Gambling remains controversial in Arkansas

The issue of casino gambling remains controversial in the US state of Arkansas despite the fact that voters largely approved the expansion of gaming in Tuesday’s elections.

An amendment to require licenses for new casino venues in Crittenden, Garland, Pope and Jefferson counties, known as Amendment 4, was passed with over 54 percent of the vote. The amendment will provide for an expansion of gambling at Oaklawn Jockey Club in Garland County and Southland Racing in Crittenden County. Speaking about the vote, the Communications Director at Southland, Glen White, said that the outcome would be beneficial for the local area:

We thank the voters for their trust in us. We will increase our investment, provide more jobs and continue to offer a great experience for our guests.”

Another casino proposal from the Quapaw Nation would see the construction of a 12-story casino resort in Jefferson County, provisionally titled the Saracen Casino Resort.

Bad deal for Arkansas

But although the voters of Arkansas approved the issuing of four casino licenses, there remains plenty of opposition to casino gambling in the state.

The Family Council opposed Amendment 4, and speaking about the outcome of the vote, the organisation’s President Jerry Cox said that the casinos would be ‘festering sores’ in the communities of Arkansas, and that the new licenses represented a bad deal for the state.

In Pope County, the majority of those who voted were against Amendment 4, and Pope County residents also approved a local referendum option which seeks to block officials in the County from issuing any letters of support for casino applications. It isn’t yet clear whether this move would be able to prevent a casino coming to Pope County, but it seems likely that any such application would meet with significant protest, despite the majority of Arkansas residents being in favour of casino gaming.


ECA awards accreditation to casinos Austria

The European Casino Association (ECA) has announced that Casinos Austria has earned certification under its responsible betting scheme.

The announcement follows an assessment carried out by Austrian Standards, a third party organisation, which confirmed that the company was adhering to the ECA’s standards of ethical gambling in the land-based casino sector.

Casinos Austria is the latest casino to join the ECA accreditation scheme, which was updated with a series of new rules earlier this year. Their approval follows the accreditation of Serbia’s Grand Casino Beograd and the German operator Spielbanken Baden-Württemberg, and a number of other leading casino operators are currently going through the accreditation process.

The ECA framework is designed to provide a set of standards for the casino industry, including guidelines on raising awareness of problem gambling, and on employee training. It was developed in conjunction with one of Europe’s leading responsible gambling authorities, Pieter Remmers, the secretary-general of the European Association for the Study of Gambling.

Casino industry sustainability

Commenting on the accreditation, Professor Dietmar Hoscher, who is one of the members of the Casinos Austria management board, said that responsible gambling was a priority:

Responsible gambling is at the core of Casinos Austria and guides our understanding of sustainability in the licensed land-based casino industry.”

The accreditation of Casinos Austria is the latest announcement from the ECA in its attempts to improve the standards and reputation of the European casino industry. Last month, they launched a gender diversity scholarship, which was won by Pauline Boyer Martin, of French operator JOA,.

The scholarship offers a place on an executive training program that is designed to include a range of gaming industry executives with the aim of developing new ideas and offering those involved in the industry the chance to network with others around the world.


Betway boost Irish racing presence

Bookmaker and online casino operator Betway has extended its reach in the world of Irish racing by linking up with Punchestown Racecourse to sponsor one of its high profile races.

Betway will be the new sponsors of the Grade 2 Betway Craddockstown Novice Steeplechase, the feature race on the first day of the 2018 Punchestown Winter Festival, which runs on the weekend of Saturday November 17 and Sunday November 18.

The race is one of the most important two mile chases around. With a first prize of €44,500, it has produced a string of high class winners including Sizing John, Moscow Flyer and Limestone Lad.

In recent years, the race has been dominated by Waterford-based trainer Henry de Bromhead, who has won it four times in nine years, including his 2016 success with Identity Thief.

Second phase

Betway took their first steps into Irish racing sponsorship when they got involved with the Galway Festival earlier this year, and this latest move is an attempt to earn recognition at the top level of Irish jumps racing with one of its most important races. Speaking about the sponsorship, Alan Alger of Betway said that the deal represented the next stage of their relationship with the sport in Ireland:

The Galway Festival was excellent and we’re now very much looking forward to our second phase of sponsorship in Irish racing.”

Betway joins a number of other bookmakers involved in Irish racing. In 2017, it has been estimated that betting companies contributed around 16 percent of the total prize money, and Punchestown is regarded as the pinnacle of Irish jumps racing, where betting companies already sponsor the course’s main races, the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Stayers Hurdle, and Gold Cup.


Belgian crackdown on betting ads confirmed

The Belgian government has confirmed that it will be pushing ahead with new proposed restrictions on betting advertisements.

The proposed directives to implement a stricter advertising framework for online gambling and betting services were put forward in October 2017 when the Justice Minister Koen Geens of the Christian Democrats party garnered support across party lines to progress the measures. Since then, the proposals have been under review by the Belgian parliament.

