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The government of Malta, one of the world’s leading online gambling licensing agencies, recently tabled a bill which would transform the country’s approach to iGaming regulation.

If approved by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA), the Malta Gaming Act would repeal all existing legislation with an updated set of regulatory policies.

In a press release issued on March 13, the MGA outlined several components of the new Malta Gaming Act, including a provision which would replace the current multi-license system with two primary iGaming certifications: Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B). Other proposed improvements would expand the MGA’s jurisdiction to include additional compliance and enforcement, and formalizing the authority granted to the MGA’s Player Support Unit.

The release included comments from Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy & Innovation Silvio Schembri, who praised the MGA for embracing productive reforms:

“This Bill marks a major step in streamlining and encompassing the governance of all gaming services offered in and from Malta and across all channels under the competence of the MGA.

The Government wants to ensure that the gaming industry continues to be run responsibly, fairly and free from criminal activity, so that the Maltese jurisdiction provides a safe and well regulated environment where the industry can also develop and innovate.”

We hope to remove any red tape by increasing efficiency and flexibility for the Regulator, whilst improving the robustness of the current framework and focusing regulation on outcomes.”

According to Joseph Cuschieri – who serves as Executive Chairman of the MGA – the updated gaming codes are necessary if Malta is to keep pace with iGaming’s ongoing evolution:

“This is an important milestone and we welcome this major step forward by the Maltese Government.

This Bill contains draft proposals which aim to bridge the regulatory gap between various gaming verticals and channels, including new technologies serving as a platform to future proof gaming regulation, whilst ensuring that consumers enjoy a consistent level of protection.”

The MGA counts hundreds of iGaming operators among its worldwide network of licensees, with Betsson, Casumo, Greentube, and Paddy Power among the most well-known.

The new legislation was introduced following an extensive governmental review of gaming policy, which was launched in July of 2017 and included testimony from 53 stakeholders.

Per the MGA press release, the Malta Gaming Act was designed to remove regulatory red tape currently hindering its ability to protect consumers and hold operators accountable:

“The proposed regulatory framework will strengthen the MGA’s compliance and enforcement functions to better achieve its regulatory objectives, in line with concurrent developments on anti-money laundering and funding of terrorism obligations.

It also empowers the MGA to be more agile in its decision-making, decreasing unnecessary regulatory burdens whilst strengthening supervision and focusing the regulator’s efforts on the areas which present a higher risk profile.”

Schembri echoed those sentiments while providing his own justificiation for the Act, which he says will produce 4 percent growth across Malta’s iGaming industry:

“We hope to remove any red tape by increasing efficiency and flexibility for the Regulator, whilst improving the robustness of the current framework and focusing regulation on outcomes.”

The Maltese Parliament is currently studying the Act, but it is widely expected to pass before Cuschieri leaves the MGA to become chief executive officer of the Malta Financial Services Authority.

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PokerStars Closes in on Launching India-Facing Platform After Securing Crucial Local Partnership

PokerStars Closes in on Launching India-Facing Platform After Securing Crucial Local Partnership

More than a year after declaring its intention to enter the Indian market, PokerStars parent company The Stars Group moved one step closer to its goal last week.

In a scheduled quarterly earnings call with investors, Rafi Ashkenazi – who serves as chief executive officer for the The Stars Group – confirmed that the global online poker leader has agreed to partner with Indian lottery operator Sugal & Dumani:

“In India, we have entered into an arrangement with a well-established domestic licensed lottery and gaming operator, which will give our brand access to this highly populated market and the ability to build awareness for both our PokerStars brand and the game itself.

We anticipate the brand being launched in the second quarter, initially on the ringfenced basis, but believe it will take a few years for the business to reach profitability and for us to receive noticeable license fees.

PokerStars continues to be the leading promoter of poker globally and we continue to seek new ways to capture the attention of our target market with compelling campaigns and promotions.”

The news first broke courtesy of local news outlet GLaws.in, which reported that Sugal & Damani’s parent company Sachiko Gaming Private Limited recently acquired the PokerStars.in domain name. As is the case with Sugal & Damani, Sachiko Gaming Private Limited is under ownership by Sachar Gaming Private Limited.

Per the GLaws.in report, India’s Registrar of Companies (ROC) lists Hardik Parekh and Keval Parekh as Directors of both Sachar and Sachinko.

Sachinko describes the company’s objective, as required by Indian law, as follows:

“Doing business and marketing of online gaming platform and e-commerce trades with associates and direct customers.”

Sachar Gaming operates the rummy website KhelPlayRummy, and until the most recent development, operated the online poker platform KhelPlayPoker. The latter site has been shuttered, ostensibly to be replaced by the new PokerStars India product.

For the time being, visitors to the PokerStars.in domain will find a stock screen bearing only the words “Coming Soon!”

