arguments, stating it will allow every US state to “address the serious problems associated with illegal sports betting.”
WELCOME back to our weekly gambling column, checking out all the changes in the sports betting and casino industries. We take a look at the biggest news stories from around the world, which you can keep coming back to on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop device.
This week, progress is being made for the US sports betting case with the NBA outlining guidelines. Japan’s Diet has returned, and casino legislation is of high importance. And an interesting proposal has been made by the Turkish Hotelier industry.
Australian casino breaches problem gambling policies
A casino in South Australia has come under fire for not acting when players display signs of problem gambling. According to a study by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, Adelaide casino staff don’t intervene when gamblers show signs of problem gambling. The study found that many players could gamble without interruption after four hours of continuous play. The study reviewed automatic alerts and response rates, revealing several, where players gambled for more than four hours with minimal breaks, were ignored. The recommended response time is 15 minutes, but the study found staff responded between a few minutes to more than two hours.
The state is also reviewing its poker machine policy, with the Greens proposing a ban to wipe out pokies/slots from pubs and clubs, similarly to Tasmania. The ban mirrors former Senator Nick Xenophon’s agenda, who has attempted to wipe out Australia’s poker machines. Xenophon, running in the same election with his party SA Best, is yet to reveal his pokies policy to the public. It will reportedly focus on reducing the number of machines in the state and slashing the maximum bet limits to $1, however.
US sporting league switches sports betting sides
In what could be an indication of potential developments in the US, the NBA has formally requested several requirements, which could act as the grounds for sports betting regulation. NBA attorney, Dan Spillane, outlined pre-requisites for sports betting to be approved by the country’s major sporting leagues in New York recently. He said the NBA wants one percent of every bet made to go to sporting leagues while pushing for gambling to be made legal on smartphones and AT stadium kiosks instead of just casinos and racetracks. The regulations all fit into the NBA’s plan of increasing revenue for the league. The Supreme Court is currently considering the sports betting case, brought forward by the state of New Jersey against the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MBL, plus the NCAA, and the latest developments could indicate a change in laws.
Telecoms giant, Verizon, believes the outcome will result in a regulated sports betting industry, according to local media outlets. Verizon has reportedly looked into entering the sports betting industry, provided a favourable court ruling. Verizon recently completed a $4.5 billion Yahoo deal, and already owns a daily fantasy sports site, which could soon see the addition of a sportsbook. Additionally, Verizon has broadcasting partnerships with the NFL and NBA, setting it up to become a bookmaker with live streaming services.
The New York Senate has also been mulling over the best way to tackle sports betting legalisation in the state. The New York Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering held a hearing looking into “the potential of sports betting in New York State.” The hearing included the demands by the NBA, a racing panel discussing its place in the market, and a discussion on whether the government should restrict sports betting to the casinos. The committee will consider arguments for both sides in going forward.
UK review tough regulations
Rumours have been circulating this week, with local media reporting that the UK government is preparing to slash maximum bet limits on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to £2. The 12-week consultation period reviewing gambling industry regulations held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has left bookmakers uneasy given FOBTs are a dominant source of revenue. While there was hope when the government elected a new Culture Secretary and supporter of the racing industry, Matthew Hancock, sources are indicating the stake reduction will go ahead. Local media reports suggest Hancock believes the machines steal money from the racing industry, while William Hill CEO, Philip Bowcock, said the stories are rumours while arguing the revenue from the machines goes into the racing industry for vision fees.
Just before the consultation period closed on Tuesday, thinktank ResPublica entered a submission with last-minute regulations aiming to curb problem gambling. ResPublica proposed a one percent mandatory levy UK online gambling operators have to pay, which will go towards the treatment of the 430,000 problem gamblers in the country. Gambling charity, GambleAware, supported the levy, stating the 0.01 percent voluntary fee is ineffective. The charity also proposed a ban on using credit cards at UK online casinos and betting sites in the submission, arguing it could prevent people from spending more than they can afford.
Meanwhile, parliament has warned bookmakers to get a grip when it comes to closing punters’ accounts. Politicians have warned that UK betting companies restricting accounts without clarifying why will prompt regulatory intervention.
Greece government wants three new casinos
The Greek Islands are fighting back against a gambling bill supported by the Greece government, proposing three land-based casinos constructed on Santorini, Mykonos and Crete. Santorini’s Mayor, Nikos Zorzos, penned a letter slamming the bill, stating the casinos would change the character of the island and attract a different type of tourists. Mayor of Mykonos, Konstantinos Koukas, also penned a letter, explaining to the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, that the island has more pressing issues, such as building infrastructure and schools, before constructing a casino. Crete is also reportedly against the gambling expansion, which has been proposed to bring in more revenue to the cash-strapped country.
