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.

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.

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.

China Allegedly Prods North Korea Into Dropping Casino Plans

North Korea’s construction plans for a 30-story hotel close to the Chinese border have been abruptly halted after the latter reportedly convinced North Korea that it was a bad idea citing concerns that Pyongyang’s plans to build a casino. Already, the project was halfway through with 20 stories having been built. The casino was to be situated in Sinuiju, an economic zone that lies in the northwest border and it was primarily aimed at attracting Chinese tourists.

How It Got to This

Gambling, except for two lotteries that are operated by the state, is completely illegal in China – the country has been putting tremendous efforts into keeping its citizens from traveling to other countries to gamble with the main intention being to reduce cases of problem gambling and prevent capital from leaving the country. North Korea, on the other hand, still faces multiple international sanctions that have had a significant negative impact on its local economy and as it turns out, China remains to be its main trading partner which means that China has quite a considerable amount of influence over it.

There have been lots of speculations surrounding the nixing of the project with China’s interjection being just one of the least bizarre ones even though it certainly makes some sense. Some analysts disagree with this speculation citing the fact that there is already a casino in North Korea close to the Chinese border in the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone – China has not rejected the operation of this particular casino. That said, the analysts believe that it is more likely that the project ran out of funding hence the sudden halt in its development. While the relevance of both of these speculations cannot be disputed, the prevailing one remains to be seen.

Yang Bin’s Involvement Could Have Been A Factor

Developing the project is Yang Bin, a Dutch-Chinese billionaire who has been sourcing for foreign revenue to finance the completion of the project, something that sort of backs up claims that the project ran out of money. Yang, who was once the second-richest man in China was recruited by Pyongyang in 2002 to run the Sinuiju economic zone, a move that was backed up by forms North Korean leader Kim Jong II. The billionaire had big plans for the region into a semi-autonomous capitalist enclave that got the attention of Chinese authorities who worried that it had the potential of destabilizing the region’s economic and political management.

These plans fell apart when Yang Bin was arrested and imprisoned for tax evasion by Chinese authorities before being released 2 years ago. His involvement in the project is probably enough to get Chinese authorities on edge once again. So much so that they would want to have it completely shut down.

Penn National Proposes $111 Million Casino for Berks County

Penn National Gaming Inc. has been very busy in the past couple of months inking partnerships and filing license applications in a bid to extend its services far beyond what it is currently able to offer. The operator is already quite a big deal especially in Pennsylvania where the gambling market has just been rejuvenated thanks to the entry of new gambling-friendly laws. For instance, just last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a two-day testing period for sports betting at Hollywood Casino in Penn National Race Course, Penn National Gaming Inc.’s very gem in the Keystone State.

The testing period which was managed by William Hill US, which is arguably the largest sports betting operator in the US, went quite well and the state regulator concluded by giving Hollywood Casino the go-ahead to proceed with the official launch of its sportsbook.

Barely a week after the debut of its sports betting operation in the Commonwealth, Penn National has made yet another move that is aimed at solidifying its already strong grasp of the state’s gambling market. This development comes through the casino’s proposal to build its “Hollywood Casino Morgantown” in Caernarvon Township, Berks County.

The Details

On October 31, the operator filed an application with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for Hollywood Casino Morgantown, which is to be its second mini-casino or satellite gaming facility. This particular application, according to the spokesman of the gaming control board is still under review and the process will move forward ones it is ascertained to be complete.

In its latest proposal, Penn National Gaming hopes to get approved to build a $111 million property on a 36-acre site. If this does go through, the operation would bring over 500 jobs to the area particularly to individuals who will be attending to the 750 slots machines, 30 table games, an entertainment lounge, a food court, and the restaurant that it will be hosting.

The proposal suggests that other than the 250 new local jobs and the 275 construction jobs that the operation will offer, the area local authorities will have something to gain as well – the township will be receiving two percent gross tax revenue on the mini casino’s slots machines and one percent of the revenue that Penn National gaming will be accruing from the area.

As it stands, it could be several weeks before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board completes its review of Penn National’s satellite casino proposal. Even before the proposal is posted on the state regulator’s report, it a local impact report would have to be filed – the board will be conducting a discrete background check through the Bureau of investigations and enforcement. In addition to this, the would need to be a public hearing in the township so as to allow the residents to express their thoughts on the satellite casino project.

