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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.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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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.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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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.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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Delay to Australian self exclusion scheme

The plan to introduce an Australia-wide self-exclusion scheme for those attempting to give up online gambling has been delayed, as Queensland has yet to sign off on the scheme.

Every other state and territory government has agreed to a raft of measures designed to tackle problem gambling and to improve customer protection in the online betting industry, including the program that would allow problem gamblers to self-exclude nationwide with one click.

The scheme, which was first put out for consultation in 2017, also includes a voluntary, opt-out system that enables individuals to set their own gambling limits and an Australia-wide ban on bookmakers and gambling operators offering inducements for people to set up account.

According to the Social Services minister, Paul Fletcher, who is leading the attempt to implement the scheme, the online self-exclusion element is a critical component of the scheme, known as the National Consumer Protection Framework. But inside sources suggest that the national government has been putting pressure on Queensland attorney-general, Yvette D’Ath, to push ahead with securing the approval of Queensland lawmakers.

Declined to comment

Ms D’Ath has so far declined to comment on the delay in agreeing to the scheme, but a spokeswoman said that the Queensland government was intent on finalising it by the end of the year. 

But the delay has frustrated campaigners, who have been pushing for a self-exclusion scheme for years, including Lauren Levin, of Financial Counselling Australia, who has urged the government to make the scheme a priority:

I’m really impatient, because it has been three years of submissions and consultations, and the legislation hasn’t even been introduced yet.”

The scheme also has the backing of the gambling industry, including Tabcorp, which operates retail and online gambling services, and online bookmakers including Ladbrokes, Betfair, and Bet365.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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Lawmakers want vote on FOBT crackdown delay

UK lawmakers who remain concerned about the social impact of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting offices may have found a new way to rebel against the government’s plan to delay the crackdown on the maximum stakes allowed on such machines.

In his budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond introduced plans to reduce the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2 but only from October 2019 – a full six months later than many had expected.

It has also been said that the government is avoiding a vote on the issue by using “parliamentary tricks”, as reported by Bloomberg, however legislators have now opposed the delay and are using a little scheme of their own.

Lawmakers have to inspect the new legislation in detail and so the plan is that when they do, they can insert a clause in Hammond’s bill that would call for an inquiry and assessment of the consequences of moving forward the cap on maximum FOBT stakes to April.

The Chancellor himself told legislators that the government had chosen October 2019 for the bill as it would balance the needs of the gambling industry which is still a huge tax payer, while also mitigating job losses in betting shops after large bookmakers threatened that the new law would lead to thousands of redundancies.

Despite the need to protect jobs though Sports Minister Tracey Crouch resigned last week in protest at the delay, arguing that the government hadn’t done enough to protect the public from the devastating effects of these machines.

Upon resigning her post, Crouch said that £1.6 billion will be bet on these machines over the next year and also that there are two gambling-related suicides per day in Britain, though once again she failed to mention that the two things are not always linked.

It seems this has now come down to a battle between lawmakers and bookmakers, the former looking to ensure the latter’s lobbying was not a success.

Gary Christie

Having been immersed in the worlds of sports betting and writing for the past 20 years, Gary Christie has vast experience on the subjects.  He has produced content for various leading websites, including both TVG and Mr Green Casino. Contact Gary at garychristie@wagered.com.

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Church speaks out on FOBT delay

A senior figure in the Church of England has criticised the UK Government’s delay in introducing limits on the maximum stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Writing in the Observer, the bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that the new limit of £2, replacing the previous maximum of £100, should be put in place at the earliest opportunity.

Dr Smith, who has responsibility for the issue within the church was speaking at the end of a week in which the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has resigned as a result of the government’s decision to delay the implementation of the FOBT changes until October 2019. He questioned the argument of betting companies that jobs would be lost as a result of the FOBT changes, saying that the social consequences of FOBT addiction were more serious than job losses, with many gambling addicts losing their homes, their savings, and in some cases, their lives as a result:

Bookmakers taking huge profits and football clubs taking sponsorship from gambling and leaving the NHS to pick up the bill and families to face grief is privatising profit and nationalising consequences. It has to stop.”

Backlash

The backlash against the government decision comes at a time when the gambling industry is on the back foot on a number of fronts, including the question of advertising during live televised sport, and the links between football clubs and gambling companies. SKY television has announced that they will be restricting gambling advertisements during the next Premier League season, and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, recently criticised a number of gambling companies for failing to pay towards the cost of treating gambling addiction.

The delay to the FOBT stake reduction was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Budget last Monday, and was timed to coincide with an increase in the Remote Gambling Duty paid by betting companies who operate online casino games.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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Malaysia police target illegal gambling

Police in the Malaysian state of Sarawak have set up a hotline to enable members of the public to get involved in their campaign against illegal gambling.

The hotline will be based in the state police headquarters in the city of Kuching, and will be operated by the State Police D7 unit. It is the latest step in the Malaysian authorities attempts to crackdown on public gambling, which has seen a string of arrests and enforcement action in recent months.

Betting in Malaysia is restricted to legal lotteries and on-course horse racing betting, and there is an additional restriction in the form of Sharia Law, which forbids Muslims in the majority-Muslim nation from participating in any type of gambling. But despite the stringent terms of the 1953 Gambling Act, and reforms introduced in 2017 to close a number of loopholes, there continues to be considerable illegal gambling activity in the country.

