NBA Strikes Gambling Partnership with MGM Resorts

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The NBA on Tuesday, July 30, announced that it had struck a deal with MGM Resorts International to be its official gambling partner. This partnership, which is the first ever for a sports league and gambling operator marks a crucial step forward for sports betting in the United States especially considering that before the Supreme lifted the ban on sports betting, the leagues had for decades shunned any association with gambling activities.

“This is an industry and an area that we’ve been discussing a lot over the last several years, and of course, with the Supreme Court’s repeal of PASPA, it’s all come to a head,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

Even though the Supreme Court ruling that repealed PASPA is not likely to culminate in a federal gambling bill, the ongoing state-by-state approach for the legalization of sports betting will help the NBA and other leagues to tap into the new revenue stream that acknowledges the sports betting interests in the country. According to the sources close to the partnership, the deal is approximated to be $25 million over three years which may seem small, but the real value for the league may come through the creation of a market for their direct data feed.

MGM Resorts International will also enjoy a number of perks from the partnership. These included the rights to NBA league and team logo, highlights, access to official league data as well as recognition for being an “official gaming partner” of the NBA and WNBA. Using the aforementioned official NBA league data on its betting platforms, MGM will also be able to work with the league to detect and prevent fraud and game-fixing which have plagued both industries for a very long time.

The NHL Also Wants a Piece of the Gambling Action

The leagues have since abandoned the controversial quest for an “integrity fee” but this is not stopping some of them, including the NHL, from candidly and directly pursuing their interests in the gambling scene. According to recent reports, Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, the league hopes to be paid from gambling interests for the sports intellectual properties associated with the league.

“We’ve historically been opposed to extending sports betting on our game, and, emotionally, I don’t think that’s changed. However, it is a fact of life in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, and it’ll be up to states to decide whether or not they’re going to enact sports betting,” Bettman stated.

“From our standpoint, we believe that whether it’s our intellectual property or data, whether it’s a video of our game, we have important assets. And if somebody is going to avail themselves or want to avail themselves of those assets in order to conduct their business, then we’re going to need to have a negotiation.”

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.”

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.”

Online Gaming in New Jersey Gets a Lot Easier

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While New Jersey’s online gambling industry is considered to be one of the best, online gamblers in the state have until recently had to cope with one very frustrating and annoying problem. Participating in online gambling in the state has been a nightmare for residents due to the difficulty of paying with credit cards. The situation was quite unfair especially considering the fact that we live in a world where credit cards are considered to be a standard of payment for a vast range of goods and services.

Having started as an attempt to regulate and prevent online gambling fraud in the state grew to become one of the most significant drawbacks to online gambling in the state as the banks were not allowing players to use their credits to deposits funds into their online casino accounts. As such, many gamblers had to jump through several hoops whenever they wanted to participate in the legal and regulated activity to ensure that their payments were not declined.

“At some point (the federal government) wanted to shut down illegal gambling in the U.S.,” explains Mattias Stetz, COO at Rush Street Interactive/playsugarhouse.com. “Banks became very subjective to what transactions they would or wouldn’t approve. However, since the legal and regulated New Jersey online casinos launched, some banks still haven’t changed their controls to reflect the new legal status.”

Even though these precautions proved to be quite helpful in preventing fraud and illegal gambling activities, it also served a pretty significant stumbling block for legitimate online gambling.

The Solution

New Jersey’s online gaming community has been anticipating a fix for this problem for quite some time now. Well, luckily for them, they now have an easier way to deposit money into their online casino accounts using their credit cards.

This is facilitated by a collaboration between Sugarhouse Online Casino (playsugarhouse.com), an online establishment, and Wyrz, an experienced payment provider. The two have created a system that allows customers to deposit money into their individual online gaming accounts with nearly all the available credit cards.

“Many may not be aware that one of the biggest challenges with online gaming in New Jersey has to do with depositing money to play,” Stetz explained. “When a player tries to fund their account with a conventional debit or credit card payment, the transaction would often fail. Now thanks to the partnership between playsugarhouse.com and Wyrz, that is no longer an issue for those looking to wager and win on the exciting casino games offered on the site.”

