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.

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.

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.

Casino Resorts in Japan Required to Have Large Hotels

The government of Japan has recently made public some of the standards it hopes to set for casino resorts that are to be built in the mid-2020s. Perhaps the most notable requirement is that the casinos will need to have conference rooms and hotels which, as it turns out, would be far larger than the existing ones in the country. This is all part of Japan’s bid to compete with its regional rivals including Singapore, Macau and South Korea, all of which also have planned casinos.

These plans, including the hotels with over 100,000 square meters for guest rooms, will require huge investments from both the gaming operators and the local governments.  Considering the fact that an average-sized Japanese guest room occupies about 50 square meters, a hotel that would meet the government’s requirements would need to have 2,000 rooms which significantly exceeds the number of rooms that most of the established hotels in the country have.

In addition to the 100,000 square meters for hotel rooms, each of the facilities will be required to have an exhibition hall occupying no less than 120,000 square meters as well as a conference room that is capable of holding over 6,000 people. Alternatively, the operators will be allowed to opt for a hybrid design that will have both a conference room with a capacity of 3,000 people and a 60,000 square-meter convention room.

Furthermore, the government has set floor space for casinos to a little under 3 percent of the total resort space with advertising for the casinos outside the proposed integrated resorts being limited to terminals at ports and airports with international flights. As it stands, these requirements are still in the proposal phase but it is anticipated that cabinet approval could come at the end of March after the public comment period closes on March 4.

Limited Interest

Several market analysts pegged Japan to be a major rival to Macau which is considered to be the Mecca of gambling both globally and in Asia. This prompted a number of gambling operators to make some lavish proposals in a bid to get a share of the country’s gaming market with the development of integrated casino resorts.

However, according to a recent poll conducted by the Kyodo News Agency, only 3 out of the 47 prefectures and the 20 cities that are eligible to bid for these casino locations are interested in hosting the casino resorts. While it is still too early to speculate why there such little interest, the rather outrageous requirement by the country’s government could have something to do with it especially with regards to the costs that both operators and local government will have to incur. Still, a lot could change over the course of the year – 17 local governments, for instance, have stated that they are still undecided which means that there is the possibility of a bidding war in the near future.

Atlantic City’s Hard Rock Casino Begins Sports Betting in NJ

After receiving permission from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino has begun testing its sports betting offering. If this goes well, the casino will have its sports betting services in full operation just in time for the Super Bowl. This will be confirmed in the next few days when the casino operator officially releases its statement with regards to in-person sports betting at the gambling facility. Online sports betting is also being actively pursued by the company.

The sports betting market is quite lucrative and it comes as no surprise that Hard Rock casino has finally decided to join the party – the casino will be the eighth casino to offers sports betting in the state and its online sports betting app will be the tenth sportsbook apps in New Jersey. This venture will be the Malta-based GiG’s first every foray into the United States’ sports betting market.

It is certainly not going to stop there though – as the legal and regulated sports betting market in the country continues to grow, Hard Rock and GiG will probably seek to expand their gaming partnership to other states, especially those that already have operational Hard Rock casinos. Meanwhile, New Jersey is definitely a great place to test out the potential of the gaming market. This is primarily because the state championed the abolishment of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) thus paving the way for legal and regulated sports betting across the country.

“We are delighted to have reached another achievement in our partnership with Hard Rock,” said Robin Reed, the chief executive officer of GiG. “Hard Rock has global recognition, unparalleled reach and the same high ambitions as us. We look forward to continuing to support Hard Rock’s growth in New Jersey and expansion around the world.”

New Jersey’s residents and visitors can now place on a wide range of sporting activities including baseball, hockey, basketball, football, soccer, and college sports among others on both online and mobile platforms. As it stands, over $1.24 billion has been spent on sporting events in the states since its gaming industry went lice back in June 2018

Hard Rock’s History

The casino operator is perhaps best recognized for its acquisition of the former Trump Taj Mahal on the Atlantic City Boardwalk back in 2017. After purchasing the property, Hard Rock added its branding and design as well as the world’s largest music memorabilia collection to it before finally reopening it on June 28, 2018, as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Sports betting will, therefore, be joining the casino’s over 120 tables games 2000-plus slots.

