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Gaming Report: U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Interrogated For Poker Affiliations, Belgian Gaming Regulators Investigate EA Over Loot Boxes & More

Brett Kavanaugh and Loot Boxes
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  • PG News September 14, 2018
  • 6 Mins Read

Even though the U.S. is taking progressive strides towards legalizing sport betting, it is still frowned upon for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee to have affiliations to gambling, as Brett Kavanaugh found out the hard way.

Meanwhile, video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA)’s continued implementation of the loot box transactions from one of its games, FIFA 18 has caught the attention of Belgian gaming regulators who are mulling over the possibility of prosecuting the company, since loot boxes are outlawed in the country.

China’s Special Administrative Region (SAR) Macau is a favorite hotspot for casino and gaming regulars and recently, Macau’s legislator Leong Sun Iok has been pushing for improving the security around hotels and casinos by incorporating facial recognition technology to prevent robberies from tarnishing Macau’s tourism industry. While, casino major, Caesars Entertainment Corporation has sought trademark protection in Macau for the Cromwell and Flamingo brands of its two subsidiaries.

U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Interrogated Over Poker Affiliations

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh‘s plans of being confirmed as an associate justice for the highest court in America has been put on hold. Just before the confirmation process could come to an end, the unsuspecting judge was asked to respond to the written questions submitted by several Senators.

Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked in a 14-page question list submitted on September 10, whether Kavanaugh was a poker enthusiast. “Do you play in a regular or periodic poker game?” Whitehouse asked. “If yes, please list the dates, participants, location/venue, and amounts won/lost.”

Kavanaugh gambling habits have been put under the microscope after lawmakers received information that the judge had built up as much as $200,000 in credit card debt as recently as 2016. The Trump Administration, which nominated Kavanaugh, claimed his debt came from improvements to his million-dollar home and Washington Nationals tickets for himself and a “handful” of friends.

Whitehouse has asked Kavanaugh for the specifics regarding the baseball tickets and the home repairs, even requesting that he identify the people he purportedly bought tickets for.

Kavanaugh was also interrogated over a document from his tenure in the Bush Administration in 2001 that mentioned a “game of dice”. According to the document, after a reunion with friends in September 2001, Kavanaugh wrote in email: “Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse) and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall). Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant [with regard to] confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”

Senator Whitehouse asked Kavanaugh to disclose the extent of his gambling habits since 2000, “Since 2000, have you participated in any form of gambling or game of chance or skill with monetary stakes, including but not limited to poker, dice, golf, sports betting, blackjack, and craps? If yes, please list the dates, participants, location/venue, and amounts won/lost.”

Whitehouse also questioned point-blank if he had amassed gambling debt in New Jersey, while also asking whether Kavanaugh had ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction.

Kavanaugh had until 6 p.m. on September 12 to respond to the questions.

Belgian Gaming Regulators to Investigate EA Over Loot Boxes

Video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) has run into trouble with the Belgian authorities. A year after outlawing loot boxes on the ground, that they are a form of gambling, the county’s regulators are now investigating the possibility of taking legal action against EA’s decision to not prohibit loot box transactions from one of its games, FIFA 18.

Loot Boxes
Loot Boxes

In April 2018, loot boxes were outlawed in Belgium on the grounds that they are a form of gambling. According to Belgian regulators, the loot box system “constitutes a game of chance in the sense of the Gaming and Betting Act.”

The country’s regulatory commission has recommended that video game publishers should provide age verification procedures in order to protect children, as well as spending limits.

The commission’s bone of contention with EA’s game FIFA 18 lies in the fact that the game allows players to purchase the loot boxes through in-game coins or real fiat. The loot boxes offer a randomized chance for players to win success players or soccer items that help hem advance through the game and build the best possible team.

In May 2017, EA CEO, Andrew Wilson explained the company’s stand saying,“Firstly, players always receive a specified number of items in each box. And secondly, we don’t provide or authorize any way to cash out or sell items in virtual currency for real-world money. And there’s no way we can make value assign to FUT items in game currency.”

He added, “And while we forbid the transfer of items of in-the-game currency outside, we also actively seek to eliminate that where it’s going on in an illegal environment, and we work with regulators in various jurisdictions to achieve that.”

However, according to the commission, the odds of winning needed to be clearly displayed and any video game’s packaging needs to have labels indicating that it contains gambling. Clearly, EA has been reluctant in complying with this.

Loot boxes have been the hot topic of discussion in gaming and EA has in the past, been at the center of a controversy over its implementation of the premium loot box system for its game Star Wars –Battlefront II.

EA’s loot box system feature drew a lot of criticism from gamers, parents and Star Wars fans. The uproar led to many regional gambling commissions of European Union (EU) to enforce gambling laws that require firms to register a gambling license.

While loot boxes are not considered gambling in France, UK and New Zealand, they are prohibited in games in several countries like Holland, China and Japan.

Macau’s Casinos May Incorporate Facial Recognition Technology

The Macau legislator Leong Sun Iok has been crusading for enhanced security at area casinos and hotels and believes that facial recognition technology is the solution.

Leong SunIok
Leong SunIok

Leong sent a letter to the Macau government on September 7, detailing an increase in reported crimes within the city, stating, “during the first six months of the year, casino robbery reports were up by 50% year-on-year.”

While the first half of 2017 saw only six robberies in Macau hotel premises, the number has risen to 13 for the same period this year. However, even with Leong’s assertions, there is proof that the crime rate is actually decreasing. In fact, according to the government, gaming-related crimes have declined by 3% year-on-year to 840 cases.

Earlier this month, two Mainland Chinese citizens in Cotai on a business trip were followed to their hotel room and subsequently robbed. Leong used this incident as an example to explain the “severe impact on Macau’s tourism image.”

Leong asserted, “gaming-related crimes typically involve “outsiders” and not locals. Because of this, he stresses that the government needs to create a system that would prohibit access to Macau by anyone who has been blacklisted. This can be accomplished through a facial recognition system.”

The system would certainly bring many benefits including keeping casino workers, and other unauthorized individuals, off gaming floors during non-working hours, since Macau prohibits civil servants from entering casinos and there is also talk of the same legislation being applied to casino workers when they’re off work.

Caesars Entertainment Seeks Trademark Protection in Macau

Despite not having any gaming presence in China’s Special Administrative Region (SAR), Macau, casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corporation has sought trademark protection for the same.

Two of Caesars subsidiaries, Flamingo Las Vegas Operating Company LLC and Corner Investment Company LLC have applied for trademark protection of the Cromwell and Flamingo brands. They reportedly filed their brand protection applications in early June. The applied trademark protection includes operations like casino services and management, gaming services, interactive gaming and hotel operations, etc.

Caesars Entertainment
Caesars Entertainment

Notably, Caesars had in 2017 also sought trademark protection in Macau, although it infamously opted not to apply for a local concession since the company’s management didn’t consider it profitable then.

In this context it seems likely that Caesar’s ongoing efforts for trademark protection in Macau may be propelled by the possibility that SAR’s upcoming casino concession renewal process will bring forth opportunities for new operators to enter the world’s biggest casino market.

Caesars could also be looking to safeguard its brands against any unauthorized use by Asian-facing online gambling operators.

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