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Gaming Report: Kerala HC Declares Tax on Paper Lotteries Act 2005 Unconstitutional & More

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  • Namita Ghosh May 19, 2020
  • 5 Minutes Read

A two-member bench of the Kerala High Court has deemed the Kerala Tax on Paper Lotteries Act 2005 as unconstitutional. Hearing a petition filed by the Sikkim government, the court agreed that the state has no legislative competence to levy a tax on paper lotteries since the subject ‘lotteries’ organized by the Union government or any state government is within the legislative competence of the Parliament.

The West Bengal Directorate of State Lotteries and the Lottery Stockists Syndicate got some reprieve this week after the Competition Commission (CCI) dismissed a complaint, charging them with unfair practices.

Online poker giant PokerStars has unveiled an interactive feature called ‘The Rail’ on its UK client, allowing players to access personalized updates on poker. The brand has thrown in another fun feature called Throwables that allows players to hurl virtual items at others.

Another update from the international shores concerns the long-time online poker operator 32Red Poker. The online site that was running on the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) has confirmed that it will not be transitioning to another network once MPN shut down operations today.

In other updates, Adriano Ho has been named the next Director of Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, aka DICJ, and will be taking charge on June 10.

The Hard Rock International is gearing up for a comeback in Vegas after the company bought back the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to its Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Sin City, which it has sold earlier.

The ongoing COVID-19 health-scare has resulted has brought most economic activities to a standstill. In a bid to raise funds for relief efforts, eSports platform, Indian Gaming League (IGL), in collaboration with the global non-profit organization Round Table Asia Pacific hosted a COVID-charity gaming tournament from May 15 to 17, raising ₹75,000.

In the other COVID-19 related updates, sports betting brand DraftKings reported a $68.7 million loss in the first quarter of 2020, owing to cancellation of live sporting events.

Meanwhile, the gaming sector in Florida is slowly getting back on its legs with the Hard Rock International’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa set to reopen on Thursday.

Las Vegas-based Rampart Casino chose to fire many of its employees over a pre-recorded phone message in a shocking update that is widely being labeled as an act of cowardice.

In Deadwood South Dakota, several casinos reopened last Thursday with strict safety measures in place.

 

Kerala HC Declares Tax on Paper Lotteries Act 2005 Unconstitutional

In what comes as a shot in the arm for the lottery sector, the Kerala High Court at Ernakulam has declared the Kerala Tax on Paper Lotteries Act 2005 as unconstitutional. The ruling was made by a two-judge divisional bench comprising of Justices CK Abdul Rahim and TV Anilkumar on April 30.

The bench made the judgment while hearing a writ petition filed by the Sikkim government. The Sikkim government had earlier submitted a writ petition to the Kerala High Court, which was dismissed by a single-bench ruling. Challenging the order, the Sikkim government filed an appeal petition.

The writ petition contended that the subject ‘lotteries’ organized by the Union government or any state government is within the legislative competence of the Parliament and so the state has no legislative competence to levy a tax on paper lotteries.

Accepting the argument, Justice Rahim and Justice Anilkumar said that the Kerala Paper Lotteries Act 2005 levies license fee on the draw on lotteries basis the provisions of Section 5BA of the KGST Act.

However, the legislation mentioned above does not give the state of Kerala legislative authority to levy taxes on the state lotteries.

They added that the Act intended to introduce an indirect tax on the sale of lottery tickets within the state and ruled that the state of Sikkim would be entitled to a refund of the tax paid from the state government, once it furnishes proper accounts and proof on the same.

 

CCI Closes Complaint Against WB Directorate of State Lotteries & Lottery Stockists Syndicate

Fair-trade regulator Competition Commission (CCI) has dismissed a complaint charging the Directorate of State Lotteries of West Bengal and the West Bengal Lottery Stockists Syndicate of unfair practices.

The complaint alleged that the Directorate has been unfairly favorable to the Stockists Syndicate and allowed it to purchase paper lottery tickets at a discount as well as on credit. While the same was not offered to the general public and other stockists, the Directorate had not invited any public tender for inviting bids for distribution, marketing, sale, and promotion of paper lotteries. Instead, it passed on these privileges exclusively to the Syndicate since 2014.

Hearing out the complaint, Chairperson, Ashok Kumar Gupta alongside members Sangeeta Verma and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi observed that the complainant has not been able to prove the Directorate’s infringement of the Competition Act.

According to the order, “Since no case of contravention of the provisions of the Competition Act has been made out, the case has been closed by CCI.”