Russia eases bookmaker sign up process
Russian punters have been having so much trouble signing up to bookmakers that the government has had to intervene. Current laws require punters to register online via a centralised payment hub like TSUPIS and then prove their identity in person at a land-based betting shop. But Russia’s Ministry of Finance has recently drafted new legislation eliminating the arduous process, stating Russian online betting sites have “the right to entrust … the identification of a gambling participant to the centre for the recording of online betting of bookmakers or sweepstakes, operating in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Law of December 29 2006 No. 244-FZ.” The proposed legislation follows on from a meeting between the government and the country’s online bookmakers, who revealed the issues behind getting punters to sign up.
Japan prioritises casinos in 2018
The Japanese Diet is back, and according to local media outlets that dissected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech, casino legislation will be given priority in 2018. Abe’s speech revealed that the government will likely address the Integrated Resorts Implementation Bill (IR) in the coming months to increase tourism rates in the country. The Japanese government was meant to address the IR bill last year, but a snap election delayed its movements. Before the bill can be addressed, the Diet needs to pass the “Basic Bill on Gambling Addiction Countermeasures”. However, analysts believe the IR bill will pass before June 20, during the 2018 legislative session.
Turkish hoteliers want tourist-only casinos
Turkey wants to attract high rollers from mainland China, but it’s taking a different approach to Crown Resorts aggressive marketing strategy. Turkish Hoteliers Association president, Timur Bayındır, has reportedly said the country needs to open tourist-only casinos to attract wealthy foreigners. Bayındır said there are 261 million Chinese tourists travelling the world, but less than one million visit Turkey, adding that casinos could help attract them to the country. He suggested the island of Yassıada in the Marmara Sea as a potential destination for a tourist-only casino. But he also said the price of tickets to Turkey and the inadequate number of flights needs to change too.
DEPOSITING with credit cards at online betting sites and casinos in the UK could become a thing of the past if the government considers last-minute recommendations.
At the eleventh hour, thinktank ResPublica submitted several recommendations to the government in a bid to tackle problem gambling.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) 12-week consultation period closed on Tuesday, and the organisation took one last shot at reducing the number of players addicted to casino games or betting on sports in the UK.
The recommendations are unexpected since the media focus has been on the likelihood the government will reduce the maximum bet limit on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.
While the media reported it’s a sure thing, UK bookmakers have labelled the reports the new Culture Secretary, Matthew Hancock, supports the £2 limit as a rumour.
“In addition to thousands of lost jobs and closed shops, a £2 stake, essentially a ban on FOBT content, would mean tens of millions wiped off racing’s income as each betting shop pays £30,000 in media rights,” William Hill CEO, Phillip Bowcock, said after denouncing the circulating stories.
But ResPublica is more concerned about the rate of problem gamblers in the country, recommending gambling companies pay a mandatory levy to fund treatment.
The policy, supported by the Labour Party, is based on the annual expenditure of problem gambling research, treatment, and education. According to the thinktank, the government spends more than £200 per person treating drug and alcohol addiction compared to problem gambling.
ResPublica stated in their submission that a one percent mandatory levy would fill the gap and go towards reducing the 430,000 people addicted to gambling.
Gambling charity, GambleAware, support the mandatory levy, stating that gambling companies currently contribute 0.1 percent of their gross gaming revenue to treatment programs. However, the organisation revealed many companies fail to honour the voluntary agreement.
The charity revealed it could only treat two percent of problem gamblers in the UK last year, due to a lack of funding, suggesting a ban on credit cards to bet online to reduce the risk gamblers take when it comes to wagering more than they can afford.
CEO of GambleAware, Marc Etches. said there’s a further two million at risk of developing a problem, and the charity wants to reduce the impact on these people’s lives.
While the charity supports the reduced maximum bet limit on FOBTS, Etches has urged DCMS not to ignore the rate of bets players can make on the machines. The maximum is currently £100 every 20 seconds, and although the stakes may come down, he wants the frequency changed too.
Deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, is also among those lobbying the government to reduce FOBTs stakes.
“Anything less [than £2] will represent a capitulation to the lobbying power of the big gambling companies and will be letting down the families and communities that have been devastated by addiction to these machines,” he said.
But he added that it’s just one step in a broader strategy to tackle problem gambling incidences in the country.
“Once this decision is made the government needs to concentrate on other means of preventing addiction and properly funding treatment to help addicts recover,” he added.
