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Global gambling legislation news – Week ending February 9

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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.

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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.