Highlights of the Congressional Sports Betting Hearing

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Last Thursday, the US House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigation held the Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America hearing which was meant to ascertain whether there is the need for federal sports betting oversight since the existing regulations only require the oversight of individual states.

The hearing which is the very first of its kind since the US Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting, a move that gave the states the go-ahead to offer legal and regulated sports betting. Some of the attendees included:

  • Jocelyn Moore, Executive Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs of the NFL
  • Les Bernal, National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling
  • Sara Slane, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs of the American Gaming Association
  • Jon Bruning, Counselor for Coalition to Stop Online Gambling
  • Becky Harris, Chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board

As expected from most hearings involving lawmakers, the hearing turned out to be a fiasco especially because the lawmakers who were members of the committee were not well-informed about the sports betting industry or the gambling industry as a whole.

The NFL’s testimony, which was given by Jocelyn Moore, was one of the biggest highlights of the hearing particularly because it largely comprised of things that most of us have probably heard before. The league’s biggest concerns, as it turns out, was the integrity of the game and age restrictions, both of which are already being handled in one way or the other by the governments in the state where sports betting has been legalized.

While the awful Internet Gambling Act (2006) and the Wire Act (1961) were not very significant to the proceeding despite the fact the internet and mobile are important in sports betting regulation, the NFL and the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling made sure that everything revolved that topic.

Fortunately, the AGA’s Sara Slane stepped in to give the other side of the story saying:

“States and tribes have proven to be effective gaming regulators in the 26 years since Congress enacted PASPA. As Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games, and other gambling products, it should similarly refrain from engaging on sports wagering barring an identifiable problem that warrants federal attention.”

What Is Next?

Even though there is a consensus that a section of the members of the committee left thinking that there was something that had to be done at the federal level in as far as sports betting is concerned, the Thursday hearing was a purely informational one and there is no plan to create a federal framework for sports betting.

Moreover, there are currently no more meetings being planned so the NFL’s bet would probably be to follow in the footsteps of the NHL and NBA that are already inking partnership deals with sports betting and casino operators.

 

Congressional Hearing on Sports Betting Set for Sept. 27

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A Congressional hearing on legal sports betting in the United States has been scheduled for next week in the US capital despite massive pushback from gaming operators who believe that there is no need for a federal framework to be put in place.

The hearing which is scheduled for September 27 will involve discussion about the proliferation of legal sports betting across the country following the recent repeal of PASPA by the United States Supreme Court. Spearheading this move is the US House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigation which aims to investigate the implication of the landmark Supreme Court ruling and what it would mean for the integrity of sporting activities “as well as what sorts of improper or illicit activities could arise”.

“My subcommittee will look at the implications of this SCOTUS ruling and talk about what it means for the integrity of sports as well as what sorts of improper or illicit activities could arise,” said subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). “Ultimately, we want to determine whether or not a basic federal framework is necessary to guide states’ new gambling policies.”

Support from the Leagues

As is turns out, the September 27 hearing was scheduled about a month after Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, released some sports betting guidelines with the support of major US professional sports leagues.

 “As legalized sports betting spreads across the states, there is a need for consistent, nationwide integrity standards to safeguard the sports millions of fans love,” the NBA, PGA Tour, and Major League Baseball said in a joint statement. “We strongly support the legislative framework outlined by Senator Schumer and we encourage Congress to adopt it.”

The leagues have often expressed concerns about how fast the states have fast-tracked sports betting regulation since the Supreme Court paved the way for legalized nationwide sports betting and therefore the introduction of a federal framework would mean that the league’s lobbyist will not have to argue out their cases with each and every state.

American Gaming Association (AGA) to Testify

The AGA’s senior vice president, Sara Slane is reportedly also set to give the association’s perspective on why states and the sovereign tribal nations are best positioned to regulate and oversee legal sports betting market. It is no secret the AGA has been a strong supporter of the abolishment of PASPA pointing out that is “an essential first step to shutting down illegal sports betting”

“Bringing sports betting activity into a transparent legal market, under state and tribal regulatory oversight, empowers law enforcement to tackle illegal gambling, provides essential consumer protection and better ensures bet and game integrity. It will also create new American jobs and generate additional local, state and federal tax revenue,” reads a statement from the AGA.