Meanwhile, Parliament has been discussing the betting industry this week with the House of Lords urging bookmakers to get a grip when it comes to closing accounts.
Bookmakers have come under fire for being too quick in restricting punters accounts and closing them down, prompting politicians to urge bookmakers to be more transparent.
The House of Lord warned that if bookmakers left the issue alone, they open themselves to regulatory intervention, adding that rewarding winners ensures betting and racing grows.
The UK bookmaker industry predicts large-scale job losses as the government prepares to announce new limits for its fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
At the end of October, the government announced it would undergo a 12-week consultation period to review FOBTs and the appropriate maximum bet limit. Proposals ranged from as high as £50 to £30, and as low as £2.
An official at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), tasked with the job of finding a new maximum from the current £100 eligible to place every 20 seconds, reportedly said a £2 limit is highly likely to be introduced once the consultation period ends on Tuesday.
Bookmakers, including William Hill, rely on the income generated from FOBTs, and investment bank Barclays estimated the betting company would lose £284 million if the government reduced the maximum stake to £2.
Anti-FOBTs campaigners have called for the reduction, stating the machines contribute to problem gambling rates and need to be reviewed to protect children and ensure a sustainable industry.
But the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said “most problem gamblers use seven or more different types of gambling products, therefore there is a challenge for the whole gambling industry to move from a position where there is a stable level of problem gambling in this country to one where problem gambling rates are decreasing”.
The ABB added that betting shops contribute significant sums of money towards problem gambling treatments, and the organisation continuously works to improve responsible gambling measures.
“A £2 stake is effectively a ban on FOBTs, would put 21,000 people out of jobs and have huge consequences for sports such as horse and greyhound racing,” the ABB added in a statement.
There was some hope for the bookmaker industry when Karen Bradley, who launched the FOBTs review, stepped into the role of the Northern Ireland secretary and Matt Hancock took over.
Hancock is a former amateur jockey and has been integral to blocking tighter regulations in the racing industry. However, local UK media has said he has been persuaded to favour the £2 limit, as he is of the belief they take money away from sports betting and wagering on the races.
“People think that because he is a big supporter of horseracing, he wouldn’t support this direction of travel, but actually it’s the other way around,” an insider told the Financial Times.
While sources have said DCMS is yet to make a final decision, the media is implying bookmakers will likely have to restructure their businesses.
A recent report has revealed British betting companies are already in strife, with the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) finding betting shop numbers are at an all-time low. Since the regulator began recording the numbers in 2009, betting shops have gone from closing at a 100 per year rate to 300 every six months.
According to the ABB, there are 50 percent fewer high street bookies in the UK since the 1960s, when there were more than 16,500.
William Hill UK is already reviewing some of its subsidiaries, including its Australian division due to regulatory changes such as a ban on credit betting effective from February 2018.
It’s not clear if the betting company will sell its Australian betting site, or agree to merge with a local operator.
WELCOME back to our weekly gambling column, covering sports betting legalisation, online gaming expansions, and land-based legislation movements. We aim to compile the biggest stories from around the world into the one column, accessible on the go.
This week, William Hill UK is looking into selling its Australian betting company due to regulatory changes expected in the coming months. In the US, the state of New Jersey is fighting a different gambling battle. And in Kenya, sporting teams are still recovering from the sponsorship cull. Find out what else is happening around the world, below.
Australian regulations force bookmaker review
William Hill Australia may be put up for sale once its UK parent company completes a strategic review of its operations. The online betting site has been flagged for its poor performance up against the company’s British and USA divisions. Last year, the bookmaker warned it would be impacted by a ban on credit betting, set to come into effect in February 2018. The announcement prompted punters to step away from taking out a line of credit with William Hill, reportedly causing the recent poor performance results. At the conclusion of the review, William Hill UK could sell the Australian betting site or initiate a merger with a local corporate bookmaker.
The Tasmanian Liberal Party has released the delayed three-yearly Social and Economic Impact Study report this week, revealing Tasmanians prefer a punt on their phones over the slots. The study interviewed 5000 respondents via 15-minute phone calls and found gambling on the slots had declined in past 10 years, while online wagering increased by more than 54 percent in the last decade. The state’s Labor Party recently released a plan to phase out poker machines in pubs and clubs by 2023, in a bid to win the upcoming election. Labor slammed its opposition over claims the industry created 5000 jobs when the report revealed there are only 317.
