Gaming Report: Poker & Sports Betting Discussed at iGaming Conference SPiCE in Goa, Caesars Entertainment Joins Hands With DraftKings & More

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  • Namita Ghosh February 28, 2019
  • 4 Minutes Read

There has been a slew of developments across the global gaming sector. The coastal state of Goa that is the casino-hub of the country recently played host to the 2019 SPiCE aka Strategic Platform for iGaming Conference and Exhibition. SPiCE was organized at the Goa Marriott Resort and Spa from February 25-27 and saw a range of topics discussed by select entities and stakeholders of the gaming and casino industry.

In highlights from Asia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has drawn attention to the fact that the six gaming concessions in Macau will expire over the next two years. In its Mission Concluding Statement published on Monday, the IMF advocated that the Macau government should work to strengthen regulations promoting non-VIP and non-gaming tourism.

Back in the U.S., casino and gaming major, Caesars Entertainment has entered a partnership with fantasy sports operator DraftKings. The deal gives legal access to DraftKings to potential sports betting markets in 14 U.S. states where Caesars is already operational. Meanwhile, gaming advocacy group iDEA Growth Trade Association has filed a federal lawsuit in New Hampshire, challenging the revised opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the 1961 Wire Act that prohibits all forms of interstate gambling.

More bad news came in for Japanese casino mogul Kazuo Okada’s whose appeal in the Macau Court of Second Instance against the decision taken by the Macau Court of First Instance on his legal dispute with Wynn Resorts was rejected. Okada, who was once a major stockholder in Wynn Resorts, took the company to court over the matter of redemption of his stocks.

Poker & Sports Betting Discussed in 2019 SPiCE Hosted In Goa

As scheduled, the 2019 Strategic Platform for iGaming Conference and Exhibition (SPiCE) was hosted at the Marriott Resort and Spa in Goa from February 25-27. The conference was organized by Hong-Kong based Eventus International.

SPiCE
Image Courtesy Manish J Adnani (Facebook)

With many stakeholders of the Indian and international gaming industry in attendance including PokerStars CEO Ankur Dewani, poker consultant Aditya Wadhwani and CEO of Baadshah Gaming, Madhav Gupta and others, discussions were held on various issues related to rummy, poker, fantasy sports, sports betting, gaming and casino operations in India.

Panel discussions also covered issues like the likely effect of elections and the current political scenario in India on the gambling and sports betting industry, direct and indirect taxes, growth of online poker and poker leagues.

The event kicked off with a networking cum cocktail party on the first day. Christina Thakor-Rankin, principal consultant, 1710 Gaming Ltd UK made the opening remarks, “The market in UK is regulated, and here in India, we look forward to the same, but firstly we need to come together by forming associations and standing together. Outside, we can be competitors but we overall, need to be together as an industry.”

SPiCE is the second conference organized by Eventus International in India. Earlier in February, the company had held the Sports Betting and Gaming India (SBGI) conference, also in Goa.

Caesars Entertainment Becomes Official Partner of Fantasy Sports Provider DraftKings

Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp has announced a partnership with daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings. With the deal giving Caesars an equity stake in DraftKings, Caesars is now the official casino partner for the latter.

Caesars Draftkings

Since online sports betting providers need to partner with an existing land-based operator to receive a license, a deal with Caesars that has 37 properties in 14 states gives DraftKings easy access to several U.S. markets.

In an official statement, Caesars CEO Mark Frissora said, “Caesars’ agreement with DraftKings, their first multi-state partnership, brings together the established leaders in gaming, daily fantasy sports and sports betting to provide customers more options.”

He added, “This alliance is the latest initiative by Caesars to capitalize on our database, generate a new revenue stream in a growth market and raise our profile in sports, in part by creating new sports-themed guest experiences across the country.”

This is the second major partnership formed by Caesars Entertainment in recent months. In January, Caesars had entered a partnership with the National Football League (NFL) that allowed Caesars to use NFL-trademarked materials to promote their casinos in the U.S. and the U.K.

DraftKings that launched in 2012 as a daily fantasy sports operator has transitioned towards a more traditional gaming model after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. DraftKings already has an existing partnership with Resorts Casino in New Jersey with an operational online sportsbook and casino in the state.

iDEA Growth Trade Association Submits Legal Challenge Against DOJ Wire Act Opinion

The new opinion on the 1961 Wire Act by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has rattled the gaming industry in the country, posing a question mark on the future of online gaming in the country. Companies and other gaming industry stakeholders have begun to challenge the opinion in the court, and the latest group to do so is the iDEA Growth Trade Association.

