New U.K. Minister Sets Gambling Industry Goals

The introduction of online gambling in the United Kingdom has been a great success but it is not without issues as it has grown and needs to be re-evaluated. The appointment of a new Minister for Sport and Civil Society is on the job and has been looking closely at restricting gamblers from using their credit cards for gambling purposes.

The Tory MP for Eastleigh Mims Davies recently spoke at the industry funded charity GambleAware’s sixth annual ‘harm-minimization’ conference in London. Minister Davies stated the appointment followed “an extremely progressive year of policy developments” warning though that “the publication of the Gambling Review did not mark the end of government action.”

During the speech the new Minister responsible for government controls on the gambling industry stressed “there are risks and industry must mitigate those risks with appropriate protections.” Even though the industry was praised for its investment and employment contributions.  Davies called for operators “to deliver early interventions, before harm occurs,” and that “rapid progress in this area,” is expected.

The issue of credit was also addressed at the conference, “increasing concerns around people gambling on credit cards and whether this should be permitted. This is an area we are already looking into in detail to understand the full situation and to consider if action in this space is needed.” When addressing the funding model for GambleAware the Minister said the government is looking into, “other ways of funding support, including a mandatory levy, ” if the industry funded voluntary system fails to supply enough money again. Davies explained, “The profits of gambling operators aren’t my prime concern. Ensuring problem gamblers have access to the right treatment is.”

A strong government agency is what the new Minister is proposing saying that accurate research is “essential to progress” on reducing the potential of gambling related harm. The Ministry wants to  see “a strong evidence base” and noted that Public Health England has made a strong effort for an evidence review.


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Slovakia On the Verge Of Liberalizing Online Gambling

Since 1 May 2004 Slovakia has been a member of the European Union and has been a stable and productive country, home to over five million people. Slovakia is a central European country known for its dramatic natural landscape and many castles and now it is coming close to liberalizing its online gambling industry.

The Slovakian Ministry Finance recently announced the national parliament has passed new legislation liberalizing the online gambling market in Slovakia. The Gambling Act drafted by the Ministry of Finance  was submitted to the European Commission this year and subject to a three-month waiting period which ended October 26. The legislation must still be ratified by the country’s president Andrej Kiska for it to come into effect. Relating to other E.U. jurisdictions such as Denmark, Sweden, Romania and the Czech Republic the amended Gambling Act has an emphasis on consumer protection measures.

The new rules if approved will start March 1, 2019. Operators will be able to submit applications for online casino licences, with a launch on the market by July 1, 2019.  Fixed-odds betting licences, meanwhile, will be available from July 1, 2019, with license holders able to offer products and services in the country by July 2020. Licences will be valid for 10 years and the cost of an online gambling license Euro 3 million. Tax on operators has been determined to be 23% of gross revenue for online casino, peer-to-peer online games and fixed-odds sports betting. These fees and levies will fund a dedicated regulatory body. A blacklist of unlicensed online casino operators established in 2017 will remain in effect enabling the blocking of illegal sites but the regulator will keep a national self-exclusion database.

Slovakia`s state-owned gaming operator TIPOS will keep a monopoly on lottery, bingo and instant win games. Amendments to the Gambling Act also include some restrictions concerning land-based gambling venues.



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Microgaming Moves Into Bulgarian Online Poker Market

Bulgaria is emerging as one of the Baltic regions best online gambling destinations. The recent announcement from software provider Microgaming is a positive step in the right direction.

Microgaming, one of online betting’s leading software providers, has gone live with National Lottery AD to provide its poker platform in Bulgaria. Prima Networks Limited and Microgaming have signed a major deal to offer the noted poker platform to Bulgarian punters. This is another move that is Microgaming’s strategic plan to grow in the regulated online gambling market. Prima Networks has the rights to license Microgaming branded software to third parties in regulated markets in Europe.

The National Lottery AD has a solid presence through its domain in Bulgaria and the partnership arrangement with Microgaming makes that position even stronger.

Chief Operating Officer at Microgaming, Andrew Clucas, said, “This marks a significant step in growing the poker network and reflects our commitment to continued growth and expansion into regulated markets. We are delighted to work with National Lottery AD as their exclusive supplier of poker in Bulgaria.”

