Does Mobile Sports Betting Have a Future in New York?

At the beginning of April 2019, New York lawmakers opted to leave mobile sports betting out of the state’s FY 2020 budget despite having included a number of reforms and initiatives that are associated with other forms of gambling. The budget which was agreed upon by Andrew Cuomo, the state’s governor and its legislative leaders set out spending plans for $175.5 billion for the next financial year. Serious efforts for the expansion of sports betting law in the Empire State have been underway for quite some time during the ongoing legislative sessions and the budget negotiations seemingly opened another window of opportunity. However, the state’s current constitution was the biggest drawback to the bill – voters must approve any gambling expansion plans the same way they did for the commercial casinos upstate. The state will, however, move ahead with plans to regulate in-person wagering following some preliminary talks on sports betting regulations that were held in January – in fact, an initial list of regulations was even published shortly after those talks.

What Next?

Gov. Cuomo has not been shy to express his strong stance against mobile wagering in the state and his argument sites an amendment to the 2013 law that permitted the establishment of four additional casinos. The amendment paved the way for the establishment of land-based gambling facilities but left out online gambling. As mentioned earlier, a constitutional amendment would have to be commissioned only through the votes. The proponents of mobile sports betting and online gambling in the state now have until the end of the current legislative session (which will be in June) to push through online and mobile wagering legislation. In fact, Senator Joseph Addabbo who has been championing the bill has already filed S00017 that sets out an 8.5 percent gross revenue tax rate – this bill is currently being scrutinized by the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee.
“We’re meeting from April to June. So, we now have to get a bill passed. It has to pass both the Senate and the house committees, then the Senate and the house and be signed by the governor. I would be really disappointed if we can’t get it done in this session because then we have to wait until January to start talking about it again,” Sen. Addabbo pointed out.
Fortunately, the state’s budget laid down plans to enhance other aspects of its legal gambling market that is currently limited to land-based casino gambling and horse racing.  Furthermore, the budget fixes the pari-mutuel tax rate for five years and “simplifies the commission structure for video lottery gaming in the state, as well as setting a cap on casinos offering free-play games to customers at 19% of the venue’s revenue”.

Two Arkansas Racetracks Reopen as Full-Scale Casinos

In November 2018, Arkansas was one of the states that were voting in favor in of gambling expansion. Earlier this week, the state officially joined the list of states in the US where commercial casino gambling is legal and available to the residents. Marking this historical moment was the relaunch of Arkansas racetracks as full-fledged casinos.

Through the constitutional amendment that was approved by the state’s residents at a statewide vote late last year, Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis, the two former racetracks, were allowed to transform themselves into full-fledged casino properties where they would be able to offer tables games and slots machines. This also came after the Arkansas Racing Commission which currently oversees the state’s gambling industry issued both of them with casino licenses.

Oaklawn Gaming & Racing has since been rebranded as Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. This move was set off in November 2018 after the approval of Amendment 100 – the former racecourse announced a $100 million expansion plan that would include an addition 28,000 of gaming space among other changes to the property’s existing amenities.  Prior to the launch of the full-scale casino earlier this week, Oaklawn added eight table games to its gaming floor which had 1,3000 slot machines. The full expansion project is expected to be completed before 2020 live racing session.

West Memphis’ Southland Park Gaming and Racing is no slouch either. The casino now has a whopping 2,000 table games and a total of 40 table games that legal gamblers can now enjoy playing.

Sports Betting on the Way

Full-scale casinos aside, Amendment 100 also gave the green light for the provision of sports betting services in Arkansas. According to recent industry reports, Oaklawn is set to add sports betting to its portfolio in the coming weeks. Southland Park Gaming has also stated that it plans to go offer sports betting but not specific dates for the launch have been announced yet.

In fact, sports betting might not arrive at Southland as soon as some of the rumors reported. Earlier this year, the casino began promoting the upcoming debut of its BetLucky Sportsbook but according to news from the previous Friday, the casino’s owner has parted ways with its exclusive sports betting partners.  While the company is already searching for a new betting technology partner, it goes without saying that there will be an imminent delay in the launch of sports betting at the facility.