But according to unnamed sources used by GLaws.in, the site could go live within “the next few weeks.”

Back in December of 2016, as PokerStars confronted the imminent prohibition of online poker throughout Australia, Ashkenazi told investors that a pivot to India may be in the cards:

“We want to be there in time and we want to make sure that we are, as usual, the market leader when it comes to poker.

India could be a greater opportunity compared to Australia, and when we look at the player base it would be a bigger one. However, from the purchasing power point of view, India is quite different from Australia.”

We estimate the market in India to be anywhere between $ 80 million to $ 150 million a year. So, it will be bigger than Australia eventually, of course. But it will take time to build up this level of revenues from India.”

At the time, a report by the India Times revealed that more than 50,000 players in the country were signed up with unregulated online poker sites.

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Foxwoods Exec Offers Strong Support for Regulated iGaming in Connecticut During Public Testimony

Foxwoods Exec Offers Strong Support for Regulated iGaming in Connecticut During Public Testimony

Following the introduction of two gambling expansion bills within the Connecticut General Assembly, the state’s largest land-based casino operator has offered conclusive support for iGaming regulation.

As part of an open hearing on gaming issues held by the Public Safety and Security committee, Foxwoods Resort Casino deployed its executive director of online gaming to lobby for legalization. Seth Young provided written testimony to the committee’s three co-chairs – state senator Tim Larson (D-03) and Anthony Guglielmo (R-35), and state representative Joe Verrengia (D-20) – on behalf the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, owner and operator of Foxwoods.

Pursuant with House Bill 5306, introduced on February 28, the committee is currently pursuing a “Comprehensive Study of Gambling in Connecticut” – one which includes the possibility of iGaming regulation following the model successfully implemented by regional neighbor New Jersey.

Legislators in Connecticut are also considering House Bill 5307, which would legalize sports betting upon any repeal of the current federal ban.

Young told lawmakers that, while Foxwoods supports both sports betting and iGaming on principle, bringing casino games and poker online would provide greater economic benefit:

“iGaming … is a more lucrative opportunity for the state than sports gambling. As we see it, the strongest opportunity for the state is in legalizing statewide iGaming, another activity that is currently operating for Connecticut residents in the black market today.

We project the revenue opportunity for iGaming in Connecticut to be greater than the revenue opportunity for sports gambling.”

Young provided evidence from New Jersey’s thriving iGaming industry, which he told lawmakers had generated $ 126 million in tax revenue for the Garden State since launching in late 2013. Per Young’s testimony, Foxwoods estimates that Connecticut would generate $ 87 million in tax revenue through the first five years of legal iGaming.

He also pointed out that Connecticut has already opened its gambling industry to the internet, both by bringing off-track betting (OTB) operations online, and through the passage of a daily fantasy sports (DFS) law.

As a representative of Foxwoods – the second-largest land-based casino resort in the United States at 340,000 square feet – Young also tackled the “cannibalization” argument typically used by brick and mortar operators opposed to online adoption. According to Young, casinos like Foxwoods actually derive tangible benefits in the form of new patronage when their branding is made available to wider audiences online:

“There are strong ancillary benefits of a legalized, statewide online gaming program for land-based casinos, and by proxy the state of Connecticut.

iGaming has shown to be incremental – not cannibalistic – to land-based gaming revenue, with data showing that iGaming encourages increased visitation to land-based properties.”

Young once again used New Jersey as an example to prove his point, mentioning that Atlantic City’s land-based gambling industry reversed a decade of decline by growing 2.2 percent between 2016 and 2017:

“iGaming has contributed to Atlantic City’s stabilization and turnaround in a market with new casinos right over the border in Philadelphia and other neighboring states, in a similar destination-style market as we have here in Connecticut.

With this in mind, we submit that iGaming is a valuable asset that can be leveraged, with the potential ancillary benefit of increasing slot revenue to the state.”

New Jersey law requires iGaming providers, including out of state and European operators, to partner with a brick and mortar casino in order to secure the necessary licensing. Foxwoods’ primary competitor in the Connecticut market, Mohegan Sun Casino Resort, linked up with Resorts AC to launch a New Jersey-facing online platform in 2015.

Another argument used by Young concerned iGaming’s connection to job creation. Citing a study by the iDevelopment and Economic Association (IDEA), Young informed lawmakers that New Jersey’s legalization of iGaming had added an estimated 3,374 full-time jobs since 2013.

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A couple of Upright Top-Five Finishes Convey Zebra Wood veneers Near In 2018 Practitioners Fortune

A couple of Upright Top-Five Finishes Convey Zebra Wood veneers Near In 2018 Practitioners Fortune

Tiger Woods has spent two consecutive Sundays near the top of the leaderboard, and as a result, his odds to win the 2018 Masters have narrowed considerably.

