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Much has been happening in the gambling industry the world over. On one hand, Portugal has taken a back foot on its recent proposal to revise the online gambling tax regime, on the other a District Court in Israel has asked the local internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to three unauthorized gambling domains.
After much hue and cry over Philippines gambling regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) awarding Montford Inc gaming software provider monopoly, PAGCOR has now clarified that other gaming software providers can also apply for accreditation, while Montford is currently the only distributor holding one.
Meanwhile, New Mexico has become the latest US state to open its market to sports betting, with the launch of a sportsbook by Santa Ana Star casino-hotel.
A week after announcing a 25% flat tax on online gambling revenue, the government in Portugal has left the proposal out of the fiscal 2019 budget, a parliamentary debate on which is slated to begin on October 30.
As of now there is a sliding scale taxation regime in force in Portugal, which means that the gambling companies have to pay tax at the rates which vary according to the revenue they post and the type of gambling services they offer. As part of this taxation structure, an incremental 15-30% tax is currently levied on online casino revenue and 8-16% tax on sports betting turnover.
Last week, a reported published by the Portuguese media agency Jornal de Negocios informed that the government intended to include a 25% flat tax i.e. Special Tax on Online Gambling (IEJO) on the online gambling revenue, and that this would replace the tax levied on online casino and sports betting operators.
However, when the final budget document was delivered to the parliament, the tax was not part of the budget. Finance minister Mario Centeno delivered the budget just minutes before the parliamentary deadline, leading to speculations that a lot of last-minute changes may have been made.
The new rate would have replaced the existing tax systems, resulting in a significant increase for online sports betting operators.
While the parliament in Portugal will discuss the budget and a final vote is scheduled for November 30, it is not clear whether the gambling tax proposal will be re-introduced in the budget in the meantime.
Adopting a stringent stance against unauthorized gambling operators, a district court in Tel Aviv, Israel has issued directives for blocking the operations of three unauthorized domains, p2vbet.com, 1xbet.com, and totobet777.com.
At the behest of state prosecutor’s office and the special police Unit for Combating Economic Crime, Judge Zion Kapah of the district court issued an order asking the local Internet Service Providers (ISP)s to block these domains.
In an official statement on the same, the Ministry of Justice said, “Within the focus of the Israel Police’s effort to deal with severe economic crime in the area of gambling organization and management, the Unit for Combating Economic Crime in Lahav 433 has been working to expose sites that operate gambling in order to allow them to be closed.”
Gambling is illegal in Israel except for lottery and sports betting, while Isreael base firms are banned from operating online gaming platforms. However, 888 Holdings, Playtech, William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral have a marketing and technical presence in the country along with development subsidiaries.
This is not the first instance of Israeli police looking down on gambling. In 2017, police officers were issued orders to avoid casinos when traveling abroad. In the same year, the country also passed the Internet Site Law 5767-2017 that gives local authorities the power to issue ISP restrictions in serious crimes like terrorism, drugs, prostitution and unregulated gambling, etc.
While these gambling sites may be the first to be banned, they are not the last, said director of the Economic Crime Unit, Haim Wismonsky.
As a direct impact, anyone visiting these sites can see a message stating that they’re prohibited by law. However, according to experts, it is very easy to sidestep the DNS blocking of vendors and there are dozens of YouTube videos in Hebrew that explain viewers how to bypass the block. With Israel joining the list of countries, after Poland, Greece and Bulgaria to blacklist gambling domains, the future on online gambling seems to have been pushed further into a grey zone in the country.
The Philippine government’s gambling regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has come out in clarification to the recent news that it had granted Montford Inc, as the solo gaming software provider for its Philippine Offshore Gambling Operator (POGO) licensees.
In a recent statement, PAGCOR has said that while Montford Inc., a distributor of RNG-based games developed by Playtech was, to date, the only accredited RNG game provider, this does not mean that PAGCOR has accorded monopoly to Playtech.
Notably on September 4th, the Offshore Gaming Licensing Department (OGLD) of PAGCOR issued a memorandum, giving POGO licensees 15 days to apply for the necessary accreditation for their gaming software providers. Subsequently on September 26th, the PAGCOR issued another memorandum that certified Montford Inc. as a gaming software provider for its POGO licensees.
Now, the gambling regulator has clarified that the September 26th memo was made considering that only Montford Inc. complied with the directives of the September 4th memo, which did not mean that any other gaming platform provider could not apply for the same accreditation.
The OGLD is still accepting any application for accreditation as gaming software providers and the PAGCOR’s aim behind the memorandum was not to limit POGO licensees on their preference regarding the use of RNG-based games, PAGCOR clarified..
While it is unclear whether PAGCOR has received any more applications from other gaming software providers, unless that happens, it is clear that Montford Inc. will continue to be the sole accredited gaming software provider in the country.
Ever since the Supreme Court of the US gave a legal nod to sports betting in May this year, the sports betting industry in the country has undergone a sea change, from a nearly non-existent state to one that is increasingly witnessing more stakeholders jumping into the market. The latest US state to allow sports betting is New Mexico.
The state opened the doors to the realm of sports betting, with the Santa Ana Star casino-hotel launching its sportsbook early this week, becoming the sixth US state to permit legalized sports betting.
“We are extremely proud of the fact that Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel is the first tribal casino in the state of New Mexico, and one of the first in the nation to launch a sportsbook,” said CEO of the casino-hotel, John Cirrincione.
For this, the Pueblo of Santa Ana tribe has entered a partnership with USBookmaking, a Nevada-based sports book manager.
“We have found that there is tremendous demand for Nevada-style retail sportsbook operation in a multitude of casinos throughout the US.” President of USBookmaking, Vic Salerno said, after the launch of the sportsbook in New Mexico.
The Santa Ana Star currently has 109,000 square feet of gaming space with 1,475 slot machines and 20 table games including pai gow, four-card poker, roulette, blackjack, etc, in addition to a poker room.
While there are nearly 28 tribal casinos and five commercial racinos operational in New Mexico, the tribal casino-hotel that is located close to Albuquerque is the only one in the state to offer sports betting to date.
The new sportsbook at Santa Ana Star offers live wagering on professional and college sporting events. However betting on any local teams is prohibited, including the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State.
Explaining this, Cirrincione said, “Although we believe there would be interest on betting on local teams, we believe it best not to take bets on these teams.” Santa Ana Star’s sportsbook features four betting stations as well as two self-service kiosks that are available during off hours.