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Gaming Report: Union Govt Responds to Amar Singh’s Query on Legalization For Gambling, PokerStars Launches Dedicated Client in Russia & More

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  • Namita Ghosh December 19, 2018
  • 5 Minutes Read

The question of legalization of gambling in India has been hanging in the balance in the absence of a clear stand by the Union government. After former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh tabled a question in the parliament on the issue of legalizing gambling in the country, the Centre is reported to have issued a statement in response.

Meanwhile, PokerStars launched its dedicated client, ‘PokerStars Sochi’ for online poker players in Russia, even as DraftKings entered the New Jersey online casino market with a new integrated platform.

In Australia, the Tatts Group owned UBET brand that has been struggling to stay afloat has finally been dumped. Following the multi-billion merger between Tatts Group and Tabcorp, the new setup has finally announced that TAB brand will take over UBET.

Closer home, in Philippines, a court in Metro Manila has dismissed a legal petition filed by former chairman and director of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) Kazuo Okada to regain control of the Okada Manila casino resort.

Union Govt Responds to Amar Singh’s Query on Gambling Legalization

Former Samajwadi Party leader and Member of Parliament (MP) in Rajya Sabha, Amar Singh had tabled a query on legalization of gambling and betting in the parliament on December 14. In response to the question, Union Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad has issued a statement in the lower house.

Amar Singh
Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh

According to media reports, Prasad has said that the Law Commission of India has categorically stated that legalization of betting and gambling is not desirable in the present scenario and a complete ban on the activity must be ensured.

The Commission has, Prasad added, recommended that in case a complete ban cannot be enacted, then the parliament and state legislatures should give due consideration to legalizing gambling and betting with certain safeguards and regulations.

Earlier in August, six Lok Sabha MP’s had raised an unstarred question in the Parliament, on the Centre’s plan to legalise and regulate betting and gambling in the country. A similar query was put up by Rajya Sabha members.

The union government then responded by reiterating the statement of the Law Commission that opined that in the present scenario, legalization of betting and gambling was not desirable.

Prasad’s statement however did not address Singh’s query on the action taken or proposed by the government in context to sports betting regulation.

PokerStars Launches Dedicated Client in Russia

Even as Russia continues to stick to a stringent approach towards online gaming, poker giant PokerStars has launched a dedicated client for players in Russia.

PokerStars Sochi Client

The ‘PokerStars Sochi’ client can be downloaded on the domain pokerstarsinsochi.com. Pokerstars.ru redirects Russian visitors to the new domain. The software allows the player pool to remain international. Currently the single web page promotes the upcoming live EPT event in Sochi and encourages users to download the new software.

Notably, Russia has enforced a complete ban on online gaming, except for approved licenses. In July 2016, players in Russia found they were not able to connect to PokerStars and the company responded by immediately releasing a solution by providing an access link on its Twitter account.

This year in March, PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group (TSG) released its 2018 earnings guidance, which mentioned the possibility that new rules related to gambling in Russia could block payments to some offshore gambling services. Russia was one of the company’s top markets. CEO of TSG Rafi Ashkenazi forecasted a shift in the company’s revenues following the enforcement of new gambling rules in Russia from May 26 onwards. The new rules prohibited banks and payment systems from conducting transactions between individuals and illegal gambling operators. In the coming months, Russian banks began enforcing the government ban on offshore gambling operators. Players in Russia reported receiving SMS messages from the state-owned Sberbank confirming blocked transactions to online operators.

As per reports, PokerStars has been encouraging its Russian players that were previously active on the dot-EU client to move to the new PokerStars Sochi software, although some players are still using the old client.

DraftsKings Introduces An Integrated Platform in NJ Online Casino Market

The leading daily fantasy sports company DraftsKings is fast on its way to dominate the sports betting market in New Jersey. In just four months since it entered the U.S. state, the company has already added an online casino to its existing offerings.

DraftsKings

Dubbed as DraftsKings Casino, the platform is integrated with the DraftsKings sportsbook via the app and currently offers a limited number of games. In fact, as of now, only Blackjack is available.

The sports betting industry in New Jersey has grown fast since the U.S. Supreme Court let the states open doors to legalized sports betting. On August 6, DraftsKings became the first full-service online and mobile sports wagering portal to enter the New Jersey market.

The company is operating DraftsKings Casino through the Resorts Atlantic City license and is available on app to both android and iOS users.For now DraftsKings Casino is not available on browser but that may change soon.

On DraftKings’ new integrated platform, sports bettors in New Jersey can be active in the single game wagering area while playing a few hands of Blackjack, all within the same app.

TAB Takes Over Tatts Group’s Struggling Brand UBET

Nearly a year after the Tatts Group entered a merger with Tabcorp in Australia, the new setup has made its first customer-centric move. On Monday, the combined Tabcorp-Tatts entity formally retired the struggling UBET branding, as part of the transition of Tatts’ retail betting shops and online wagering service.

Tabcorp

Heads of Wagering at Tabcorp, Adam Rytenskild has been quoted as describing Monday as “Really the start of the journey from a punter perspective.”

He informed that the 1,300 UBET retail betting outlets are going to be rebranded soon. Several hundred thousand online customers will get to see a host of new features, ranging from expanded Sky Racing vision to an updated form format and race reviews, replays in the TAB app and site.

The UBET brand was launched in 2015 and has been operational in Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania while TAB is dominant in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. UBET has been on the decline for nearly five years.

The two betting companies were rivals until December 22, 2017 when they came together to merge as one unit. Since then, the companies have been undergoing the mammoth exercise of merging their lottery, digital betting and exclusive retail betting businesses.

Though Tabcorp has clarified that UBET customers will not be fully integrated into the TAB system until after the 2018 spring racing season, the rebranding move will precede the Magic Millions horse race, slated to take place in January 2019.

While Rytenskild said that there’s still a long way to go, he explained that, “When the systems come together after the next spring carnival, we will have one app, one retail experience across the country.”

Alongside, the overhaul of the UBET retail betting shops is going on and will be completed by March.

Manila Court Dismisses Kazuo Okada’s Petition

A trial court in Manila, Philippines has rejected a petition by former chairman and director of Tiger Resort, Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI), Kazuo Okada.

Kazuo Okada
Kazuo Okada

Okada had approached the court to regain control of the Okada Manila casino resort that he had founded. In the lawsuit that he filed in August 2017, Okada had argued that his ouster in June 2017 had been done on the basis on “trumped-up charges” and that the procedure to remove him from the board had not been in accordance with the Corporation Code.

According to local media reports, Judge Noemi Balitaan of Paranaque Regional Trial Court dismissed the complaint for the fact that it was to be filed within 15 days of Okada’s removal and was thus over the time limit.

“Records show that this case was only filed, on August 29, 2018, or approximately one year and two months after the alleged removal of [Okada], in violation of the interim rules,” the ruling stated.

Balitaan added that the Philippine Supreme Court has already established that even without the defendants invoking the 15-day limit, the court can dismiss the complaint on such basis.

TRLEI is a fully-owned subsidiary of Tiger Resort Asia Limited (TRAL) and is in turn owned by Okada Holdings Ltd through Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC). Okada was also removed from UEC, for which he filed a case in Hong Kong.

Okada’s daughter Hiromi, who owns 9% stakes in OHL and had reportedly participated in his ouster, has now reconciled with him and is seeking to render the transfer of her shares to Okada’s son, Tomohiro Okada invalid.

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