Congress Pushing for Federal Oversight over Sports Betting

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After months of speculations details regarding a new bill have leaked revealing plans for a sweeping reform to sports betting in the United States. If the bill passes, states would be required to have their sports betting laws approved by the country’s Attorney General and purchase official major league data.  The latter seems to be a nod to the professional sports leagues which have been lobbying for integrity fees – the sports betting operators would be required to use only league-sanctioned data until at least 2023.

However, the bill which is being, championed by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch who has been a longtime opposer of gambling, is facing a number of significant obstacles due to opposition especially from the growing number of states that have either create their own sports betting regulations or are planning to.

The language in the draft bill seems to contradict the May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that abolished PASPA and lifted the federal on sports betting thus allowing states to make their own sports betting regulation. To put this into perspective, the Supreme Court ruled that it had found the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) to be unconstitutional and decreed that states would be able to regulate their own gambling industries especially with regards to sports betting.

The Implications

The bill not only gives the federal government the power to veto the sports betting laws and regulation that have been put in place by the state governments but also bans the residents of these states from wagering on amateur sporting events. Moreover, the bill will make amendments to the Wire Act and this will allow some elements of sports betting information to flow from one state to another.

In addition to these, the draft bill further calls for the formation of the National Sports Wagering Clearinghouse. This would be responsible for collecting anonymized sports betting data in real-time – this data will include such aspects as the amount and type of wagers, the dates and time when the bets, where the bets were placed as well as their outcomes. In essence, the proposed clearinghouse is meant to monitor unusual betting patterns and potential signs of corruption. The legislation further addresses concerns related to sports betting-related advertising as well as problem gambling, both of which have been very hard to deal with effectively.

So, could this bill pass? Well, the passing any bill is an uphill task mostly due to the country’s contemporary political environment but this particular bill’s biggest obstacle is the fact that it has not been received well by gambling stakeholders. Even the American Gaming Association is against it. In other words, the bill is unlikely to gain momentum, at least not for the upcoming 116th Congress that convenes in January.

Worldpay, Paysafe Unite for US Gambling Partnership

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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.”

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

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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.

Midterm Elections Could Affect Online Poker Legislation

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The midterm elections in various states in the US are usually not considered to be very important (even though they are) but this year, you might need to pay some extra attention especially if you are an online casino gamer or poker player. During the forthcoming midterm elections, there are a couple of states that will be holding elections and referendums which are anticipated to have some profound impacts on online poker, sports wagering and online gaming in general. While the elections could mean a step forward for online poker legislation in certain states, there is a huge possibility that it could also mean a step in the opposite direction for some other states.

Nevada

Legal and regulated online poker went live in Nevada in 2013 under the state’s current governor, Brian Sandoval, who also happens to be a proponent of online gambling. Now, for this year’s midterm elections, the problem is that the term limits prevent the governor from running for re-election and in his place will the current Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt who won the Republican party primary in June. Unlike Governor Sandoval, Adam Laxalt has not been shy to express his rather bold stance against online gambling – he has even gone as far as publicly criticizing the state’s online poker legislation.

Furthermore, in addition to adding his name to the list of state attorney generals who are supporting the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, Laxalt has also recently signed a letter addressed to the Trump Administration asking the Department of Justice to reverse the legal opinion from 2011 that states that the Wire Act is only applicable to sports betting.

Obviously, if Adam Laxalty wins the midterm elections next month, legal and regulated online poker in the state of Nevada might meet its untimely end.

California

Hopefully, during the November midterm elections, the long-awaited online poker legislation will be taken off the shelf. Lawmakers in the state have come quite close to legalizing and regulating online poker but everything fell apart after a disagreement about the “suitable poker operator” came up. Since then, they have spent close to two years debating whether various gaming entities including the casinos, horse racing facilities, or gaming sites should be given the opportunity to offer online poker.

Florida

In Florida’s case, one of the biggest issues is Amendment 3, which also happens to be one of the biggest ballot issues in any state this time around. Otherwise known as “The Voter Control of Gambling in Florida”, Amendment 3, if passed, would require that before any new form of casino gaming is set up in the state, it would have to pass a vote with at least a 60 percent approval rate.

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.

NHS Asks Premier League Teams to Tackle Problem Gambling

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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.”

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.

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.”