Electronic Arts (EA) Ceases Sale of FIFA Points in Belgium

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Belgium declared loot boxes in video games as illegal and unregulated forms of gambling in 2018 and since then a number of game developers made changes so as to comply with the new law. Not Electronic Arts (EA) though – the company was not amused by the directive and chose to defend the use of loot boxes in video games instead of honoring the law, at least until now. Owing to increased pressure, the game developer has backed down from its previously defiant stance and has now ceased the sale of FIFA Points, an in-game currency that is offered in the company’s FIFA series.

The changes were meant to come into effect by January 1 which means that as from the first day of February, FIFA gamers in Belgium will not be able to purchase points in order to obtain FIFA Ultimate Packs. Fortunately, the players will still be able to access the Ultimate Team and play with their existing players. Also, as it has always been, players will still be able to earn all content in the game through gameplay and use coins as well as the in-game transfer market. For Belgian players who already have FIFA points in their accounts, they will still be able to use them but they will not be allowed to purchase more of them.

Belgium’s and Netherland’s gambling commissions came to the conclusion that loot boxes in video games that were fueled by real-money purchases are equivalent to casino games like roulette or spinning the reels of a slot machine. In essence, most countries, including the United States, classify the spending of real money on wagers for potential reward as gambling. Many game developers are mulling over these facts trying to find suitable workarounds.

What It Means for the Industry

In many ways, Electronic Arts started this whole thing thanks to its decision to include tons of heavy-handed transactions as well as loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront II. Despite the backlash from both players and gaming authorities, EA maintains its adamancy that loot boxes are not a form of gambling. In fact, the company said that it would still be seeking “more clarity” on the matter. Luckily enough, the FIFA Points were not critical to the company’s finances which means that this would have played out quite differently if that was not the case.

All things considered, while Belgium may seem like a relatively small market for video games especially when compared to other countries in Europe, its decision to ban loot boxes is certainly bound to get some attention. As is stands, legislators in the United States, the United Kingdome, and Japan have all been looking into loot boxes in the recent past with the main aim being to protect consumers especially those are underage or at risk of becoming gambling addicts.

Worldpay, Paysafe Unite for US Gambling Partnership

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Global payment providers Worldpay, Inc., and Paysafe Group have recently announced a new strategic partnership that is aimed at establishing a standard for the sports betting and online gaming digital payments acceptance and security in the United States. This move is perhaps a well-timed response to the rapid growth of the online and sport betting industry following the May Supreme Court ruling that event that lifted the federal ban on sports betting thus individual states the go-ahead to liberate on their own sports betting regulations.

Paysafe Group is one of the world’s most popular providers of end-to-end payment solutions and its core business is enabling businesses and consumers to connect and perform seamless transactions. The company has well over two decades worth of experience, close to 3,000 employees and up to 12 global locations. Worldpay, Inc, on the other hand, is highly regarded for its capability to power global omni-commerce.

The duo’s partnership will leverage Worldpay’s optimized credit card processing, fast-fund payouts as well the included treasury and payment solutions. Paysafe, on the other hand, will be providing its online gambling and gaming digital payment options which include Paysafecard online cash solution and NETELLER wallet. With this partnership in place, the duo will be able to facilitate seamless transactions while reducing operating costs and allowing universal payment acceptance.

This is exactly what the American sports betting and online gaming industry need as they continue to grow – the American Gaming Association estimates that the sports betting market in the country is worth over $150 billion in gross online and offline gaming revenue. From the looks of it, it could become the largest sports betting market in the world and therefore reliable and convenient payment systems are necessary.

More Choices for the Players

Joel Leonoff, the President and CEO of Paysafe Group believes that the partnership will be able to effectively champion the needs of both the players and the operators by giving them access to a secure, high-configurable and cost-effective payments systems that will deliver an unmatched player experience. The innovative approach the duo will be going with means that the partners will be able to support all transactions. In essence, this means that there will be a ton of payment choices for players to choose from.

In a statement released shortly after the announcement of the partnership, Shane Happach, Worldpay’s executive vice president and head of global enterprise eCommerce pointed out that the combined strengths and capabilities of the two companies would simplify payment options for the gaming operators while “continuing to show our attentiveness to responsible gaming and our mission to protect the integrity of every transaction.”

