Winamax, the number one online poker operator in France has already begun making preparations to enter the new European shared liquidity market. Since France, Portugal, Italy and Spain were struggling to boost their respective online poker markets, the gaming regulators in the four European countries decided to enter into a shared liquidity agreement that will see the four markets come together to provide online gaming operators and poker players a better market.
There is no information till date as to when the shared liquidity will come into operation but Winamax is moving forward with its strategy to position itself as one of the leading online poker operators in Spain, Italy and Portugal where it currently has no brand presence.
As part of its preparations for shared liquidity, Winamax has acquired the Italian gaming license of bet-at-home. Bet-at-home belongs to a German company which is a subsidiary of the French company Betclic Everest Group. The news of Winamax purchasing the Italian gaming license was reported last week by Agipro News, which is an Italian gaming affiliate.
The acquisition of bet-at home by Winamax is considered a little risky because in early October, the shared liquidity agreement evoked a negative response from online gaming industry insiders and key Italian legislators. They feel that shared liquidity can give rise to money laundering.
In March 2015, Winamax had to abandon the idea of entering the Italian gaming market mainly due to the country’s legislation on gaming. The acquisition of bet-at- home will now give Winamax access to the online gaming market in Italy. Winamax also had the option of obtaining an Italian gaming license by applying to Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli which is the local gaming regulator in Italy.
The Italian regulator was supposed to provide new requirements for a fresh round of online gaming license bids and was expected to start the bidding process in September. The regulator was unable to proceed due to various delays and there are rumors that new regulations and the bidding process for an online gaming license in Italy will be launched in the coming weeks. If there are no further delays, then new license holders will be able to start operations from early 2018.
Australian billionaire and Crown Resorts board member James Packer stated this week that Crown Resorts will not be pursuing a casino license in Japan and would continue to focus on its Australian market. Packer did highlight the fact that he had not discussed this in detail with the Crown Resorts board but from his perspective it was not realistic at this point of time for Crown to focus on Japan.
Crown Resorts had plans to expand into Las Vegas, Macau and Sri Lanka a few years ago but scrapped all international expansion plans earlier this year after the company was rocked by the arrests of 18 Crown employees in late 2016 in Mainland China. The Chinese authorities arrested Crown Resort employees for allegedly marketing and promoting gambling services to locals and detained most of them for 12 months.
The arrests hurt Crown Resorts reputation and resulted in the company dropping all its international expansion projects. However Crown Resorts did keep its options open for Japan and was interested in developing an integrated resort in Yokohama. Japan legalised casino gambling in 2016 and is expected to initially approve two gaming licenses for integrated resorts in potential locations such as Yokohama, Osaka and Tokyo.
The biggest casino operators in the world such as Las Vegas Sands Corp, MGM Resorts International, Melco International and Wynn Resorts are competing fiercely to win a lucrative gaming license in Japan and a number of these operators have already committed to investing $10 billion into the Japanese market.
In a statement, Packer said
People talk to me about Japan. I don't believe it is realistic for us to win a license in Japan. It is off my table. But I am only one director and I haven’t had the conversation with the board. I am not saying 'no forever', but what I am saying 'no' to is writing a Aus$500 million or Aus$1 billion cheque to go into Japan next week
Packer wants Crown management to focus on the domestic market and not get distracted by international projects. Crown Resorts was hit last week with fresh allegations of tampering with pokie machines at its Crown Melbourne casino resort. MP Andrew Wilkie brought these allegations before Parliament last week and claimed that former Crown Melbourne employees had proof of deliberate misconduct.
Crown Resorts has denied those allegations and the Victoria gaming regulator has confirmed that it will launch an investigation into the matter. These new allegations will not help Crown Resorts in its push for a Japanese casino license and will definitely sway the rest of the board to side with Packer and drop its Japan expansion plan.
Online giants Amazon and eBay were pulled up by the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee who accused the two companies of not being stringent on online vendors thereby permitting them to commit tax fraud.
The committee stated that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is the tax department in the UK had been scared of using its powers to prosecute online sellers who were violating VAT laws in the UK. The committee stated there were numerous online websites in the UK who were violating these laws and as a result the government was losing nearly $2 billion each year due to tax fraud.
In a statement, Meg Hillier, committee chairwoman said
Online marketplaces tell us they are committed to removing ‘bad actors,’ yet that sentiment rings hollow when those same marketplaces continue to profit from the actions of rogue traders. Online VAT fraud is hugely damaging yet, as online sales continue to grow, the response of HMRC and the marketplaces where fraudsters operate has been dismal.
