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Gaming Report: PokerStars Skybet Merger on Hold, 9 Pennsylvania Casinos Apply For Online Licenses & More

PokerGuru Gaming Report: PokerStars Skybet Merger on Hold
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  • PG News July 21, 2018
  • 8 mins Read

In this edition of our PokerGuru Gaming Report, we throw light on several ongoing developments in the gaming world. Starting with our first story, where concerns regarding market monopolization have halted the merger between PokerStars and SkyBet following an order from the British Competition and Markets Authority.

Next, we discuss the fate of the South Korean representatives, Kweon Seong-dong and Yeom Dong-yeol, who have been indicted for their involvement in the Kangwon Land scandal. Our next report takes us to Sweden which is finally looking to amend its gaming laws so as to allow its players to compete on international sites.

We then head to Pennsylvania where nine out of the state’s 12 casinos have recently applied for online gambling licenses. In the following report, we highlight the enactment of Integrated Casino Resorts Bill by Japan’s House of Councilors that will pave the way for opening of casino resorts in the country.

And rounding up this edition is a report from Dublin, where the Hard Rock International (HRI) is looking to build its newest venue in partnership with local hotel operator Tifco Limited.

PokerStars Skybet Merger on Hold Following Market Monopolization Concerns

The plans for the alliance and subsequent merger between PokerStars and SkyBet Gaming has been put on hold by the United Kingdom’s antitrust watchdog, British Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), over concerns of market monopolization. It has been speculated that if the merger is to carry through then PokerStars would become the largest publicly owned gaming company worldwide.

The Stars Group - SkyBet
The Stars Group – SkyBet

Last week, The Stars Group had made an announcement declaring that it had acquired SkyBet Gaming (SBG) for $4.7 billion. Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said, “This transaction creates the world’s largest publicly listed online gaming company and unites two iconic brand portfolios with strong technology platforms and teams. SBG’s mobile-focused sportsbook pairs well with our industry-leading poker offering to create two premier customer acquisition channels.”

However, the CMA has now decided to throw a wrench in the merger and take a more detailed look at the transaction before giving its approval. The watchdog organization has sent an Initial Enforcement Order to both parties involved to halt all action related to the partnership. The order further states that all activities dealing with the “transfer the ownership or control of the Stars business or the Sky Betting & Gaming group business or any of their subsidiaries” will have to be ceased immediately.

Nevertheless, The Stars Group doesn’t seem overtly perturbed with the CMA stopping the merger, even stating that the company will “continue to work closely with the CMA,” until approval is given.

Kangwon Land Scandal Leads to Indictment of South Korean Politicians

Two well-renowned members of South Korea’s opposition Liberty Korea Party were recently indicted for their part in the massive corruption scandal at Kangwon Land, which is the country’s only casino where locals are allowed to play.

Kangwon Land
Kangwon Land

Following the allegations of hiring hundreds of staff unlawfully through political and company connections, the representatives Kweon Seong-dong and Yeom Dong-yeol were accused of misusing their power and business interference and were charged with exertion of “undue pressure in requesting friends and acquaintances be hired as trainees at the casino”. It is believed that the politicians may have played a hand in the illegal hiring of about 50 trainees from November 2012 to April 2013.

In a statement issued last September, the casino admitted that “from 2012 to 2013 it had hired 518 people of which 493 of them – around 95% – were appointed due to connections with various influential people.” Kangwon Land went on to state, “We apologize for committing a crime which would have been possible only in the 1960s or ’70s.”

The scandal was first uncovered in 2015 with the former CEO Choi Heung-jip and another unnamed employee being indicted, but Kweon and Yeom have now joined the list.

Sweden Amends Gaming Laws to Allow Players to Compete on International Sites

The government of the Scandinavian country Sweden has decided to change its gaming laws so that poker players within the country will be able to compete on international sites. Previously Swedish players could only participate in gaming activities on the state-owned Svenka Spel, but with these amendments they will now be able to play with the European Union (EU) poker player pool.

Svenka Spel
Svenka Spel

This is a change that had been in the making for years following the reprimand that the nation received from the EU for its gaming law violations back in 2013 which included “failing to comply with the EU Treaty by not allowing gaming operators outside of the country to be licensed”.

The lawmakers of the Nordic country had been working hard for a long time to come to terms with updating the laws, so that they could comply with the EU. It had reached a stage where national gaming operator Svenka Spel had a monopoly on the industry and had even asked the mobile operating company Apple to remove all gambling apps from its Swedish store.