LeoVegas Ventures into Esports Betting with Pixel.bet

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Mobile casino specialist LeoVegas, through its wholly-owned investment company LeoVentures Ltd., has recently made its debut into the esports betting market. This move was officiated last Thursday when the Stockholm-listed LeoVegas announced that its LeoVenture’s arm had purchased a 51 percent stake in the Malta-based esports betting platform Pixel.bet for a whopping €1.5m payable through issued shares. The acquisition deal is expected to close in in the current quarter of the year through a new share issue.

The gambling industry has been rather laid back when it comes to esports betting, only making tentative forays into the space but this is beginning to change thanks to the explosive growth of esports in terms of attendance, viewership, sponsorships, and media coverage. These developments have pushed more gambling operators or at least consider the possibility.

“Esports is an international and fast-growing area that engages millions of viewers and players every month. With this investment in Pixel.bet we as a Group will gain a unique insight into a new and fast-growing segment,” commented Gustaf Hagman, the LeoVegas’ Group CEO and co-founder of LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group.

This is a huge step forward for esports betting and even though Pixel.bet will initially not have a significant effect on the LeoVegas Group’s revenue or financial standing, the acquisition is expected to pay off decently in the long run.

“In Pixel.bet we have found a passionate team of entrepreneurs who come from the esports community,” Robin Ramm-Ericson, Managing Director of LeoVentures and co-founder of LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group, said. “With its strong technology and mobile-first gaming experience, Pixel.bet is a perfect match for the LeoVegas Mobile Gaming Group. Together we will drive development for the absolute premier experience in esports betting.”

The Pixel Holding Group has confirmed via its Pixel.bet entity that it is now ready to embark on a new phase of operations that will primarily be about “gearing up for a broader launch of its business”. Sweden and the Nordics are reportedly the initial focus markets for the company though it is still eying further international growth.

“We love esports. And we love betting. We want to create value for enthusiasts and add something truly extra to our community. Pixel.bet is, for example, the first to offer log-in with mobile BankID and instant withdrawals. In LeoVentures we have now found a unique partner and investor that understands and shares our passion,” stated Eirik Kristiansen, CEO of Pixel.bet.

IGT Secures Sports Betting License in West Virginia

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Casino operator in West Virginia will now be able to partners with International Game Technology (IGT) for sport betting ventures after the company was granted an interim license by the West Virginia Lottery Commission. With this approval, the casino operators will now be able to use IGT’s PlayShot integrated sports betting platform.

“Receiving approval from the West Virginia Lottery Commission to deploy IGT’s PlayShot sports betting solution throughout the State continues IGT’s momentum in pioneering sports betting across the U.S., and creates additional new market opportunities for IGT,” said Enrico Drago, IGT Senior Vice President PlayDigital. “This distinction acknowledges the reliability, security, and market-readiness of IGT’s PlayShot solution, and creates opportunities for IGT to further differentiate our sports betting solution in the marketplace.”

Sports betting in the United States has been subject to a number of pivotal changes that are expected to change the face of gambling in the country. Sports betting providers such as IGT are looking to take advantage of the new legal sports wagering market and by receiving the West Virginia license, the New York-listed IGT has made yet another important step towards achieving its goals.

The gaming technology specialist company already powers retail betting operations allowing customers to place a variety of pre-game and in-game bets over the counter at a number of locations in the country.

Rhode Island Is a Go

At about the same time that its license was granted in West Virginia, IGT announced that it and its commercial partners William Hill U.S. have been chosen by the Rhode Island Lottery to be the end-to-end sports betting service providers in the state. IGT will be responsible for providing the sports betting platform while the William Hill will be handling the risk management and sports betting operation services at Rhode Island’s licensed video lottery and table game facilities.

“We are pleased that Rhode Island is the first lottery to set up sports betting operations post-PASPA,” said Renato Ascoli, IGT CEO, North America. “IGT is a leading and proven supplier of sports betting technology in the U.S. The combination with William Hill, a leading sports betting operator in the U.S., uniquely positions us to provide the Rhode Island Lottery with a comprehensive, market-ready solution to maximize sports betting revenues and returns to good causes for the state of Rhode Island.”

The state is clearly moving fast to tap into the lucrative sports betting market that was opened up by the Supreme Court ruling that repealed PASPA in May. Once the offerings go live, the state will receive a 51 percent portion of the share with the vendor and the casinos getting 32 and 17 percent respectively. This is quite reasonable and will, therefore, have a positive impact on the industry in the long run.

“IGT is a world-class gaming technology company and we could not be more happy to partner with them to provide a world-class sports betting solution for the state of Rhode Island,” commented Joe Asher, CEO, William Hill U.S.