The number of foreign suppliers who use online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to sell their products in the UK has grown significantly during the last few years. A number of these suppliers have set up warehouses in the UK which enable them to make delivery the next day. If goods are dispatched from within the UK, sellers have to charge a mandatory VAT of 20 percent.
However the majority of these online sellers do not charge their customers this 20 percent VAT charge and as a result they are able to offer customers a better rate than local suppliers.
This puts local sellers in the UK at a huge disadvantage and also hurts the treasury. The committee has accused online trading platforms of deliberately turning a blind eye to these tax violations as they make profits from each transaction.
Amazon and eBay have responded to the report and stated that they will work closely with the UK authorities to ensure that they full comply with UK tax laws. eBay also stated that it always stressed on maintaining a fair marketplace and had gone over and above to comply with HMRC requirements. Amazon stated that it provides its vendors with online training tools and information to educate them on VAT requirements and removes any vendor who has been found to have violated VAT regulations.
IBM recently announced that it plans to launch a new blockchain payment technology network for international markets that will enable cross border transactions to be processed extremely fast.
Cross border transactions where multiple currencies are involved usually take a number of days to be processed because multiple intermediaries and networks are involved. The innovative IBM blockchain technology network will reduce this time frame significantly as it uses a single network to process clearing and settlement of cross border transactions in real time.
In a statement, Jesse Lund, IBM's VP of global blockchain market development said
This marks a next phase in the evolution of making enterprise blockchain a reality. This is kind of a paradigm shift that is happening. The promise of what digital currency teased us with, what networks like Bitcoin teased us with is actually coming to enterprise scale and coming to maturity
IBM has already successfully debuted its blockchain payment technology network in twelve currency corridors that run between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The network is processing live transactions and is being closely monitored in a controlled environment. The company has plans to collaborate with KlickEx Group, a regional financial services firm to test the scalability and robustness of the network before agreeing to ramp up volumes and add new countries.
IBM decided to test launch its network in the Pacific Islands due to the low volume of transactions and limited risk that its blockchain network would be exposed to. The launch has turned out to be very successful for the company who will now work on putting together governance and commercial models that will take into consideration the banking industry’s regulatory concerns. IBM has confirmed that it will collaborate with financial regulators across the globe and Promontory, a financial regulatory consulting firm which it owns to ensure that it complies with regulatory standards in different countries before being rolled out.
The company has also announced that it will work together with some of the top banking institutions in the world to help them introduce this blockchain technology network to their customers in different countries. Some of the top banks that will participate in this project include Wizdraw (HK) of WorldCom Finance, National Australia Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Philippines and TD Bank.
Lund went on to say that in the next five years, the global market will see a number of innovative payment solutions being introduced.
There have been a number of states in recent times that have objected to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 which bans sports betting in all states with the exception of Nevada. PASPA has prevented casino operators and sports betting websites from offering legalized sports betting in their respective states and as a result a lucrative industry has been restricted and state governments have not been able to profit from taxes on the sports betting industry.
New Jersey has been one of the states that have challenged the PASPA law and a hearing on the matter is expected to take place before the end of the year. Casino operators in Maryland are pushing for a similar stance to be adopted as they want to offer sports betting services at the earliest.
Cordish Global Gaming which operates the Maryland Live Casino and Hotel has called on the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight to address the issue in 2018.
The Commission has kept casino gambling out of its agenda for the last 5 years but is now facing pressure from Maryland casino operators to prioritize sports betting and push for a constitutional ballot to be placed on the 2018 general election ballot. However the Gaming Commission does not share the same urgent view of legalizing sports betting.
Gaming committee’s House co-chair Del. Frank Turner said that sports-betting is likely to find a sponsor but he does not believe that it will happen in 2018. Turner said that if the bill is not sponsored in 2018, it will happen in 2020. Maryland casino operators want the federal law that bans sports betting to be changed and the responsibility of legalizing sports betting to be placed in the hands of the state.
Joe Weinberg who heads the Cordish Group stated that Maryland could not afford to wait for the next three years to get more clarity on the Federal law. Weinberg warned that neighboring states were already taking measures to position themselves to repeal PASPA and said that if Maryland did not act quickly, the casino industry in the state would suffer as they would not be in a position to offer their patrons a full suite of services.
Weinberg said that if sports betting was legalized in Maryland, it would result in Maryland Live getting an additional 1.5 million visitors each year and generate an additional $100 million in revenue which will also benefit the state coffers in the form of extra gaming taxes.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won their second consecutive Stanley Cup in 2017 and received an invitation to visit the White House and meet with President Donald Trump. There’s nothing new to it as it is customary for the winning NBA and NHL teams to get an invitation to visit the White House.
