Gaming Report: Gujarat Police Want Online Poker Banned, Baazi Games Invests $1 Million (~₹7 Crores) in Fantasy Sports Subsidiary BalleBaazi & More

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  • Namita Ghosh April 13, 2019
  • 4 Minutes Read

The domestic poker industry was dealt a major setback in December 2017 when the High Court of Gujarat declared poker to be a game of chance. While police raids on live poker rooms in the state led to their closure in 2017, the state’s cops have now trained their guns on online poker. Recent reports suggest that police have requested the State Home Department to amend existing laws or introduce fresh legislation to ban all forms of online gambling in the state including poker.

Even as the legal troubles of online real-money gaming continue, the fantasy sports space in India continues to witness exponential growth. In the latest development in this space, Baazi Games the group company that operates the second largest online poker site in the country – PokerBaazi has committed $1 Million (~₹7 Crores) to its Fantasy Sports subsidiary BalleBaazi. The funds will be used to help the site compete in the increasingly competitive market.

Back in the U.S., casino giant Wynn Resorts is planning to ban its co-founder Steve Wynn from all Wynn Resort properties located in Las Vegas, Macau and even the under-planning Encore Boston Harbor. Wynn has also pulled out of a $7.1 Billion acquisition deal to buy Australia’s Crown Resorts.

Canada’s largest province Ontario plans to open its online gambling sector to the private sector. The new government led by John Tory has envisaged the same, along with many other provisions to add a competitive edge to the state’s online gambling, casino and lottery sectors.

 

Gujarat Cops Initiate Efforts to Have Law Banning Online Poker Introduced

Online Poker is considered legal in most states of India barring a few. In 2017, after police raided several poker clubs in Gujarat and forced them to shut down, the Indian Poker Association (IPA) led by KN Suresh filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court seeking recognition of poker as a game of skill. The petition was rejected by the Court in December 2017, with concerned parties filing appeals against the order.

Cut to present day, the IPA appeal that was previously dismissed on February 14 has now been restored by the Chief Justice in March.

Even as Suresh’s legal crusade continues, another battle is going on in Gujarat, and this one seems to have been flagged off by none other than the Gujarat police.

We have recently reported that Gujarat police banned popular online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds aka PUBG in several districts over concerns on its addictiveness and for inducing aggressive behavior in under-age children. Police in Rajkot, Surat, Somnath, Gir, Bhavnagar, and Ahmedabad issued orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCPC) and section 37(3) of the Gujarat Police Act to ban PUBG.  Police also conducted raids across various districts and arrested people found playing PUBG.

According to a Times of India report, the Gujarat police have now knocked the doors of the state Home Department, seeking that the existing laws be modified to ban online gaming, and poker in the state. The state police believe that the current laws focus mostly on betting and gambling in physical locations which restricts the police in taking action against online gambling. 

Recently, the CID crime branch and home department officials had held a meeting to bring changes in gambling laws. It is tough as gambling in some part of the world is legal, while in India it is illegal,” said city police commissioner of Ahmedabad, AK Singh. “We’re working on it and have proposed to bring changes so that people indulging in online gambling could be dealt in accordance with the law.”

Singh has reportedly also talked of banning poker. “The current gambling law does not give us enough power, and the laws need a change as changes were made in the Prohibition Act in 2016.”

The uncertainty of the future of online poker in Gujarat saw several poker sites withdraw services from the state. 

As on date, many popular online poker websites like PokerBaazi and Adda52 do not accept membership requests from residents of Gujarat. While 9stacks has not explicitly mentioned Gujarat in its list of prohibited states, it has underlined in its terms and services that anyone residing in states that restrict poker is not allowed to register or play games of poker on the site.

 

Fantasy Portal BalleBaazi Gets Fresh Funds of $1 Million (~7 Crores) From Parent Firm Baazi Games

Cricket season is on and matching the fervor are Indian fantasy gaming sites. To boost the operations of its popular online cricket fantasy gaming portal, BalleBaazi, parent firm Baazi Games has released fresh funds to the tune of $1 Million (~₹7 Crores) for its subsidiary. The portal will be using the funds in expanding its verticals and enhancing user experience with new and innovative gaming concepts.

BalleBaazi

With this latest infusion of funds in the Fantasy arm, Baazi Games has also consolidated its majority stake in the company. Confirming the investment, CEO of Baazi Games, Navkiran Singh said, “Baazi Games has recently invested $1 million in BalleBaazi owing to the tremendous scope in the segment of fantasy sports in India. We, as an online gaming startup in India, aim to expand our services at a time when the industry is witnessing a massive rise in numbers.”

BalleBaazi was launched in January last year. In October, the portal launched its Android mobile gaming app allowing users to access sign-up, referral bonuses, private contests and more on their Android devices. The platform has undergone tremendous growth in a year and boasts of nearly 10 Lakh users at present.

