The count-down to Christmas is on, and while lawmakers all around the world are gearing up for the holidays, there’s plenty still happening when it comes to the global gambling industry.
Our weekly column looks at what’s happening in different parts of the world, comparing the various legislative processes for online and offline gambling.
If you think we have missed an important news story, send us an email at [email protected] or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
There has been a lot happening in Australia this week with bookmakers fighting taxes, and poker machine players receiving new restrictions.
The sports betting case commenced in the US this week, while New Zealand has weighed in on the loot boxes fiasco. Brazil has also managed to delay its online gambling bill again. Find out more below.
Australian bookmakers fight back against taxes
Australian online bookmakers are lobbying the Victorian government to lower the rate of a planned point of consumption tax.
The Aussie state is the latest to consider introducing the POC tax, which the government estimates will earn it $130 million, but bookies are calling for a lower rate than 15 percent. A similar tax has already been introduced in South Australia and will come into effect in Western Australia in 2019.
Poker machine players in Tasmania will no longer be able to drink a beer while pulling the reels after the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission released its final copy of the Responsible Gambling Mandatory Code of Practice for Tasmania. The report states the commission will change the code to ban alcohol service to poker machine players during daylight hours, as well as cap EFTPOS withdrawal limits to $100, jackpots to $25,000 and cashing cheques at licensed premises.
Ladbrokes Australia lost its appeal to overturn the legal decision the company breached advertising rules. Earlier this year, the online betting site was fined $35,000, plus $50,000 in legal costs, for breaching the New South Wales Betting and Racing Regulation 2012. The betting site published ads in local newspapers and on YouTube, which the court said encouraged punters to bet. The NSW District Court upheld the previous judgement that it breached the advertising standards in place.
There’s plenty more gambling news happening in Australia, which you can check out here.
Sports betting trial commences
This week, the Supreme Court of the United States commenced the New Jersey sports betting case, which aims to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992. While several justices sided with New Jersey, questioning whether the act is unconstitutional, others pointed out that it’s how federal law works. NJ Governor Chris Christie spoke outside of Court on Monday and said the state could get legalised sports betting within two weeks of a favourable decision.
Just days after the trial commenced, the International Centre for Sport Security launched a sports integrity hotline in the US and Canada. The hotline is available to athletes, sports fans, team personnel, and the general public to anonymously report suspicious behaviour. The ICSS hotline will be available 24/7, and analysts will investigate any tips or complaints, sharing information with authorities if necessary.
New Jersey residents could soon be able to play at offshore online casinos due to a new online gambling bill. Senator Raymond Lesniak introduced the bill, which removes the requirement need to have a physical presence in New Jersey. Due to his retirement, the bill only had until January 9 to pass.
UK operators warned about gambling advertising
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is continuing its crackdown on online gambling operators, with Broadway Gaming the latest to face the consequences. The UK online gambling operator has to pay a £100k fine for publishing misleading bonus offers on five different websites. Broadway Gaming received a fine in 2016 for failing to communicate clear terms and conditions, which resulted in the discovery of similar incidents.
Following the fine, Minister for Sport, Tourism & Heritage, Tracey Crouch, warned industry operators to “take a hard look at what you’re producing” when promoting gambling at GambleAware’s annual Harm-Minimisation Conference. Although the government’s triennial review did not result in any new advertising restrictions (lack of evidence supporting it increases problem gambling rates), Crouch said that gambling advertising is “very unpopular” with the general public”, and operators should not “push the boundaries” when it comes to responsible marketing. She also added that it was the last chance for operators to start paying the recommended 0.1 percent revenue contribution to GambleAware.
New Zealand weighs in on loot boxes
Concerned parents in New Zealand are calling for a restriction on loot boxes in video games due to their similarities to gambling. While New Zealand’s Gambling Compliance Body is reviewing whether randomised in-app purchases meet the definition of gambling in the country, local media reports are predicting the regulator won’t end up banning them from video games. The Problem Gambling Foundation Marketing and Communications Director, Andree Froude, said that since a lot of the games are made overseas, it would be difficult to regulate, which Australia’s gambling regulators have previously said.
Court rejects online poker petition in Indian state
The Gujarat High Court has refused to legalise online poker, following a petition to have it classed as a game of skill. The petition came about after authorities raided several poker clubs in the state and prompted a court trial featuring arguments for and against legalising poker in the state. After a court delay, Justice Rajesh H. Shukla finally ruled that the game could not be legalised. He said there was not enough evidence to state that the game was not based on luck, and follows a similar ruling in the state of Telangana in November. It’s not clear how PokerStars entry into the Indian market will be affected by the ruling, but it may be limited to the state of Nagaland where online poker and rummy are legal.
