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In this week’s PokerGuru Gaming Report we present several important developments in the sports betting, gaming and gambling industry from across the world.
The first update comes to us from Australia where the government has allowed Casino Canberra to acquire additional poker machines and table games but only on the condition of re-developing the site.
We next focus on happenings at the gambling giant GVC whose shareholders protested the outrageous pay hikes received by the company’s top bosses. GVC is also re-negotiating its existing services contract with Playtech.
In our fourth story, we report about how Russian Government stated that it cannot ban the Russian-language advertisements on sites like YouTube and can only restrict ads on the .ru, .su and .Ñ€Ñ„ domains.
We then move to Switzerland where the ‘Money Gaming Act’ may lead to the legalization of online games after the national referendum. Another interesting news came from UK which has decided to regulate the gambling ads during sporting events in the wake of increasing gambling problems in the country.
Finally, we conclude this edition with the news of MGM Resorts buying the New York State Casino for $850 Million and has expressed support for lawfully validating online poker as well.
Australia has the honour of having the highest percentage (80%) of adults who participate in some form of gambling, with the slot machines or pokies dominating the poker scene. Approximately 7.7% of state and territory taxation revenue was generated by gambling in 2015-16. The liberal attitude that the Australian government has towards gambling regulations has further lead to its popularity.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government had passed a legislation in November 2017 stating that Casino Canberra would be permitted to procure 200 additional poker machines, along with 60 fully automated table games. However, the approval was on the condition that the casino would revamp its site while also adding harm-minimization features. The legislation also came with the condition that the use of poker machines would be curbed, with maximum bet limits during calls not exceeding $2, and only 200 machines operating inside the casino at a given time.
The parent organization of the casino Aquis Entertainment owned by Hong Kong based businessman Tony Fung, was asked to submit a re-development proposal by May 14. However, ACT extended the deadline by a month, allowing Fung extra time to submit the proposal. The project estimations are expected to be around $330 Million.
The government is yet to receive any information or updates regarding the status of the re-development process. Government officials Andrew Barr and Gordon Ramsay, in a recently released joint statement, mentioned that the approval of operation given to Casino Canberra is conditional to the re-development of the site.
The salaries of Chairman Larry Feldman and CEO Kenny Alexander of the British gambling company GVC Holdings PLC, totalling an amount of $89.3 Million, has caused a hue and cry among the shareholders.
The investors were counselled by the advisory firm Pirc and Glass Lewis to deny the payment of Feldman and Alexander’s substantial salaries, at the June 6th annual meeting held by GVC in Gibraltar. This advise was based on the fact that the CEO’s pay is approximately 550 times greater than what an average employee is entitled to, resulting in the amount being found ‘excessively disproportionate’. Alexander’s pay, which rose to $25.86 Million in 2016, was a result of the company’s rising share prices.
Despite the discontent expressed by 45% of the company’s shareholders, GVC has pressed forward with the extreme pay hikes, while also offering share options to Feldman ($30 Million) and Alexander ($60 Million), worth a total of $90 Million.
Glass Lewis’ recommendation was reiterated by the director of High Pay Centre Luke Hildyard who stated, “Clearly they’ve completely disregarded the strong vote against last year and are continuing with a similar approach to pay,” Hildyard said. “You’d hope that there will be an even stronger vote against this year.”
However, it must be noted that the shareholders’ vote is only an opinion and not an obligation on the company to carry out.
GVC refused to comment on the issue.
The decision to re-negotiate the existing services contract between the online gambling company GVC Holdings and the developer of gambling software Playtech plc was announced towards the end of May during the trading update’s of GVC for the first 20 weeks of 2018.
Regarding the decision to update the agreement, GVC stated that, “This would allow Playtech access to new significant brands, revenue streams and secure long term revenues, whilst providing GVC operational flexibility to realise its synergies plan. In the meantime, GVC will continue to honour the existing Playtech contract and maintain the positive working relationship.”
It is important to note that Playtech already provides services to Ladbrokes Coral, which was acquired by GVC for an amount of £4 Billion in 2017. Both companies are looking to establish a long-term relationship which would be beneficial to them.