New Hampshire

The online gambling trading group has filed a legal challenge to DOJ’s new opinion in the New Hampshire Federal Court. It is the third stakeholder to do so, after the state lottery of New Hampshire and its technology supplier.

Jeff Ifrah, lead attorney of specialist firm Ifrah Law that has filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of iDEA Growth stated, “We trust that the New Hampshire Court will give appropriate weight to judicial precedent over political factors in making its decision, a decision sure to have a major impact on a fast-growing industry poised to offer significant economic benefits to states across the country.”

The new DOJ opinion was released by the Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Counsel, Stephen Engel last month. The revised opinion prohibits all forms of interstate gambling. Apart from sports betting, the decision will affect online poker and online lottery gaming in the U.S. states of Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.

While New Hampshire is proving to become an epicenter of legal opposition to the DOJ’s new opinion on the Wire Act, there are voices of dissent in other US states as well. Last week, the New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of his state if the DOJ failed to rescind the new opinion. As far as casino and online gambling operators are concerned, none of them have publicly threatened to seek legal relief on the issue, but matters are indeed coming to a boil under the surface. CEO of MGM Jim Murren recently called the new opinion, “absurdly poorly written and unenforceable.”

 

IMF Recommends Macau Should Use Gaming Concessions to Promote Non-Gaming Tourism

Macau has been a popular hotspot for gaming and gambling in Asia, but in the next two years, the six gaming concessions in Macau will expire. These concessions cannot be renewed, and entirely new concessions will have to be awarded. Taking note of this the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Macau’s government to strengthen regulations promoting non-VIP tourism while improving the basic tourism infrastructure.

Macau

In its Mission Concluding Statement published on Monday, the IMF noted that Macau is in strong fiscal position on the back of its gaming industry but emphasized that a higher public investment and social spending was required to ensure “judicious and efficient use of gaming dependent fiscal resources.”

The IMF stated, “With all six gaming concessions expiring in 2020 and 2022, the authorities have the opportunity to further advance their growth strategy and should craft the new regulations with stronger incentives for operators to expand non-VIP tourism.”

The IMF statement suggests that this is an ideal time for Macau to push for more non-gaming operations among the casino operators who want to seek a new concession. The goal would be to promote non-gaming tourism.

“To accommodate the higher number of tourists under a mass-market and non-gaming model, infrastructure plans should advance in order to ease supply-side bottlenecks. Some of these areas are expanded entertainment, convention and exhibition options, hotels and retail, including via integrated resorts and family-oriented facilities.”

The IMF also pointed out that this was the need of the hour since the economy of Macau gets affected by economic changes in Mainland China, factors like banking sector exposures, restrictive global financial conditions etc in Mainland China could hinder Macau’s growth in the future.

Okada Loses Legal Battle Against Wynn Resorts

Japanese casino magnate Kazuo Okada has been embroiled in several legal troubles in recent years, the biggest of which was the case over his alleged duping of former company Universal Entertainment Corp for close to $2 Billion.

Kazuo Okada
Kazuo Okada

In 2017, Okada had lost the case against Wynn Resorts over a dispute on redemption of stocks. He had filed an appeal in the Macau Court of Second Instance, and according to latest reports, the court heard Okada’s appeal and rejected his defense.

Okada’s legal clash with Wynn Resorts began in 2012 when he was ousted from the company’s board of directors on the grounds that he was unsuitable for the company’s growth. At that point, he was the single largest shareholder in Wynn and also controlled Aruze’s share in the company. Wynn Resorts later nullified Okada’s 20% holdings, translating to nearly 14.5 Million shares, and issued him a promissory note for $1.9 Billion, close to 30% of what Okada held.

Even as Universal and Aruze USA that were also involved in the dispute reached a settlement with Wynn Resorts and got $2.4 Billion in compensation, Okada refused to accept the loss and challenged the deal.

The Macau Court of First Instance had dismissed the case in July 2017 and fined Okada and the other two companies as ‘vexatious litigants.’ The Court of Second Instance recently upheld all the decisions taken by the lower court in the case.

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