West Virginia Legalizes Online Gambling and Poker

West Virginia is now the fifth state in the United States to have given the green light for an online gambling industry. The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, become a law 15 days (excluding Sundays) after it was forwarded to the desk of the governor who ended up not signing it by the March 27 deadline. According to West Virginia state laws, any bill not signed into law or vetoed by the governor within a given set period is automatically passed to law.

While there were some concerns that Governor Jim Justice would veto the online gambling bill in the same manner that Michigan’s governor did, but after deeper insight into the matter revealed quite a number of reasons why online gambling in the state is here to stay. First, one of the supposed reasons why the governor chose not to veto the bill is because of his family’s ties to the ownership of a West Virginian casino. In essence, this means that by heartily signing the bill into law, the governor would have probably implicated himself as the move would have the appearance of impropriety.

Regardless, the news that online gambling and poker will be coming to West Virginia is still great news for gamers in the state who have had to deal with underground, unregulated and illegal gaming sites. Sports betting is a vital component of the bill and now West Virginia is officially the third state in the country – behind Pennsylvania and New Jersey – to have a legalized mobile and online sports betting.

That said, the state’s five casinos, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races; Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort; The Casino Club at The Greenbrier; Mardi Gras Casino & Resort; and Wheeling Island Hotel are now allowed to forward their interactive gaming license applications to the West Virginia Lottery, which will be in charge of the interactive gaming sector. These licenses will be going for $250,000 apiece and will be renewed every five years for $100,000. Also, the online gaming operators will be required to pay a 15 percent tax on all their online gaming revenue. The industry’s platform and service providers, on the other hand, will be required to pay $100,000 for their licenses.

When Can West Virginians Expect to Begin Gambling

As it stands, the West Virginia Lottery has until June 2020 to finalize on crafting a suitable framework and gaming regulations and it is likely that the soonest time that the interactive gaming operations will go live in the state will be after that. Still, it might be totally worth as the operators will have sufficient time to get ready.

Besides that, there is also the issue of the recent reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act which makes it apply to all forms of online gaming and not just sports betting. The law has the potential to cripple a lot of vital aspects of the gaming industry including the multi-state share liquidity pools that would have been very beneficial to West Virginia especially considering its considerably small population.

Virginia Advances Casino Gambling, Sports Betting Bill

The Virginia General Assembly has made a historic move by supporting the legalization of sports betting and casino gambling by passing Senate Bill 1126 which seeks to have casinos established in certain cities around the state. The gambling expansion bill is also the very first one in the recent past that has survived the Senate which has a reputation for dispelling any and all forms of gambling-related bills.

The Terms

Now that the hardest part of the process is complete, all that remains is for the state’s governor to sign the bill into law – while seemingly simple, this part of the process is just as crucial as every other part of the process. In Michigan, a gaming bill made it through the lawmakers but the governor chose to veto it. Fortunately, there is very little likelihood that this will happen in Virginia primarily because Gov. Ralph Northam says that he will support the gaming bill if it is beneficial for the state. So far, a gaming industry in the state seems to be a very promising idea not just for the operators and the residents but also for the state authorities and regulators who are going to rake in millions in tax revenue.

Senate Bill 1126 has some rather strict stipulations that will determine whether a state qualifies to host a casino. These include requirements that:

  • 40 percent of the land area of the city must be exempt from local real property taxation, or 24 percent provided that a Virginia Indian Tribe conducts such casino gaming.
  • the unemployment rate was at least 5 percent in November 2017 (or 4 percent if located adjacent to a state that has adopted a Border Region Retail Tourism Development District Act), a poverty rate of at least 20 percent in 2016, and a population decrease of at least 4 percent from 1990 to 2016.
  • the city has a population of more than 200,000 according to the 2017 population estimates.

In addition to that, the local authorities and the residents of the qualifying cities will have to be consulted extensively before the grant of a License to any casino – the Virginia Lottery Board will be responsible for the licensing.

Sports Betting and Online Gambling

While the major focus is currently on the land-based casinos, the bill further contains mechanisms that will see the launch of sports betting and online betting in the state. According to the bill, online gaming will be under the umbrella of “casino gaming”. The Virginia Lottery Board will, therefore, still be responsible for awarding licenses for these verticals – it will also be required to craft rules and regulation for the state’s gambling industry.