Not Everyone Is Amused by MGM/NY Jets’ Gaming Partnership

About a fortnight ago, MGM Resorts International and the New York Jets announced that they had just entered into a multi-year partnership agreement. This makes the Las Vegas-based casino operator the official gaming partner of the New York Jets, a gaming partnership that is arguably the most comprehensive one in the National Football League (NFL).

As per the terms of the gaming partnership, the fans of the New York Jets will have access to an associated MGM mobile apps as well as special hospitality opportunities and rewards (specifically for season ticket holders). MGM, on the other hand, is to be granted access to the Jets 360 production studio and will also get to enjoy many other sponsorship and advertising perks.

“We could not be more excited to join with the New York Jets for a first-of-its-kind partnership in the NFL. We look forward to working with the Jets to innovate gaming, increase our customer base through cross-marketing opportunities and provide NFL fans with a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience,” MGM Resorts Chairman & CEO Jim Murren said in a release.

The announcement of the partnership deal with the New York Jets follows shortly from MGM’s sports betting partnership agreement with the NHL which is very similar to the operator’s partnerships with other leagues including the NBA and the WNBA.

Unfortunately for MGM, while it is definitely the opportune time to take advantage of the May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted the federal ban on sports betting, there is so much more that the casino operator has to deal with first. There has been a significant amount of backlash especially with regards to its partnership with the Jets.

Criticism Is in The Air

Critics literally took to their air to express how displeased they were about MGM’s activities – before the New York Jets’ game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, an airplane carrying a banner criticizing the team’s partnership with MGM circled the MetLife Stadium multiple times.

The banner which read “SHAME ON JETS/MGM #ENDGUNVIOLENCE #STOPMGM” was referring to, among other things, the move by MGM to sue over 1,900 victims of a mass shooting in July to avoid liability for the fatality which occurred at its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in October last year.

“We wholeheartedly agree that our country needs to put an end to gun violence,” MGM Resorts International said in a statement to The Associated Press.

According to MGM, the lawsuits were meant to avoid the years of costly litigation and only targeted people who have threatened to sue or sued the company and voluntarily dismissed its claims.

Genting Malaysia’s Share Price Drops Amid Higher Taxes

Last Friday, the Malaysian Budget was announced and one of the main highlights of that event was the negative surprises it had in store for the gaming sectors. This came in the form of an unprecedented tax hike that affected a number of gambling businesses including the country’s casinos and slot parlors.

As stipulated by the Malaysian government’s budget, the casino licensing fee will be increased to MYR150 million per year up from MYR120 million ($28.8 million). The casino duty rate will also be raised from the previous 25 percent to 35 percent of the gross gaming revenue. Furthermore, gaming machine duties will also be raised from 20 percent to 30 percent on gross collection.

Following the budget announcement, Genting Malaysia Bhd. suffered its worst ever single-day fall after a number of analysts downgraded its stock. The investment analysts who have been observing the Malaysian gaming sector pointed out that investors had previously priced in an increase in Malaysia’s gaming tax. However, they were, apparently, not expecting that the government would impose such high taxes – the country’s tax policies on gaming revenue have remained unchanged since the late 90s when the rate jumped from 22 percent to 25 percent.

“The casino license fee and duty rate hike are the largest on record,” said analyst Samuel Yin Shao Yang of Maybank Kim Eng Research. “The new casino duty rate of 35 percent, effective sales and service tax of 3.7 percent and corporate tax rate of 24 percent, ‘crowns’ Resorts World Genting as the heaviest taxed casino in Asia. Macau casinos are also taxed at 39 percent of gross gaming revenue but they are exempted from corporate tax.”

Future Projections

Genting Malaysia’s stock price fell by as much as 30 percent, its biggest drop since 1989. Genting Bhd., its parent company, also saw a 12 percent decrease in stock price which is also its highest since 1989. Some analysts estimate that there will be a MYR600 million to MYR700 million impact on the casino’s earnings before taxation, interest, amortization, and depreciation as well as net income for fiscal years 2019 and 2020. This is likely to offset a huge chunk of the earnings growth that is expected from Genting Bhd.’s capital expenditure into newer capacities over the past half-decade.

On the flipside, some analysts believe that increase casino licensing and tax fees may be offset by the increased volume and revenues that are expected to become a reality when the new theme park reopens. With an increased number of visitors to the Genting Highlands, there will be a  positive spillover effect on the highland’s visitors and this will, in a way, cushion it from the overall impact of the new rates.

