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As the global gambling industry expands in newer markets along with finding a firmer legal foothold in existing ones, there are many developments and setbacks warranting attention.
Online gambling has never found favor in Malaysia and, continuing its crackdown on online casinos, the Malaysian police arrested five people in connection with an illegal online casino. Interestingly, the recent statistics released by Russian Telecom overseers Roskomnadzor indicate that the Russian public finds online gambling to be worse than drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, casino company Wynn Resorts has shockingly ditched a $1.6 Billion Paradise Park Lagoon project, choosing instead, to reopen the casino’s Las Vegas Strip golf course.
The U.S. midterm elections have seen benchmark decisions on gambling, casino and sports betting taken by voters in different states. Voters of Maryland have approved Question 1 that increases the amount of casino tax revenue earmarked for education. Maryland residents voted ‘yes’ with an 88% majority vote on Question 1.
For the Century Casinos based in Colarado Springs, an over-ambitious expansion drive has led to the company’s earnings see a substantial fall in the third quarter of the current fiscal year.
As part of their campaign to crack down on illegal gambling operations, Malaysian police recently raided an illegal online casino operating in the capital city of Kuala Lampur.
Police arrested five people found involved in running the illegal online casino that was making profits of RM3.3 Million ($795,000) per month. According to the police, they acted on basis of a tip-off.
Talking to local media, Police Chief Commissioner of Kuala Lampur, Datuk Seri Mazlan informed that the arrested gambling ring operators made use of a GSM SMS blasting device to send “hundreds of thousands” of text messages promoting their online casino to random phone numbers in Malaysia and China.
Notably, the country’s authorities have been harsh in meting out penalties to people found involved in online gambling in the past. A few years back the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission kicked off a wholesale purge of mobile phone numbers connected with illegal gambling promotions.
According to the police the gambling racket was operational for a year and was working out of an apartment that served as its ‘customer service department’.
Customers who responded to the text messages were provided with details on opening an account and depositing cash. The police believe that the arrested suspects were involved in helping the interested punters and in all the illegal gambling ring had more than 20,000 clients with potential deposits of over RM120K ($28,000) per day.
The entire gambling operations reportedly took place through an unnamed website and used Chinese bank accounts to accept deposits and pay out winnings. The police are currently investigating several clues that have come by.
Russia’s digital watchdog, Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media aka Roskomnadzor has recently released its third-quarter statistics on the complaints it has received from the public in context to prohibited online content. Surprisingly, it is not drug trafficking that tops the list, but online gambling.
According to the Roskomnadzor, between July and September, it received 63,215 complaints related to online gambling, around 5,000 more than complaints received, in the same quarter of 2017. Also, the numbers were clearly higher than the complaints on drug trafficking that were 19,415 and much larger than the10,105 complaints about child pornography and 9,180 complaints against sites promoting suicides.
The statistics underline the fact that Russia’s virtual landscape saw an unprecedented mushrooming of illegal online casino operators this year. The casino operators bombarded internet users in Russia with numerous digital promos and online casino operator Azino777 even employed Russian hip-hop stars to promote its offerings.
In the first quarter of the year, Roskomnadzor got 86,329 complaints on online gambling and overall more than 206,000 complaints against online gambling were received by Roskomnadzor in the past nine months.
Acting on the complaints, Roskomnadzor has blocked more than 100,000 domains till date this year, including 14,000 in October alone and 3,119 in November.
Last month Roskomnadzor also warned to fine Google for failing to block these banned domains from its Russian search results, even while Russian search engine Yandex is reportedly purging unauthorized gambling sites from its search results.
Wynn Resorts have scrapped its ambitious, $1.6 Billion Paradise Park project and chosen instead, to reopen its Last Vegas Strip golf course.
The company’s site had initially announced plans for the construction of a 20-acre lagoon with water recreation along with a new hotel, nightlife options, additional gaming floor, among other facilities. However, after completion of its convention center that is slated to open in January 2020, the remainder of the project will be scrapped.
CEO of Wynn Resorts Matt Maddox said, “That project was over $3 billion today, looking at construction costs, including the convention center. From April 2016 to today, we always struggled with Phase 2 of Paradise Park. How are we going to make a room tower in a town with a lot of rooms pencil along with a lagoon?”
He added, “We weren’t really interested in building a large public swimming pool for the Las Vegas Strip. So we just decided, ‘Let’s go with Phase 1.’ We know the convention center is going to work.”
The Wynn Las Vegas golf course will be revamped with a new layout and is being planned by architect Tom Fazio who had originally designed it.
Meanwhile, the company’s shares also tumbled by 15% after Maddoxdivulged that it was witnessing a slowdown in its Macau operations.
Maryland Voters Decide to Direct Gambling Tax Revenue Towards Schools
Voters in different states of U.S. have made crucial decisions this year, during the recently concluded midterm elections. Just as Arkansas voters had decided to permit casino gambling and voters from Chicago’s suburb of Forest Park historically enacted a ban on video gambling, news comes in that Maryland voters have voted ‘yes’ on Question 4 in the ballot measure, effectively increasing the amount of casino tax revenue earmarked for education.
An overwhelming majority of 88% voters chose to approve Question 4 that will now pave the way for lawmakers to set aside an additional $125 Million every year as supplemental funding for education.
Casinos in Maryland are currently being taxed at an estimated $1.9 Billion since the legalization of slot machines came through in 2008, and of table games in 2012. The tax money was directed to an education trust fund which was created in 2009.
According to a school funding commission report, Maryland is nearly $3 Billion short of funding its educational programs fully and the recent approval of Question 4 will help the Maryland school system to get an additional influx of cash.
Century Casinos Sees Fall in Earnings After Expansion Overdrive
The Colorado Springs-based Century Casinos has been on an expansion drive lately and has been working to reopen two of its casinos in Poland, in addition to opening a new setup in Bath, England.
However, if recent figures released by Century are to be believed, the company’s earnings in the third quarter of the financial year are down by 80% year-on-year. The company took in $1.64 Million, i.e., equivalent to $0.05 per share, since operations in Bath went on slower than expected.
One of the reasons cited by the company for the dismal figures this year is that the figures for third-quarter earnings in 2017 were showing inflated due to a change in the corporate tax rate.
According to Century’s statement, another prime reason for the low numbers was the delay in reopening of the casinos in Poland.
The saving grace for Century was that revenue for Q3 was $43.6 Million, a 6% increase over last year and while for the first three quarters of 2018, profits were down a combined 75%, Century posted $2.89 Million in revenue or $0.10 per share against an 8% increase in revenue.
In a joint statement, Co-CEOs, Erwin Haitzmann, and Peter Hoetzinger said, “We are excited for the 2019 outlook with the Century Mile project continuing to trend on-time and on-budget for an April 2019 opening.”
Notably, Century runs seven casinos in Colorado, Canada and UK, several casinos on cruise ships for four companies, Windstar, TUI, Diamond Cruise International and Marella.