But in a November update the Belgian government has now confirmed that it would be moving ahead with many of the CDV propositions, including a total ban on online casino television ads.

Stringent code

Belgium is the latest country in the European market to implement a more stringent code for gambling advertising, following the Italian government’s ban on all betting company broadcast marketing and similar moves by the coalition government in Spain.

As well as the TV advertising ban, the Belgian government will also be implementing a much more restrictive online advertising framework for casino companies, whose online marketing will be limited to sites approved by the government, and there will be strict rules on messaging.

In addition, the Belgian authorities will impose a television watershed of 8pm for all sports betting marketing and no gambling ads will be permitted during live sports broadcasts, a measure that has been introduced in Australia, and that has also been proposed by the UK Labour Party. Celebrities and athletes will also be banned from endorsing any gambling product or company.

The proposals represent further bad news for online betting companies in Belgium. Since it revamped the Belgian Gaming Act in 2011, the authorities have placed a number of restrictions on the way that online companies are able to operate, which many say favour land-based casinos.


Sports gambling to provide windfall for sports leagues

As the USA continues to legalise sports betting across numerous states, professional sports leagues appear to also be changing their opinion on the matter.

Initially those leagues poured scorn on the idea of opening up their sports to gambling without what was described as an “integrity fee” but now they have found other ways to make betting on their products just as much of a money-spinner.

The National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and the Champions League have already started making sponsorship deals that make them huge amounts of cash.  Meanwhile the National Hockey League (NHL) has already been in the vanguard when it comes to such deal-making.

The NHL has shown the way after signing up for several gambling-related companies.  Casinos, fantasy sports leagues and sportsbooks are all in league with the NHL as official partners meaning they are pumping money back into a league that provides them with revenue via betting.

The NHL are doing the right thing in seeing things very simply; if teams profit from sponsorship deals, then everyone will profit.  America has been losing billions of dollars in tax revenue and sponsorship having kept sports betting illegal as patrons in most states have not held back on their penchant for having a bet.

Those bets therefore have been placed “under the counter” or via websites based overseas and that means lost tax revenue and no opportunity for the leagues to cash-in legally.

The NHL’s revenue increase is expected to be up to $216 million which can lead to more profits for the league and higher salaries for those working and playing within it.

Sports betting is here to stay in the States and it seems its high time the NBA and the NFL jumped on the bandwagon before too much more is lost.


Betfair ordered to pay back $150,000

Well-known betting exchange operator Betfair has been ordered to refund $150,000 to one of its Australian customers by the Northern Territory Racing Commission, which is responsible for regulating the company in Australia.

The ruling related to a case dating from earlier this year, in which a Betfair customer – known only as Mr M – persuaded the betting exchange to reverse a withdrawal request that he had made to transfer $150,000 out of his Betfair account into his bank. The customer then gambled the money and lost it.

The Commission found that Betfair should have spotted what it described as ‘red flag behaviours’ indicating that the customer had a gambling problem. In response, Betfair had claimed that it could not have known about Mr M’s gambling addiction because there were no clear indicators in his gambling activity, although they did acknowledge that he had self-excluded from gambling with the company for a period of six months back in 2014.

Significant sums of money

The Commission were told that Mr M had already gambled away significant sums of money on the date in question, when he made his $150,000 withdrawal request, leaving $86,388 still in his Betfair account. But within 23 minutes of the withdrawal request, he had managed to gamble the remaining sum. Four hours later, he topped up his account with $35,000, and within 47 minutes had almost lost it all. He then asked Betfair to reverse the earlier withdrawal request.

Initially, he was told that Betfair do not generally cancel withdrawal requests, but Mr M made a further three telephone calls to the company and a Betfair manager eventually agreed to override and reverse the withdrawal, leaving him with $150,000 on his account, which he proceeded to lose. The Commission also learned that Mr M had attempted to reverse a $40,000 withdrawal in January 2018, but on that occasion, his request was refused by Betfair.

The Commission found that Betfair had failed to adhere to the terms of its license regarding protection of vulnerable customers, and deemed that the $150,000 worth of bets were unlawful, ordering the company to refund Mr M and additionally fining them $13,175.


Unibet goes big on chess

Bookmaker Unibet is backing up its sponsorship of the FIDE World Chess Championship with a range of markets that will enable its customers to bet on every aspect of the competition.

The Championship gets underway on November 9 at the The College London and runs until November 28. It will feature American challenger Fabiano Caruana taking on Norwegian chess master Magnus Carlsen in a twelve round series. Earlier this year, Unibet became the first betting company to get involved FIDE event when it announced its deal to be the main event sponsor.

Magnus Carlsen, who has been widely credited with sparking a chess revival, is regarded as Norway’s top sportsman, and can boast a significant global following. As a result, FIDE are predicting that the London event could break records for the number of viewers who follow it.