After opening at 100 to 1 on most bookmaker boards last April – and closing to 15 to 1 by December when he briefly led the Hero World Challenge – Woods is now closing in on becoming the Masters betting favorite.

Per the most recent futures betting lines posted by online sportsbook Bovada, the four-time Masters champion is now listed at (+1000) to win his 15th career major. Only favorite Rory McIlroy (+800) – a four-time major winner who has never donned the Masters’ green jacket – and 2016 U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson (+900) offer better odds at the moment.

Woods made a splash two weeks ago when he entered the final round of the Valspar Championship one off the lead. Playing in the final group is nothing new for the 79-time PGA Tour titleholder, but with Woods winless since 2013, the golf world watched for a long-awaited breakthrough. And while Woods eventually finished in a tie for second place at (-9), he carried the momentum with him to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Competing at Bay Hill, a course where he’s won eight times before, Woods birdied the 10th, 12th, and 13th holes to start his back nine off in style. For the second straight Sunday, he lurked one stroke off the lead, but a late push fizzled to produce a T-5th finish.

McIlroy, meanwhile, solidified his spot atop the Masters betting board with a scintillating final round and a four-stroke victory.

Combined with a T-12th finish at the Honda Classic in late February, the clear signs that Woods may have finally sorted through his myriad physical issues – including multiple back surgeries – have prompted the linemakers at Bovada to move the legend up their board.

Speaking with CBS Sports after the Invitational, Woods was asked about the upcoming Masters, which begins April 5 at Augusta National:

“I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t really thought that much about it, especially this week. I’ve been grinding and focusing on this week, trying to win this thing.

Now the tournament’s over, I’ll start to make some changes for Augusta, what kind of equipment setup I’m going to go with, some things I want to do with my swing.”

Woods also commented on the current conditions at Augusta National, a course where he once announced himself to the golf world with a 12-stroke demolition as a 21-year old phenom. As he told CBS Sports, Woods isn’t counting on his four prior wins at the Masters, especially playing at Augusta for the first time since 2015:

“I need to go take a look at it. I haven’t putted on bent grass in two years. So this is going to be new to me. Playing on rye like that, overseeded rye, different spins that we’re going to encounter there.

I was talking with [caddie Joey LaCava] about that early in the week. I’ll figure out what wedge system I want to use for that week, what bounce system, get used to those bunkers, sand’s very heavy, thick.

So just have to do a little bit of work.”

Bettors also have work to do ahead of the 82nd annual Masters, so take a look below for the top-25 contenders as currently listed on Bovada:

Odds to Win 2018 Masters

Golfer Odds to Win Masters on 3/19
Rory McIlroy +800
Dustin Johnson +900
Tiger Woods +1000
Justin Thomas +1100
Jordan Spieth +1200
Justin Rose +1200
Jason Day +2000
Phil Mickelson +2000
Jon Rahm +2000
Rickie Fowler +2000
Bubba Watson +2200
Paul Casey +2500
Sergio Garcia +2500
Hideki Matsuyama +3500
Henrik Stenson +3500
Tommy Fleetwood +4000
Adam Scott +5000
Marc Leishman +5000
Patrick Reed +6000
Thomas Pieters +6600
Louis Oosthuizen +6600
Tyrell Hatton +7500
Alexander Noren +7500
Bryson Dechambeau +7500
Charley Hoffman +8000

 

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New York’s Online Sports Betting Bill Clears Committee Vote; Online Poker Attached to Proposed Budget for Third Straight Year

New York’s Online Sports Betting Bill Clears Committee Vote; Online Poker Attached to Proposed Budget for Third Straight Year

Less than one week after introducing a bill to regulate sports betting, New York state senator John Bonacic (R-42) successfully steered his latest gambling expansion proposal through the committee he chairs.

Bonacic’s position as chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee made the preliminary passage of Senate Bill 7900 a formality of sorts, so no votes were tallied. Instead, the bill – which would allow the Empire State to establish legal sports betting via both land-based and online sportsbooks – was moved on to the Senate Finance Committee without delay.

SB-7900 was introduced on March 7 and forwarded to the Finance Committee on March 13.

In a statement issued by his office, Bonacic referenced the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision which is widely expected to strike down the current federal prohibition on sports betting:

“With today’s passage of S.7900 out of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, legalized sports betting is one step closer to becoming a reality in New York State.

I thank my colleagues on the Committee for their support of this bill, and look forward to working with them and the many stakeholders, during the remainder of the legislative session to ensure that New York has the best piece of legislation possible should the Supreme Court strike down PASPA.”

In December, the Court heard oral arguments in the case of Christie v. NCAA et al, which concerns the efforts of Governor Chris Christie to legalize sports betting in New Jersey. The Garden State approved sports betting measures, both legislatively and on the ballot, with Christie signing versions into law in 2012 and 2014. Each signing prompted a slate of lawsuits from North America’s four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The leagues contended that New Jersey’s efforts to regulate sports betting constituted a violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – the federal law which limits legal sports wagering to four states (Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware).

