As we quietly entered a brand new decade, behind the scenes the wheels of the gambling industry were busy turning, with the USA being the leader of change and Europe and Asia closely following.
There have already been regulatory innovations taking place worldwide and here we take the time to bring you up to date with some of those changes…. starting with America.
Regulatory Changes across the US
After a longer delay on legislation, Nebraska appears to be back in the saddle. Senator Justin Wayne has submitted a new Games of Skill Act (LB 990) to make wagering on sports, fantasy sports and poker, legal for consumers within the state. While not explicitly unifying web-based practises, some media reports have said that the Senator has announced publicly that the bill also intends to allow online games.
The Illinois Gaming Board initiated the initial stage of its licencing process for sports wagering and started accepting submissions for Master Sports betting licences and permits for all service providers. The process became public under a series of emergency rules that enabled the Board to grant temporary operating licences.
In Colorado, it’s regulator confirmed 12 betting licence applications had been received since November’s publication of draft regulations. February will see final regulations scheduled to be issued, ahead of a launch in May 2020. Twin River Casino Holdings signed an agreement with, fantasy sports contest and sports betting provider DraftKings to open a retail sportsbook and online game, while DraftKing’s competitor FanDuel also agreed to put out a Twin River online-only facility.
In Kentucky, Representative Adam Koenig pre-filed bills to give the go-ahead for sports betting, online poker and Kentucky daily fantasy sports. The BR 364 bill, is primarily retail and online sports betting at the proposed tax rates of 10.25 percent and 14.25 percent. In order to join, players are required to register in-person at the track. Contracts for online poker will be provided by the Kentucky Lottery and operators.
Meanwhile in Maine, Governor Janet Mills refused sports betting legislation, citing several reasons including, aggressive advertising for people under the age of 21, that could be potentially harmful. Instead, a proposed new bill could be introduced to the next legislative session.
In Michigan, the House and Senate passed legislation, to approve and control the state’s online gaming, retail and online sports betting. The bills being H4311 and H4916, had been sent to be signed into law by the governor. Governor Whitmer duly signed the legislation on December 20, 2019 to allow the state’s online gaming, sports betting and daily fantasy sports. But so far the launch date has not materialised and the state could have to wait until 2021.
In addition, there has been an inked partnership between The Stars Group and Odawa Indians Gaming Authority’s Little Traverse Bay Bands, to conduct business, such as online real-money betting, poker and a casino in Michigan, subject to availability of licences, state law and the necessary regulatory approvals. Odawa currently runs 2 state parlours and is set to receive a share of the revenue from The Stars Company.
New York’s Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort began offering IGT-powered sports wagering services and thus became the third location to carry out PlaySports technology in the state. It was by a market access agreement between The Stars Group and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe which operates the centre, that this was possible. A new retail sportsbook was established by the Seneca Tribal Nation at the Seneca Allegany Resort and Casino in its Buffalo Creek Casino resort and the Seneca Allegany Sports Lounge.
Once again SB18 has been presented by state Senator Addabbo, to allow mobile poker games, despite struggling to advance on the same bill back in 2019. The said bill defines interactive poker as a skill game and would require current distributors of land-based commercial and tribal gaming to apply for a total of 11 certificates to deliver the game. This attempt to legalise online poker has been going on since 2014 with New York lawmakers filing bills every year since, but to no avail.
Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo has revealed his plan for the 2021 budget, choosing not to include online sports betting legislation. However, he has included plans to allow operators to sell automated betting kiosks and gave the go-ahead for betting windows beyond their sports lounges in other areas of their properties.
In Oklahoma, a lawsuit has been filed against Governor Kein Stitt by three of the state’s most influential tribes. The lawsuit was filed following a failure in the territorial gaming treaty framework talks, and whether it was automatically renewed on 1 January 2020.
In the meantime FanDuel has debuted a mobile casino over in Pennsylvania in partnership with Boyd Gaming’s owned Valley Forge Casino.
A sports gambling bill SB213 has been pre-filed by Senators Michael Sirotkin and Richard Sears in Vermont. However since the state does not have any existing casinos or gambling establishments, Vermont sports wagering will be a solely mobile betting endeavour. The bill proposes a licence fee of $10k, with each permit valid for two years, with a tax rate of 10 percent GGR. It also facilitates daily fantasy sports, with a certificate expense of $5k and the same GGR tax rate of 10 percent.
In Atlanta, the Atlanta Motor Speedway expressed a desire to set up an integrated casino resort at its Hampton venues and to hold a public hearing on the proposals,to be organised by the Special Committee on Economic Growth. During the hearing, the amendment of Georgia’s constitution to allow casino gaming as well as wagering on sports and horse-racing was discussed.
