WHILE the world has one eye on the Christmas and New Year’s break, we’re getting stuck into the final changes to the gambling industry for the year.
Our weekly column covers legislation changes all around the world, which may impact you as a gambler. We take a look at new amendments, gambling regulator announcements and compile the information into a neat column accessible on any device.
This week, the UK’s gambling regulator has revealed more children are gambling due to skin betting, social media and other computer games. Meanwhile, the Norwegian gambling regulator has ordered local banks to block transactions from two payment providers. And Brazil’s gambling bill is facing more delays. Find out more below.
Australian gambling giants to merge by Christmas
The Tabcorp and Tatts $11.3 billion merger is expected to be completed by December 22, after Tatts shareholders voted for the deal. At the meeting on Tuesday, 99 percent of Tatts shareholders voted for the Tabcorp tie-up and the following day the Supreme Court approved the deal. The two gambling giants will become one entity, with Tatts CEO Robbie Cooke losing his job just days before Christmas and more redundancies expected to come. Tabcorp also announced it would complete the divestment of its Queensland gaming machine business before the meeting.
The Australian state of Tasmania may become the first to ban poker machines from pubs and clubs after the Labor Party introduced the policy in a bid to win voters for the upcoming election. While a joint committee recommended against banning the machines, Labor said it will phase the pokies out by 2023, if elected in March next year. Labor claims Liberal will not follow suit and has offered a $55 million support package for the venues affected.
New Zealand weighs in on loot box debate
The New Zealand gambling regulator has agreed with the UK Gambling Commission on the status of loot boxes, stating they do not meet the legal definition of gambling. The Gambling Compliance office of its Department of Internal Affairs said that it has been following the international debate, but it does not believe loot boxes constitute as gambling under New Zealand’s Gambling Act 2003. The office also stated that it is not illegal for New Zealanders to gamble online at offshore sites.
American gaming sites could slow down
Internet neutrality rules may be repealed this week as The Federal Communications Commission plans to put it to a vote on Thursday. FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, will push ahead to repeal the rules enforced in 2015. Current laws prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from giving preference to sites or services or blocking them. If the commissioners side with Pai, telecom companies could favour their own content or sites which will pay a premium. It could also cause sites to slow down, including online American gambling websites.
Seven mobsters from organised crime families have been arrested for running illegal gambling operations in Long Island and Brooklyn, as well as drug distribution. The suspects from the Gambino and Bonanno organised crime families ran an illegal casino and conducted unlawful sports betting operations. Two members have also been charged with distributing cocaine, and are facing life in prison.
A former Democratic Pennsylvania lawmaker, Marc Gergely, has been sentenced to house arrest for participating in a multimillion-dollar illegal gambling operation. The state representative used his political influence to convince venue owners they could legally install gaming machines. The Pennsylvania State Police and Attorney General’s Office uncovered the illegal ring, as well as Gergely’s involvement.
UKGC finds more children are gambling
The UK Gambling Commission released new statistics on children gambling, and it appears many minors are being introduced to the activity via video games. While loot boxes have been making headlines, the UKGC views skin betting (where you earn in-game items and wager them for better ones or real money) as the main concern. According to the UKGC report, 45 percent of 11-16-year-olds are aware of skin betting, where players can wager an item via casino-style games and cash out with upgraded items.
The research also found that children are gambling without realising on free-to-play casino games, social media and even computer games. The regulator said that since these types of games do not have the same regulation in place as licensed gambling operators, children may be vulnerable.
The UK regulator has also released plans to make lotteries more transparent to consumers, commencing in April next year. The plans clarify where the proceeds go, including the charity, and what proportion of money raised from lottery tickets is put back into the community.
Ghanian government considering sports lottery
Ghana is looking to gambling to find sources of income for its new National Sports Development Fund. The Ministry of Youth and Sports stakeholders are meeting on Thursday to discuss potential sources of revenue, including a sports lottery. However, a sports lottery known as the National Lottery Authority’s Soccer Cash, launched by the previous government, incurred GH1 million in advertising debt. As a result, the government may consider increasing the taxes Ghanaian sportsbooks pay, including Mybet.