Microgaming is pioneer developer of online casino when it began in 1994. Headquartered on the Isle of Man its products include Live Dealer, Sports book, Business Solutions and Quickfire.

Managing Partner of National Lottery AD, Milen Ganev, also commented on the major deal, “This strategic partnership enables us to continue to diversify our product offering and to deliver entertaining and award-winning poker games to our customers. We look forward to our Bulgarian customers playing on Microgaming’s feature-rich poker solution.”

The innovative National Lottery in Bulgaria has been providing a variety of entertainment solutions to Bulgarians who enjoy gambling. Even though the name of the Bulgarian enterprise suggests it is a government operated business it is in fact a private company which has been in business for several years in the regulated Bulgarian market. Local media outlets reported that National Lottery was Bulgaria’s largest advertiser in 2017 spending of over €23 million.


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South African Politics Online Gambling Controversy

Governments in many jurisdictions are concerned that online betting will destroy the morals of their jurisdictions and are grasping at straws for ways  to deal with the issue of uncontrolled internet wagering.

Controversy over the laws in South Africa regarding gambling has erupted with allegations that the current administration is using undue haste, railroading, and strong-arm tactics.  News media has pointed out the situation with a referral to the law of the land stating Section 54 of the National Gambling Act, which enforces the gambling and betting industries in the country, ensures that these are not closed off to competition but subject to normal market forces.

Online gambling has increased globally, and South Africa is no exception to the fact. Recently the Democratic Alliance party’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ghaleb Cachalia, released a statement mocking the ruling of the ANC party and the DTI for coming up with a plan to stop the use of the Internet in order to ban online gambling. Mr. Cachalia, referring to the mentioned law said the proposed changes for the Act by the ANC would give regulators the right to impose punishments on both web-based gambling companies and their users.

Minister Davies maintains online gambling is prohibited and feels tougher measures should be implemented to curb the activity. The South African Casino Association (CASA) supports the view and has stated that an unregulated online gambling industry is dangerous.

Themba Ngobese, CEO of the Casino Association of South Africa commented, “We believe that there are two options available to government – either maintain the status quo with respect to online gambling being illegal, but then take decisive action against illegal operators, or legalise it and subject it to an effective and credible legislative and regulatory dispensation.”

Politically this issue and its hard line approach to stop the growth of online gambling is a serious infringement of the rights of the citizens of South Africa.  




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Blockchain Conference Moscow A Huge Success

Blockchain has been a concept that means different things to different businesses but it has found a special place in the online gambling industry. Learning about blockchain as a major component of the internet betting industry is an essential for those involved in the future of betting around the world.

The recent eighth Blockchain Conference Moscow held in the heart of Russia was a huge success for its organizers the Smile-Expo international company. The event provided information on industry issues including crypto currency regulations, its influence of digital assets on capital management, and the future of decentralized technologies. The Bitcoin rate and its potential were discussed at length everywhere during the conference.

The specialized conference included 40 expert speakers from seven countries, including the Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany, Russia and China with 500 participants gaining insight from the  presentations and the products on display in the demonstration sector.

Evgeniy Romanenko, crypto economist and moderator of Blockchain Conference Moscow commented on the results, “Bitcoin is the main marketer. If Bitcoin grows, so does the interest in it. The same situation can be observed in case Bitcoin drops,”

Aleksey Studnev, a developer and CTO at Izetex PTE Ltd., a speaker at the event let attendees know what the future would bring for blockchain technology in the next ten years, “Cryptocurrency rate is information noise that has no impact on blockchain operation,” claiming that blockchain will become an indispensable feature of every smart phone. The expert maintained that this would be the main aspect to affect the volume of the crypto currency market affecting its growth in popularity.

The conference consisted of two sectors specializing in Fintech (cryptocurrencies) and Blockchain (tokenization and ICO). Here was also an opportunity to experience a demonstration area to observe products and services related to mining of crypto currency, hardware wallets, control boards, power units and other systems.

