News

13
Jul

SPAIN SEES STRONG IGAMING GROWTH AHEAD OF NEW ADVERTISING RESTRICTIONS

Spain’s regulated online gaming market recorded a 12.5 per cent increase in first quarter gross gaming revenue, driven by strong performances across all products.

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) amounted to €217.97m in Q1 2020, with sports betting accounting for half of total market GGR at €110.62m, an increase of 8.65 per cent year-on-year.

Online casino gaming was the second largest vertical with GGR of €77.59m, up 16.76 per cent, followed by online poker at €24.4m and online bingo at €3.69m, representing growth of 13 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively. A further €1.88m in GGR was derived from contests, an increase of almost 100 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Total marketing spend during the quarter increased by 28.3 per cent to €118.2m, with advertising amounting to €59.5m, promotions €42.4m, sponsorship of €6.0m and affiliate costs of €10.3m.

These marketing costs are expected to continue to rise ahead of the implementation of new regulations designed to combat problem gambling.

The new regulations, which were notified to the European Commission late last week for approval, aim to limit gambling broadcast advertising to the hours of 1am to 5am, with no exception for live sporting events.

They would prohibit naming rights to events and stadia and shirt sponsorship by licensed gambling operators, as well as prohibiting all advertising by unlicensed operators. Sign-up bonuses would be banned, as would the use of any celebrities in marketing communications, while free-to-play games would be available to registered, verified players.

The new rules also prohibit the unathorised use of another party’s brands and trademarks, including references to or games based on the draws or games of another operator, and online advertising would also be subject to numerous restrictions.

Operators would also be required to actively monitor and detect signs of problem gambling among customers and take remedial action.

The proposed regulations remain subject to approval by the European Commission under its emergency procedure, which was invoked due to the “the existence of serious and unforeseeable circumstances relating to the protection of public health and the protection of minors”.

This relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Spanish government believes will increase the economic vulnerability of society due to the “extraordinary rise in unemployment” and, consequently, “a higher probability of gambling behaviour in an attempt to resolve economic problems”.

Gaming Intelligence

7
Jul

DATA SHOWS FALL IN UK GAMBLING PARTICIPATION DURING LOCKDOWN

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published new data on the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on gambling behaviour, revealing an overall decrease in active players accounts between April and May.

The latest data from the UKGC and YouGov COVID-19 Tracker reflects two months of full lockdown in April and May, and highlights an increase in sports betting, partly due to the return of top-flight football with the German Bundesliga resuming in May.

The YouGov online survey shows that the lockdown period did not attract many new customers to gambling, with only 0.4 per cent of adults surveyed stating that they had started gambling for the first time during the last four weeks.

This compares with 2.1 per cent of adults who stopped gambling altogether during this period. Neither of these figures are significantly different from the rates recorded in the early lockdown period.

Operator data on overall active player accounts indicates a 1.2 per cent decrease between April and May, with the number of active players down across each of the verticals, excluding sports betting, which increased by 13 per cent month-on-month.

According to the survey, gambling participation has remained relatively stable over the past four weeks, within a range of 28 to 32 per cent. Sports betting participation fell to 1 per cent in early May but had risen to 5 per cent by mid-June as a result of the return of more elite-level sport, including the Premier League. This offset a decline in virtual sports participation, which was down from 3 per cent at the start of the YouGov tracking to 1 per cent in the latest survey.

For the UK National Lottery, four-week participation in draw-based games fell from 26 per cent in mid-April to 22 per cent by mid-June, with lottery sales having now recovered and only slightly down on normal levels. The survey notes that this was also the result of a change in customer behaviour, with a significant move from retail to digital products.

There was a slight decrease in the proportion of active players who engaged in more than one gambling activity during May, down from 43 per cent to 40 per cent.

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Only 1.6 per cent of respondents said they had gambled online on activities that they used to take part in on premises or in person. In addition, only 2 per cent of recent gamblers said they had signed up to one or more gambling websites during the period.

Online operator data shows that with the exception of sports betting, which rose 13 per cent from April to May, there has been a fall in the number of active players for each vertical. This includes a 5 per cent decline in slots, a 4 per cent drop in other gaming products (including casino), an 11 per cent decline in poker and a 48 per cent decrease in virtual sports.

