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Gaming Report: PokerStars Now UFC’s 1st ‘Official Poker Partner’, Nepal`s Ban of Indian Currency Notes Likely to Hamper Casino Revenues & More

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  • Attreyee Khasnabis December 22, 2018
  • 5 Minutes Read

PokerStars has had a great 2018 and things only seem to be getting better for the online poker giant. Not only has the brand become the first ‘Official Poker Partner‘ of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), but the company was recently delivered some good news from a Kentucky court that reversed a previous decision that held The Stars Group liable for $870 Million to the state.

But while PokerStars may be celebrating its overall success, the tourism and casino industry in Nepal is like to witness a sharp decline in revenues as the government banned the use of high denomination Indian currency notes in the country.

In other development, 888 Holdings just about managed to get its hands on a Swedish online gaming license in the eleventh hour, making the brand eligible to be a part of the country’s liberalized market that will get rolling from January 1, 2019.

Following the dismissal of the PASPS Act by the U.S. Supreme Court in mid-May this year, several states raced ahead to legalized online gambling. The latest state to join the list is Michigan after passing a new online gambling bill in both the state House and Senate.

PokerStars Becomes UFC’s 1st ‘Official Poker Partner’

Since 2013, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fans have been waiting for a historic rematch between Jon ‘Bones’ Jones and Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson and that wait will finally end on December 29 in Las Vegas, where Jones and Gustafsson will once again face each other in the octagon for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.

UFC & PokerStars

But that’s not the only news!

UFC also announced that the online poker brand PokerStars will be joining their list of global partners and in fact, they are UFC’s first-ever ‘Official Poker Partner’.

PokerStars will be advertising its tie-up with the UFC inside the Octagon ring at the stadium towards the end of December, just before UFC’s final Pay-Per-View event of 2018, i.e. UFC 232: JONES vs. GUSTAFSSON 2, takes place.

Talking about the new partnership, UFC Senior Vice President, Global Partnerships Paul Asencio said, “We’re excited that PokerStars has joined our roster of global partners and has helped us create a new sponsorship category for our final event of 2018. This agreement lays the foundation to work together with PokerStars in the future to grow our respective customer bases in key markets.”

Chief Marketing Officer of Stars Interactive Christopher Coyne added, “UFC and PokerStars have a lot in common. We want to thrill and entertain, both in our products and customer experience. UFC is the world’s leading MMA promoter with millions of fans and followers around the globe, while PokerStars is the heavyweight of online poker. It’s a classic combination.”

Nepal Bans Use of High Denomination Indian Currency Notes

Nepal government recently decided to ban Indian currency above ₹100, i.e. ₹2,000, ₹500 and ₹200 denomination currency notes, which can have a severe impact on the tourism and casino industry of our neighbouring country.

Nepal Casino

A report published in The Kathmandu Post on December 13 quoted the Nepalese Minister for Information and Communications Gokul Prasad Baskota as saying, “The government has asked Nepal citizens to refrain from keeping new Indian notes of 2,000, 500 and 200 denominations. The government has asked the people to refrain from keeping or carrying Indian bank notes higher than Rs 100 denomination as it has not legalised the higher denomination notes.”

Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) spokesperson Narayan Prasad Paudel pointed out that this decision was not a new one.“The notes were already banned but we had not published the notification in the Nepal Gazette,” he said referring to the fact that ₹500 notes have previous been banned in the country, but the ban was never implemented.

A senior tourism entrepreneur Basanta Raj Mishra commented on the situation, stating “The decision is a big setback particularly for cash-driven industries like tourism. The major impact of the decision will be on the casino industry, hotels and restaurants.”

Besides the casino and tourism industry, this move will also affect the Indian tourist and Nepali people working in India.

888 Holdings Receives Swedish Online Gaming License in the Nick of Time

As previously reported, Sweden’s local gaming regulator Lotteriinspektionen had stated that no ‘temporary’ online gambling licenses would be issued to operators who don’t receive their new online permits before the liberalized market kicks off on January 1, 2019. With just over two weeks left for the new year to begin, online poker company 888 Holdings seems to have made the list of operators to get a License .

888 Holdings

The operator has been awarded a licence by the Swedish Gambling Authority to provide online casino, sport and poker services in Sweden for a five-year period and the license will be effective from when the new regulated Swedish regime begins on January 1, 2019. The company now holds licences in 11 jurisdictions.