Norway cracks down on offshore gambling
Norway’s gambling regulator has ordered local banks to block transactions to and from two two payment providers. Earlier this year, Lotteritilsynet ordered the banks to ban any gambling transactions by Norwegian online gamblers at offshore gambling sites. It named seven companies, including Trustly, Entercash, Worldpay, Earth Port, Inpay, Stay Cool and Mangas Gaming, as providers which had been breaching the law, ordering them to stop. This week, the regulator has found that Trustly and Entercash have continued to process unauthorised gambling transactions by changing their account numbers. As a result, it has placed a ban on the payment providers.
The country is also looking into ways to crack down on foreign gambling advertising. Several broadcasters airing content in Norway are located in London, and they can legally advertise offshore gambling sites due to their location. The government is currently looking into ways to ban the ads, and it hopes to introduce legislation before Easter next year.
Brazil’s gambling bill delayed again
There has been another delay in the vote to legalise gambling in Brazil. While the Senate was set to vote on the piece of legislation which would legalise online gambling on Wednesday, it was scrapped due to Congress issues. It may be a good thing the bill has been delayed for three weeks (and is unlikely to be addressed until next year) as it needs 14 votes out of the 27-member committee to pass. Local Brazilian media outlets have reported that 12 judges to do not support the bill, giving lawmakers time to get them to change their minds.
Buying lottery tickets goes against religion in Turkey
Turkey’s Milli Piyango lottery is holding its annual draw for the New Year period, featuring a jackpot of TRY 61 million. However, the head of the country’s top religious body, Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), has declared that buying lottery tickets goes against its faith. In a religious decree, the Diyanet said, “all gambling games that are based on one of the sides winning and the other losing are deemed within the context of gambling and are declared haram [forbidden by religion].” However, it added that charities or institutions can still take money from games of chance.
Bermuda amend gambling laws
Bermuda is giving the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, all the power when it comes to gambling regulation. The government recently approved the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017, which gives the Minister the power to tell the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission how to regulate the gaming industry, and he can also replace members where he sees fit. The gambling industry has protested the changes, arguing that the BCGC is no longer independent.
FOUR popular gambling companies are under fire after rogue affiliates posted socially-irresponsible news posts.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is investigating complaints made against Ladbrokes, 888, SkyBet and Casumo regarding adverts which target vulnerable people.
While their affiliates posted the articles, the betting companies are likely to be penalised as the posts irresponsibly promote gambling.
According to The Guardian, the posts featured content which implied that gambling clears debts, with a story about a man who paid for his wife’s medical treatment by playing casino games. Three other posts were similar in nature.
The watchdog said the adverts breached the code because they suggested gambling “could provide an escape from personal problems such as depression and that it could be a solution to financial concerns”.
It also said the posts implied that they were true news articles.
While the affiliates are at fault, the ASA holds the companies responsible since they benefited from anyone who signed up via the posts.
The UK Gambling Commission, which oversees the four betting companies, has not revealed whether it will be fining Ladbrokes, SkyBet, 888 and Casumo.
“We expect operators to take action to ensure that they have a clear view of what their affiliates are doing on their behalf,” the UKGC said in a statement.
“Where operators fail to do this, we will not hesitate to use our powers to hold them to account.”
Ladbrokes commented on the situation, revealing that the company has “been working to improve the types of advertising and marketing used by affiliates.”
“Nobody in Ladbrokes Coral believes that this sort of ‘fake news’ marketing has a place in the sector,” the company added.
“We have been reducing the number of affiliates we work with as well as clamping down hard on anyone using our name without our knowledge in a bid to curtail this sort of activity going forward.”
A spokesperson for 888 said the company has terminated its business relationship with the affiliates behind the posts.
The spokesperson added that the company has “taken further steps to ensure this type of incident does not occur again”.
Sky Vegas also terminated its agreement with the affiliate – and ended its affiliate program completely -, while Casumo said it was the fault of an external “media buyer”.
Chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, Clive Hawkswood, said affiliates need to be wary in regards to how they act.
“It would be wrong to tar all affiliates with the same brush,” he said.
“Hopefully lessons will be learned, but, if not, affiliates can expect to see operators reconsidering their relationships and the real prospect of direct regulatory action.”
888 recently received a record fine of £7.8 million after the UKGC found the company failed to implement adequate self-exclusion procedure. The UKGC also found 888 did not pick up on visible signs of problem gambling.