Vietnam’s Corona Resort and Casino Now Operational

The much-anticipated Corona Resort and Casino which is located in Phu Quoc island finally opened its doors on January 19 becoming the very first casino in Vietnam to allow locals on to the gaming floor. For the next three years, the casino will be operating under a pilot scheme and will be managed by Upffinity Gaming Management, a Netherlands-based firm that signed an exclusive management accord back in May 2017. Phu Quoc Tourism Investment and Development Jsc., the developer of the casino project has invested over $2.1 billion into the luxury hotel and casino resort making it one of the most lucrative casino ventures in the country’s history. This is yet another nod to the growing casino industry in Asia.

Opening Up the Local Market

Even though casino gambling is legal in Vietnam, the country’s residents have never been allowed to participate in gambling activities at the country’s licensed casinos, that is, until recently. As mentioned earlier, Corona Resorts and Casino will be the first casino to admit Vietnamese residents to play casino games on its floors, a move that has been backed even by the Vietnamese government. The property itself occupies 18,8000 square meters and features 100 gaming tables with players being allowed to pick and choose from several table games including roulette, blackjack, and poker among others. In addition to the table games, there are 1,000 electronic gaming machines as well as 1,000 slot games for players to enjoy.

Also, as it turns out, the Corona Resort and Casino is just one of two locations in the country where both locals and foreigners will be allowed into the gaming floors. In late 2018 it was revealed that Quang Ninh province in Vietnam is also seeking permission to build a $2 billion resort with a casino that will allow the locals to gamble. This property will, reportedly, be built in the Van Don district, a serene location that is considered to be a major tourism and industrial hub in the country.

The Van Don casino resort is expected to stretch over 2,500 hectares of land and will be built and launched in several phases – phase one is expected to become operational within the first quarter of this year which brings the launch date to 2022. If approved by the government, this casino resort will also be subjected to a three-year trial period and will allow Vietnamese passport holders entry into the gaming floors.

The Conditions for Entry

Both casinos will only people aged 21 and over to enter their gaming floors. For the residents of the country, there will be an entry fee – a 24-hours pass, for instance, will set the gamblers back VND1 million which is equivalent to $43. A monthly pass, on the other hand, will cost VND25 million which equates to about $1,000. Locals will also be restricted to no more than 720 hours of gambling every month.

Tighter Regulatory Measures Coming to UK’s Gaming Industry

Gambling regulation and consumer protection are among the most vastly debated issues in the United Kingdom. The country has been grappling with lots of issues pertaining to problem gambling and gambling addiction with a number of measures being introduced to curb the issue of the past few years. Unfortunately, as much as there has been a lot of progress and studies to support various initiatives in this regard, there are still a lot more that has to be done if viable solutions are to be found. Thanks to the existence of several obstacles and emerging gambling trends, regulators and other health organizations may need to rethink various strategies and the first steps would be identifying which obstacles are most significant.

Flaws in the Self-exclusion Scheme

Fiona Palmer, the head of GamStop, a self-exclusion scheme that was designed to assist problem gamblers to recover, has shared deep concerns following an investigation that revealed that some people are still able to cheat the system. As it stands, over 50,000 addicts have signed up on the platform since it was launched back in April 2017. However, according to a recent investigation by BBC Radio 5 Live, gamblers who signed themselves up on the scheme are still able to gamble online by simply changing their user details. Clearly, the service is not working well enough.

The UK Gambling Commission is reportedly already working towards a solution which may involve tougher ID checks. In fact, the gaming regulator has recently revealed that it will be announcing the results of a consultation on the use of ID verification that would prevent people from gambling using incorrect details on gambling sites.

Concerns Over Credit Card Gambling

The United Kingdom’s government is reportedly also considering banning the use of credit cards in gambling – that is, if the banks and gaming operators fail to come up with viable solutions. This move has the potential to affect bets worth billions of pounds every year. To put this into perspective, online gambling companies in the United Kingdom have said that close to 20 percent of the deposits made to their gaming platforms are made using credit cards.

Some banks, including Lloyds, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Barclays, have already begun taking steps towards ensuring that customers are allowed to turn off spending on gambling on their mobile banking applications. This move has been welcomed by Jeremy Wright, the country’s Culture Minister who has been championing better consumer protection for several years. Mr. Wright wants gambling operators to step in and act whenever they notice that some of their customers are showing signs of risky gambling behavior.