Are Esports Operators Prepared to Handle Skill-Based Games?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last month, renowned esports gambling website Unikrn announced plans to bring legal skill-based betting to the United States which will allow players to wager on themselves. Players will be able to link their games to their Unikrn accounts and the platform will in turn generated odds for the player based on their profiles within the game. This is one of the biggest milestones since the launch of such skill-based competitive video games such as Player Unknown’s Battleground and Fortnite.

As much as the esports industry is picking up in several different areas, Ian Smith, the commissioner of the Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) is concerned that the industry is yet to be prepared for it. To be more specific, Mr. Smith is skeptical about operators like Unikrn having the ability to ensure the skill ratings of the punters match the abilities of those that are manning the game controls.

The Loopholes

One of the most notable loopholes of this model is the fact that some players may place Fortnite bets using their personal account then handle the controller over to a more talented gamer. Similarly, there is the possibility that some players may nuke the game profile and then hustle the system by placing a series of bets. To make it worse, the ESIC commissioner is still not certain about the existence of any tools that identify players and make sure that player is actually the holder of the game account on platforms such as Unikrn’s.

Unikrn, on the other hand, is very confident about the ability of its team to handle issues to do with fraud. According to Unikrn’s chief executive officer, Rahul Sood, the platform has been studying each and every player’s game so as to thoroughly understand the competitive ecosystem of all the games hosted on its platform. This might be the case especially considering how great the platform’s customer experience is – this is only possible by knowing the gaming style of each player. This information can also be very useful for the company if it is to maintain the integrity of the betting platform.

Is This Effective Enough?

It is still quite obvious that it will be very difficult to detect cheating in battle royale such as Fortnite and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds than in other types of video games. This is primarily because these battle royale games usually feature multiple players all fighting to emerge as the last man standing.

Furthermore, data from these games are not very reliable because their results are not very predictable – most anti-fraud measures are based on the predictability of certain activities or actions. For instance, talented players can sometimes be easily knocked out of the games during the early stages and a less experienced player may, in some case, get lucky enough to win the game. Since battle royale games are not like the conventional esports betting formats better solutions are definitely needed.

High Hopes for US Sports Betting as Pa. Sportsbook Goes Live

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Last Thursday (November 15, 2018) Pennsylvania finally took its first ever legal sports bet. This was after the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved Hollywood Casino at the Penn National Race Course for a two-day testing period that was run by renowned US sports betting operator, William Hill US. Fortunately, the testing period went so well that on Saturday, November 17, the operator was given the go-ahead by the state regulator to proceed with its official launch.

It has been a very long road to the first ever legal sports bet in the state. When the United States Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting earlier this year in May, the Keystone State’s sports betting could have kicked off on that very day – in theory, is. Pennsylvania’s sports betting laws and regulations were approved in a sweeping bill in October 2017 that complimented Pennsylvania’s booming lottery and land-based casino industry. This has really helped propel the state into one of the country’s most lucrative gambling markets.

More States to Swarm into Sports Wagering Next Year

Of all the states that have operational sports betting industries, Pennsylvania is the perhaps the most consequential especially since it is the most populated state with legal sports betting so far and thus it opens up a major chunk of the US population to legal sports betting. Furthermore, the move significantly bolsters the growing Mid-Atlantic market as a whole – this area has been the epicenter of the gambling expansion in the US following the Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA and lifted the federal ban on sports betting.

According to industry experts, at least 12 more states could legalize sports betting next year, and up to eight of them could launch their sportsbooks before the 2019 football session kicks off. This means that within the next 2 years there could be at least 24 states with legal sports betting operations. Among the states that are expected to close in on legislation or new regulations by the end of 2019 are Connecticut, Ohio, New York, Florida, Oregon, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.

Even so, the Keystone State’s is quite different from all other states especially because considering the fact that it will be the first state with franchises in each of the four major US professional sports leagues to offer legal and regulated sports wagering. This, when added to the potential size of the market, will make the state a force to reckon with in as far as sports betting in the United States is concerned.

While it will certainly be a while before Americans are able to enjoy a fully-fledged legal sports betting environment, the developments in various states, more so Pennsylvania, is certainly a vital step towards the future many are hoping for.

Partypoker To Sponsor PGA EuroPro Tour In 2019

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Online poker behemoth PartyPoker has recently announced a new sponsorship agreement with the PGA EuroPro Tour in 2019. The deal which was announced on November 1 will see the renowned online poker company feature at stops on EuroPro Tour which acts as a feeder for the European Tour and the Challenge Tour. In addition to branding during the 2019 season, there will be more “promotional opportunities” with some of the golfers as well as visibility across the organization’s social media channels.

