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.

UK Gambling Commission Introduces New Online Gaming Rules

In a bid to make online gaming safer and fairer, the UK Gambling Commission has recently unveiled a new set of rules that its licenses will be required to adhere to. Published after an open consultation with various industry stakeholders, the new rules which are set to go into effect on May 7 will not only protect children and vulnerable people from any gambling-related harm but they will also make the country’s gaming market unconducive for any illegal operators.

Moreover, the rules are part of the gambling commissions grand plan which involves ironing out any lingering wrinkle in the existing gambling legislation so as to get rid of any ambiguity in the existing rules and regulations. The new rules are therefore more clear-cut and will indiscriminately apply to all online gaming operators in the country regardless of whether or not real money is involved.

Stricter Verification Measures

The incumbent regulations give online operators a 72-hour grace period within which they are supposed to verify the identities and ages of their customers, something that, unfortunately, created an opportunity for both underage people and registered problem gamblers to access gambling services. The new rules have finally addressed this issue by slashing the 72-hour grace period and instead requiring gaming operators to verify their customers’ ages and identities before allowing them to access gambling services on any kind – this, as implied above, applies to free spins, free bets, and bonus games as well.

Protection of minors and people at risk of gambling-related harm has been at the top of the commission’s agenda for quite a while not especially due to the fact that recent surveys of the country’s gaming market have revealed very worrying statistics in as far as problem gambling is concerned. As it turns out, the number of problem gamblers has not gone down despite various intervention and the number of underage gamblers has increased by after four times.

“These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling. They will also make gambling fairer by helping consumers collect their winnings without unnecessary delay,” UKGC Chief Executive Neil McArthur said.

Needless to say, Britain’s online gambling market is the largest regulated market on the planet and such problems were bound to arise in the long run. Still, it is important to make it as safe, risk-free and as fair as possible.

Faster Withdrawals

A 2018 CMA report found that most online gaming customers were unsatisfied and frustrated by the excruciating withdrawal process that many operators were subjecting them to. The UK Gambling Commission took note of this and have effectively addressed those concerns within its new set of rules. Now, the online gaming operators will not only be required to ask for any identity verification info or documentation information beforehand but they will also be prohibited from using the documents as a withdrawal requirement. As such, gamblers will now be able to enjoy significantly speedier withdrawals.

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.

US Sports Betting Credited for Increased Sport Consumption

According to the results of a recent poll, at least 7 out of every 10 Americans would be willing to watch more sporting activities if they could be allowed to bet on the games. If these findings are anything to go by then they are definitely a reasonable explanation for the success of the newly-minted sports betting laws in the country.

Everything started with the state of New Jersey which, in 2012, initialized a quest to have sports betting legalize so that the residents could be able to gamble at their Atlantic City casinos – this they did by suing the federal government. The goal of the lawsuit was to have the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) overturn and in May 2018, New Jersey got exactly what it wanted when the United States Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting. Since then, a number of states have gone forward to introduce sports betting legislation of their own and many more are expected to follow through with similar actions in the near future.  Among the states that already have sports betting are Pennsylvania, Nevada, West Virginia, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Mississippi.

The Details of the Survey

Dubbed the Seton Hall Sports Poll, the survey which was conducted by the Stillman School of Business at the New Jersey’s Seton Hill University asked 1,000 people aged between 18 and 29 several questions about sports betting and how it was related to their interest in sports. The poll found that the of all these adults that participated in the survey 88 percent of them confirmed that they would be more attracted to watching certain sports if there was a possibility of betting on them. They also said that they would be willing to watch more live sporting events in person or on television if they would be allowed to bet on the outcome of those sports activities.

The survey also included questions about the May 14 Supreme Court ruling with 52 percent expressing their support for the move and only 28 percent of the women who participated in the survey supporting the court’s decision. Furthermore, the results of the survey also revealed that more than half of the participants felt that sports betting should include both collegiate and professional sports.

One of the issues that recorded the most division among the participants was the issue of problem gambling and gambling addiction. In this case, only 5 percent of the young adults that participated in the study believed that sports betting could lead to gambling addiction. Close to 30 percent of adult participants aged between 22 and 29, on the other hand, believed that sports gambling could lead to gambling addiction.

These results correspond with the result of an earlier poll that was conducted by the National Research Group and CBS – this is proof that the activity is beginning to be as impactful as many had hoped it would be.

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.

Mohegan Sun Ready to Acquire Boston-area Casino

Connecticut-based gaming company, Mohegan Sun has recently announced that it is willing to buy out Wynn Resorts’ $2.5 billion Everett casino project if is found to be unsuitable by state regulators. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is currently facing a lawsuit over its alleged botched investigations into sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn Resorts founder and former CEO Steve Wynn. Apparently, the move by Mohegan Sun meant to give the Gaming Commission an easy way out of the dilemma which has some very high stakes.

According to the Boston Herald, Mohegan Sun stated that it is confident in its reputation and is, therefore, the “best choice and as gaming operator and licenses holder for a Region A resort casino.” The company further promised that they will be committed to opening the Everett project in a timely manner should it be allowed to acquire it and complete the construction which was already underway.

This is not the first time that Mohegan Sun has made its intentions to acquire a gaming license in the state of Massachusetts public – in 2014, the company and its partner Suffolk Downs lots a bid for a gaming license in the state to Wynn Resorts. This not only ended Mohegan Sun’s chances of getting into the state’s gaming market but also culminated in the termination of the storied horserace tack at Suffolk Downs. Even though the odds of getting back on its feet have not improved for Suffolk Downs, Mohegan Sun is seemingly still hopeful in its hunt for a casino license in the state.

In its attempts to get its intention out there, Mohegan Sun has already held a number of initial meetings with some neighboring communities to express their interest in case Wynn’s license is stripped. The purpose of these meetings was to assure the residents that it would honor existing surrounding community agreements that were negotiated by Wynn.

In fact, Mohegan Sun has been championing its interests in owning a Boston Casino for the past few years and it is likely trying to make it clear to the four commissioners that will either uphold or revoke Wynn Resorts’ license that there is an interested buyer – this would seemingly make the decision to withdraw Wynn Resorts’ license easier.

Not Everyone Is Convinced

Unfortunately, Mohegan Sun’s plans have not been riding well with everyone. For instance, Everett Mayor, Carlo DeMaria, has expressed his disapproval of the idea of the Mohegan Sun taking over the facility. Apparently, Everett’s agreement with Wynn Resorts gives it’s the ability to approve or reject the sale of the facility to a new company.

A lot of factors will come into play before the final decision is made. One of the most significant ones would be the fact that Mohegan Sun has even gone as far as filing a lawsuit against the Gambling Commission arguing that is was better suited for the state’s gaming license than Wynn.

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.

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.

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