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Archive for January 23rd, 2019

Virginia’s Casino Legalization Bill Passes First Legislative Hurdle

A bill calling for the legalization of casino gambling in Virginia survived on Monday its first legislative hurdle

The Virginia Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology voted on Monday to advance a casino legalization bill that aims to bring casinos to up to five cities around the state. The piece will now be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill calls for the legalization of casino gambling in the state and the authorization of the construction of commercial casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth as well as of a tribal casino in Norfolk or Richmond.

Under the legislative piece, a casino proposal for any of the above-mentioned five cities will have to be approved by residents at a citywide referendum.

The City Councils of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth voiced last year their support for a legislation that would allow the construction of gambling venues in the cities. All three cities have been looking for years for ways to boost their ailing economies and to create new jobs for residents.

As mentioned above, the bill also includes provisions concerning a proposal by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to build a casino in Norfolk or Richmond. The tribe had previously sought authorization of its plan through a federal process for federally recognized tribes, but said recently that it would agree to operate a gambling venue under any commercial gaming laws the Virginia Legislature might adopt.

Gov. Ralph Northam Wants Study

The state’s Governor and other legislators have pointed out that they would rather hold off any major gambling expansion decision during this year’s legislative session so that a comprehensive study on the matter is conducted and the Legislature has enough time to debate that study’s findings.

Other lawmakers call for speedier legalization process so as to prevent the state from losing more gambling money to neighboring states where casino gambling is legal.

If the casino bill passes all legislative hurdles this session, it would allow the five cities to hold referendums on whether they want to host gambling venues this fall. In addition, the piece of legislation orders a study to be conducted by November 1, 2019, thus addressing Gov. Northam’s concerns. The state would not issue casino licenses until mid-2020 in order for legislators to have enough time to review the study’s findings and amend the law in a proper manner during the 2020 legislative session.

The General Laws Committee did not act on Monday on a separate legislative piece aiming to bring legal sports betting to Virginia. Under the bill that was approved yesterday by committee members, wagering on sporting events would be among the activities casinos would be allowed to conduct.

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Curaçao-Licensed Online Casino Operator Leaks Player Information

Sensitive details about players of casinos owned by Cyprus-based Mountberg Ltd. were left unprotected, security researcher finds

A Curaçao-licensed online casino operator has accidentally leaked sensitive player information, ZDNet reported on Monday citing security researcher Justin Paine, who discovered the leak.

The data has leaked from an ElasticSearch server that was exposed online without password protection. The information released included players’ personal details as well as information about deposits and withdrawals related to more than 108 million bets made on websites owned by the online casino group.

Mr. Paine told ZDNet that he discovered the unprotected server last week. He explained that the server required no authentication to protect the sensitive information it contained. It was clear to the security researcher that the server featured information about online gambling operations.

ElasticSearch is a search engine that companies use to improve data indexing and search capabilities. ElasticSearch servers are installed on internal networks and it is quite untypical to be left unsecured online as they include a client’s most sensitive data.

After additional research, Mr. Paine was able to confirm that all domains on the exposed server were running online casino and betting operations. The information leaked included the real names of gamblers, their home and email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, account balances, IP addresses, etc.

Mr. Paine discovered around 108 million records of bets, wins, deposit and withdrawals. Deposit and withdrawal data included details about the players’ registered payment cards. However, Mr. Paine pointed out that payment card details were partially redacted and they did not expose gamblers’ full financial details.

Casinos in the Leaky Server

Digging further about the incident, Mr. Paine discovered that the leaky sever contained information about people gambling at Kahuna Casino, EasyBet, and VIP Room Casino, among other online casinos.

Kahuna Casino and VIP Room Casino are both owned by Mountberg Limited, a company based in Cyprus and licensed in Curaçao. As for EasyBet, it operates under the same license as the former two, although another company is listed as its owner. Still, the information available about the above casinos shows that they are owned by the same entity.

Representatives for Mountberg have not commented on the issue and it is unknown for how long sensitive information about its players has been left unprotected, how many players have been affected, and who else aside from Mr. Paine has been able to access the leaky server.

The unprotected server went offline yesterday, ZDNet reported. Mr. Paine confirmed that it was finally down, but said that it was not known whether the client took it down themselves or OVH firewalled it off.