NFL Inks First Sponsorship Deal with Caesars Entertainment

The National Football League has recently signed a multiyear deal with Caesars Entertainment Corp. making the latter the NFL’s first-ever casino partner. While the deal does not include sports betting, the partnership sets them up for more discussions that make a sports betting agreement very possible. During the announcement of the deal, it was revealed that both organizations have agreed to a three-year deal that is worth about $30 million annually.

“We couldn’t be more excited to work with one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies,” Renie Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice president of partnerships, sponsorships, and consumer products, said.

What the Deal Entails

The sponsorship agreement will officially kick off during the 2019 playoffs and will give Caesars the exclusive rights to use NFL trademarks including the Super Bowls in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, the NFL’s trademarks will not appear on Caesars sportsbooks. According to Renie Anderson, the sponsorship deal is primarily concerned with providing fans with unique experiences by combining the NFL with expertise from Caesars. This will involve the combination of access to NFL events with Caesars stable of famous celebrity chefs, musical acts and locations across the United States and the United Kingdom.

This is a great step forward for the National Football especially considering the fact the major United States sports leagues are still grappling with how to approach the country’s new legal and rapidly growing state-driven sports betting industry. According to the American Gaming Association, the league eventually stands to reap revenues of as much as $2.3 billion every year from the gambling industry.

Prior to the sponsorship deal with the National Football League, Caesars Entertainment Corp. had already signed contracts with seven of the league’s teams – the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles – all of which will be included in 2020 NFL draft events in Las Vegas.

Not Yet Ready for Sports Betting?

Clearly, the NFL is still pretty hesitant when it comes to the direct promotion of sports gambling despite the fact that eight states have already legalized the activity and many others are considering a similar move. Renie Anderson said that while the league is still noncommittal about venturing into sports betting at this time, it would still be monitoring sports gambling.

“We’re not rushing into anything. We’ll continue to look at the industry as it evolves but it’s still has a lot of evolving to do,” he said.

The deal that has already been created between the two organizations effectively creates a working relationship which means that should the industry evolve in ways that would compel the NFL to venture into the space, then they can work up an agreement that is suitable for both of them. In the interim, the league is seemingly wading closer and closer to the casino space and thus sports betting might not be that far behind.

888 Purchases Remaining Stake in All American Poker Network

Renowned online gambling operator, 888 Holdings has recently announced its acquisition of the remaining 53 percent shares in All American Poker Network (AAPN) as part of its plans to cement its business in the United States’ gambling market. The $28 million acquisition will give 888 Holdings the right footing as well as independent control of its growth strategy in the country from here on out. Some of the strategies that the operator’s management has in mind include the inking of new partnership agreements and expansion to other states by deploying its proprietary products and technology.

888 Holdings set up the All American Poker Network in 2013 as part of a joint venture with Avenue OLG Entertainment LLC – this joint venture was intended to help 888 to launch its online gambling brands in New Jersey’s interactive gaming market which was just beginning to launch at the time. The venture did pay off with the operator being able to launch its 888poker and 888casino brands later that year. As such, it is safe to say that the AAPN venture has been a pretty successful endeavor in the for both Avenue OLG Entertainment LLG and 888 Holdings – it afforded the latter the flexibility and financial capability required to build its position in the regulated United States market over the last five years. If further allowed 888 to invest in other global regulated markets.

888 currently has robust online poker presences in all the three US states where the activity is currently fully regulated, that is, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. As it stands, the operator is expecting to also go live with its operation in Pennsylvania in the first quarter of 2019 under its partnership with Mount Airy Casino. The Pennsylvanian gaming market is one of the largest in the country and the launch of a regulated gaming market in the state will certainly play a monumental role in various endeavors that are meant to take advantage of the new and expanding gambling landscape in the country.

Sights Set on Sports Betting

Online poker aside, 888 Holdings has also been very keen on expanding and cementing itself in the United States sports betting market which has been rapidly taking shape since the mid-May Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA and struck down the federal ban on sports betting. Already, eight states have launched their sports betting industries since the ruling and this a great opportunity for the operator. 888 Holdings’ first ever venture into the sports betting market came in the form of the launch of its sports gambling brand in New Jersey in September 2018.

In addition to this, the company also recently signed a sponsorship agreement with the New York Jets – this is the very first partnership between an online gambling company and an NFL franchise.

Scroll Up