Blockchain Conference Moscow was organized by Smile-Expo, an international company with 12 years of experience in the sphere in 25 countries.

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Cayman Island Gambling Laws To Be Reviewed

The lure of warm beaches and sun is a major source of income for many of the small Caribbean islands which also offer gamblers an opportunity to play while on vacation. The Cayman Islands an autonomous British Overseas Territory in the western Caribbean Sea is one of those island paradises. The territory is often considered a major world offshore financial haven for international businesses and many wealthy individuals.

Unfortunately for those seeking to gamble in the Cayman Islands it is strictly forbidden by law to wager. The proposed Gambling (Amendments) Bill 2018 is a plan to update the nation’s gambling laws, which date way back to 1964.  The so called ‘draconian’ changes include  significant increases in both financial penalties and prison sentences for individuals convicted of involvement in illegal gambling businesses. The financial cost of such a conviction would rise from its current $400 to $10 thousand, while the maximum prison sentence would triple to three years.

The customers participating in illegal operations were also facing harsh new punishment including fines of $2,500 which are $10 at present and a tripling of the maximum jail sentence to six months with or without hard labour.

Critical words from Ezzard Miller, leader of the Cayman legislature’s official opposition, claimed the proposed measure will push illegal gambling operations further underground. Miller is calling instead for a policy of regulation and taxation to ensure gambling activities are above board and that the government gets a portion of the revenue.

The criticism has taken some effect with Cayman Islands Attorney General Samuel Bulgin saying the government had “put off amendments to the Gambling Law” in order to provide “time and opportunity for a further review of existing provisions.”

Opposition leader Miller asserts that it will be difficult to enforce the new fines and could lead to “selective enforcement.” Millar noted the prevalence of online gambling and participation in local lotteries as well as those from the USA although none are legal.


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Australia Introduces National Consumer Protection Framework

Around the world governments and regulatory agencies are putting both financial and  legislative pressure on irresponsible online gambling industry operators. In Australia the six regional governments have formally announced they will be launching a National Consumer Protection Framework for gambling establishing a number of social responsibility initiatives to be presented in 2019.

Australia’s federal government has created a ten point plan reacting to the 2015 O’Farrell Review of the industry and its impact on the citizens of Australia. The Federal Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher spoke on the initiatives, “The measures are designed to reduce the harm that can be caused to individuals and their families by excessive or at-risk online wagering,” Fletcher continued to explain, “The National Framework will apply to about 2.5 million active online wagering accounts, or about a million people in Australia.”

The National Consumer Protection Framework has been developed to augment the existing reforms to Australia’s gambling industry including a prohibition on non-wagering products and a clamp on offshore operators. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)  maintains these reforms have forced 33 unlicensed operators to withdraw from the market.

One of the reforms includes a self exclusion process enacted nationally to be initiated by end of the first year enabling punters to block activity form all online wagering sites utilizing one registration procedure. Minister Fletcher said. “If you exclude from one, you exclude from all—this is a first in Australia,”

Executive director for Responsible Wagering Australia, Stephen Conroy said this about the introduction of the new framework, “These are landmark reforms which solidify Australia’s place as a leader in social responsibility in wagering.” Conroy continued, “We are grateful to Minister Fletcher and his predecessors, Ministers Tehan and Tudge, for leading a thorough and consultative process on this important package of measures.”



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eSports Gets Sponsorship Boost From Kindred Group

The introduction of eSports betting has been slow off the mark for some members of the future generation of the gaming world. eSports has been gaining traction in some quarters but has yet to reach its immense potential. Interest has been gaining a following in the gaming industry but has yet to meet the expectations of the average young person. The future of gambling is dependent on the new generation of savvy internet users who have grown up with the digital influence and own smart phones.

Kindred Group has announced a plan to use its new partnership with Danish Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team Astralis to boost interest in esports betting among its customers. Kindred Group is an online gambling operator which consists of 11 brands, among them Unibet, Maria Casino, 32Red, and iGame. The Group offer products such as online casino, online poker, online bingo, and sports betting.