St Patrick Smiles on Hawaiian Who Wins $1m in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a place where quite a few interesting stories begin, and sometimes even end. A Hawaiian visitor of the city arrived for St. Patrick’s Day determined to have a bit of fun.

He (or she) ended up leaving with over $1 million in fresh earnings they had won in less than five minutes playing a popular slot machine.

Here’s how it all happened.

The Luck of the Irish: Hawaiian Customer Wins $1m from Monopoly Millionaire

St Patrick’s Day is probably best celebrated in Las Vegas, anywhere outside Ireland that is.

Withold your scepticism. The inherent festivities that come hand-in-hand with the idea of Leprechauns, pots of gold, and a fair bit of drinking fit perfectly with the day-to-day state of affairs in Nevada’s gaming oasis.

So, when an unknown Hawaiian arrived in Las Vegas for St Patrick’s Day, they were quite delighted at the general celebratory mood that had spilt out of every casino property and onto the streets of the city.

Shortly after, the Hawaiian found themselves at the Plaza Hotel and Casino having a shot at Monopoly Millionaire. The Plaza Casino later reported on social media that it had taken the tourist less than five minutes to secure the impressive $1,029,529.13 in jackpot money.

St Patrick – Time for Profit

St Patrick’s Day is an Irish holiday that was brought over by the Irish. Today the Irish are fully integrated in the US and the descendants of the erstwhile immigrants don’t quite feel as outsiders at all.

Independently of them, St Patrick’s Day has been slowly edging its way into the American mainstream. All over the world, tucked away pubs in the strangest of countries have been announcing St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Las Vegas is of course one of the many places not to miss out on this tradition, inviting gamblers to have a go at even “barmier” casino games and special events organized specifically for the occasion.

Our Hawaiian hero, though, didn’t really participate in much of what Las Vegas had planned for him. He simply sat down to play Monopoly Millionaire and bagged the precious $1 million in prizing money soon after, drawing admiration from other strangers on the Internet.

“Thank god that wasn’t me winning, or I’d still be on the floor,” one whimsical Facebook user said. Others kept piling in and congratulating the unknown player on their success.

The Hawaiian amassed a fair bit of profit in no time at all.

Well, here’s at least one person who will remember St Patrick’s Day in 2019 very fondly.

Bet365 Prepares to Debut in the United States

Renowned United Kingdom-based online gambling operator Bet365 is a step closer to offering its gaming services to the growing sports betting market in the United States. Known for offering world-class gaming service, the gaming company will be making its initial debut in the US through New Jersey and to seal the deal, it has already even gone as far as signing a lease on a piece of real estate in Marlton, New Jersey and this presumably where it will be operating from. The office space sits on a 19,000-square-foot-space at the Two Greentree Center and Bet365 will have access to it for quite some time thanks to the long-term lease.

Rumors of a possible venture into the United States emerged in 2018 when Bet365 partnered with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, a local gambling operator – both companies signed a letter of intent as per New Jersey state gaming regulations before they were allowed to begin making plans for sports betting.

Dealing with Competition

Even though Bet365 has built quite the reputation for itself in the world of online gambling, this simply does not cut it in all gambling markets especially in cases where there are equally viable and reputable competitors trying to get a piece of the action. New Jersey is no stranger to gaming companies and already boasts of being home to a plethora of influential sportsbooks including 888Sport, Borgata, William Hill, FanDuel and DraftKings, all of which are considered to be quite good at the services they offer.

As such, penetrating the United States gaming market will certainly not be an easy task. This, however, does not mean that it is impossible. As a matter of fact, European gaming companies have been doing quite well in the United States thanks to the reliance on a mix of innovative gaming solutions as well as market-specific offerings that have resonated very well with US-based customers.

New Jersey is Just the First Stop for Bet365

Bet365 has had a lot of success back in the United Kingdom due to its prowess in finance and business and this is probably what will give the company an edge over competitors in the United Kingdom. It is already catching up with other established sports betting operators in the state and, as it turns out, its plans for the United States extend beyond New Jersey. The company is reportedly already eyeing expansion opportunities in New York, a move that is likely to be facilitated by the deal it recently signed with Empire Resorts.