On being informed that the Directorate would soon be initiating the process of tenders for selecting distributors of lotteries in the state, the Commission asked the Directorate to file a status report on the same within one week.

 

Pokerstars Launches The Rail, Throwables For UK Players

Global poker giant PokerStars has rolled out another industry-first feature on its UK client. Called ‘The Rail’, the new feature is essentially an interactive section within the client that displays personalized updates for player’s basis their preferred events, content, and activities.

Making things fun, the brand has also launched Throwables for its UK users, allowing them to throw virtual items at their rivals!

Officially announcing the launch on May 13, The Stars Group (TSG) MD, Severin Rasset, said, “One of the best parts of the job is bringing our players something that is brand new, unique and which adds to their excitement every time they visit PokerStars. We have been working on The Rail behind the scenes for some time to get it just right, and we can’t wait to see the difference personalised content makes to the PokerStars experience. This is the first step and we will continue to see new additions and regular updates as this unfolds.”

 

The Rail

The Rail functions as the one-stop hub on the PokerStars client where players can get personalized feed and insights on poker. This cool feature lets players improve their gaming experience on the client by providing them a personalized set of updates. Players can choose to quick-launch their favorite games and access multiple widgets like the brand’s own PokerStars School and PokerStars Podcast, Twitch, as well as social media, handles like Twitter and YouTube.

Players can get updates on all the latest stuff they like, new game releases, a live-streamed match, a new podcast, videos, quick links to lessons and tips, and all the latest updates on new products and features.

 

Throwables

Long hours of grinding can get tedious, but PokerStars UK now offers some really snazzy Throwables that players can throw at each other, all for fun. The brand has test-run this feature on its Italy client and followed that up with an official launch in the UK.

So, if there are Throwables like Fireworks and Tissue Boxes, there are also items like the Alarm Bell which players can unlock and use once they complete some challenges.

 

32Red Poker Closes With the Demise of MPN

Online poker room 32Red Poker has officially shut operations. Unlike many other poker skins that were part of the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) that chose to switch over to a different network, 32Red Poker opted out. The poker skin is shutting down along with the MPN that went offline as scheduled today.

The poker room decided against automatically transitioning to parent firm Kindred Group’s prime online poker products, Unibet.

The poker skin’s plans to close down were made public last week.

Later, the website displayed the following announcement“We regret to announce that 32Red Poker will be closing down on 19th May, when the Microgaming Poker Network closes.”

Recommending players to move to Unibet Poker, the site announcement added that players will continue to be able to log into their account, access banking and play the casino games available on the site. Alongside online poker, Bad Beat Jackpot has also been decommissioned on the site, as well as all five Fish Party Jackpots.

32Red Poker was founded in 2002 and enjoyed a long-standing presence in the online poker sector. The poker room was acquired by the Kindred Group in 2017.

 

Adriano Ho to Head Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau

The current advisor to Macau’s Secretary of Security, Adriano Ho, will be donning the role of Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, aka DICJ’s director starting June 10. Ho will be replacing Paulo Martins Chan, who left the chair to return to the Public Prosecutions Office.

Adriano Ho

 

Macau’s Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong clarified that the change was not an attempt to increase gaming regulations and that the casino tender process isn’t expected to be handled differently or be delayed. He said, “Regulating the gaming industry is a persistent work for the government, it is not future tense. No matter who is the DICJ director, we’ll continue with our regulation as usual to ensure healthy development of the gaming industry.”

“The authority of making decisions about the gaming law [is] in the hands of the Chief Executive and the five Secretaries. The DICJ’s job is mostly to execute our decisions and policies” he added.

 

Hard Rock Secures IP Rights to Las Vegas Casino Resort

Hard Rock International, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, has repurchased the Intellectual Property (IP) rights to its Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The company made a deal with Juniper Capital, who had purchased the casino in 2018 from Brookfield Asset Management.

With this move, Hard Rock aims to utilize the opportunity and extend “one of the most iconic entertainment markets in the world.”

CEO of Hard Rock International Jim Allen said, “This agreement marks an exciting chapter for Hard Rock, in Las Vegas and beyond. We look forward to the opportunity of enhancing our presence in Las Vegas, which will always be one of the most iconic entertainment markets in the world.”

Hard Rock now has full rights to memorabilia, signage, and merchandise and owns IP rights for its affiliated restaurant, trademarks, and websites. Effective immediately, all Hard Rock affiliates will be able to develop, own, license, or operate any Hard Rock-branded casino and integrated resort within Clark County in Nevada.