However there were many NHL fans who took to social media to urge the current Stanley Cup champions to not visit the White House.
President Donald Trump is involved in a with professional athletes in the NFL and NBA who do not respect his stance on a number of issues including the President wanting the NHL to fire players who did not stand during the national anthem.
The White House
The Golden State Warriors (GSW), current NBA Champions were also supposed to visit the White House and meet with President Trump. However star player Stephen Curry stated that he was hesitant to accept the invitation due to Trump’s views and as a result President Trump took to Twitter to let Curry know that he wasn’t welcome anymore and that the invitation to the GSW was cancelled.
Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017
The Penguins decided to accept the invitation and met with the President and the first lady Melania Trump in the East Room. President Trump welcomed the Penguins and gave a 13 minute speech, highlighting some of their achievements and congratulated them on being winners. He also said that he believed they had a great chance to successfully defend and retain the Stanley Cup. Trump also took another dig at Stephen Curry by saying the Penguins had no hesitation in accepting the invitation.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was also present as was Penguins captain Sidney Crosby who has received consecutive MVP awards. The Penguins did not get address or make any comments regarding the on-going controversy over players sitting or kneeling during the national anthem. Coach Sullivan said that he did have an opinion on the matter but did not believe that it was the right time for him to share it.
The last time the Penguins visited the White House was when Barack Obama was in power. The Penguins presented Obama who was the 44th President of the United States with a Penguins jersey that featured his name along with the number 44. They did not give President Trump any gift nor did they post pictures of their visit to the White House on their official social media accounts.
The gambling industry in the United Kingdom has grown at a rapid pace over the years as casino and online betting operators have invested heavily into marketing and advertisements to promote their offerings and expand their market base.
The revenue pumped into gambling ads has increased with every passing year and recent reports suggest that gambling operators are using cartoon characters in their advertisements to target underage gamblers.
The UK Gambling commission bans gambling operators from targeting audiences below the age of 18 but based on a report from the Advertising Standards Agency (AGA), betting firms were using popular storybook and cartoon characters such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Peter Pan to lure minors.
There are allegations that a number of operators provide minors access to free and paid games without asking for age verification.
The Sunday Times launched an investigation into the matter and found that there were close to 30 games that would appeal to minors. Some of the popular online betting games that would appeal to underage gamblers include Fluffy Too Mega Jackpot and Unicorn Bliss.
Betting operators have denied these allegations of targeting underage gamblers but the stats in the UK show that underage gambling is becoming a serious concern.
The UK gambling commission has found that more than 450,000 underage gamblers in England and Wales participate in some form of gambling on a weekly basis. A report published by the Gambling Commission in 2016 indicated that nearly 6 percent of kids between the ages of 11 to 15 had used their parents online gambling account to play online while 3 percent in this age group used their own money to gamble.
In a statement, Mark Griffiths, Professor at Nottingham Trent University’s International Gaming Research Unit said
Research has shown that when we look at those children who are problem gamblers, the No 1 risk factor is playing games online for free. Children are getting access via their mobile phone to these games in a much easier way than even five years ago
British business tycoon Alan Sugar said the UK was creating a gambling culture and the younger generation was the primary target. Lord Sugar accused the gaming regulator of being too soft on gaming operators and called for tougher restrictions to be imposed at the earliest. The AGA confirmed that they would be looking into these allegations and taking appropriate action.
The European Commission has continued its crackdown on major multi-national corporations that have been allegedly manipulating tax laws in the European Union (EU) for a number of years and paying lower taxes.
The Commission ruled on October 4 that Luxembourg must collect €250 million in back taxes from U.S online giant Amazon.
The Commission launched a detailed investigation into the matter on October 2014 to examine a tax ruling made by Luxembourg in 2003 that granted Amazon massive tax privileges which was extended till 2011. The lower tax rate imposed on Amazon had no justification and the same privilege wasn’t extended to other businesses.
As a result, Luxembourg has to now recover €250 million from Amazon based on the ruling issued by Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner who heads the competition policy.
euronews (in English)
In a statement, Vestager said
Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon. As a result, almost three quarters of Amazon's profits were not taxed. In other words, Amazon was allowed to pay four times less tax than other local companies subject to the same national tax rules. This is illegal under EU State aid rules. Member States cannot give selective tax benefits to multinational groups that are not available to others.