Public gambling dens

According to the Malaysian police, 2,761 people have been arrested for offences relating to illegal gambling this year, and there have been a total of 2,046 police raids, from Kuching in the south of Sarawak to the northern parts of Limbang and Lawas. In total, more than £140,000 has been recovered from public gambling dens in the course of these raids.

The police have also been working with energy suppliers to cut off the electricity supply to any premises found to be involved in illegal gambling. In Sarawak, teams of police officers have been escorting Sarawak Energy officers to suspect premises in order to dismantle electricity supply connections, as another method of preventing illegal activity.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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Australian offshore gambling halved

The extent of illegal offshore gambling in Australia has fallen by half since the introduction of new penalties, according to a study this week.

The report, by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) showed that the reforms made to the 2001 Interactive Gambling Act 2001 have led to the loss of 33 overseas operators while illegal gambling revenue is likely to drop by half, from its 2017 level of A$450m to A$200m in 2018.

The reforms, which were introduced last year, give the ACMA the power to take punitive action against unlicensed or prohibited offshore gambling sites, and to impose penalties of up to $8 million per day on those found to be in breach of the rules.

Since the introduction of the new penalties in September 2017, the ACMA has carried out investigations on 138 websites, of which over 40 percent were offering gambling to Australians.

Speaking about the findings of the report, the Chair of the ACMA, Nerida O’Loughlin, said that the organisation had been resolute in carrying out its enforcement responsibilities:

We’ve made it clear that Australia’s laws are unambiguous. If you provide prohibited or unlicensed gambling services to customers in Australia, you are breaching Australian law and we will take enforcement action.”

Prohibited Interactive Gambling

Under the Interactive Gambling Act, it is illegal for any operator to provide prohibited interactive gambling products to the Australian markets, or to advertise such services.

As a result of the changes to the Act, the ACMA set up an Interactive Gambling Taskforce, which has undertaken a number of actions, ranging from education and engagement to enforcement, in order to deter and disrupt illegal operations, as well as working with international regulators, software providers and payment companies, to improve its enforcement capacity.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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Sports minister quits over FOBT cut delay

After some years of relative harmony, have ministers and high street bookmakers ever been further apart on their views as they are right now?

Following chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget this week it was revealed the maximum single stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals is to be cut from £100 to £2, though it will not be enforced until next October.

Bookmakers had aggressively lobbied for the £2 stake not to be increased as in the internet betting age these FOBT’s are the chief source of income for shops, the cut they say meaning thousands of jobs could go.

However after the delay to the stake reduction was announced, Minister for Sports and Civil Society Tracey Crouch has RESIGNED in protest.  It is said she was determined the cut would be introduced no later than April and her Labour counterpart, Tom Watson MP, has said she has made a “courageous and principled decision.”

Watson has accused the new Secretary of State of “threatening all of this good work” by adding a further six month delay to the reduction and prioritising corporate interests over victims and greed over good.

Ms Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, tweeted a copy of her resignation letter to the PM on Thursday afternoon and it was printed in full by the Express.

In the letter she talks about the fact that she believes two people will end their lives every day due to gambling related problems and for that reason the delay is unjustifiable.

These statistics are tragic if true but once again, just in the interests of balance it’s only prudent to point out that once more the government and lobby groups have failed to successfully compartmentalise various forms of gambling.  From horse racing to football, casino games to bingo gambling takes many forms and not all victims are those visiting their local bookmakers to let their hair down.

Gary Christie

Having been immersed in the worlds of sports betting and writing for the past 20 years, Gary Christie has vast experience on the subjects.  He has produced content for various leading websites, including both TVG and Mr Green Casino. Contact Gary at garychristie@wagered.com.

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ASA rejects William Hill complaint

The UK’s advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected a complaint concerning a William Hill promotion during this summer’s football World Cup.

The complaint regarded a William Hill advert which stated that William Hill customers were able to benefit from two additional bet boosts every day on World Cup games. The advertisement also stated associated terms of conditions that set a maximum stake of £200 and limited all customers to one pre-match and one in-play boost per game.

A William Hill customer raised the complaint on the grounds that they had stopped being able to claim the advertised bonuses just nine days into the World Cup.

In response, William Hill argued that the customer in question had been restricted due to previous abuses of the company’s bonus offers, and that the decision to limit his ability to receive them was a result of a decision relevant to his case and not a general policy.

Not likely to mislead

In dismissing the complaint, the ASA said that William Hill’s advertisement was not likely to mislead people, since it did not state that all William Hill customers were able to obtain the offers, and that the advertisement as a whole, including the additional stated terms and restrictions, were not likely to lead people whose accounts were restricted to believe that the offer was open to them:

We considered that the particular restriction, which only applied to certain customers based on their individual circumstances, was not significant because those customers were likely to be aware of the restrictions that applied to them…”

The decision is likely to be welcomed by many betting companies at a time when the industry has been under fire from politicians and campaigners over its marketing practices.

Andie Hughes

Andie Hughes is a UK-based freelance betting and gambling writer with over a decade of experience in the industry, having written for Betfair, ESPN, Boylesports, Sporting Life and various other popular betting sites. Contact Andie at andiehughes73@gmail.com.

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