Regulatory Changes in the UK
In the UK, a new review on proposals for amending existing rules to allow the younger population to play more important roles in certain lottery advertising was launched by The UK Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP).
The Department of Communities of Northern Ireland (DfC) launched a public consultation to review its gambling laws and discuss the ‘effectiveness of the current legislation.’ The main objective being to establish improvements that should be included in any proposed gambling legislation. The consultation is to run until February 21 2020.
On top of this, the Government announced that it would perform a comprehensive review of the Gambling Act that explicitly focused on interactive gambling laws including the classification of “loot boxes” within video games and using credit to gamble.
VIP accounts are to be looked at by the Gambling Commission, who plan to take action to address problems relating to the use and promotion of such accounts. The move came in the wake of UK media outlets having received a non-public report from the Gambling Commission, outlining the prevalence of problem gambling, problems with VIP account holders and ways these issues could be resolved, with the consideration of a ban.
In addition, the Commission has made significant changes to its licencing terms, in which all the online operators will now be made to sign up to the national self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP, by 31 March 2020. This scheme allows players to self register for either 6 months, 1 year or 5 years which which will then restrict them from all participating gambling sites.
From 14 April 2020 players will be unable to use credit cards for gambling, and neither will they be able to make payments made via credit card through a money service business to the licensee.’ This credit card ban excludes buying National Lottery tickets at a retail location, with an exemption if they are purchased at the same time as other items. This ban follows one from a consultation which took place from 14 August until 6 November 2019.
News from the Asian Region
The vice Minister of the China Ministry of Public Security of China issued a statement that vowed to clamp down on illegal online gambling in the nation and promising to “deepen cross-border online gambling prevention and control work.” The statement goes on to claim that during 2019, law enforcement tackled 7,200 illicit online gambling cases, arrested more than 25,000 targets and seized US$ 26 billion. Under pressure from Beijing, China’s anti-gambling efforts were helped by Cambodia agreeing to shut down its local licenced online gambling sector as of 1 January 2020 with exception of it’s National Lottery, which mainly targeted Chinese customers on the mainland.
Japan‘s government has postponed a withholding tax on non-resident international gamblers’ casino winnings despite protests by ruling party lawmakers.
Hokkaido Mayor Naomichi Suzuki… announced the city would not seek an integrated resort (IR) bid. The announcement saw rival Osaka and Nagasaki municipalities reinforce their pledge to establishing and being the host cities for Japan’s first IRs. Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui, however, said that he had thrown in the towel on his long-standing target of opening the Yumeshima IR in time for World Expo 2025. In the meantime, interested parties would be expected only to agree to an opening date in 2026.
Elsewhere, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Chiba City Mayor said he would convey his decision about whether or not to seek an integrated resort offer at the latest by the end of March 2020. Two of those such plans emerged from local groups within the region, and six originated from other Japanese and foreign IR operators, all in a range ranging from US$ 5 billion to US$ 7 billion.
After the bribery scandal involving 500 Dot Com bribery where it was revealed that some lawmakers had accepted cash bribes from this gambling company, the major opposition parties agreed to bring forward legislation to abolish the 2016 Integrated Resorts Promotion Act and the 2018 IR Implementation Act. Significantly most of Japan want the government to rethink its regulations on integrated resort casinos.
The Government of Japan will continue to support the establishment of IR in the country, according to it’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abeal however according to several media outlets, the scheme is likely to be delayed ‘ for an undetermined period ‘ due to not only the bribery incident but also the public opposition to the policy.
Following attempts by activists as well as central and state government officials to get fantasy sports labelled as an illegal gambling product of the country, India‘s supreme court blocked the attempts, ruling that fantasy sports were in fact skill games similar to rummy. As for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) the Council of India has decided, a flat tax for lotteries will be set at 28 percent of all ticket sales and is set to come into play from March 2020. But the sale of lottery tickets has been banned by the State of Maharashtra, which includes any state within its jurisdiction.
Sports betting, slot machines, and casinos through both online and land-based outlets are banned in Uzbekistan after a law was passed back in 2007 which prohibited this kind of gambling.
This was because back then, Uzbekistan passed a law banning all types of gambling… such as sports betting, slot machines, and casinos through both online and land-based outlets. Previously gambling took place, but the licencing / regulatory environment was vague and there were land-based activities, but they were operating in a grey area.
Following this long period of silence, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree in December 2019 which set out plans to develop football and other sports as a way to attract funds to Uzbekistan, which is expected to begin operating from 2021.