The two-year arrangement will witness Kindred's flagship brand Unibet become Astralis' official betting partner, with the operator granted global image rights and access to exclusive content created by the Astralis team. Astralis was founded in the January 2016 by members of Team Question Mark after they left Team SoloMid. The organization is operated by RFRSH Entertainment, with players owning an undisclosed non-majority amount of equity. Astralis has grown to dominate the CS:GO contest sector, winning competitions such as ESL One Cologne, DreamHack Masters Marseille and the ELeague CS:GO Premier in 2018.

Kindred Group chief commercial officer Rhodri Darch said, Esports has grown into a billion-dollar business with a fanbase across all corners of the world," "Astralis is the star of the CS:GO world, and we are very excited to join forces with the world’s number one team.

"Astralis is an esports powerhouse that has just been awarded Esports Team of the Year," Darch continued, "It’s our ambition that the partnership will help Astralis become even more competitive and raise interest in the exciting world of esports."





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Gambling Regulators Combating Money Laundering

Malta has a lot invested in the online gambling industry and it is being called on the mat for not being strong enough when it comes to regulations based on fairness and issues related to money laundering. The United Kingdom Gambling Commission has been vigilant making online gambling operators aware of the responsible need to be compliant.

The U.K. Gambling Commission has been fining operators who violate the rules of engagement. The British regulatory body said it would not tolerate breaches of the strict the anti-money laundering laws. In Malta, anti-money laundering scrutiny does not fall within the concern of the Malta Gaming Authority but under purview of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

Earlier this year, the Malta Gaming Authority withdrew the licences of Maltese companies owned by Italian businessmen because of suspected issues with funds. Two Maltese online gambling operators were fined by The UKGC recently for failing to comply with the rules regarding money laundering.   

The writing is on the wall for other online betting operators they are being warned and via the authorities informing them they are being investigated. It is a sure bet these money laundering companies will find another way to render clean the ill gotten cash. Online gambling firms are on the watch list for this extremely difficult problem facing the gambling industry. Media in Malta reported  Casumo, based in Swieqi and owned by a mere 58 shareholders was fined €6.5 million by the UKGC and CZ Holdings of Birkirkara, decided to voluntarily surrender its licence in the U.K.

The firms in question were primarily owned by Swedes and Maltese nationals. The UK regulator said that, Maltese companies were not the only ones being looked at with six more companies under investigation.

Gambling Commission CEO, of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, said the regulator’s  announcement and fines would make all online gambling operators, “sit up and pay attention as our investigators found that a large number of operators and their senior management were not meeting their obligations.”









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Bulgarian Government Benefits From Gambling Industry

Bulgaria has been experiencing financial growth in part due to its involvement in the European Union and in part the gambling industry. Bulgaria has transformed from a primarily agricultural economy into an industrial economy with scientific and technological research at the top of its budgetary expenditure priorities.

Now however Bulgaria’s gambling market destined to bring the local government more income than it collected last year.  Angel Iribozov, chairman of the Bulgarian Association of Producers and Organizers of the Gaming Industry (BTAPOI), announced that the government had made $101.6 million USD from licenses taxes and fees for gambling in the first nine months of 2018. Iribozov also pointed out the full-year figure will come in 13-15% higher than what the government realized in all of 2017.

Iribozov said 16.5% of the total revenue realized came from Bulgaria’s 12 online gambling licensees. These primarily include sites belonging to local offline operators, but also many recognizable international online gambling operators. Critics of the substantial growth have become concerned the extent of gambling activity is creating a generation of gamblers in a country with a very low income level.

Terrestrial gambling is significant boasting 876 gaming halls and 27 casinos.  A recent survey conducted revealed that land-based operators are assuming as much as 10% of the consumers will turn to online venues in the next three years. At least 33% of land-based operators have planned to expand gaming availability in the next year. Of the seven million plus people living in Bulgaria 53% of men and 44% of women participated in some form of gambling in the last year with approximately 3 percent of the total population either have a problem with gambling or have the potential to develop an issue with the activity. Lottery scratch cards are new in Bulgaria and have proved very successful. In 2017, punters purchased over 100m scratch card tickets adding to the Bulgarian government’s coffers.





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