Gaming Report: ESPN & Caesars Entertainment Partner For Sports Betting Content, New York Senate Committee Okays Online Sports Betting Bill & More

Gaming Report Cover May 15
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  • Namita Ghosh May 15, 2019
  • 6 Minutes Read

A spate of partnerships and business team-ups have recently been announced with sports betting being the central theme. Just days after PokerStars announced FOX Sports as its U.S. media partner for starting sports betting services in the U.S, Caesars Entertainment has entered a partnership with another TV major – ESPN for creating sports betting content. As part of the deal, an ESPN-branded studio will be built at the LINQ Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green signal for the legalization of sports betting, several U.S. states have moved ahead to offer the same. In New York, the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee has okayed the online sports betting bill that has now advanced to the Senate Finance Committee.

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, is way ahead and preparing to launch online poker and casino games in July. North Carolina has also passed a bill that authorizes ‘Casino Nights’ to be organized by charitable organizations.

In New Jersey, the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) has fined another operator – Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) $25,000 for failing to prevent a non-state resident from gambling on HardRockCasino.com, a site for which GiG provides online gambling services.

Finnish gambling operator Paf has reported a 16% year-on-year drop in its operational profits mainly owing to new responsible gaming initiatives undertaken by the company.

In the meantime, the two online gambling bills propounded by Representative Brandt Iden in Michigan are being reworked to tweak provisions for taxes and school funding after Governor Gretchen Whitmer expressed reservations with the current provisions in the bill.

 

ESPN & Caesars Entertainment Forge Partnership For Sports Betting

Hot on the heels of The Stars Group (TSG) forging a long-term business partnership with Fox Sports for launching sports betting in the U.S. comes news of Caesars Entertainment and Disney’s ESPN coming together for sports betting. As part of the deal, Caesars will be ESPN’s official odds data supplier across TV and digital media, receiving associated attribution across ESPN. Additional advertising and sponsorship activations will roll out subsequently.

Caesars ESPN

An ESPN-branded studio will also be built at The LINQ Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, for creating content related to sports betting. The studio will be used as a hub for creating odds-related content and contribute to several ESPN linear, digital and social shows like the Daily Wager – the new sports betting based daily show on ESPNews, the ESPN app, and ESPN.com. The new studio will launch in 2020.

“We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way and working with a category leader like Caesars Entertainment will help us serve these highly engaged, diverse sports fans with the best and most relevant content possible,” said ESPN Business Development executive Mike Morrison.

Through the partnership, Caesars is pursuing a media-first growth strategy. Over the coming weeks, ESPN will incorporate data from Caesars, including odds generated by their sportsbook into its programming.

This is for Caesars, its second significant media partnership this year. The company has early this year tied-up with Bleacher Report for creating a branded studio at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

 

New York Senate Committee Okays Online Sports Betting Bill

The U.S. state of New York is moving forward in its efforts to legalize online sports betting. Last Monday, the New York Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee approved the Sports Betting Bill S17 on a unanimous vote. The committee was chaired by Senator Joseph Addabbo. With this, the bill now advances to the Senate Finance Committee.

New York Sports Betting

The comprehensive bill authorizes mobile sports betting at commercial and tribal casinos and expands a ballot referendum that had approved land-based wagering at the state’s commercial casinos in 2013.

While the bill has cleared an important hurdle, there is still a lot of work to do for streamlining the provisions for online sports betting. Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed constitutional concerns with the expansion of gaming under the legislation. During Monday’s meeting, Addabbo assured the committee members that the bill is still a work in progress.

“This is a puzzle; the pieces are still missing. This might not be the last version of the bill. We need to have this discussion with the governor’s office. I am hopefully that we have the pieces in place,” Addabbo said.

For now, only retail sports wagering has been legalized in the upstate commercial and tribal casinos in the U.S. state.

New York is now eyeing to offer full-fledged sports wagering that could translate to almost $14 Billion in revenue annually. However, the New York legislative session closes in June-end, so the odds that New York will pass the online sports betting bill this year are getting taller.

