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Completing all steps to implement the blanked ban on online gaming, the Andhra Pradesh state legislative assembly passed the AP Gaming (Amendment) Bill 2020 on Tuesday. The bill, along with other legislation, was discussed by the state assembly and passed by a voice note.
There has been a further crackdown on the gaming industry, with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) announcing a new set of guidelines, making, among other changes, mandatory for advertisements to carry messages announcing the financial risks involved in playing real-money games. Effective December 15 onwards, these new guidelines are applicable for all real-money gaming ads across print, television, and digital mediums.
Social activist and anti-gaming campaigner Avinash Mehrotra has filed a fresh Public Interest Litigation (PIL) at the Delhi High Court demanding that the Union government ban all online gaming websites in India.
Simultaneously, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has directed all players & officials involved in the Bengal T20 Challenge to refrain from playing on fantasy league platforms.
King’s Casino in Rozvadov, which is the announced venue for the upcoming GGPoker-hosted WSOP $10K World Championship final table, has announced that it will be reopening on December 3.
In the US, the second wave of the novel Coronavirus has had a crippling effect on the casino industry. According to reports, more casinos have closed down in the past few weeks, and currently, 113 casinos remain shut.
Global online poker operator partypoker has exited nearly a dozen unregulated markets as of December 1, in line with the policy adopted by its parent firm GVC Holdings, to focus exclusively on regulated markets.
Andhra Pradesh Assembly Passes AP Gaming (Amendment) Bill by Voice Note
The government of Andhra Pradesh has moved fast to legalize its blanket ban on all real-money online gaming. Three months after announcing that all forms of real-money online games would be banned in the state, it passed an ordinance.
On Tuesday, the state legislative assembly passed the AP Gaming (Amendment) Bill 2020 by voice note.
Talking about the Gaming Amendment Bill, CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said that there have been numerous incidents of youth committing suicide in recent months after losing money in online gambling. He underlined that his government would not spare anyone involved in betting.
State Home Minister M Sucharitha clarified that the AP Gaming Act, 1974 was being amended to bring online gaming under its purview. She emphasized that with the development of technology, the Internet has opened many opportunities for online activities. Technology has transformed the nature and score of gambling, which has proliferated online. She said. “It can be played on the cyberspace that is accessible 24/7 and 365 days.”
Sucharitha also linked online gambling to be a possible catalyst for criminal behavior, while pointing out that there were no regulatory measures to check the legitimacy of such online sites.
“It is easy for those sites to defraud the consumers. Also, a lot of security and privacy issues are involved. Accordingly, the government has decided to amend the Act,” she added.
ASCI Introduces New Guidelines For Advertising Real-Money Gaming
In a significant crackdown on advertisements of real-money gaming (RMG), the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has announced a new set of guidelines that come into effect from December 15.
The new guidelines will be applicable for advertisements of all real-money gaming platforms on mediums like print, television, and digital.
Among the most noteworthy changes, it will become mandatory for advertisements to carry messages on the financial risks involved in playing real-money games. All the ads will be mandated to put a disclaimer stating, “This game involves an element of financial risk and may be addictive. Please play responsibly and at your own risk.”
Talking about the new guidelines, ASCI’s Secretary-General Manisha Kapoor said, “We have observed gaming advertisements target youth and families by suggesting that these can become sources of income and livelihood for them. The key fact that is completely suppressed in most of these advertisements is the real possibility of losing money. The frequent use of celebrities in many of these advertisements make them more attractive to consumers. Combined with the fact that these games are highly addictive, these advertisements end up being not just misleading, but also harmful to individuals and society.”
Further, RMG operators will not be allowed to advertise or promise massive prizes through gaming jackpots. The ads cannot depict underage players to appear or play online games and highlight that players below 18 years of age cannot play such games.
Moreover, promoting or depicting online gaming as an employment option or income source will also not be permitted. The ads portraying RMG players to be more successful than others will not be allowed under the new guidelines.
Fresh PIL Seeks Ban on Online Gambling Sites
The fast-growing real-money gaming industry has been hit by a barrage of legal challenges. Last May, the Delhi High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the chartered accountant and social activist Avinash Mehrotra seeking blocking of poker, online gambling, and betting websites. Mehrotra has now filed a fresh PIL, making a similar demand to the Union government to ban all online gambling websites in the country.
The plea reads, “It is submitted that all these activities, though expressly prohibited by law, are being carried out because of a lack of enforcement of the laws in question.”
In the plea, Mehrotra also claims that since online gambling in India is unregulated, it is “a great place for carrying out hawala operations, laundering money, etc. In fact, it is submitted that Foreign Exchange laws, as well as Income Tax laws, are also likely being violated today by the online gambling websites.”
Along with the ban, Mehrotra seeks back taxes from players, bettors, and the operators and seeks a direction to the Centre to “prosecute the unscrupulous owners/proprietors, and the promoters of the online gambling websites, in accordance with the law.”