Brazil’s gambling bill faces delays again
Brazil’s Constitutionality and Justice Committee (CCJ) was meant to vote on the Senate’s online gambling bill, which has faced regular delays, this week. However, several Senators entered new amendments, including the requirement gambling operators enter into partnerships with local companies, as well as a uniform 30 percent tax on all forms of gambling. While neither of the amendments passed, they delayed the vote to legalise online gambling in the country. An amendment that did pass includes a ban on slots and video bingo machines outside of land-based casinos. While the CCJ plans to vote on the revised bill next week, it could face more delays.
Report reveals Portuguese still gamble at offshore sites
A Remote Gambling Association (RGA) report has revealed that 68 percent of Portuguese online gamblers play at offshore gambling sites. The Southern European country regulated online gambling in 2015, allowing international operators to apply for licenses. While the government handed out the first online gambling licenses in 2016, many international operators are hesitant to enter the market due to the high taxes leaving limited options for Portugal’s gamblers. The RGA’s report states that the regulatory framework failed to alleviate illegal online gambling, with 38 percent of Portuguese gambling at unlicensed websites, and 30 percent gambling at both offshore sites and licenses gaming operations.
WANT to know what new changes are happening in different gambling industries around the world? Each week we take a look at news stories affecting players, casinos, sportbooks, and other interested parties and compile it into an easy-to-read column. Stay updated by visiting our site each week where you can find out what has been happening in your country and around the world.
If we missed an important story from your local community, state or country, shoot us an email at [email protected] or leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
This week has seen plenty of political movements with Brazil’s President avoiding impeachment and looking to the gambling industry as a source of revenue. Meanwhile, the Malaysian government has announced it will crack down on illegal gambling and the Philippines has introduced new anti-money laundering policies. Keep reading the find out more.
Australian casino fights poker machine allegations
Australia is still reeling from the explosive allegations made by three former employees against Crown Resorts casino. This week, Crown Resorts hit back at allegations it tampered with poker machines, among other claims released by Independent lawmaker, Andrew Wilkie. In a letter, Crown Resorts chairman, John Alexander, wrote that Wilkie should have followed the standard procedure when it comes to investigating complaints, instead of using parliamentary privilege. It’s not clear whether a parliamentary inquiry will take place since the Turnbull government is reluctant to grant one.
As a result of the intense scrutiny of James Packer’s Crown Resorts company, CrownBet (partly owned by Crown Resorts) has been forced to pull its CrownLotto service. Australian states want to stamp out online lottery betting and due to the additional attention from gambling regulators, the betting site pulled its own product which rivalled Lottoland.
This week, the highest paid employee of the Western Australian government was revealed to be Racing and Wagering chief executive Richard Burt. According to the West Australian, he collected a salary of almost $800,000 in 2016, following a $70,000 pay rise.
US state to revisit outdated gambling laws
New Jersey is set to receive a new governor in the coming weeks, with the November 7 election determining who will replace current Governor, Chris Christie. Christie has been a strong advocate for expanding gambling services, including legalising sports betting in the US, and his replacement could undermine his efforts. However, the gubernatorial race is down to a former US ambassador to Germany, Phil Murphy, and lieutenant governor in Christie’s administration, Kim Guadagno, and both have agreed that Atlantic City should no longer hold the monopoly on gambling.
Louisiana lawmakers are urging the state government to review gambling laws which are nearly three decades old and due to the instability of the state’s finances, Louisiana could soon see its riverboat casinos moving on land. Republican state senator, Ronnie Johns, said the laws are outdated during Monday’s legislative session, and pointed out neighbouring states could be stealing potential customers. Republican State Senator, Ronnie Johns, said while no new casino licenses will be granted, updating the framework will allow gambling facilities to compete with Mississippi and the new native American facilities in Oklahoma.
Millennials and skill-based games seems to go hand in hand, at least according to casions in Las Vegas. The latest casino to add the games is Planet Hollywood, installing three ‘TriStation’ units that feature six different skill-based games, targeted at the younger generation. The machines have been introduced under the Nevada Control Board’s New Innovations Beta (NIB) program, which allows casinos to try out new games with real gamblers.
