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As the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) surges through, we take a break from the interminable action to bring to you our PokerGuru Gaming report.
Our first story this week comes from Atlantic City where two new casinos, the Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City and the Ocean Resort Casino, will be opening soon to revive the casino industry in the state.
Next, we go to Macau where new laws have been introduced under which casino employees have been banned by the government to participate in any gambling or gaming activity in any casino across its dominion.
We then move on to Thailand, where cops have been working very hard to prevent and reduce gambling and betting activities related to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and have also made over 3,000 arrests.
Thereon, we reach Kentucky where the saga on legalization of sport betting rages on as the state lawmakers are trying to develop a bill to legally allow sports gambling.
We conclude this report with news from the African country of Kenya, where the government has been seizing and destroying illegal gambling machines and also threatened to deport foreigners who participate in such unlawful activities.
The last three years has seen several casinos shutdown in Atlantic City, New Jersey, leaving only seven casinos still standing. The last casino to bid goodbye to the city of the ‘Broadwalk’ was the Trump Taj Mahal in October 2016. But with the announcement of two new casinos set to open, the casino scene in Atlantic City seems to have received a new lease on life.
The first on the list is the Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City. After renovations costing around $500 Million, this rock-n-roll themed casino will offer 2,100 slots and 120 table games, 2,000 hotel rooms and a nightclub while also boasting of a 7,000-seat concert venue renamed as ‘Hard Rock Live’. With Carrie Underwood and PitBull slated to headline the shows this weekend, along with 300 more concerts lined up for the year, the Hard Rock Casino will open itself to public on June 28.
The president and general manager of Hard Rock Atlantic City, Matt Harkness was excited about the opening and said, “We really want to revitalize Atlantic City. And those just sound like words, but it really is something that is part of the philosophy. Hard Rock has done this in other communities.”
Right behind the Hard Rock is the Ocean Resort Casino that recently received its license from state officials and is also set to open sometime next week. Located on the site of the Revel Casino Hotel Atlantic City which was closed in 2012, the property was purchased by Florida developer Glenn Straub in 2015 and was subsequently sold to the Colorado-based group AC Ocean Walk LLC in January this year for $200 Million.
One of the conditions stipulated by the regulators in New Jersey is that, “Ocean Resort maintain at least $36 Million of liquidity at all times, a condition to which the casino agreed.”
Featuring 99 table games, over 1,900 gaming machines, and a sportsbook, this 138,000-square-foot casino will also have 1,399 rooms.
The government of Macau flooded the gaming and gambling industry with several new rules and regulations on June 15. Even though these new laws have not yet received the seal of approval from the Legislative Assembly, it is expected that the regulations will not face any objections.
One of the legislations introduced by the government states that Macau-based gaming employees will not be permitted access to the casino floor outside of regular duty hours. Therefore, casino gaming employees are prohibited from gambling anywhere inside the city’s jurisdiction.
However, this prohibition is not restricted to employees working on the casino floor but extends to cover food and beverage employees, cleaners, cage staff and surveillance staff. Although most gaming arenas place contractual bans on their employees from gambling within their premise, this legislation seeks to restrict all casino employees from gaming at any gambling facilities irrespective of their affiliations.
According to the bill, “If an employee is found at a gaming operation outside working hours, he or she would face a fine of anywhere from $125 to $1,236. The only exception would be given to employees for the first three days of each Chinese New Year period.”
The legislation is also working towards preventing underage gambling by imposing an immediate fine on any individual, below 21 years of age, who is found at a gambling facility. As per the law, “any person under the age of 21 who enters, gambles or works at a casino can be fined $125 to $1,236. If a casino operator is found to have allowed the individual in, it can also be fined, with the amount ranging from $1,236 to $61,000.”
Nevertheless, the new regulations will also allow local authorities to take hold of any winnings or wagers of persons who have been banned from casinos after the ban has been verified. The use of mobile phones and other types of communication devices in the gaming arena by gamblers is also prohibited, along with the use of sound and image recording devices.
With the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on June 14, the Thai police have been rather busy making over 3,000 arrests over World Cup betting charges in just the first four days. According to the deputy national police chief Chalermkiat Srivorakhan, only 250 arrestees out of the 3,000 were from the Bangkok region and nearby provinces.
On the increase in the gambling activity since the last world cup in 2014, the deputy chief stated, “because people have easy access to football gambling websites via mobile phones.” He added that the police were able to identify thousands of online football betting sites endorsing their services to Thai gamblers, however, only 100 out of these sites had their host servers in Thailand.
Since most of these online betting sites are licensed in Cambodia, it is difficult for the Thai police to combat online gambling. According to Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy commissioner Phanurat Lakboon, “We can’t tell Cambodia to close down its online gambling websites because gambling is legal there.”
Since these Cambodian site operators use Thai citizens to open bank accounts in the country to transfer funds for gambling, the law enforcers can only capture the replaceable henchmen without being able to impact the gambling operation. The Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) of Thailand has joined hands with three dozen banks and financial institutions to oversee suspicious account activity for the duration of the football tournament. They have also instructed local internet service providers to block approximately 300 betting websites.
After the 2014 World Cup wherein 7% of Thai citizens were involved in some form of betting related to the event, the Thai cops have set up a national operation center this time round to prevent the activity.
After Delaware, New Jersey and Michigan, it’s the South-eastern state of Kentucky that’s in the news for sports betting legalization. Despite falling within the minority group of states that do not have casinos, Kentucky policymakers are still moving ahead with formulating legislation to allow sports gambling within the state.
Although against the establishment of Las Vegas-style casinos within the state, Governor Matt Bevin had reacted positively to the Supreme Court’s abolition of the Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) and had also hinted that he would be in favour of a sports betting bill.
Even though the state does not have casinos, it is no stranger to betting or gambling. Being home to the Derby, Kentucky has a long-standing tradition of betting on horse races and also allows online lottery gambling.
Expecting a revenue of $26 Million from regulation and taxation on sports gambling, Kentucky Republican Rep. Jason Nemes said, “It’s a way that we can bring more money into the state’s coffers to pay for much-needed programs but it also increases the freedom of our citizens to direct their entertainment dollars where they think they ought to.”
On June 18, the Interior Cabinet Secretary of Kenya Fred Matlangi spoke against the illegal gambling machines being used in retail establishments that had become “a threat to our society” and the government “shall not accept” their continued existence.
Kenya had tried to stop the ingress of illegal gambling machines in January 2017 after the Betting Control and Licensing Board chairman Anthony Kimani Kungu had stated that the majority of the unlawful machines were “installed by some Chinese in cahoots with some unscrupulous businessmen, especially bar owners.”
This was followed by Kenyan authorities seizing and destroying numerous illegal gaming machines and the move was protested by gaming operators. Contempt proceedings were filed against the Kenyan government by the Counties Amusement and Gaming Society stating that the seizure of machines was an insubordination of a 2016 court order that had previously restricted the government’s authority.
The operators also said that the police were re-selling the seized machines after voiding them of their money. The county officials pointed out that a grace period of 7 days was given to the operators to come forward and claim their machines. After the time period was over without anyone claiming ownership, the government went ahead with destroying the machines.
The Kenyan government has further announced a deadline of June 30 by which the country will be free of all illegal gambling machines.