Current Australian and African update
In Australia, a consultation has been launched to evaluate the risks to players of gambling on credit by the Australian Banking Association. By doing so they are hoping to gain an insight on what restrictions could be put in place to minimise any problems. In addition, the parliament enacted legislation creating the National Register of Self-Exclusion for the country.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has reported, that due in part to it’s continuous clampdown on illegal gambling activities that Internet Service Providers have blocked a further nine online casino websites. In November 2019 ACMA began instructing providers to block unauthorised offshore sites.
In addition, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UK Gambling Commission, has been signed by he Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC). This will allow both organisations to exchange information on regulatory and compliance, related to money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption and other serious crimes.
The Government of Tasmania has released planned tax rates for operators of slot machines. If the law is accepted, slot machine facilities may issue individual Electronic Gaming Machine (EGM) Certificates pending suitability testing, this is in the hope of moving away from the gaming monopoly.
In Africa, following cases in which operators failed to pay winnings, the Nigerian National Lottery Regulatory Commission, has banned the operation, promotion and sale of ‘ unapproved foreign lottery ‘ games tickets. Nigerian players are permitted to access foreign lotteries from other countries, but only when the President has authorised the availability, this is according the National Lottery Act of 2005.
Updates from elsewhere around the world
In the German state of Hesse, Interior Minister Peter Beuth, declared that no operator had filed a federal sports betting licence application, but warned that any company who continued to operate unlicensed or without certification, would face immediate action if they continued. The approval process started on 2 January 2020, receiving 11 applications for sports betting licences so far, with an additional seven operators making contractual promises to send proposals.
Meanwhile in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, legislators stated that the 16 landers had, in principle, agreed to allow online casino games and poker under the latest Interstate Treaty, which seeks to create a set of Federal regulations including a maximum deposit of € 1k per person per month. Individual states can then lay down their own laws for regulating operations within their jurisdiction.
In December, Spelinspektionen, the Swedish Gaming Authority, released details of its strategy to avoid unlicensed operators taking bets from Swedish players. Following this, Sweden’s Minister of Social Security announced in January this year that the Government is getting ready to release the “Stage II” of its regulatory strategy to gambling, concentrating on tighter advertising and marketing restrictions for licenced operators.
The regulator also launched a consultation on draft regulations that should prohibit licenced operators from providing wagers on rule breaches / penalties such as yellow cards and penalty kicks during a football match or tennis faults. Critics of the proposed regulations have however argued that this would only help to push more players on offshore websites where there is very little consumer protection and little oversight of honesty.
In Belgium the Belgian Gambling Commission announced that it was seeking more limits on advertisements for betting operators, to include a complete ban, as well as a ban during sports broadcasts and sponsorship bans.
The Czech Government has introduced proposed tax rises across the gambling market, raising the tax on live casino games lotteries and bingo from 23 percent to 30 percent on gross wins, and the gross win from fixed odd bets up from 23 percent to 25 percent. In addition, the Government also released technical documentation on the introduction of the programme of self-exclusion scheduled for a mid-2020 launch.
The draft Greek online gaming regulations were submitted to the European Commission in October 2019, with a standstill clause until 1 April 2020. OPAP confirmed it had successfully completed the full deployment of 25,000 VLTs in December 2019, after the project was initiated in January 2017.
The Gaming Commission has dismissed the bi of Hard Rock International according to local media.
The Serbian Games of Chance Administration revealed in January 2020 a consultation on a proposed gambling bill that would provide a detailed regulatory scheme for gambling games. This aims to provide far more social responsibility initiatives, and it also includes formerly unregulated sectors, such as virtual event betting.
Licenses for organising online special chance games would be issued for 10 years, with payments of € 2,500 per month. Taxes for online betting would be fixed at 15 percent of GGR, and 10 percent of GGR for other forms of special games of chance, so that neither is less than € 15,000.
The Spanish Government has announced that it plans to implement regulations to ensure that gambling ads comply with the same restrictions as advertisements for tobacco, indicating advertising will typically be prohibited throughout the country except at the point of sale, where limitations would be required with a permission. An independent consumer watchdog, FACAU had called on the government to outlaw all credit gambling.
Many amendments from the Tax Finance and Customs Committee made to the December gambling extension plans were accepted by the Parliament in Ukraine. The amendments were rewritten into a single bill (2285) that would legalise and regulate; brick and mortar casinos, betting, gaming machines and lotteries, as well as online casinos, sports betting and poker.
By a vote of 260 in favour, Bill 2285-D passed its first reading in parliament with only a slim majority of the 450 ministers required. It would allow only five-star hotels to integrate gaming facilities into their properties. Before the President may sign the bill into law, a further two readings must first be held in parliament