Carl Icahn Ups Stake to Become Caesars’ Largest Shareholder

Entities related to New York billionaire, Carl Icahn have in the past week purchased 38.9 million shares of Caesars Entertainment Corp. thus making him the largest shareholder in the behemoth casino operator. During a Friday filing with the United Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Icahn stated that he now owns 15.3 percent in company stock at Caesars which is a rather significant bump form the nearly 10 percent that he had managed to accrue over the past few months.

It, however, came as very little of a surprise that such a move would be orchestrated – within the same period, Caesars Entertainment announced that its leadership had agreed to give Carl Icahn board representation. Among the people that were confirmed to be joining the 12-person Caesars Entertainment Board of Directors was Keith Cozza who is the current chief executive of Icahn Enterprises. Joining replace three former members of the board are Courtney Mather and James Nelson.

Is A Merger or Sale Imminent?

Now that Carl Icahn is the largest shareholder in Caesars Entertainment, a lot of questions have begun to crop especially with regards to a possible merger or sale. The billionaire businessman has over the recent past mounted a lot of pressure on Caesars to sell itself or, if possible, merge with a different entity. During the statement in which he named the three new board members he had appointed to represent him, Mr. Icahn confirmed that he was still of the belief that “the best path forward for Caesars requires a strategic process to sell or merge the company.”

“Caesars would be a great opportunity for certain investors who have already expressed interest, and I’m glad the Board will explore the opportunities,” the 82-year-old billionaire investor said.

Known for trying, and in some cases succeeding, to convince a number of business and companies to sell themselves, it is quite obvious that his new status as Caesars’ largest shareholder will have an effect of some kind on the way things play out. At the time of this writing, it seems very likely that a sale or a merger may be in the works. As a matter of fact, Tilman Fertitta, a businessman from Texas approached Caesars with an offer to merge with his casino and hospitality empire. Fertitta’s company, Laundry’s currently owns and operates the renowned Golden Nugget chain of casinos.

While Caesars chose to turn down the offers, it later became known that Mr. Fertitta went on to acquire a stake in the business. He is also reportedly still interested in merging both businesses and with Icahn’s blessing, this may finally happen.

Keystone State Marks March Gambling Awareness Month

Jennifer Smith, the Keystone State’s Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary has today officially kick-started the activities that mark Mars as the state’s Gambling Awareness Month. While inaugurating the event, the secretary said that the goal of the initiative is to bring various stakeholders in the gaming sector together in a bid to promote awareness with regards to problem gambling which is starting to become more prevalent as the gaming industry continues to grow. Jennifer Smith further pointed out it would be a great opportunity to highlight some of the resources that would be required for the promotion of responsible gambling among individuals.

She went on to urge individuals to keep a watchful eye over their family and friends so that they can better recognize when a recreational hobby such as sports betting or online poker evolves into a more serious problem. This way necessary interventions can be introduced earlier and the individuals can receive the treatment and assistance they need before the problem becomes unmanageable or results in irreversible harm.

This March will be the 15th anniversary of the National Gambling Awareness Month as recognized by the National Council on Problem Gambling. The theme for this year is “Awareness + Action” which reflects on the need for a more proactive approach in as far as the issue of problem gambling is concerned. The campaign’s mandate is to not only raise public awareness on the issue of problem gambling but to also push for more treatment and recovery services for victims.

In Pennsylvania, the initiative has received a significant push forward through a partnership of sorts between the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania who are jointly funding and operating the Pennsylvania Problem Gambling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426- 2537) which is available 24/7 every day of the year.

New Jersey Rolls Out Awareness Efforts as Well

In similar news, the lottery New Jersey has also recently revamped its efforts to promote awareness on problem gambling by collaborating with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey. Just like in Pennsylvania, the state also has a dedicated call line available to people who are victims or may be at risk of gambling-related harm in the state.

Fortunately, the legalization of sports betting in the state is having a positive effect on awareness efforts. This is because, in the past, sports gamblers were reluctant to seek help since they were playing at illegal or underground bookmakers which is no longer the case as there are fully legal and regulated sportsbooks they can play at. In case they develop any issues related to gambling, they no longer have to worry about being nabbed for participating in illegal gambling activities.