American state fights to keep online gambling legal
While New Jersey has been busy trying to convince the Supreme Court that it should be able to legalise sports betting in the state, it has had to turn its attention to online gambling regulations. Members of the NJ Congress have written to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) advising against plans to crack down on online gambling. The letter has arisen from the Trump administration looking into an old bill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) legislation. The bill would put an end to the interpretation of the country’s Wire Act, which only prohibited online sports betting. The 2011 interpretation meant US online casinos could launch, including in NJ which boosted Atlantic City’s economy. Should RAWA be introduced, nearly all forms of online gambling will be banned in the country (lotteries would be excluded).
The state of Louisiana is looking into rewriting its laws, which are more than two decades old, in the coming months. According to local media, a new bill is circling, which reviews current legislation requiring all casinos to dock on the water. The 1991 law resulted in 15 riverboat casinos opening, and several pay higher taxes to dock permanently due to a slight law change in 2001. If the government introduces the bill, casinos will be able to relocate to land where they can operate bigger venues with more gaming services.
The Nevada Gaming Control board has appointed a female chair for the first time since the establishment of the regulator 60 years ago. Republican Senator, Becky Harris, will assume the position, after working on gaming legislation for the state, as well as working on innovation and gambling projects. She has acknowledged that Nevada’s regulations are among the best in the world, revealing that she will continue to build on these “with determination and honour”.
UK Gambling Commission to speak on responsible gambling
The UK Gambling Commission has revealed its support for the ICE Totally Gaming conference, running from February 6-8, 2018 in London. Commission Chief Executive, Sarah Harrison, will deliver a speech on whether responsible gambling is an adequate approach to the consequences of the industry. Commission General Council and Executive Director, Neil McArthur, will also appear on a panel discussing corporate social responsibility. The Commission is inviting people to come and speak to representatives from the regulator, located in the event’s first-ever Consumer Protection Zone. The area will feature stands dedicated to problem gambling treatment, harm minimisation and social responsibility in the gaming industry.
Ireland to consider a ban on free bets
The Irish gambling industry is set to receive new regulations and requirements as an old gambling bill resurfaces. Ireland Problem Gambling has used the opportunity to propose a ban on free bets, arguing that the alcohol industry isn’t allowed to give out free drink vouchers. While it’s not clear if sign up bonuses will be banned, the country is set to receive an independent regulatory body, which will oversee licences and monitor operators, to improve the industry’s standards.
Unlicensed operators control Polish gambling market
A recent report has revealed that despite Poland’s attempts to regulate the industry, 60 percent of the country’s gambling market is run by unlicensed bookmakers. International operators servicing Polish players left the market when the country partially licensed the industry, due to the requirement companies pay a 12 percent tax rate. While several operators applied for the license, resulting in more than PLN 396 million injected into the economy, the report by Polish legal association, Graj Legalnie, estimates the country could be making more than PLN 594 million. Despite the establishment of the Register of Domains for Illegal Offering of Gambling, where internet service providers blocked around 1200 gaming websites, it appears Polish players prefer offshore gambling sites. The report suggests looking into more efficient approaches to blocking websites and payment methods to improve the licensed betting industry.
Kenya cracks down on gambling machines
While all eyes have been on the aftermath of Kenyan sports betting company, Sportpesa, pulling its local sports sponsorships due to the high tax rate, the government has been working hard to stamp out illegal gaming machines. The Kenyan government recently ordered the impounding of 46 gambling machines after a series of raids at Kirinyaga County bars and clubs. Meanwhile, the country is still reeling from the sponsorship cull, causing sporting clubs like the Kenya Rugby Union, to call for a tax reduction. It’s not clear if the Kenyan Sevens will be able to travel to Sydney for the Sydney and Hamilton Sevens in Australia and New Zealand, respectively, as the club cannot pay the player’s salaries anymore.
Spain publishes shared liquidity rules
This week, local media published the resolution featuring Spain’s gambling regulator authorising the online poker shared liquidity deal with France, Portugal and Italy. Spanish gaming regulator Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ) announced that the deal would commence on January 16, and PokerStars became the first operator to offer shared liquidity between Spain and France. French and Spanish poker players can now verse each other at a round of hold’em, while the Portuguese have made little to no progress on the matter and the Italians are rethinking the four-way deal signed last year.
India proposes limits on sports bets
The Law Commission, responsible for reviewing the benefits and drawbacks of legalising Indian sportsbooks, is reportedly considering a limit on the number of times Indians can bet per year. According to local media, the Law Commission wants to ban online betting but since it seems impossible it will attempt to enforce the next best thing – three legal bets per year. Licensed operators would be tasked with the responsibility of limiting each punter, while a gambler’s income would determine their bet size. The regulations have been included in a paper set to be considered by its members in the coming weeks.