UK betting company ends publication of odds
Ladbrokes Coral has ended the practice of publishing odds of the day in UK newspapers, as prices fluctuated significantly to those published. The bookmaker previously allowed odds for the day to be printed at 8:30 am on race days, but Ladbrokes Coral has since labelled the practice “commercially nonsensical”. The company said the practice left the UK bookmaker in the opposite position in the market than intended, and as of Monday, the betting company will no longer honour markets displayed in newspapers.
Online gambling sites have been forced to remove any advertising which may appeal to children this week, after the UK Gambling Commission and Advertising Standards Authority signed a letter supporting the reforms. The letter in question was sent to more than 450 operators, advising that they remove all colours, graphics and cartoon images which may appeal to children to avoid prosecution. The Committee of Advertising Practice and the Remote Gambling Association also signed the letter, which addresses the prevalence of gambling among children.
Meanwhile, professional poker player, Phil Ivey, has lost his last court appeal against Crockford’s Casino in London. The casino refused to pay Ivey his winnings after it discovered he had used edge sorting to gain an advantage. Ivey sued the casino, but three courts found him guilty each time. This week, the UK Supreme Court, and Ivey’s last chance, ruled against the poker star.
Brazilian President open to gambling expansion
The Brazilian President has announced he is open to signing any gambling bills that come his way. It was not clear whether his promise was noteworthy earlier this week, as he was facing a potential trial on alleged corruption charges. However, on Wednesday lawmakers voted against sending him to face the charges, which would have resulted in a six-month suspension from office. Surviving the vote could mean the beginning of a regulated gambling industry, with two bills making their way through the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Kenyan sports betting company to stay
The CEO of the Kenyan sports betting company has announced that Sportpesa is not going anywhere, despite stating the opposite when the 35 percent uniform tax rate on gambling operators was signed into law. In an interview with Daily Nation, Ronald Karauri said it didn’t make sense for the company to exit the Kenyan market anymore but he hopes that the government will still change its mind. He also said that the government is misinformed if it believes higher taxation rates lead to stronger regulation of the gambling industry.
Malaysia tackles illegal gambling
The Malaysian government wants to crackdown on illegal gambling by amending legislation or crafting a new law. The Home Ministry is working with both the police and the Attorney-General to work out the best way to approach the issue. But the Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has revealed that the government hasn’t decided whether it will amend the current law or craft a new law specifically targeting online gambling. While online gambling is considered to be illegal in the country, the vague language means offshore online casino operators can accept Malaysian players.
Philippines’ casinos to record customer’s identity
Under new anti-money laundering policies, Filipino casinos will only be allowed to accept players if they show identification. They will also be required to record all patrons and their gambling activity. The new rules appear to keep proxy betting, where gamblers make bets via communication apps like WhatsApp with operators placing their bets at the casino, legal. The new policies mean the threshold for transaction reporting can be as high as PHP5 million.
Japanese casinos back on track
While it was initially thought the snap election proposed by current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe would derail the timeframe for casinos, it may have done the opposite. Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party appears to have captured two-thirds of the seats in the House of Representative. The results confirm strong support for Abe’s political agenda, including the implementation of land-based casinos, which could get the timeline back on track. However, some delays are expected due to the public opposition of the casinos and problem gambling issues.
Belgium is the latest country proposing restrictions to gambling advertising.
Back in June, the Belgian Justice Minister, Koen Geens, announced plans to crack down on gambling advertising and it appears he has followed through with the support of the Belgium Gaming Commission (BGC).
While the proposed restrictions ban gambling advertisements during live sporting events before 8pm, licensed bookmakers will be able to run ads immediately before and after sports broadcasts in the afternoon, provided they include a responsible gambling message and a disclaimer that minors are prohibited from gambling. The ban applies to all mediums including TV, radio, webcasts and other media platforms.
Gambling companies will also be prohibited from advertising via screen banners and half-time commercials.
Additionally, ads promoting gambling services will be banned from being broadcast during children’s programs, with the ban extended to 15 minutes before and after the show.
Youth sports teams are off limits when it comes to gambling advertising too, including on uniforms and equipment.
Online gambling wasn’t spared, with the minimum age to gamble online increased from 18 to 21 under the proposed reforms.
Marketing materials also have to include responsible gambling messages, with monetary penalties in place for operators which breach the rules.
Land-based gambling operations will also face a regulatory overhaul, with the number of betting shops legally allowed to operate dropping from 684 to 600.