Esports Betting Platform Luckbox Nabs Isle of Man Online Gaming Permit

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Luckbox has long been one of the top contenders in the Esports world as far as sports betting is concerned. More people have been attracted to the Esports scene thanks to the unique opportunities for participation that the platforms such as the Bitcoin-powered Luckbox have been offering.

Things are about to get even better for both the company and its customers following a recent announcement that the company has obtained its own Isle of Online Gambling Regulation Act licensing, making it the very first Esports betting operator to acquire a license of that kind.

The license that is now held by Real-Time Games Holdings Limited, the company behind the Luckbox brand, was issued by the Gaming Supervision Commission and falls under the umbrella of the Online Gambling Regulation Act (OGRA).

The Online Gambling Regulation Act ensures that online gaming operators carry out their activities in compliance with the strict regulation in the jurisdiction – this a measure put in place to ensure that the players are only presented with the highest level of safety and security when they place wagers online.

Luckbox chose to pursue the license from the Online Gaming Regulation Act simply because the license is considered to be one of the most reputable gambling licenses in the globe – it requires all player funds to be held in mechanisms that guarantee players of compensation in case an operator goes into liquidation.

In addition to this, the licenses will allow Luckbox to accept cryptocurrency, fiat as well as in-game items as currency for game transactions. It joins some other outstanding brands such as FullTilt, SBO, PokerStars, Quanta and 188Bet that are also holders of OGRA licenses.

“This is a significant milestone for our project. As well as building an industry-leading product, having a top-tier license is what sets us apart. It offers the best protection for players and opens up fantastic opportunities for us as a business, not least enabling access to compliant marketing channels, the ability to be listed on mobile app stores, as well as accessing traditional gambling infrastructure developed over the past two decades,” Luckbox chief executive officer, Lars Lien said.

“Having received the OGRA license, established a brilliant development team and now being confident with our infrastructure partners, I am confident we will deliver an amazing product early next year that will be very hard to copy. All in all, it is fantastic news for the team and all those who have supported us so far – we are so grateful for your help.”

GVC Holdings, MGM Resorts Forge U.S. Gambling Joint Venture

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MGM Resorts International on Monday, July 30, announced two new partnerships that, according to CEO Jim Murren, will significantly help the company to rise above many other operators and become an industry leader in U.S. sports betting markets other than Las Vegas.

One of the two strategic partnerships is a market access agreement between MGM and Boyd Gaming which is expected to expand the scope of online and mobile gaming in the country. This partnership will offer sports betting, poker and other casino gaming platforms in the areas where either MGM Resorts International or Boyd Gaming operate a land-based casino or possess online licenses.

“Thanks to our partnership with MGM Resorts, Boyd Gaming will have the opportunity to potentially add an online presence in five additional states, positioning us for significant future growth as our respective companies take a leadership role in our industry’s evolution,” Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith.

Separately, MGM also announced that it had established a 50-50 joint venture with Europe-based GVC Holdings PLC. The venture will see both companies collaborating to establish a sports betting and online gaming platform that will have its headquarters in the United States. To capitalize on the venture, each of the companies will be raising a whopping $100 million.

GVC has made tremendous efforts to nab a share of the U.S. sports betting market and with the country’s Supreme Court having lifted the federal ban on sports betting, there are a ton of new opportunities in the nascent but rapidly growing market.

The joint venture alone will give the company access to 15 states which have around 90 million people. Added to the fact that the joint venture will also give GVC access to all the land-based gambling facilities and online sports betting platforms in the United States, there is certainly bound to be a revolution in the United States gambling scene.

“MGM Resorts is a world-leading entertainment business and the most trusted name in gaming, with the highest quality brands and management, and strong sports connectivity. This combined with GVC’s technology and experience in successfully building online gaming businesses across multiple markets presents a truly exciting opportunity for U.S. players and our respective shareholders. To be able to team up with a partner with such pedigree and knowledge, particularly in the U.S., is a real opportunity for GVC,” Kenneth Alexander, the GVC Holdings. Chief Executive Officer said.

Jim Murren, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MGM Resorts International also commented on the joint venture saying:

“We are excited to benefit from GVC’s proprietary, best-in-class technology, digital customer acquisition expertise, and experience with adapting to new operating environments. GVC is unusually qualified due to their existing operations in the U.S. Together, we are creating a one-of-a-kind platform that we expect will dominate the U.S. sports betting market.”