Speaking on this, CEO of 888 Holdings Itai Frieberger said, “Continued expansion in regulated markets is central to 888’s growth strategy, so we are delighted to have been granted a licence in Sweden, ahead of the market’s regulation coming into force in January 2019. Sweden is a significant online gaming market and we look forward to further developing our casino, sport and poker offerings for our Swedish customers, so they can enjoy our innovative gaming products responsibly.”

“Underpinned by our proprietary technology platform, marketing strength and CRM expertise, 888 has an outstanding track record of driving growth in newly regulated markets. During the first half of 2018, the vast majority of the group’s revenues were generated in regulated and taxed markets. We expect this to further increase over the coming years, as more markets regulate online gaming and we continue to leverage our core capabilities to gain market share,” he further added.

The Swedish online gambling market is expected to reach €1.13 Billion in revenue by the end of 2018.

PokerStars Exempted From Paying $870 Million Fine in Kentucky

Christmas seems to have come early for PokerStars as on December 21 a Kentucky court reversed a previous decision that held The Stars Group liable for $870 Million to the state.

PokerStars Kentucy

Back in 2011, just after the online poker world was rocked in a government crackdown that came to be known as Black Friday wherein PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus were indicted in a federal criminal case regarding bank fraud and money laundering, the Commonwealth of Kentucky filed a Verified Claim and Statement of Interest or Right in Property Subject to Forfeiture In Rem in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York against PokerStars. The lawsuit was filed to “stop illegal Internet gambling that is occurring within the Commonwealth, in blatant disregard for and violation of Kentucky anti-gambling law and public nuisance law.”

Kentucky was seeking damages and seizure of the PokerStars domain name, along with other online poker giants Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet and Full Tilt Poker.

In the claim and statement of interest, the state of Kentucky had requested the following:

1. Reinstatement of its rightful interest in the aforesaid defendant property

2. That it be allowed to defend the instant forfeiture action;

3. That the domain names be ordered restored and released to the commonwealth; and

4. That the commonwealth be awarded such other and further relief as the court may deem just.

In December 2015, Judge Thomas Wingate ruled in favour of Kentucky, awarding the state approximately $870 million in damages for violation of Kentucky’s anti-gambling law. PokerStars’ parent company Amaya disputed the ruling and entered the appeals process.

From the latest ruling, it is evident that PokerStars has prevailed as the Kentucky Court of Appeals heard the case and came down strongly against the original ruling.

“Allowing a complaint, like the one put forth by the Commonwealth, to move forward would lead to an absurd, unjust result,” the court ruled. “It would mean that any private person with knowledge of the general nature of Appellants’ electronic gaming format could allege (a Loss Recovery Act) claim in a wholly conclusory and generic fashion and walk away a billionaire without ever having identified a single gaming transaction with specificity.”

It seems the appeal succeeded largely because the statute covers the losses of individuals, and no individuals who lost money were party in the suit.

Chief legal officer of The Stars Group,Marlon Goldstein lauded the court following the ruling stating, “We applaud the decision of the highly respected three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The merits of the case prevailed, and we look forward to putting this matter behind us as we sharpen our focus on executing on our growth strategy going forward.”

Online Gambling Bill Approved by Michigan Lawmakers

While most state lawmakers are going through a lull period of policymaking, legislators in Michigan have been up and about getting a very pivotal online gambling bill passed in Michigan state Parliament.

Michigan State Seal

On December 20, Michigan lawmakers managed to get a new online gambling bill, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, approved by both the state House and Senate. The votes were well in favour of the bill, with the Senate passing it by a 33-5 margin, and the same was ratified by the House that voted 71-35 in favour.

The only thing holding the bill back from becoming law is Governor Rick Snyder‘s signature. Once Snyder signs the bill, Michigan will join Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as states that have legalized online gambling. If Snyder chooses not to give his consent, then the responsibility to approve the bill will fall on Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer‘s shoulders who take charge of the office in January.

The bill includes the creation of an internet gaming division within the Michigan Gaming Control Board, wherein the regulators will be able to issues gaming licenses to tribal or commercial casinos. Additionally, the state would collect an 8% tax on revenue from these casinos, with commercial casinos in Detroit being charged an added 1.25%.

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