As his statement alluded to, Bonacic’s bill is contingent on a Court ruling – which is scheduled to be rendered within the next few months – striking down PASPA’s control over state-regulated sports betting:

“No gaming facility may conduct sports wagering until such time as there has been a change in federal law authorizing such or upon a ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction that such activity is lawful.”

With most legal observers and gambling industry experts in agreeance that the Court was amenable to New Jersey’s case during oral arguments, more than a dozen states have introduced bills based on the potential PASPA repeal.

California, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia are among the 16 states currently considering similar legislation.

Based on his plan for an 8.5 percent tax on sports wagering related revenue, Bonacic positioned the legalization of sports betting as an effective way to solidify the state’s budget:

“If allowed, sports betting will be a revenue enhancer for education in New York,” said Bonacic, who is also spearheading the online poker efforts. “We have the chance to ensure our sports betting statute is fully developed and addresses the needs of the state and all stakeholders so we can hit the ground running if and when we can authorize and regulate sports betting.”

In other iGaming news out of New York, the Senate once again included online poker in its annual budget proposal.

Buried within the massive document, which serves as a baseline for lawmakers to base their discussions with the executive branch, is a passage calling for online poker to be regulated.

The same language has been included in the Senate budget proposal for three straight years, and while that legislative body has successfully passed online poker bills in 2016 and 2017, the Assembly has refused to hold a vote.

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Hard Rock Casino Atlantic City Launches Social Gambling Site

Hard Rock Casino Atlantic City Launches Social Gambling Site

With its acquired Atlantic City casino set to open this summer, Hard Rock International has partnered with Greentube to launch a social gambling website.

Visitors to the HardRockSocialCasino.com platform will find a full complement of casino games to choose from, including classics like baccarat, blackjack, and roulette. Slots, video poker, and scratch card style lottery games are also available.

As a social gambling provider, the new Hard Rock Atlantic City site lets players take on the house free of charge, with only virtual credits known as “coins” up for grabs.

In a press release dated March 12, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City president Matt Harkness said social gambling will introduce the global casino brand to the New Jersey marketplace:

“We are excited to announce the arrival of our online social gaming site that is easy to navigate and offers free play.

Launching this social games website will bring excitement to those who enjoy playing the most innovated games for slots and tables online and it will be a great opportunity for many to experience and connect to the Hard Rock brand for the first time.”

The launch comes just five weeks after Hard Rock International announced an arrangement with Greentube – a subsidiary of Austrian-based iGaming giant Novomatic – to design social gaming sites for each of the Florida-based conglomerate’s 11 casino properties worldwide. That agreement began with the Seminole Hard Rock venues in Florida, before branching out to New Jersey following the acquisition of the former Trump Taj Mahal.

In a contribution piece published by EGR Global, Gabriel Cianchetto – who serves as president of market development for Greentube North America – wrote about the collaborative process between his company and Hard Rock International:

“Hard Rock and Seminole Gaming are large, multifaceted organizations with specific design demands and quality standards for each of their web properties. This meant that our private-label social casino program, Greentube Pro, had to evolve to meet their needs.

Hard Rock/Seminole tasked us to create a multi-property and multi-brand framework for all of their North American casinos. This framework reflected a true branded experience for each property, enabling players to choose their preferred casino when they register.”

Cianchetto also revealed an expanded mobile platform selection made possible by partnering with Amazon:

“Part of Hard Rock’s business strategy was to make their social casinos available to all, meaning mobile compatibility with not just Apple and Android, but also Amazon platforms.

By now offering Hard Rock/Seminole social casinos to players on Amazon Fire devices, we’ve opened up an entirely new marketing channel to Amazon aficionados.”

After taking over the defunct Trump Taj Mahal last year for a relative bargain at $ 50 million, Hard Rock Atlantic City’s online presence won’t be limited to social gambling for long. A partnership with Gaming Innovation Group announced in February will produce the latest entrant to New Jersey’s thriving online gambling industry.

Kresimir Spajic, senior vice president of online gaming for Hard Rock International, made it clear at the time that the company wanted a piece of New Jersey’s $ 245 million iGaming revenue haul from 2017:

“Hard Rock has an ambitious plan to become a global leader in the international online gaming space.

We are confident that, together with Gaming Innovation Group, we can disrupt the market, through product innovation and unique user experience.”

Gaming Innovation Group’s chief executive officer Robin Reed was pleased to partner with Hard Rock International’s pursuit of iGaming integration:

“We are excited to be part of Hard Rock International’s inspiring and innovative plans to become a global leader in the international online gaming space.”

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