Though the state Senate has been long in favor of legalizing sports betting, the assembly has not been so supportive to iGaming. Brick-and-mortar sports betting is still to be launched at the casinos in New York, but industry experts surmise that retain sports wagering could open for New York in time for the upcoming NFL season.

Image Courtesy: New York Post

 

Pennsylvania is Preparing to Launch Poker and Casino in July

Pennsylvania had legalized online casino and poker games way back in October 2017, and now launch date for the same has been earmarked. Officially the fourth U.S. state to legalize online gambling and one where sports betting is already live, Pennsylvania has announced that the first series of gaming sites will be launched on July 15.

Pennsylvania Online Poker

Making the announcement, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Kevin O’Toole informed that full access to online gambling options was a “key component” of the state’ gaming plan. He said, “I have advised the 10 iGaming certificate holders and three iGaming operators that a coordinated go-live period for interactive gaming will commence on July 15, 2019.”

Once the licensees kick off with their iGaming offerings from July 15 onwards, they will have 90 days for the licensees and operators to meet their obligations and submit the required information to the State Control Board.

Out of thirteen casinos operating in the state, seven have already received their licenses to offer online poker games, while 10 have received licenses for running slot electronic table games. Online casinos expected to be launched now include the Harrah’s Casino, Hollywood, Mount Airy, Mohegan Sun Pocono, Parx, Presque Isle, Rivers, SugarHouse, and Valley Forge.

It is likely that The Stars Group InCorporated will be one of the first gaming sites to go live in the U.S. state, and will be commencing services through a cooperation agreement with Mount Airy Resort and Casino. partypoker will offer online poker and casino in partnership with Valley Forge Casino.

Image Courtesy: PocketFives

 

North Carolina Approves Bill Authorizing ‘Casino Nights’ by Charitable Organisations

The North Carolina State Senate had taken a massive step towards establishing legal sportsbooks in the U.S. state last month when it passed the sports betting bill by a considerable margin. The R-50 propounded by Senator Jim Davis has provisions for permitting casinos run by Native American tribes to offer sports wagering on professional and college athletics. 

North Carolina

The U.S. state has more recently approved a bill that authorizes ‘Casino Nights’ to be organized by charitable organizations. Last weekend Governor Roy Cooper signed legislation that allows games such as poker, blackjack and other table games to be played legally.

The bill also allows alcohol to be served on the premises where the table games are organized. However, areas west of Interstate 26, that is south of Asheville to Pisgah National Forest remains off-limits since they are near the two Harrah-branded casinos that are owned by the tribe Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and operated by Caesar’s Entertainment. The tribe has an exclusive agreement with the state to legally offer gambling.

Currently, only these casinos can legally offer sports betting and wagering in North Carolina. In this context, the bill allowing ‘Casino Nights’ will likely provide a more social alternative to gambling for residents of North Carolina.

Image Courtesy: The North Carolina 100

 

New Jersey Fines Gaming Provider For Geolocation Slip-Up

Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has been fined $25,000 by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) of New Jersey for failing to prevent a non-state resident from gambling on HardRockCasino.com, a site for which GiG provides online gambling services.

New Jersey GiG

The error was discovered during an audit on GiG’s systems last year in July when a browser vulnerability was found. According to the audit findings, the GiG browser was allowing non-residents of New Jersey to access the site. One player was confirmed as having bet $29 on HardRockCasino.com from Nevada.

The DGE filed a geolocation complaint against GiG on December 12, 2018. While the DGE did not disclose the identity of the company’s gambling licensee in New Jersey, it is a well-known fact that GiG has signed only a single New Jersey online platform client, Hard Rock Atlantic City casino. GiG received approval for operating in Hard Rock’s online casino in New Jersey on June 28, 2018, so the error occurred within the first week of the gaming provider’s operational launch in the U.S. state.

In its official statement, GiG had said, “This one-off single incidence of out-of-state gambling was due to a technical vulnerability which was quickly discovered and reported to the regulator in New Jersey in the first week the company went live in New Jersey. An end user from outside the state of New Jersey with technical knowledge managed to access the front end debugger to change the location and pretend to be from New Jersey.”