This will hopefully give online gamblers the ability to play stress-free since they no longer have to worry about their payments being declined by the bank.

“This should help the New Jersey tax income from gaming as well because all players will be able to play,” Stetz added.

SBTech Partners with Golden Nugget for Sportsbooks Venture

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Leading sports betting solutions provider, SBTech continues to snap up new business and partnerships in the United States. One of its latest deals involves a partnership with Golden Nugget Casino to launch an omnichannel sports betting solution for Golden Nugget’s casino in Mississippi in New Jersey. Under the new partnership, SBTech will be integrating its sportsbook with Golden Nugget’s existing online gaming platform in the two states, providing a full platform and a sportsbook solution that will include integration into their existing casino management systems.

In addition to this, the sport betting solutions provider will also be responsible for developing a custom and highly flexible front-end for Golden Nugget in a bid to ensure maximum differentiation. In a similar note, SBTech will apply a bespoke trading strategy and non-pooled risk management that is powered by unrivaled levels of automation which will give Golden Nugget Casinos the opportunity to shake up the United States market with its unique pricing for all sports.

“Since sports betting is a critical component of our successful expansion for online betting and gaming in the US, SBTech persisted through our arduous review process. In the end, we knew SBTech was the right partner for us because of its industry-leading retail and online technology, their significant and diverse regulatory experience, as well as its innovative product-driven approach,” Golden Nugget Casino’s senior vice president, Thomas Winter commented.

The partnership is also set to significantly contribute to SBTech’s endeavor to meet the licensing requirements set by both Mississippi and New Jersey. Both companies will benefit from SBTech’s live offering which will reinforce the long-term success of Golden Nugget’s sportsbooks. Customers can expect to enjoy some of the industry’s widest range of events and markets and groundbreaking new mobile-focused features like Action Betting and Pulse Bet, both of which will boost in-play turnover from key gaming demographics.

“I’m very pleased to confirm our latest strategic partnership with a major US operator. Golden Nugget fully shares our vision of leveraging the power of innovation to achieve sports betting success, and as the US market matures, I’m confident of the potential for further collaboration in multiple jurisdictions,” Richard Carter, the SBTech CEO said.

SBTech’s Partnership with Rocket X

Rocket X, which operates a number of gambling sites in the United Kingdome has also recently struck a partnership deal with SBTech. This one also involves supplying the former’s sportsbook to a number of UK-facing sites. The partnership was contracted directly in conjunction with LeoVegas, a leading Swedish mobile gaming operator that created the Rocket X brands earlier in March in a move to consolidate its UK assets.

“The strength of SBTech’s in-play coverage, its technological and regulatory expertise, proven track record of powering high-growth operators in the UK and wide range of responsible gambling controls were at the heart of our decision to sign this agreement. With the power of one of the industry’s top sportsbooks behind us, I’m confident of achieving a significant share in the uniquely competitive UK market,” Rocket X CEO, Mark Good said.

Pennsylvania’s Comprehensive Gambling Expansion Surges On

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The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has confirmed that the state’s plans for the establishment of mini-casinos, online gambling and a number of other developments are well underway. The members of the board believe that it is going to be a fairly smooth sail from here on out now that a lawsuit that has been challenging the gaming expansion has been dropped.

Even so, everything pertaining to the Keystone State’s comprehensive gambling expansion was already in the right regardless of the setbacks that included the said lawsuit.

“These are very busy times for the Gaming Control Board,” said Doug Harbach, the PGCB spokesperson. “We have six expansion initiatives that we are part of…There’s never been a jurisdiction in the United States that had to get that many types of gaming up and running in a very brief period of time.”

Filed by Penn National, the operator of Pennsylvania’s Hollywood Casino, the lawsuit which was filed earlier this year cited the company’s concerns that the legalization of mini-casinos would jeopardize and cannibalize their casino operation in the state. The lawsuit was, therefore, seeking to have the federal courts pass a ruling that would block the new Category 4 casino provisions since they treated the state’s existing operators unfairly and contained “unconstitutional” language.