Plan to Turn Mayfair Townhouse into Casino Faces Backlash

Considered to be one of the most renowned and flamboyant society hostesses of the last century, Dame Margaret Greville truly mastered the art of hospitality hosting the elite at her Lavish Georgian home in London’s Mayfair. Most of Margaret’s neighbors looked forward to these soirees as they presented the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the guests including Queen Elizbeth the Queen Mother and King George VI as well as many other lords and politicians.

After her death in 1942, the Grade II listed Mayfair Townhouse was turned into a gentleman’s club and then later to the Debrett’s society of etiquettes before finally being turned into offices in the 70s. The next plans for the property, as it turns outs, is a casino project which not many of the neighborhood’s residents have been amused by.

A number of objections have already been filed to the Westminster council by the residents who are concerned that the casino will bring in “prostitutes, conmen, and moneylenders” instead of the glimpse of royalty that they have always been accustomed to.

“Crime is on the increase at an alarming rate throughout London. Casinos, unfortunately, attract money lenders, criminals of various denominations, conmen/women, male/female prostitutes,” a resident of the township commented.

One of the letters also highlights some serious crimes including robbery and murder that have occurred in British casinos. As such, they believe that the entry of the new casino would inadvertently bring in similar or worse problems to the area.

Loss of Privacy

As it stands, Mayfair already has a number of casinos, that is about seven all of which are walking distances from each other – saying that the area is saturated with casinos would be an understatement.

The proposed casino would occupy at least five of the six-floor establishment and would feature a sports lounge, a slots lounge, a VIP gaming area, a kitchen, a restaurant bar, wine stores as well as a private dining. Unlike most other legal gambling establishments, the casino would hold no more than 1140 members a day and only a maximum of 240 visitors would be able to visit the gaming space in any given day. Moreover, the casino would be operational every single day except for Christmas.

A number of residents are concerned that the proposed 24-hour casino could infringe on their privacy since the guests would supposedly be able to peek into the residents’ bedrooms at all times of the day.

While it is certainly too early to tell how exactly this tussle will play out, the applicants have already made provided some relevant elaboration to most of the concerns that the residents have raised. For instance, they have insisted that the noise at the casino would be kept as low as possible since visitors would be required to leave quietly and no music will be allowed in the establishment.

GambleAware Adds New Trustees to Gambling-Independent Board

United Kingdom-based industry charity GambleAware has recently expanded its board of trustees with new appointments. These new appointees are meant to advise the organization on issues to do with addictive behavior and health-related matters in the United Kingdom. The choice of the new trustees was based on the organization’s mandate to establish a board that is completely independent of the industry.

One of the new trustees is Marcantonio Spada, a London South Bank University Professor of Mental Health who will be bringing significant experience in working to identify the various causes of addictive behavior with regards to gambling. Professor Spada is also currently the Head of Division of Psychology and Deputy Head of the Centre for Addictive Behaviors Research at the South Bank University.

Joining Professor Spada is the Paul Simpson, an NHS Trust Surrey and Sussex Chief Finance Officer/Deputy Chief Executive who will be bringing some significant experience and expertise in both financial management and healthcare. Mr. Simpson has served multiple finance roles across multiple local NHS Trusts.

“We are delighted that Marcantonio and Paul have agreed to become trustees of GambleAware. Between them, they bring strong experience in addiction, public health, finance, and risk management. Also, I should like to record our thanks to both Alan and Brigid for their hard work as trustees,” Kate Lampard, GambleAware’s Chair of Trustees, said about the new appointments. “GambleAware’s Board is now wholly independent of the gambling industry, and we believe this is necessary to secure public trust and confidence given our central role in commissioning research, education and treatment services. Trustees continue to call for a statutory levy on the gambling industry to ensure research, education, and treatment services are adequately and sustainably funded.”

GambleAware will still be pursuing the charitable objectives that it has always been after in a bid to curb the issue of gambling-related harm. Supporting these operations is a government-prescriber voluntary donation system that is currently in place. Kate Lampard believes that all of these can be achieved without the need for anyone to employed by a gambling company to sit at the table.

A little over a month ago, GambleAware announced that they were getting involved in a new initiative with Citizens Advice. The two organizations are expected to raise $2 million which will be used towards a joint effort focusing on debt advisers for gamblers. GambleAware’s partnership with Citizens Advice marks the next logical step for the organization to tackle the issue of problem gambling in the United Kingdom.

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