The Las Vegas property’s management was taken over by Richard Branson’s Virgin group last year, and the hotel’s renovation process was due to begin in February this year.

 

Gaming Sector Updates Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

 

Indian Gaming League (IGL) Organises COVID Charity Tournament

Fast-growing eSports platform, Indian Gaming League (IGL), in collaboration with global non-profit organization Round Table Asia Pacific, hosted a COVID-charity gaming tournament over the weekend.

Called the ‘Quarantine International Gaming Tournament,’ the event featured an entry-fee of ₹500 and had a three-day run from May 15 to 17 wherein one game was conducted daily. Close to 150 IGL users and several international players participated in the tournament to raise ₹75,000 for COVID-19 relief.

Founder & Director, Indian Gaming League (IGL), Yash Pariani, said, “We wanted to curate a concept revolving around gaming with a cause and an initiative aiding healthcare workers and Covid-19 relief.”

From a total pool of ₹90,000 for three games, the winner was awarded ₹15,000, with first runner-up awarded ₹10,000 and second runner-up awarded ₹5,000. The tournament was live-streamed on IGL’s YouTube channel.

 

DraftKings Posts $68.7m Loss in Q1 of 2020

Sports betting brand DraftKings has posted a staggering $68.7 million loss in the first quarter of 2020, primarily due to the cancellation of sporting events in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The figures are double that of the $29.5 million loss that the brand had reported last year for the same quarter. The total revenue for the quarter increased from $68 million to $88.5 million.

Despite the significant losses, Jason Robins, CEO of the Boston-based company that went public in April, was optimistic about the brand’s future. “The engagement we continue to see from our customers validates the connection they have with our content, their passion for our products and most importantly their loyalty to our brand,” Robins said.

The company has, in the absence of live sporting events, launched several new fantasy and betting products for different video games, including Rocket League, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and eNASCAR.

 

Florida Casinos Begin to Open

With the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis allowing professional sports to practice and play, casinos in the Sunshine state have started preparing to reopen. Taking the first step in this direction was the Seminole Tribe-owned Hard Rock International. While CEO Jim Allen had predicted the company’s casinos in the Sunshine state to reopen in late May, according to the latest updates, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa is set to open on Thursday.

Confirming this, Allen said, “We’re making sure our resorts are safe and sound, so our guests and team members have peace of mind when they return.”

Last week in an interview, Allen had said, “Domestically, our casinos we’re thinking about opening in Florida, the end of May, early June.”

The Seminole Hard Rock Casino will be following the company’s “Safe and Sound Program” on reopening, which includes temperature checks, a face mask requirement, a 50 percent reduction in guest capacity throughout the resort, etc. The casino has a staff of 4,800 and features close to 5,000 slot machines, 179 table games, a 46-table poker room, and 10 restaurants.

 

Rampart Casino Fires Employees in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

Blaming the COVID-19 crisis, the Rampart Casino, located at Marriott-branded The Resort in Summerlin, unceremoniously fired its employees. The company odiously sent out a pre-recorded phone message to its employees to convey the news.

 

In the message, VP and GM Michelle Bacigalupi, said, “We’ve made the very difficult decision to terminate your employment. We’ve tried to retain our entire team. However, with the continued uncertainties, we are no longer able to do so. We would have liked to have given you more notice to this action but were unable to do so because of how quickly and unexpectedly our operations were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These decisions are never made lightly, and we deeply regret the hardships it places on you and your family.”

She added that some employees might be able to come back on board “when economic conditions allow.”

However, a company willing to fire its employees through voicemail is most likely not going to make the top ten employers of the year list.

 

Deadwood Casinos Makes Successful Return in South Dakota

Several casinos in Deadwood (South Dakota) opened their doors to visitors and players on Thursday, May 7, after the Deadwood City Commission voted to permit local businesses to resume operations.

They have been tasked to follow safety guidelines given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mike Rodman, Executive Director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, told reporters, “People are just happy the properties reopened. There are people slowly coming back to the properties and dealing with the new policies and procedures for social distancing.”

Among the safeguards, gamblers are required to maintain a space the size of two slot machines with others. Table games have also been restricted to between two and four players. Hand sanitizer stations can be found throughout the casino. There is also stepped-up cleaning and sanitization at the premises.

As for facemasks, guests do not have to wear one, but many choose to wear them anyway. Employees facilitating table games, however, need to wear face masks. Some 70 percent of workers reported for work on Thursday. The full workforce will likely return to their jobs within 10-14 days.

On Sunday, May 17, South Dakota health officials reported 124 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 3,517. South Dakota’s death toll remains at 34.

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