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 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.

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.

Slovakian President Vetoes new Gambling Legislation

A little over three weeks ago, Slovakian legislators approved plans to get rid of the local online monopoly, something that would result in a major shakeup of the country’s online gambling market. The new regime had even planned to begin accepting applications for online casino licenses by March 1, 2019, after which license approvals would be issued as from July 1, 2019. There were also plans to start accepting online sports betting license applications after which the licenses would take effect on July 1, 2020. Online casino and online sports betting licenses would cause operators €3m apiece but operators who interested in offering both products stood a chance of saving a third of the fee by signaling their interest in applying for both.

Unfortunately, as promising as these plans seemed to be for both the international gaming operators and the country, the Slovakian president moved to veto the new gambling regime that would have effectively opened up the online market to international operators for the very first time in the country’s history. In a statement that was issued on Friday, Andrej Kiska, the President of Slovakia said that he had refused to approve the online gaming regulations that were issued by the country’s Ministry of Finance after being approved by the legislature earlier this month.

Not Up to Standard

According to President Andrej Kriska, the proposed gambling rules and regulations contained insufficient consumer protection measures. For instance, the president wants that everyone who has been declared bankrupt to be included in the country’s national gambling exclusion registry.

President Kriska was also not impressed because of the faults he found within the legislation’s requirement that all online gamblers submit digital copies of there Citizen’s Cards for identity verification. In his opinion there needed to be “a better way of demonstrating the eligibility to play gambling that would not pose a risk for the protection of sensitive and misleading personal data.”

Furthermore, the legislation failed to specify how the gambling revenues would be spent by the government – Kiska wants the lawmakers to return to the drawing board with a plan which directly links gambling taxes and fees to funding problem gambling programs in Slovakia. In addition to all that, Kriska wants the lawmakers to grant the local governments a bit more authority in determining what type of gambling would be allowed within their respective municipalities. Case in point, the rejected bill prevented the gaming operators from setting up facilities near schools but the president wants this to be extended so that it includes “places designed to express religious, moral and other personally sensitive attitudes, such as churches or institutions.”

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