Virginia General Assembly Passes Casino Legislation

Last Saturday, the General Assembly of the state of Virginia passed compromise legislation that would effectively introduce the state – and Danville – to casino gaming in the near future, that is, if the governor decides to sign it into law.

According to Substitute Senate Bill 1126, the aforementioned legislation, the Virginia Lottery Board is authorized to regulate the yet-to-be-launched casino gaming industry in the state. Before that, there will have to be a framework for licenses and the bill, of course, clearly outlines these licensing requirements. It also specified both the civil and criminal penalties that operators would be subject to in case they violated the terms of the casino gaming law.

Moreover, casino gaming will still be limited to specific areas or cities that will meet the criteria that are outlined in the bill. For the selected cities, a referendum will have to be held so that the residents can vote on whether they agree to the establishment of a gaming facility. This is expected to be done by the end of 2020 which implies that it will certainly take a bit of time before casino gaming makes it to some places in the state. For instance, as it stands, Richmond and Norfolk have been identified as potential sites for a casino owned and operated by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Recommendations and Taxes

A clause of the bill requires that a recommendation for casino gaming in the state to be filed with the concerned parties by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission by November 1 this year. This is further complemented by a re-enactment clause for the referenda provisions outlined by the bill. However, unless the bill is re-enacted by the 2020 session of the General Assembly, no referenda can occur. Also, unless the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s findings and recommendations with regards to casino gaming are published by the specified date, there will be no referenda.

As for taxes, if passed, the bill would impose a tax range of between 13 and 15 percent of the adjusted gross revenue of the state’s licensed casino operators. This would be based on the operators’ annual adjusted gross receipts.  The bill will further outline how the tax proceeds will be disbursed after collection.

As mentioned earlier, the Virginia Lottery Board would be responsible for regulating the gaming industry and this will involve actual development of the rules that conform to the provisions of the gaming act. The time period for this has been set for between January 1, 2020, and June 30, 2020. One of the prime considerations is the establishment and implementation of a voluntary self-exclusion program that will allow individuals to protect themselves from gambling-related harm.

AGA Pens Advisory Letter on Gaming Priorities to US Congress

The United States’ gaming industry has seen a lot of ups and downs but it goes without saying that it has been growing immensely and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. In a recent letter addressed to the US Congress, Bill Miller, the chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association, gave a brief overview of the gambling industry and it looks quite good. A few changes are needed here and there but it remains quite impressive despite the plethora of issues that have cropped up in the recent past. The AGA chief executive further outlined policies that the association believes should be prioritized going forward and stressed on the desire and importance of working with the Congress to foster further growth and development in the industry.

The letter detailed the vast gambling industry that spans across a whopping 42 states and supports over 1.8 million jobs while raking in $261 billion annually while bringing in $41 billion in tax revenue. There is no better for advancement than now since the industry has grown to become a mainstream form of entertainment which means demand is relatively high and is likely to keep growing.

“The opportunity to continue to promote the positive impact gaming has on communities, individual households, and the country is more abundant than ever,” the AGA chief executive wrote.

Advancing Sports Betting

Sports betting in the United States has been on a positive trajectory since the United States Supreme Court abolished PASPA and lifted the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018. The activity is expected to make a huge difference (positive, that is) on the country’s gaming market, something that even the pro sports leagues that were not for it have come to accept. As a matter of fact, nearly of the leagues have formed partnerships with different gaming operators in a bid to tap into the lucrative market.

A number of states have already launched their sports betting industries and many more are expected to join in very soon. A few more are just now considering legislative bills regarding the legalization of sports betting within their borders.

Rooting Out Illegal Operators

According to the letter, now that the gambling industry has shown its full potential, it is more important than ever that the federal government is involved. Bill Miller called for additional federal regulatory oversight especially with regards to sports betting. One of the ways that the AGA proposed was a more detailed review of existing anti-money laundering frameworks to ensure a strong culture of compliance – it would be the best place to start when it comes to weeding out black market sports betting operators.

Scroll Up