Nippon Partners with Nintendo for Splatoon 2 Esports Leagues

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Nowadays, news of domestic sports competitions venturing into Esports is becoming more and more common. A number of famous teams, leagues, and clubs from all around the world have finally decided to warm up to the idea of acquiring or starting competitive video game teams not only because it is an assured source of some extra revenue but also because it will hopefully broaden their reach.

Japan has not been left behind. The country’ pro baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), last week announced that they had made a move into the Esports industry by partnering with Nintendo to create a new Splatoon 2 Esports league. Each of the league’s 12 clubs will be participating in the Esports league which is set to go down in Spring 2019.

To take part in the Splatoon 2 league, players will need to register for the fourth annual Splatoon Koshien event that was scheduled to kick off in July 2018. During the event, a scout from each of the 12 clubs will be around to pick team members based on their own criteria. Players who are selected will be contacted by the team for a special interview scheduled for February 2019 after which all of the 12 teams will be shown off at a special presentation in March before the Splatoon officially kicks off.

At the moment, the league’s official start date has not been announced and, on the same note, no details regarding the ruleset or the prize pool have been released. However, it is worth noting that the language on the official Splatoon Esports Series website seems to suggest that the pool will not have a prize, even though the players are likely to receive compensation for their participation. This is expected especially when considering Nintendo’s operating procedure, that is, the company does not award monetary prizes for tournaments.

Nippon’s Partnership with Konami

The Splatoon 2 Esports league is not NPB’s first Esports venture. In 2017, the baseball league partnered with Konami to host championships for its official baseball title Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū which is known internationally as Power Pros. This tournament was officially recognized by the league and, furthermore, featured promotional content that involved a number of NPB stars.

Last week, NPB announced that it plans to take its relationship with Konami a notch higher with the launch of Pawapuro Pro League, a baseball Esports League that will operate in the same way as the NBA 2K league – each of the NPB clubs will be represented by three players. This one, on the other hand, will have a prize pool of 12 million yen ($12,000).

Nasdaq Holds Closed-Door Meeting with Crypto and Fiat Firms

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Despite their obvious growth in popularity and real-world applications, cryptocurrencies have been lingering in the regulatory grey zone mostly because international regulatory bodies hold mixed opinions on the development of the rapidly growing industry as well the asset class. It would seem that the reputation of the entire cryptocurrency industry has been hopelessly tainted by issues pertaining to fraud and shady transactions, but everything is about to change for the better.

With a number of emerging regulation and institutional solutions, Wall Street is beginning to slowly warm up to the idea of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate digital asset class. One of the organizations championing the legitimization of crypto is Nasdaq who on July 27, 2018, held a closed-door meeting in Chicago with the heads of various cryptocurrency-based companies and other financial institutions to discuss the future of the sector.

Bloomberg reports that the agenda of the meeting was the examination of ways of enhancing the overall outlook of the crypto-business and exhibiting its potential to the rest of the world. They also, reportedly, discussed some of the actions that crypto-based companies must do in order to improve the reputation of bitcoin and other digital currencies

Nasdaq Is Optimistic About a Digital Economy

Nasdaq has already adopted an industry-forward stance as far as crypto is concerned – its CEO, Adena Friedman is already at the helm of a number initiatives designed to help cryptocurrency exchanges advance their security systems. Security will naturally be a key determinant of whether crypto is finally ready to take the next step forward towards legitimization.

The company also partnered with Winklevoss twins-owned Gemini, a digital asset exchange to monitor Ether and bitcoin trading using Nasdaq’s SMARTS Market Surveillance systems. This was followed by an announcement that was made earlier this week disclosing that Nasdaq is going to be supplying five digital currency exchanges with market surveillance technologies.

Adena Friedman, who is at the helm of all these developments, has expressed a lot of optimism towards the development of a digital economy. In a May 7 CNN podcast, she noted that:

“How it evolves and which of the cryptocurrencies may or may not be the one that ultimately gets embraced, I think that really the jury is still out on that. But I do think the idea of a more globalized payment mechanism that is more efficient than what we have today allows for money to transfer across countries and certainly supports the Internet economy.”

She believes that cryptocurrencies are, without a doubt, the next logical step in the space of currency adding that the underlying blockchain technology will enable among other things more efficient value transfer. In addition to this, she has even said that Nasdaq would be willing to consider operating a cryptocurrency exchange once regulations settle and the crypto sector matures.