While this sponsorship deal will give Partypoker additional opportunities to promotes its brand, the company has been part of some pretty lucrative partnerships in the past. In 2008, for instance, the online poker company became the headline sponsor for the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School. In the past two years, the company has done quite well for itself by reviving its online poker room, launching more live online poker offering and fostering stronger connections with its growing player database.

“We are excited to come on board with the Euro ProTour for the forthcoming season and further strengthen our relationship with Matchroom Sport,” Partypoker managing director, Tom Waters said. “The tour hosts some of the most exciting events across Europe, and we look forward to supporting Matchroom in their quest to unearth the next generation of golfing stars.”

With the PGA EuroPro Tour sponsorship, PartyPoker hopes to leverage the great reputation that has been created – the tour is essentially a proving ground for upcoming golfers. Billed as the “leading development tour” in Europe, the PGA EuroPro is known for graduating its most successful players onto the Challenge Tour which is just one step shy of being the continents biggest and most lucrative golf tour. The top stop is occupied by the European Tour.

“Our developmental golf tour has become one of the leading circuits for young professionals looking to become tomorrow’s superstars of the sport. I am really looking forward to building on an already strong relationship with PartyPoker and can’t wait to see the benefits it will bring to all involved in the PGA EuroPro Tour,” Barry Hearn, the Tour Chairman commented.

More to It Than Meets the Eye

Partypoker plans to set itself apart from other operators by expanding its presence across all the corners of the globe and putting out massive guarantees. However, in Europe, one of the biggest challenges for poker operators is the advertising restrictions that are imposed on gambling-related activities. By partnering with the PGA EuroPro Tour, PartyPoker will have a golden opportunity to advertise itself to millions of fans.

NASCAR Plans to Implement Sports Betting Regulations in 2019

Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to Steve Phelps, the NASCAR president, the series plans to implement guidelines in the rulebook on sports wagering next year. This announcement came in the past weekend when Dover International Speedway opened its on-site sports betting kiosk during the past weekend thus becoming the only track that allowed sports gambling on its property.

As it stands, NASCAR even allows it drivers and team members to bet on the race, something that certainly represents an interesting dynamic but is likely to change in one way or the other when the sports betting regulations are implemented in 2019.

“I think for 2019, we’ll have some rules that we’ll put in place,” Phelps commented on Sunday at Dover. “For right now, there’ll be betting here. They have a kiosk here, you can bet inside. We’ll study and see how that goes, but I think we’ll have some rules in place for sponsorship, for what betting looks like, and continue to see what happens in the landscape overall.”

The on-site sports betting kiosk at Dover International Speedway opened at 9 a.m. with a modest line NASCAR and gambling fans forming to find out more about the new offering and to hopefully cash in – most of the questions that were raised were about the NASCAR prop bets. More specifically, many of the bettors wanted to know it the stage cautions count toward the total number of cautions. As it turns, they do not – only the crash and debris cautions will count.

So far, everything seems to have picked up quite well for NASCAR, the state of Delaware as well as sports betting and horse racing at Dover. In fact, according to the general manager and senior director horse racing and sports betting at Dover Downs, John Hensley, more prop bets were offered in the last weekend when compared to what had been recorded for the average race.

New Hope for NASCAR?

NASCAR is hoping to rejuvenate the sport in the wake of the May U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA and lifted the federal ban on sports betting. Promoters at a number of NASCAR tracks across the country are hopeful that with legal sports wagering, NASCAR will be able to keep its declining fan base by giving them more reason to stick around. The idea is also to attract new fans who will then be given a reason to invest both emotionally and financially (through such things as bets) in the budding careers of future NASCAR stars such as Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, and Austin Dillon.

Chris Powell, the president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, considers legal betting on NASCAR activities as “manna from heaven,”:

“It very well could be a shot in the arm to NASCAR, and other forms of motorsports, because it could add a new element of excitement – whether it’s wagering on who’s going to win, or who’ll win the first segment, or a one-on-one bet, just like in golf, where it might be Bubba Watson against Tiger Woods.”

As of now, a number of betting options, auto racing included, are being offered at Dover Downs and Dover International Speedway with the betting lines being supplied by renowned bookmaker William Hill.