According to Harbach, the Penn National lawsuit was one of the most significant setbacks to the Keystone State’s comprehensive gaming expansion. Even though some other issues may arise in the near future, Penn National’s decision to drop to the lawsuit will definitely lighten the load.

“We made a business decision to withdraw our lawsuits against the Category 4 law,” said Penn National spokesperson, Eric Schippers. “While we continue to believe in the merits of our arguments, we have chosen to focus entirely on our development efforts for our two new casinos, rather than pursue what is likely to be a lengthy and costly legal battle.”

“As previously stated, our goal in pursuing our Category 4 licenses is both defensive, in terms of protecting our existing investment at Hollywood Casino from new competition, and offensive in terms of penetrating more deeply into more populous market areas to our south and east, in order to drive incremental value for our shareholders.”

Internet Gambling

While the state is still handling and reviewing mini-casino proposals, the iGaming license process is also in progress. Already, nine of the state’s 13 casinos have paid the discounted $10 million licensing fee for slot machines, poker, and table games.

“Once we get the iGaming up, of course then we’ll start to look at the airport gaming,” Harbach added. “We’ve got the video gaming terminals at the truck stops…Course we began to do some regulation on fantasy sports and have collected taxes on that for a couple months. So, all those things.”

Sweden Welcomes International Online Poker Operators

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Sweden’s love affair with poker has existed for a very long time. However, its growth has to some extent always been impeded by the fact that the market has since the beginning of time been monopolized by the state. Things, fortunately, took a turn for the better in June 2018, when the newly introduced gambling laws did away with the state’s monopoly over online poker. This is exciting news, especially for the Swedish poker players who will soon be able to play online poker on international platforms other than the state-run Svenska Spel, and also play against players from other parts of the globe.

Keeping Up with Reality

Sweden was, in 2013, found to have been in violation of several of the European Union’s law especially with regards to a law that required all the member states to allow international operators to obtain internet gaming licenses. Despite this, as witnessed, it took five years for the country’s authorities to finally open up the market to international poker sites. Still, the state-owned Svenska Spel will continue to operate as it has always done until the ban on international poker and gambling platforms is lifted on January 1, 2019.

One factor that seems to have contributed to this huge decision is the Swedish authorities’ realization that it is almost impossible to enforce such a strict monopoly on the Swedish residents or any other person for that matter. This is simply due to the fact that the internet has always offered and will likely continue offering workarounds that render such laws as Sweden’s internet gambling monopoly useless. In fact, a number of online gambling operators such as PartyPoker, PokerStars, and 888Poker have been active in Sweden all this while without holding licenses from the Swedish authorities.

Sweden also hopes to tackle the issue of criminal activity with this move – it is common knowledge that unregulated gambling activities will more often than not facilitate or foster criminal activities. They hope that creating a more liberal online gambling industry, they will finally be able to curb or at least significantly minimize this particular problem.

More Details

Interested international online poker operators will be able to start applying for the necessary licenses on August 1 and the ones that will be lucky enough to be approved will be subject to an 18 percent tax. Svenska Pel will, however, not be subject to this tax. It will keep operating and supporting the country as usual with the stakeholders hoping that it will remain popular among Swedish online gamblers.

The new laws have now given the Swedish Gambling Authority (SGA) more power and it now has the authority to close down any of the online gaming operators that are offering their services without a license.

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.

John Cynn Claims WSOP 2018 Main Event Title, Wins $8.8M

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The 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event spawned one of the most epic heads-up battles in the history of tournament poker and poker in general. The 10-hour long marathon eventually ended when John Cynn defeated Tony Miles heads-up thus winning the main event on Sunday morning and walking away with the crown of poker’s world championship and a whopping $8.8 million in prize money.

While still coming to terms with his epic win, Cynn made it clear that while the amount of the prize money was indeed overwhelmingly large and would significantly change his life, he does not want it to change who he is as a person.

“The money is very significant, but I do like to think that I don’t need the money to be happy,” he said. “But at the same time, practically, it’s going to make things a lot easier — things I want to do in life … even to my parents, this is money that they never could’ve imagined. It’s definitely going to be life-changing.”