Mehrotra has been a serial campaigner against real-money gaming. While the Delhi HC quashed his petition last year in December, Mehrotra and Gurdeep Singh Sachar filed separate Special Leave Petitions (SLP) against the Bombay High Court’s favorable decision the Gurdeep Sachar Vs. Dream11 case. The Apex Court dismissed both the SLPs the same month.
On September 3 this year, Mehrotra filed another SLP in the Supreme Court, challenging the Rajasthan High Court order, which upheld fantasy sports to be games of skill.
CAB Asks Players & Officials Not to Participate in Fantasy Gaming Contests
The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has directed all the players & officials involved in the Bengal T20 Challenge (inside the bio-bubble) not to play any fantasy league contests. The six-team tournament kicked off on November 24 and is being entirely played at Eden Gardens in a bio-secure environment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Conspicuously, the Bengal T20 Challenge is sponsored by fantasy sports platform Dream11 (the title sponsors of IPL 2020).
As per reports, CAB has issued a circular to the office bearers, players, participating clubs, and match officials, where CAB chief Avishek Dalmiya has said, “No person involved in the bio-bubble, or any club official of the participating team would be permitted to involve themselves in any fantasy league matches pertaining to the Bengal T20 Challenge.”
Dalmiya further added in the circular, “Similarly, the office bearers of the Cricket Association of Bengal, as well as the tournament committee members and tours and fixtures and technical committee members, would not be permitted to participate in any fantasy league matches involving Bengal T20 Challenge.”
The circular further stated, “The above directions are being issued in the best interest of the association and the sanctity of the tournament, and therefore, it is mandatory for the above persons to follow it diligently.”
King’s Casino to Reopen on December 3
Europe has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In early March, King’s Casino had banned Italian players from entering their establishment. In April, the casino announced that it was closing its doors till at least September 1. The venue, however, reopened much sooner on May 11. The casino even became one of the first to host a live poker tournament on June 20.
The Czech casino was forced to close its doors again on October 9 due to new government restrictions. The initial plan was to reopen on October 26, but that date soon came and went. Pushbacks continued, and the latest objective was to get back to business on November 30.
The COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic have been easing up for the past few days. Curfews recently moved from 9 PM to 11 PM, and leisure facilities are gradually being reopened.
The Czech Republic’s prime minister, Andrej Babiš, confirmed that he’ll allow more freedom as the government’s COVID scoring system improves. Based on the current rating of 62, the country can move from Tier 5 (the highest level) to Tier 4.
It’s not clear if King’s Casino has been told it can reopen or whether its owners are looking at what’s allowed in Tier 4. Either way, the plan is to return to action on December 3.
With the GGPoker leg of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10K World Championship slated to play out its final table live at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, all eyes are on the popular casino, which happens to be one of Europe’s biggest. The WSOP Main Event final table has been set for December 15.
However, even if the casino reopens again, visitors would be allowed to purchase food and drink, play casino games, and play poker as part of the government directives. Still, full-scale poker tournaments don’t seem to be a part of the reopening plan for the time being. This will likely not affect the upcoming WSOP Main Event FT.
More US Casinos Shut Down Amid 2nd Wave of Covid-19 Pandemic
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a crippling effect on the US casino industry these past couple of weeks, adding more financial strains to the places where the venues operate. According to reports from the American Gaming Association (AGA), 113 casinos were either closed again or never reopened in the first place due to the deadly virus that has killed more than 260,000 people in the country.
The country’s casinos closed down first in mid-March due to the virus spread. While the casino sector started opening up gradually from May, local government diktats forced them to close again in many US states. Since the federal government regulates Tribal Casinos, they don’t have to follow the same rules as commercial casinos.
Many of the tribal casinos remain open in Michigan regardless of the Detroit casinos having been ordered to close for several weeks, along with some tribal casinos voluntarily agreeing to shut down.
There are nearly 1,000 casino properties in the US. At no point since the total retail casino shutdown in April have all the properties reopened. At peak reopening in October, around 100 casinos were still closed, according to AGA tracking.
partypoker Quits Unregulated Markets in December
Online poker operator partypoker exited close to a dozen unregulated territories on December 1, including Montenegro, Norway, and Poland. The move was made by partypoker along the lines of its parent company, GVC Holdings’ new strategy.
The company now wants to focus exclusively on markets where online gambling is legal and fully regulated. As it stands, 96 percent of its revenue comes from regulated online gambling – they are looking to make it 100 percent.
partypoker’s Twitch and Community Manager, Colette Stewart, said “by mid-December, we will no longer offer our services across unregulated poker markets following a management business decision” and that going forward, their umbrella organization, GVC, will only focus on operating in “regulated, fully licensed markets.”
Account-holders in these countries have already received messages informing them of the operator’s imminent departure from grey markets.
The players from all affected countries will no longer be able to be deposit funds into their online casino accounts. From December 23, players will not be able to sign-in and request withdrawals. By then, the company will have credited all cashback that it owes its customers.
However, users who hold non-cash rewards on the site, such as loyalty points and unused tournament tickets, will have to forfeit them as all of these will become void once play from the affected countries is suspended.