But the Swedish policymakers have now understood the fallacy in their laws. Minister for Public Administration Ardalan Shekarabi in a statement said, “Unregulated gambling has taken over and gambling is used in criminal activities. It is now time for us to move from words to action and regain control of the Swedish gambling market.”

The laws will come into effect as early as January 1, 2019.

Nine Pennsylvania Casinos Apply For Online Licenses

Out of the 12 casinos that are currently in operation in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, nine of them have applied for online gambling licenses and just beat the deadline for doing so at a discounted rate of $10 million.

The casinos that submitted their applications to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and paid the fee include Harrah’s Philadelphia, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Parx Casino, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, Sands Bethlehem, Sugar House Casino, Valley Forge Casino Resort and the under-constriction Stadium Casino.

Parx Casino
Parx Casino

If the licenses are approved, following the 90-day waiting period, these casinos will be able to conduct interactive games online that simulate slots, table games, and poker.

While Parx, Mount Airy and Stadium had put through their applications by the end of last week, the remaining six casinos managed to file their applications just before the deadline date. The last three casinos yet to put in their applications are Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin and Presque Isle Downs, Meadows Racetrack and Casino, and Mohegan Sun. The deadline for applying for online licenses is till mid-August, however, the fee will be hiked to $12 million ($4 million per gaming category) for the final three casinos.

Following the passing of new and amended gaming laws allowing for an expansion in the domain of online gambling, Pennsylvania became the fourth state after New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware to legalize online gambling.

Japan Lawmakers Enact Integrated Casino Resorts Bill

Making the final move to authorize the opening of casino resorts in the country, Japanese legislators have enacted the Integrated Casino Resorts Bill. The legislation was passed by Japan’s House of Councilors after a three-hour long discussion.

Casino Resorts Bill
Casino Resorts Bill

The bill was tabled before the House of Councilors after the House of Representatives gave it clearance in June. The current session of House of Councilors was also scheduled to end in June but the term was extended to ensure the Bill was passed.

With the Bill now cleared, Japan has legally opened the doors to permit international operators to run Casino and gaming setups in its ambitious Integrated Casino Resorts complex that was recently approved. The project permits casino space to be limited to just three percent of the total resort floor area.

Already international gaming firms like MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands have voiced their commitment to spend up to $10 Billion into Japan’s gaming industry.

The law allowing integrated resorts was first passed in December 2016. Many crucial decisions need to be taken by the Japanese government, even before the project takes off, starting with possible locations for the new properties.

As of now, Nagasaki, Hokkaido, Wakayama and Osakahave expressed interest in hosting casinos. The government also needs to create a national regulatory body for gaming and redefine the legal parameters of different forms of gaming. Currently, some forms of gambling including horse racing and boat racing are permitted.

Hard Rock International Sets Eyes on Dublin

Less than three weeks after the opening of the latest hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Hard Rock International (HRI) has set its sights on the capital of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin. A press release was made by the company stating that the company was working in collaboration with a local hotel operator Tifco Limited to build a new venue in the Irish capital.

Hard Rock
Hard Rock

The new venue will be a boutique hotel consisting of 120 rooms, offering 24-hour room service, live music, an all-day restaurant and a cocktail bar, right in the center of the city. The Hard Rock Hotel Dublin will operate as per four-star operation standards with the company expecting the hotel to be completed by 2020.

The senior VP and Head of Global Hotel Development of HRI, Todd Hricko stated, “Ireland has always been a place close to our hearts, and it only seems right to open a Hard Rock Hotel in Dublin, given the city’s musical roots. This is an exciting opportunity to extend our presence in Europe and elevate the one-of-a-kind offering at Hard Rock Hotels to the next level.”

HRI further stated that the project will be built across two structures, a structure currently known as the Parliament Hotel and the second referred to as the Fashion House Building. The new structure will feature a contemporary design and the two buildings will be joined via a glass link bridge.

The chief executive officer of Tifco Ltd., Enda O’Meara said, “Dublin’s vibrant cultural scene makes it one of the hottest European cities to visit, attracting over 5.5 million overseas visitors annually. Hard Rock Hotel is an iconic, global brand that will be bringing something very different in its own distinctive style to this vibrant part of the capital city…The hotel’s custom design based around the existing handsome early 20th century building will be unique, modern and sophisticated, offering upscale 4-star luxury with a standalone F&B proposition that we plan to put on the map. Hard Rock Hotel Dublin will be the place to see and be seen with live music nightly, excellent food and cocktails, and authentic Irish service.”

And with that we concluded this edition of the Gaming Report. We’ll be back next time with more news from the world of gaming, gambling and poker.

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