Between April and May, gross gambling yield (GGY) increased across slots (9 per cent), other gaming (1 per cent) and sports betting (64 per cent), offsetting a 12 per cent decline in virtual sports and a 9 per cent drop in poker GGY.

“We have previously highlighted our concerns about slots, so will continue to monitor data about the risks they may pose to consumers during the lockdown period,” said the UKGC.

The YouGov survey also asked recent gamblers whether they had increased the time or money spent on individual gambling activities, with the majority (73 per cent) indicating that they had not done so.

6
Jul

OKLAHOMA GOVERNOR SIGNS TWO NEW GAMING COMPACTS

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has agreed new gaming compacts that will see two additional casinos established in the state.

The latest compacts were signed Thursday with the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (UKB) and Kialegee Tribal Town (KTT).

The signing of the new gaming compacts comes despite the ongoing legal challenge to the two compacts signed by Governor Stitt with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribe earlier this year, which are said to be in breach of state law for authorizing sports betting and house-banked games.

The new compacts with UKB and KTT will see two new casinos established in Logan County and eastern Oklahoma County to offer gaming machines and non-house banked card and table games, with the contentious sports betting and house-banked games excluded from the definition of Covered Games.

However, the compacts allow the tribes offer new games under an amended compact, if and when such games are classified as Covered Games.

The new agreements also recognise the state’s right to offer iLottery games, subject to certain restrictions.

“By negotiating with each individual Oklahoma tribe, the State is seeking to level the playing field for all tribes and working to ensure that no one is held back by its size or resources from competing and pursuing economic growth for its citizens,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“The Kialegee Tribal Town is pursuing a sound business plan for its first gaming location in Oklahoma with their compact commitment to partner with another Tribe on this venture. They have been good faith partners in this process, and the State looks forward to supporting their efforts to strengthen opportunities for KTT citizens, to expand economic development in the region, and to generate new revenue for Oklahoma’s public education system.”

UKB Chief Joe Bunch commented: “It is both an honor and privilege to be announcing the signing of this economic venture between the great State of Oklahoma and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

“We thank Governor Kevin Stitt and his administration for this monumental day and for their leadership efforts in this compact. It is a grand day for Keetoowahs and Native American tribes all over the country. It is a day when one of their own partnered with Oklahoma in building a stronger economy through the avenues of retail, food and beverage, hotel, hospitality and casino operations, all by signing a Class III gaming compact with the state,” added Bunch.

“This compact also presents an opportunity for the UKB to move forward and begin increasing health, education and job opportunities for our tribal members and elders, as well as our surrounding communities. After all, we know if our communities are doing well, the state is also doing well. Thank you and God bless the UKB and the State of Oklahoma.”

Both compacts have been submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior for approval.

6
Jul

BELGIAN GAMBLING REGULATOR UPDATES IGAMING BLACKLIST

Belgium’s Commission des jeux de Hasard has added three more sites to its blacklist of illegal online gambling operators.

In the regulator’s first update since April of last year, three Curacao-licensed websites have been blacklisted; Asperino.com, Wildblaster.com and Madnix.com.

The blacklist now includes more than 170 domains which Belgian ISPs are required to prevent consumers from accessing.

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Under Belgian law, customers of unlicensed online gaming sites may be liable to a fine of between €26 and €25,000, while unlicensed operators may be liable to a fine of between €100 and €100,000.

25
Jun

G2E ORGANIZERS NOT READY TO COMMIT TO OCTOBER EVENT

The organizers of October’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas are planning for the best and preparing for the worst amid the continuing uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

When asked if a physical event would take place this October, the AGA’s Senior Director of Events Meredith Pallante, on behalf of G2E, admitted: “G2E 2020 will not be the same event as year’s past.”

“If public health and local authorities permit the show to take place, the focus of G2E 2020 will be reuniting the gaming industry to demonstrate our resilience for a wide range of stakeholders, from policymakers and employees to regulators and purchasers.”

She said that her team is mapping out many scenarios, including offering virtual components for those unable to join in person. This, of course, could be everybody. So, a completely virtual G2E is still a possibility.

Pallante could not say how many exhibitors or attendees would be allowed if a physical event was to take place.