Amazon EU which is subject to tax in Luxembourg managed to shift a vast portion of its profits to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies which is not subject to tax and avoided paying taxes on a significant portion of its profits. The Luxembourg tax ruling allowed Amazon EU to make royalty payments to Amazon Europe Holding Technologies which were inflated according to the Commission’s findings and was not a true reflection of market conditions. The ruling states that Amazon was able to avoid paying taxes on 75 percent of its profits made from EU sales.
Tax laws in Luxembourg require the operating company to remit taxes while holding companies are not subject to taxes as they are considered limited partnerships. The holding company is subjected to tax based on the level of its partners and not based on the holding company. For Amazon, the holding company was in the United States.
Amazon has claimed that it has not violated any tax laws in Luxembourg and is most likely to file an appeal. The European Commission ruled in 2016 that Ireland had granted Apple similar tax privileges and ordered Ireland to recover nearly $15.2 billion in taxes from Apple. Ireland hasn’t recovered any money so far and as a result has been taken to court by the Commission.
The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada every year amidst a lot of hype and publicity as casino operators, key stakeholders and multiple vendors from the gaming industry head over to the Sands Expo at the Venetian Las Vegas to network and see what are the latest developments and technology that will be rolled out in the gaming industry.
The G2E is hosted by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and Reed Exhibitions and runs from October 3 to 5. One of the most important features of the G2E is the conference and seminars that take place from October 2 to 5 and see top keynote presentations which are highly educational. The G2E officially kicked off on Monday on a rather quite note due to the Las Vegas shooting that occurred on Sunday night.
Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old resident of Mesquite, Nevada booked himself a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort and brought with him a handgun and sixteen high powered rifles. How he got so many weapons through casino security is yet to be ascertained but he would go on to open fire on Sunday night on a crowd in excess of 22,000 and cause mass causalities.
The crowd had gathered opposite the Mandalay Bay Resort to enjoy a country music festival. Paddock poured bullets into the crowd as country star Jason Aldean performed and continued to empty magazines into the unsuspecting crowd, till the police stormed his room to find that he had taken his life by shooting himself. The authorities have so far confirmed that 59 people have lost their lives in the shooting and more than 500 have been injured. This has been labeled as the worst shooting in U.S history.
G2E organizers were not going to let the senseless killings bring the city of Las Vegas to a stop or cancel the convention. They opened the conference on a quiet note and confirmed that safety remained a key priority. More than 26,000 people visit the G2E on an annual basis.
In a joint statement, Presidents of the AGA and Reed Entertainment said
The AGA and Reed Exhibitions will be in constant contact with local and national law enforcement and our host, Las Vegas Sands. We will closely monitor the situation and safety remains our priority.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released its annual report which confirmed that the Parx Casino is the number one casino in the state in terms of revenue and in second place in Sands Bethlehem.
Parx Casino which brought in $543 million in the fiscal 2015-2016 was boosted by its table games revenue in the 2016-2017 fiscal which saw its total revenues increase to $557 million.
Sands Bethlehem, once the number one casino in the state in terms of revenue saw a decrease in its slow machine revenue in the 2016-2017 fiscal. Sands saw its revenue rise to $539 million when compared to the $533.5 million it registered in fiscal 2015-2016.
Based on these states, it is estimated that gamblers in Pennsylvania end up spending $1.53 million each day at the Parx Casino and $1.48 million each day at Sands Bethlehem.
Parx Casino continued to hold the number one spot for the amount of slot revenue generated in the state and Sands Bethlehem took second place, given the fact that it has about 400 slot machines less than the Parx Casino. Sands Bethlehem continued to be the leader in terms of table games revenue generated in the state. The two casinos account for more than one third of the revenue generated in the state of Pennsylvania.
The state gaming regulator is looking at new ways to boost gaming revenue and is considering the possibility of opening a new casino in Philadelphia.
In a statement, Doug Harbach, representative of the gaming commission said
I think that you get to a certain level of gaming dollars that are going to be spent and that probably will not be exceeded until there are more casinos that open in Pennsylvania — there are plans to still do that, by the gaming act.
Harbach said that given the fact that competition in neighboring states was continuing to increase, it was a positive sign to see Pennsylvania’s gaming revenue hold steady for the last few years. Parx Casino and Sands Bethlehem have also recognized the competition in neighboring states and have decided to invest heavily into revamping and expanding their facilities.
Sands Bethlehem had earlier announced a $90 million expansion program which was put on hold when its parent company, Las Vegas Sands Corp decided to think about selling the property to rival MGM Resorts International. The deal fell through and there is no update on the expansion program as of now. Parx Casino has invested $50 million to add another poker room and a live entertainment facility known as the Xcite Center.