Local councils will be involved in the culling process and they will have more input in regulations including opening hours.
Electronic gaming machines will be capped at four per venue at bars and other gaming venues, while an electronic identity card will be required to operate the coin-only machines.
While the restrictions have not yet been enforced, the country’s Council of Ministers has approved the policy. Additionally, the BGC has issued a statement supporting the new reforms.
Last month, the BGC released an updated version of its blacklist – a list of gambling companies blocked from servicing Belgian players.
While the list is constantly expanding, one gambling company managed to stay off it by blocking Belgian players.
Online betting company Dafabet, which sponsors Scottish footballers Celtic FC, reached out to the Belgian gaming regulator before the Celtics played Belgian Pro League team R.S.C Anderlecht, requesting advice to avoid ending up on the blacklist.
Following BGC’s recommendations, Dafabet blocked Belgian players from accessing its online gambling services in the lead up to the football match.
“The Gaming Commission appreciates the responsibility that Dafabet has taken upon itself to observe the Belgian Gaming and Betting Act, legislation that protects players against unchecked and illegal gambling,” the BGC said in a statement on its website.
The new reforms restrict Belgium’s gambling landscape further, with the BGC threatening to fine players who visit unauthorised offshore online gambling sites.
However, the gaming commission may have its work cut out for it given the recent incident involving local police officers allegedly using private citizens’ data to open online gambling accounts. Reportedly, 30 officers from the officers Antwerp Police Service gambled online using their new aliases during business hours. Under Belgium law, police officers are banned from gambling at casinos and online.
UK betting companies and broadcasters have offered to fund an £8 million problem gambling campaign in the lead-up to a review of the industry.
The government will reportedly address the increase in gambling ads in the upcoming review of the UK gaming industry, set to be published in the coming weeks.
But top betting companies are attempting to reduce the potential negative impact the review, by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS), could have with a problem gambling campaign.
Prominent gambling companies teamed up with UK broadcasters to create the awareness program, addressing problem gambling and addiction, which is set to launch in early 2018.
The Remote Gambling Association, which oversees UK online casinos, as well as the industry’s responsible gambling body the Senate Group, are both putting in cash.
The Advertising Associations and TV networks will also contribute to the £8 million campaign since the broadcasting industry relies heavily on gambling companies for revenue.
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG), made up of betting companies, casinos, arcade owners, and online gambling firms, will coordinate the campaign.
But Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said the timing of the campaign is worrying, given the government is mulling over tighter restrictions on betting advertising similar to the reforms the Australian government recently implemented.
“There must be no stitch-up to help the gambling industry avoid tighter restrictions on advertising,” Watson said.
“Industry-funded campaigns highlighting the risks of problem gambling are all very well, but they can’t be an alternative to regulation.”
Watson, who recently slammed football associations for allowing gambling sponsorships, believes relying on voluntary actions from the betting companies is an ineffective measure.
“The government’s review needs to look in particular at advertising that children are more likely to see, including pre-watershed gambling advertising around live sporting events, and football shirt sponsorship by betting firms,” he said.
Additionally, some sections of the industry aren’t playing ball and are refusing to contribute.
The National Casino Forum, the Bingo Association, and the trade body for arcades, Bacta, are all refusing to put money towards the campaign as they believe the plan is a poor attempt to avoid tighter advertising restrictions.
Australian problem gambling researcher, Professor Linda Hancock, told the Guardian that these campaigns “perpetuate the misnomer that safe gambling is up to individuals who need to alter their risky behaviour to avoid gambling problems”.
“Campaigns become a form of covert promotion of gambling whilst presenting as harm prevention, which they are not,” she added.
The Australian government recently passed legislation which places restrictions on gambling advertising on TV, radio and print publications. The new reforms restrict gambling ads from being aired during live sporting events before 8:30pm, which has been supported by TV networks due to a $AUD100 million package.
In the UK House of Lords debate earlier this week, British business magnate, Alan Sugar, called for similar restrictions.
“The government need to do something about stopping gambling television adverts that can be viewed by young people, the first being, although maybe not a solution, putting them after 9pm, after the watershed,” he said.
Online casinos, betting companies, and other gambling businesses have spent more than £1.4 billion on promotional material for media advertising since it was deregulated in 2012.
The industry agreed to a voluntary code, which only allows gambling ads to be aired before 9pm if they are attached to sporting events. However, the events are not required to be live, which means networks can broadcast gambling ads all day provided a sports match is on.