Highlights of the Congressional Sports Betting Hearing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

 

NHS Asks Premier League Teams to Tackle Problem Gambling

Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS (National Health Service), Premier League football clubs and the foreign bookmakers that sponsor them are failing at their duty to help protect problem gamblers. Speaking at a conference in Manchester, Mr. Stevens called out the overseas betting companies for their failure to make the required donations to an industry charity that was formed to help in tackling gambling addiction.

“There is an increasing link between problem gambling and stress, depression and other mental health problems. Doctors report that two-thirds of problem gamblers get worse without help, and the NHS does offer specialist treatment,” Simon Stevens said. “But reports that foreign gambling companies are failing to play their part in co-funding help for addicts are deeply concerning. Taxpayers and the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces. The health of the nation is everyone’s responsibility.”

He further described compulsive gambling as one of the “new threat” that the NHS has to deal with waring that the implications could be very serious especially since the already overstretched NHS has had to “pick up the pieces” from gambling-related mental health issues.

“One of the things, if we’re serious about prevention, that we need to do – we need to be getting on to the Premier League and asking them to ensure that those foreign gambling firms are playing their part,” he added.

Worrying Numbers

According to the UK Gambling Commission, the UK has about 430,000 problem gamblers, a number that is likely to grow even further if nothing is done. In fact, the NHS has already moved to open its first mental clinic aimed specifically at problem gamblers but this is a just a drop in the ocean when compared to what really needs to be done.

“This is at the same time as the voluntary contribution from the gambling industry has not been responded to by eight overseas firms who sponsor Premier League clubs, so we need to get onto the Premier League to make sure they contribute.”

The dire need for interventions has been recognized and echoed by a number of organizations including GambleAware which has openly welcomed the NHS chief’s component.

“With nearly half the clubs in the Premier League and over two-thirds of the Championship league sponsored by gambling companies, we are seriously concerned the relationship between sport and gambling has reached a tipping point. There is a real risk gambling advertising and sponsorships are normalizing gambling for children. We welcome the call from NHS England for gambling companies, wherever they are based, to contribute more to treating problem gambling,” a spokesperson from GambleAware said. “We would like to see all clubs, leagues, and broadcasters who profit from gambling work with us to help fund treatment for this hidden addiction.”

California Tribe’s Online Gaming Bid Nixed by Federal Court

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The California-based Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, a native tribe in the United States has been championing its online poker and bingo offerings for a while now but it seems they were not quite ready for the battle that would ensue.

The tribe’s Desert Rose online bingo site has been the bone of contention that has pitted the federal regulators of the tribe for years. However, unfortunately for the tribe, a federal court has made a ruling that sides with federal regulators – the site will have to go.

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, following the recent U.S. Supreme Court landmark ruling that lifted the federal ban on sports betting, upheld a previous decision by a lower district court. The decision had sided with the state of California is its efforts to try and force the tribe at the picture as far as online gambling is concerned.

Even though the tribe’s chances of winning this fight were somewhat limited, the case still represents a key milestone in the quest for adding clarity to gambling laws in the country.

The case which stems back to November 2014 stated that the tribal operator had violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) – at the time when the tribe launched the Desert Rose Bing Site, the state of California did not have any regulatory framework in place. The tribe, in its defense, argued that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) had given it sovereign right to offer Class II games like poker and bingo. However, the court maintained that the UIGEA law is superior to the IGRA.

“The panel held that Iipay Nation’s operation of Desert Rose Casino violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”). The panel held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act protected gaming activity conducted on Indian lands, but the patrons’ act of placing a bet or wager on a game of Desert Rose Casino while located in California, violated the UIGEA and was not protected by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The panel further held that even if all of the “gaming activity” associated with Desert Rose Casino occurred on Indian lands, the patrons’ act of placing bets or wagers over the internet while located in a jurisdiction where those bets or wagers were illegal made Iipay Nation’s decision to accept financial payments associated with those bets or wagers a violation of the UIGEA,” reads an extract from the three-judge panel’s summary.

“Because Iipay’s operation of DRB violates the UIGEA, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to the Government.”

The tribe has not made any comments as to what it plans to do next – one of the options would be to take the case to the United States Supreme Court but there are very slim chances that the court would even consider hearing the case.

Esports Betting Platform Luckbox Nabs Isle of Man Online Gaming Permit

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.”