When he was entering the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event, John Cynn who is from Indianapolis had a little less than $1 million in career prize money. This did not stop him from having a pretty good run at the event which eventually brought him to the final table and it was then that he became assured that he would walk away with a huge win.

A Record-Breaking Showdown

Cynn’s and Tony Miles’ heads-up battle lasted over 10 hours but this was not the only record that they broke – the showdown also set the record for the most hands played  heads-up to close at a WSOP main event as well as the most total hands at a WSOP main event final table, that is, 199 and 442 respectively.

Even though Miles entered the day as the chip leader, he failed to outwit John Cynn but all was not lost as he still managed to walk away with $5.5 million for his second-place finish. He was, however, clearly disappointed with the result. Still, he had a perspective of how special the Main Event was for the poker industry as a whole.

“We’ve been playing on little to no sleep — the nerves and the angst that you feel at night, it’s almost impossible to get a good night’s rest,” Miles commented after the event. “Then you come in here and you have to battle for 12 hours heads-up. It was a war, and it was amazing. I’m sure it’ll go down and be chronicled in history as one of the best heads-up matches ever. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s going to be a great champion, and I’m really happy for him.”

The Final Table Results

1: John Cynn (US) $8,800,000

2: Tony Miles (US) $5,000,000

3: Michael Dyer (US) $3,750,000

4: Nicolas Manion (US) $2,825,000

5: Joe Cada (US) $2,150,000

6: Aram Zobian (US) $1,800,000

7: Alex Lynskey (AUS) $1,500,000

8: Artem Metalidi (UKR) $1,250,000

9: Antoine Labat (FRA) $1,000,000

Three Pa. Casinos Apply for State’s First iGaming License

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Last Friday, after an incredibly long period of pessimistic speculation and uncertainty pertaining to the future of Pennsylvania’s online gambling industry, three casinos finally made the move to forward their applications for the first online gambling license. The casinos, Poconos-based Mt. Air, Parx Casino in Bethlehem and the Stadium Casino that is yet to be built in Philadelphia all hope to offer online gambling services in the near future. This, in essence, sets the ball rolling on the launch of legalized online casino gambling in the Keystone State which in the past couple months seemed to be almost stagnant.

According to Douglas Harbach, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) spokesperson, the three casino operators each filed a petition for the $10 million licenses on Friday. The licenses will allow them to offer interactive online gaming in three categories: non-peer-to-peer interactive table games; peer-to-peer interactive games like poker; and interactive games that simulate slot machines.

The license application period for all three categories of internet casino games remains open till Monday, July 16 for all of the Keystone State’s 13 casinos. When this period finally elapses on Monday, the next stage will come into play – the 13 casinos will have a month from July 16 to apply for any of the individual gaming categories for $4 million each. In case there are any more remaining licenses after August 16, the PGCB will then open the application process to the qualified operators who do not have Pennsylvania Casino licenses.

Things Are Looking Up for Mt. Airy

Even though it is the smallest Category 2 casino in the state, Mt. Airy has some pretty huge ambition and plans to boot. The casino took its first step towards conquering the online space in 2014 when it partnered with the 888. Since then both 888 and Mt. Airy have only been able to serve as promotional partners before things took an unexpected but welcome turn in October 2017 when Pennsylvania legalized interactive gaming last year.

Other than 888, Mt. Airy has also partnered with PokerStars – both partnerships will certainly include portions of the revenue from the skins attached to the licensee’s name. In fact, the partnerships will also go a long way in helping Mt. Airy to tap into other markets outside the Keystone State.

Doors Open for Sports Betting License Applications

Another highlight this week for the Pennsylvania gaming industry was a move by the state regulator to finally begin the process of sports-betting licensing. This was announced PGCB officials who clarified that the entities that could apply for the sports betting licenses included device or equipment manufacturers, sports betting system operators and other related service providers.

Even so, the 13 Pennsylvania casinos are yet to forward applications for the sports betting licenses, just like it was the case with online gambling.  This is probably due to the $10 million upfront cost and the accompanying 36 percent state and local tax rate that the sports wagering operators will have to pay in the state. Obviously, a compromise on either side will have to be reached but until then, we will just have to wait and see.