Investigations into the findings rolled into this year, and recently, New Jersey DGE Director David Rebuck ordered civil action against GiG.

The DGE has stamped similar geolocation penalties against PokerStars in 2017 and recently imposed a $7,500 civil penalty on the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, and $10,000 on The Stars Group (TSG) for accepting sports wagers involving New Jersey college teams.

 Image Courtesy: European Gaming

 

Finnish Gambling Operator Paf Finds 16% Income Drop After Implementing Responsible Gambling

Finnish gambling operator Paf has recently undertaken a massive overhaul to its operational structure, as an effort to adhere to responsible gaming. The move has brought about a 16% drop in the company’s revenues.

Paf Finland

Early this week, Paf revealed that its total turnover for 2018 was €111.8 Million, a 4% decline from 2017’s revenue figures. The decline was attributed entirely to Paf’s online operations that fell from by €4.5 Million to €80 Million in 2017. In the meantime, Paf’s operating profit dipped by 16.3% year-on-year, from €4.8 Million to €24.6 Million. The company has proposed to remit €21 Million of that sum to government social programs.

Downplaying the decline in profits, CEO of Paf, Christer Fahlstedt, said that he was actually really proud of the result, given that the company is not gaining revenue from its high-volume VIP clients.

He pointed out that Paf’s VIP turnover was “unsustainable money that we no longer wish to receive….the entire gaming industry would feel much better about itself if all the companies openly reveal how they earn their money and choose to stop the big players.”

Paf currently enjoys a gambling monopoly in Finland’s autonomous region, Aland islands. In June 2018, it became the country’s first online gambling operator to introduce a fixed annual loss-limit as part of its responsible gaming protocols. As part of the protocol, from September 1 onwards, Paf imposed a hard cap on customer losses at €30,000 per year.

Fahlstedt had in March, predicted that the new program would reduce the company’s annual income by 5% but force the company to ‘recruit’ customers who play at a sustainable level. Apart from committing to responsible gaming, Paf has also focussed on increasing its international presence over the past year. The company launched online operations in Latvia last June, and in December it received an online gambling license to operate in Sweden.

 Image Courtesy: Paf.com

 

Michigan Online Gambling Bills Being Reworked to Tweak Provisions For Tax & School Funding

The two online gambling bills in Michigan are being modified after the new governor Gretchen Whitmer made it clear that he has the same issues with expanded gambling as his predecessor, Rick Snyder, did.

Michigan Online Gambling

Representative Brandt Iden, who is the chief proponent of online gambling in the U.S. state, is currently working to include provisions aimed to address the concerns that the administration has voiced.

Currently, the casinos pay 8.1% of their land-based gambling revenue to the state in the form of taxes and all of it goes into the School Aid Fund, along with 10.9% to the city of Detroit.

As per Iden’s bills, the proposed tax rate for iGaming is 8%, along with an additional 1.25% in local share for Detroit casinos, and 5% of the state’s earning allocated for School Aid Fund. Clearly, this will have to be increased.

“I think there is a high likelihood we’ll have to address the tax rate,” Iden said. “I’ll have meetings with stakeholders and the treasury to try to come to an understanding of some sort of increased tax rate for this. Also, I think the bill can be rewritten to direct more iGaming funds directly to the School Aid Fund.”

“The positive out of this is that the governor’s office is engaging on the issue. The previous governor gave no indication that he wouldn’t sign the bill. I think some of these issues could have potentially been addressed last time around if the governor engaged. The governor has a team of folks working on it, and I think we can come to a landing spot,” Iden said.

Iden disagreed with the argument voiced by Chief Deputy Treasurer Jeff Guifoyle in the recent hearing of the bills in the House Ways and Means Committee where Guifoyle predicted that iGaming would cannibalize the business of the casinos and the Michigan online lottery, thereby causing a loss of $35.5 Million to the state. The legislative session ends in Michigan on June 27, and Iden has as much time left to float the bill in a modified form through the House.

Image Courtesy: 50 States

 

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