Growing interest

In an update for the markets, Unibet predicted that its multiple FIDE Championship markets may see a turnover comparable with some FIFA World Cup matches and the Champions League final. Country Manager for Unibet Norway, Richard Ostrom, said that as a major European bookmaker, the company had been keen to be involved in an increasingly popular sport and was hopeful that this was the beginning of an upsurge in betting interest in the sport:

The odds in this highly competitive match will continue to fluctuate and this year’s World Championship showdown…will continue to establish chess as a permanent fixture in betting.”

On Friday, Unibet made Carlsen the favourite to win the World Championship, but the company is also offering odds on individual games and more obscure aspects of the play, including the number of moves that White makes during a game and Game Handicap markets.


GambleAware Fund Leeds Gambling Clinic

Gambling industry charity GambleAware has announced a partnership with the NHS to commission a new gambling addiction facility in Leeds.

The new clinic is due to open in April 2019, and will be run under a partnership between the GamCare network and the local NHS Foundation Trust, with the aim of boosting gambling-harm prevention as well as addiction research and treatment services in the north of England.

Announcing the partnership earlier this week, GambleAware confirmed that they will be helping to fund the clinic with £1 million annually. The Chief Executive of GambleAware, Marc Etches, said that the new facility would further the aim of the organisation to help prevent gambling problems and to ensure that those addicted to gambling can get timely and effectively help.

Etches also suggested that he is looking into the possibility of opening other similar sites across the UK, if the organisation’s resources make this possible.

Support team

In addition to funding the clinic, the GamCare network will create a Problem Gambling Support Team to work in the area identifying and supporting those at risk from problem gambling, as well as helping to develop training programmes that can help healthcare and other organisations in the north of England, including local authority staff and youth workers, to spot problem gambling.

The clinic in Leeds will be headed by Matt Gaskell, a senior NHS Psychologist. Commenting on the announcement, he pointed out that those with gambling problems often needed assistance in a range of areas, including mental health, and that the clinic would have a significant impact:

I have been campaigning for many years to set up a clinical service to help those affected by serious gambling disorder. I’m looking forward to getting this service up and running so we can start turning lives around.”


Bet Victor increases snooker sponsorship

BetVictor has continued to increase its profile within the sport of snooker, having secured the rights to sponsor two more UK events; the Northern Ireland Open and the Scottish Open, which are both part of the Home Nations series. 

Earlier this year, the Gibraltar-based bookmaker sponsored the English Open for the first time and following the success of that deal, they will be expanding their links with the sport, starting with sponsorship of the Northern Ireland Open, which is held between November 12 and November 18 at the Belfast Waterfront Hall. The Scottish Open, hosted by the Glasgow Emirates Arena will be staged between December 10 and December 16.

Speaking about the new sponsorship deal, the Director of Sportsbook at BetVictor, Matt Scarrott, said that the move would enable BetVictor to tap into the global fanbase of snooker, giving them the opportunity to reach an international audience in what is a growing sport.

Both of the Home Nations tournaments will be available to snooker fans on Eurosport’s channels and additional coverage will be provided by Quest TV. There will be 128 players taking part in the two competitions, including big name stars such as John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby and Judd Trump, with a prize of £70,000 on offer.

Commenting on the link with BetVictor, the Chairman of World Snooker, Barry Hearn, said that he was delighted to be joining with the bookmaker and expressed his gratitude for their support, which has previously included sponsorship of the Welsh Open between 2013 and 2017.

The Home Nations series is a relatively new addition to the snooker schedule, but has proven popular with snooker fans and both the Belfast and Glasgow events are expected to attract plenty of support.


Florida voters back gambling amendment

Florida voters have backed a constitutional amendment that will give them the exclusive rights to authorize or expand casino gambling in the state.

Amendment 3, which required 60 percent of the vote to pass, was backed by 71 percent of Florida voters in Tuesday’s election. Put forward by a political committee called Voters In Charge, which was largely funded by Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the amendment gives Florida voters the sole decision making powers when it comes to new gambling facilities.

Voters In Charge spent more than $31 million in publicising the amendment, which was initially sparked by a series of delays and rejections for new gambling operations in the Florida state legislature, where the House is largely opposed to gambling.

So far, unlike a number of other states, Florida has not exploited May’s Supreme Court ruling that legalizes sports betting, and lawmakers have also been resistant to proposals from gambling companies for the construction of gambling, retail and leisure resorts.

A long process

But although the amendment gives voters the ability to approve new gambling operations, the practical effect could be to make that harder. Any change introduced through voter decision tends to be a long process, and the result is likely to mean that there would be little if any movement on that front for the foreseeable future, which will be to the benefit of both Disney and the Seminole Tribe, who currently operate gambling facilities and venues in the state.

While the Florida Chamber of Commerce backed the amendment, there was widespread opposition among online sports betting companies, including FanDuel and DraftKings, dog and horse racing venues that fear they could be put out of business by voter decisions, and even sports franchises. On Monday, NFL team the Miami Dolphins came out against the Amendment, as it is likely to make it harder for them to exploit opportunities for partnerships with new sports betting operators.

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