CEO of BalleBaazi, Saurabh Chopra said, “We are happy to strengthen our bond with the Baazi Games. BalleBaazi has come a long way in the last year since its inception, and this association has definitely helped us. Both the companies share the same DNA with ‘Player First’ as our primary approach.”

Since the launch of its app, BalleBaazi has also introduced several leagues, including the Afghanistan Premier League. Dedicated leagues have been conceptualized and launched on the site in line with the increasing interest in cricket during the Indian Premier League (IPL) season.

 

Wynn Resorts Looking to Ban Former CEO Steve Wynn From All Its Properties

In a 49-page legal brief filed to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the world’s leading casino operator Wynn Resorts has outlined 13 measures that it will take to prove its sustainability in the U.S. state. An important headline that’s part of these measures is the company’s plan to ban its former CEO Steve Wynn from all its properties around the world.

Steven Wynn
Steven Wynn

Wynn who is facing a federal case over alleged sexual misconduct during his time as CEO of the gaming giant will not be allowed on any of Wynn Resorts’ properties in Las Vegas, Macau or even the proposed Encore Boston Harbour property that is located in Massachusetts.

Wynn Resorts was earlier fined a whopping $20 Million by the Nevada Gaming Control Board for its former founder’s scandalous behavior. 

In February the Massachusetts Gaming Commission settled a lawsuit with Wynn Resorts wherein after looking into Wynn’s submitted report, it had concluded that the company had taken enough steps to improve its workplace environment and decided to close the matter after levying a fine.

The still-to-be-completed Encore Boston Harbor Casino has been in the eye of a storm earlier when a local racetrack filed a federal lawsuit against Wynn Resorts for ‘corruption of the application process’ and for allegedly building a casino on a toxic site. 

Since the sexual-misconduct allegations on Wynn, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is yet to decide on whether to allow Wynn Resorts to obtain a gaming license and operate in Massachusetts.

Last week, the current CEO of the company, Matt Maddox appeared before the Commission and was questioned on his knowledge of Steve Wynn’s alleged misconduct. While Maddox reiterated that he had been unaware of the allegations, he did not answer in the negative when he was questioned if Wynn “demanded loyalty out of everyone around him.”

 

Wynn Resorts Ends Talks to Acquire Crown Australia For $7.1 Billion

The world’s number two casino operator Wynn Resorts has announced that it has scrapped preliminary talks to buy Crown Resorts Ltd for A$10 Billion (~$7.1 Billion).

Crown Australia

The decision to backtrack on the negotiations was taken by Wynn Resorts after the news was leaked by the media. Wynn’s proposed acquisition of Crown led to the latter’s stock price rallying up as much as 22% to A$14.27, close to the A$14.75 per share price that Wynn had valued the company at, in its acquisition proposal.

Disclosing Wynn’s withdrawal from the proposed deal, Wynn spokesperson Michael Weaver said, “Following the premature disclosure of preliminary discussions, Wynn Resorts has terminated all discussions with Crown Resorts concerning any transaction.”

Earlier, in a bid to evaluate if shareholders of Crown would be willing to see the company taken over, Wynn Resorts had submitted a takeover proposal to the Australian Securities Exchange. Crown Resorts confirmed that it was in confidential discussion with Wynn Resorts.

A company statement read, “The proposal currently contemplates acquisition consideration with an implied value of AUD 14.75 per share with the exchange ratio being fixed, using a volume weighted average price for Wynn shares, immediately prior to the announcement of an agreed transaction.”

Crown revealed that the acquisition involved paying 50% of the amount in cash and the remaining 50% in Wynn shares.

 

Ontario Plans to End State Monopoly in Online Gambling

Ontario, the largest province of Canada plans to put an end to the state’s monopoly over online gambling and throw the sector open to private companies. Earlier this week, the new government in Ontario led by John Tory delivered its first budget that includes the provision to broaden the online gambling options for the province’s residents.

Ontario

At present, there is a single, locally authorized online gambling site, PlayOLG.ca operational in the state. PlayOLG.ca is operated by state-owned Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG).

Gambling has been a significant focus of the budget tabled by the Tory government. The budgetary proposal envisages establishing a competitive market for online legal gambling that will reflect consumer’s choice by allowing private online operators to apply for licenses to operate in Ontario. The state will also consult with industry stakeholders before bringing a regulatory system in place.

The planned system will, according to the new government, “reflect consumer preferences, fosters an exciting gaming experience and minimizes the burden on business while ensuring appropriate protections are in place.”

Part of the budget also provides for giving Ontarians permission to purchase OLG lottery products via their smartphones. While PlayOLG that was launched four years ago can be accessed via its mobile app for iOS and Android devices and offers casino games; lottery tickets are currently not sold from the app.

If the budget is approved, it will also pave the way to allow OLG’s various lottery terminals to offer more interactive gaming experiences. Alongside, land-based casinos operating in the state will be legally permitted to actively promote the fact that they serve free liquor to gamblers.

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