The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) recently stated that its enforcement of online decrees could only be implemented on the three Russian domains – .ru, .su and .Ñ€Ñ„, while also mentioning that it cannot ban the display of Russian-language online advertisements on international portals including YouTube.
The Internet Video Association (IVA) of Russia had expressed disapproval of the promotion of online casinos like Azino 777 via Russian-language videos on video-sharing sites such as YouTube, and other file-sharing sites. The IVA’s desire to protect Russian intellectual property was shattered following the announcement made by FAS. But FAS has also decided to consult with YouTube’s holding company Google to develop ways to restrict the promotion of banned content on Russia’s digital space.
The telecom watchdog Roskomnadzor has already blocked 250 websites dealing with online movie piracy and torrent tracking through unlawful online casino advertisements displayed by them. Regardless of its previously stated inability to censor sites not falling into the Russian domains category, Roskomnadzor continues to ban approximately 1,500 prohibited gambling-related domains weekly.
The national referendum to be held on June 10 can revolutionize the online gambling scenario in Switzerland. Votes in favour of the ‘Money Gaming Act’ may lead to the legalization of online games like poker, blackjack and roulette while also providing Swiss online gamblers better protection.
The revision of the Money Gaming Act by the federal government has increased its approval among Swiss nationals. According to the changes made by the Swiss parliament, the act now states that the taxes earned from casinos will be allotted to the old age pension funds and certain Swiss cantons. While the collections from the lotteries will be reserved for community welfare, specifically cultural, sports and arts projects.
The revised act will also offer improved protection to Swiss gamblers by preventing exploitation from prohibited online gambling services. This will be done by enforcing Swiss Internet Service Providers to block the foreign casino operator’s ISPs if they do not have permission to operate within Switzerland. The high tax rates will also act as a deterrent for foreign gambling operators.
Additionally, devices preventing juveniles from engaging in gambling will also be installed on public lottery machines. Casinos will be tasked with ensuring that minors remain uninvolved in their activities to check the possibility of developing an addiction towards gambling in the youth.
The 2017 UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) report stated that 430,000 people are afflicted with gambling addiction in the country. Around 2 million people are either problem gamblers or have the possibility of developing a gambling addiction. This alarming increase in the number of people suffering from gambling addiction has forced the members of parliament (MPs) to enforce gambling companies to adhere to showing gambling ads that have less explicit content.
According to the British Government, statutory warning against the harms associated to gambling should be communicated by gambling companies during gambling ads. Taking a leaf from the stringent regulations placed on tobacco companies, gambling firms must cease from branding gambling as ‘fun’ and have to reduce the alluring content of their advertisements.
Although, gambling ads are rampant on television, their presence during sporting events have been deemed to have a far-reaching negative impact. This is because the viewership of most sporting events includes minors who can be easily influenced by the tempting ads.
The principle of watershed is strictly enforced by the British government. Watershed is the period of time during a 24-hour day when broadcast companies can air programming that is suitable only for adult audiences. However, this principle is suspended during sporting events allowing gambling ads to be aired. This exemption has been opposed by several individuals and organizations including the Church of England.
MGM Resorts’ purchase of a casino, located close to Times Square in New York, for $850 million may have a positive impact in favour of legalizing online poker in the state. The Nevada-based casino conglomerate has expressed support for lawfully validating online poker when a bill had been placed before the State Senate committee back in 2015.
MGM General Counsel John McManus had stated in 2016, “This legislation recognizes that millions of New Yorkers play online poker on unregulated and unprotected off-shore poker websites that operate with no oversight, fraud controls, or age restrictions.”
The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to remove the ban on federal sports betting has spurred the lawmakers in New York to reconsider the regulations regarding sports betting and online poker within the state. MGM’s decision to engage in the acquisition on the Empire City Casino over a period of 12 months was made only a few weeks after the Supreme Court verdict.
MGM’s support towards the progress of the New York online poker scene, has given the state’s lawmakers an impetus to push for the regulation and legalization of internet poker.