Microgaming Launches Brand New(-ish) Online Poker Software

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Microgaming has recently launched its most revitalized online poker product to date. Prima Poker, the brand new poker software, was rolled out to customers on July 26 and is expected to be fully accessible to all of its customers by July 31.

Designed and built with players in mind, Prima Poker offers a streamlined interface that is very easy to navigate regardless of whether you are playing cash, tournament and casino games. It also includes a blind cash game lobby as well as a simplified rewards system.

If you are very enthusiastic about online poker you may have heard of Prima before. It was one of the biggest online poker names thanks to its very popular high-stakes games that put the likes of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars to shame. Unfortunately, the platform slowly lost its glory and this eventually led to its rebranding to Microgaming Poker Network.

Fresh Look

The online poker client has been revitalized with a strong focus on enhancing user experience while at the same time promoting responsible gaming with increased transparency. To achieve all this, it features a play history tool that shows a player their overall profits and losses across all game types – this can be filtered for any time period giving players the ability to track and review their gameplay and make informed decisions.

“It is an exciting and pivotal time for the Microgaming Poker Network. The launch of Prima marks another move in our strategy to continue developing products centered around giving players the best poker experience with a more intuitive client, optimized for any device,” Jean-Luc Ferriere, CCO of Microgaming commented.

Microgaming further used cross-platform technologies that allowed them to design Prima in a modular fashion. These technologies also offer the same codebase capabilities which means that Microgaming will, therefore, be able to quickly and easily deploy updates of the client across all of its platforms simultaneously. This is very exciting especially because it not only assures players that new and upcoming devices will be supported but also allows for faster penetration into newer markets.

“This is our biggest and most important poker release and the culmination of a multi-year strategy to revitalize our product and leapfrog the competition. I’m proud of what the team has achieved and I’m so excited about what we are going to build together in the coming months,” says Alex Scott, the head of product Microgaming’s Network Games. “By the end of the year, this new Prima client will have significant new features that the old one doesn’t have. At that point, I want to be really pushing it to players over the old one. This is much more in keeping with what you’d expect as a player in 2018.”

FanDuel to Launch Online Casino and Sports Betting in N.J.

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Renowned fantasy sports provider, FanDuel, has recently announced its plans to launch an online casino alongside a sports betting offering in New Jersey. Sources reveal that the company plans to apply its branding to an online casino through its licensing affiliation with the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City. On the same not, FanDuel will be providing online sports betting under the license of the Meadowlands Racetrack.

The move was rather surprising, especially because both FanDuel and DraftKings, its competitor, have previously shunned all and any association to gambling and now they are both charging forward into the gambling space with sports betting and online casino ventures.

Rebranding in Progress

FanDuel is owned by Paddy Power Betfair which is one of the largest bookmakers in existence – the European bookmaker acquired FanDuel last week, thus finally closing a deal that was struck in May.

“Today is a milestone for the sports industry. We are excited to share that we closed our previously announced merger agreement with Paddy Power Betfair to combine our US businesses, allowing us to move forward with our promise to provide you, our loyal users, an even better experience,” an e-mail FanDuel wrote for to its customers read.

FanDuel will be serving as the face of Paddy Power Betfair’s United States operations that included sports betting and online gambling platforms. One of its most notable operations is the Betfair online casino in New Jersey.

Apparently, Paddy Power Betfair chose FanDuel because of the latter’s brand and database of players which are certainly key selling points and would, in turn, compliment the plenty of sports betting tech that Paddy Power has at its disposal. In a press release, Paddy confirmed that:

“The transaction strengthens the Group’s opportunity to target the prospective US sports betting market through the addition of a strong brand, large existing customer base, and talented team.”

While Paddy will be using the FanDuel brand in the United States, the bookmaker has been trying to rebrand itself – earlier this month, it announced that its US-facing operations, Betfair US, would be changing its name to FanDuel Group. In fact, this rebranding might even affect the Betfair online casino in New Jersey.

GAN and IGT To Offer Assistance

Paddy Power Betfair is definitely a market leader in other jurisdictions but in the United States, the FanDuel group has already secured its own deals with third-party suppliers. One of these suppliers is IGT which has been tasked with providing the platform that will deliver Paddy Power Betfair’s bookmaking services to FanDuel’s sports books.

FanDuel Group further inherited Paddy Power’s partnerships with Golden Nugget and GAN, the two entities that are at present responsible for the Betfair online casino. GAN will be participating in providing logistics to power the FanDuel online casino and sportsbook operations. This will be done in conjunction with both IGT and Paddy Power Betfair.