“All staff, customers, and vendors will be required to wear face coverings when unable to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others,” she said. “We continue to monitor Nevada’s guidelines for reopening and will comply with additional guidance for conventions when available.”

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Other measures are likely to include additional sanitizing stations, increased spacing of aisles, signage to support physical distancing requirements, designating directional traffic flows, and more.

Last week, the organizers sent a letter to exhibitors giving some information about Reed Exhibitions’ Health & Safety Task Force. The letter was meant to provide some hope to potential exhibitors growing impatient with the lack of commitment to a physical event.

G2E Las Vegas is scheduled to take place October 5-8, 2020 at the Sands Expo.

23
Jun

BRAZIL ADDS SPORTS BETTING TO NATIONAL PRIVATISATION PLAN

The government of Brazil has confirmed the inclusion of sports betting in its privatisations plans with a resolution published Friday in the official state gazette.

This paves the way for the government to ultimately offer sports betting concessions to private operators in a similar manner to the recently privatised operation of the Lotex instant lottery.

The Brazilian government authorised retail and online fixed-odds sports betting in 2018, with the ministry of finance given a period of four years in which to develop enabling regulations. This was followed by a public consultation in 2019 into the best model for regulating sports betting and the most appropriate use of proceeds.

The inclusion of sports betting in the National Privatisation Plan will see the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) launch a market study to identify the best privatisation model to help stimulate the economy and generate jobs, with the government noting that it will consider adopting a concession model similar to the recent successful Lotex auction, which was won by a consortium of IGT and Scientific Games.

22
Jun

FACEBOOK SHUTS DOWN UNLICENSED NORWEGIAN GAMBLING PAGES

Facebook has removed 36 pages belonging to online gaming operators who are accused of targeting Norwegian consumers without a local license.

The company removed the pages after being notified by Norwegian gambling regulator Lotteritilsynet that the pages promoted unlicensed gambling, in breach of Norwegian law and Facebook’s own regulations, which require advertisers to hold an appropriate license.

The posts were used to promote websites belonging to Coolbet, ComeOn, Guts, Norgesautomaten, Vera&John and Pokio.

“This marketing violates the Norwegian regulations and Facebook’s own guidelines. It is also true that many Norwegians are on Facebook, and the gaming companies can potentially reach many there with illegal advertising,” said Monica Alisøy Kjelsnes, senior adviser and lawyer at Lotteritilsynet.

“The Lottery Authority is very positive that Facebook is removing pages and posts with advertisements for gambling that do not have a license in Norway, and looks at the dialogue with Facebook as an effective tool to reduce access to illegal gambling.”

The gambling regulator added that it will increase its enforcement action against unlicensed advertisers next year using new powers under the country’s amended broadcasting act, which comes into force on January 1, 2021.

18
Jun

NETHERLANDS RELEASES TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR ONLINE GAMBLING MONITORING

The Netherlands has submitted draft legislation to the European Commission setting out the technical requirements for connecting online gambling systems to the new Control Data Bank (CDB) that will be used by authorities for monitoring and verification purposes.

The legislation will allow operators to prepare their applications for the Netherlands licensing process which begins in January 2021, with the regulated online gaming market scheduled to open on 1 July 2021.

The Netherlands tax authority and gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit each have differing access rights to the CDB under the new Gaming Act which comes into force next year, prompting two submissions for European Commission (EC) approval.

The first from Kansspelautoriteit sets out the technical requirements and data models for establishing and maintaining a connection to the CDB, while the submission from the ministry of finance sets out its requirements in terms of access to gambling participation data by product in order to verify operator tax returns.

Both sets of regulations were notified to the EC on 17 July and are subject to a standstill period ending 18 September.

16
Jun

SWEDISH COURT UPHOLDS REGULATORY RULINGS ON GAMBLING BONUSES

Swedish gambling regulator Spelinspektionen has successfully defended itself in four cases involving online gaming operators who were penalised for offering bonuses to consumers in breach of Swedish regulations, although two operators secured lower penalties through the appeals.

The Administrative Court of Linköping published its rulings Monday following appeals by AG Communications, Genesis Global, Betway and Mandalorian Technologies.

All four cases relate to the first few months of Sweden’s regulated iGaming market, which opened in January 2019, and the provision of bonuses to customers, which are limited to one bonus per customer upon sign-up.

AG Communications, which was accused of offering various VIP and loyalty programs to consumers, saw its appeal rejected after the court ruled that simply offering a bonus is enough to violate the law. The bonus does not have to be granted and used to qualify as a bonus, the court stated, with VIP programmes considered a form of bonus.

The court ruled that the company did offer bonuses beyond the permissible initial bonus and rejected the argument that the programmes were offered in error and not provided to consumers, thereby upholding the decision and SEK500,000 fine imposed by Spelinspektionen.

Mandalorian Technologies was also unsuccessful in its appeal against a SEK9.0m penalty for offering 10 per cent cashback on gambling spend to consumers.

The company had requested that the decision and penalty be revoked on the basis that cashback does not constitute a bonus, an argument which the court rejected.

Sportradar
Two other operators, Betway and Genesis Global, were able to reduce their penalties, although the court upheld the gambling regulator’s decisions leading to the penalties.

Betway’s penalty for offering recurring bonuses, free games and recurring free spins was lowered from SEK5.0m to SEK4.7m on appeal on the basis that the regulator miscalculated the company’s annual sales.

Betway argued that free games and spins do not constitute a bonus, and that the penalty for any breach should be based on net gaming revenue and not turnover, both of which the court rejected. The company also argued that its sales were lower than the figure used by the regulator to calculate the fine, which the court accepted, leading to the reduced penalty.

Genesis Global saw its penalty reduced on appeal from SEK1.7m to SEK1.2m, with the court upholding the regulator’s view that the company offered unauthorised VIP programmes and deposit bonuses. These included gifts such birthday presents for members of the VIP programme, which the court said constitutes a bonus.

All four decisions are open to appeal.

9
Jun

SWEDEN’S LEADING OPERATORS PROPOSE SAFER GAMBLING MEASURES

The chief executives of some of the leading online gambling companies in Sweden have set out a proposal for achieving a safer gambling market, while at the same time warning lawmakers that arbitrary changes in the regulated market will drive consumers to unlicensed providers.

The CEOs of Betsson, Kindred, LeoVegas, NetEnt, William Hill, ComeOn, Videoslots, Hero Gaming, SupNnation and Swedish online gaming association BOS issued the proposal Monday, setting out seven areas of focus for achieving safer gambling.

The first concerns licenses and calls on the government to extend the current licensing requirement for consumer-facing operators to also include gaming solutions providers and marketing affiliates, with the aim of discouraging participation in the unregulated market and channelling consumers to legal providers.

They also call for better promotion of the national gambling self-exclusion system Spelpaus to raise awareness among consumers, and for Swedish authorities to make use of anonymised behavioural data held by operators to increase their understanding of gambling habits and risks.

Other measures include addressing the risk of problem gamblers falling into debt, particularly in the instant lending market, with the chief executives noting that while they are in a position to asses a customer’s liquidity, they do not have the tools to determine if this was earned or borrowed.

To help problem gamblers more effectively, they recommend the introduction of a self-exclusion system to allow individuals to restrict their access to loans in the same way that they can opt out of online gambling.

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They also state that problem gambling is an individual behaviour and therefore risk should be addressed at an individual level not a product level, and note that greater collaboration between operators and regulators in this area is possible through data sharing, although currently restricted by European data protection laws.

“The Ministry of Finance’s proposal for placing further restrictions on the Swedish gambling market has been met by strong and unanimous criticism. All stakeholders in the gambling industry (state and private), as well as sports clubs, the Swedish Gambling Authority, and international and national media have all stated that the proposals are unrealistic and how they play into the hands of the unlicensed market,” said the chief executives.

“The Minister for Public Administration then chose to adjust the proposals somewhat, but only to improve conditions for state-controlled companies. Now a new report shows that implementing deposit limits on online casinos alone would mean that almost half of all bets would end up being placed with unlicensed companies.

“The entire Swedish gambling industry has been beset by uncertainty, with many customers abandoning licensed companies and moving instead to unlicensed companies,” they added. “If we don’t start to cooperate and introduce long-term measures grounded in facts, we risk turning back the clock to what the market looked like prior to re-regulation.”