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France, Spain, Portugal “Generally Satisfied” with Poker Liquidity

French, Spanish, Portuguese gambling regulators laud shared online poker liquidity evolution, invite other European jurisdictions to join

A year after the official start of the shared online poker liquidity project, the gambling regulators of France, Spain, and Portugal say they are generally satisfied with how the new online shared ecosystem has worked out.

The shared online poker liquidity scheme was introduced in a bid for several of Europe’s biggest gambling markets to revitalize their underperforming online poker sectors. Talks about the project were initiated by the gambling regulators of France, Italy, and Spain, and their Portuguese counterpart joined them in the wake of the reorganization of its digital gambling space.

After several years of discussions, a shared online poker liquidity agreement was signed in the summer of 2017, and first shared poker tables went live in January 2018. PokerStars was the first operator to receive regulatory approval to join the online poker scheme. The company debuted its first shared cash game tables a year ago, allowing its French and Spanish players to play against each other. Portuguese players were included in the scheme a few months later.

Partypoker and Winamax went live with shared liquidity in France and Spain later in 2018. Both online poker operators are yet to enter Portugal’s gambling market, where PokerStars is currently the only licensed provider of online poker.

Further Cooperation with EU/EEA Counterparts

In a joint statement from yesterday, the French (ARJEL), Spanish (DGOJ), and Portuguese (SRIJ) gambling regulators expressed their general satisfaction with the “evolution of this new online shared ecosystem.”

The three regulatory bodies also pointed out that the opportunity for players from the three participating countries to play in shared liquidity cash games and tournaments has improved the performance of the local online poker markets and they have all recorded gains during the first three quarters of 2018.

Representatives from the three regulators will discuss the matter in further detail at a dedicated shared online poker liquidity panel during the upcoming ICE London gaming conference.

According to data from ARJEL, online cash game stakes passed the €1 billion mark in the third quarter of 2018, recording a 13% growth from the same three months of 2017, while tournament fees increased 7% year-on-year to €528 million. Online poker revenue was up 3% to €59 million.

In Spain, cash game revenue rose 24.5% during the third quarter of 2018 to €7.4 million and tournament revenue shot up 42.3% year-on-year, thanks to the shared liquidity project. In Portugal, the local regulator does not separate online poker revenue from the overall online casino gaming revenue, but the country recorded a growth in that segment, as well, and shared liquidity could have had a bit to do with the growth of the market.

In yesterday’s statement, ARJEL, DGOJ, and SRIJ said that they are willing to expand the project and encouraged their counterparts from other EU/EEA countries to consider the benefits of an online poker network that will allow players from different regulated jurisdictions to play against each other.

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Finnish Gambling Monopoly Could Cease Table Game Operations

Veikkaus plans to cease table game operations due to heavy competition from the online gambling sector

Finland’s state-owned gambling monopoly Veikkaus is considering the possibility to abandon its table game operations at restaurants around the country, local news outlets reported on Monday.

Veikkaus is the only betting and gaming entity authorized to operate gambling services in Finland. The state-run operator was formed through the merger of its predecessor with the Finnish Slot Machine Association (RAY) and Fintoto, a parimutuel betting group previously owned by the Finnish Trotting and Breeding Association.

Veikkaus currently operates 187 gaming tables located across 162 restaurants, bars, casinos, and other facilities. The operator said in a statement from yesterday that it plans to cease table game operations due to the growing competition from the digital gambling sector and the rapid shift of business onto various digital channels.

Olli Sarekoski, CEO of the state-run monopoly, said in a statement that their “network of sales locations has shrunk significantly” over the past several years and that they are planning overhauls of these locations as well as to cease table game operations.

Redundancy Talks

It also emerged yesterday that Veikkaus has begun redundancy talks involving more than 1,300 current employees. At present, the state-owned betting agency employs around 2,000 people. According to yesterday’s statement by the operator, it could lay off up to 400 of its employees by the end of the ongoing talks. Of those 400 people, about 200 will be from the Helsinki area, while the rest will be from around the country.

Gambling is a popular pastime in Finland. Veikkaus is currently authorized to operate various gaming and betting services around the country, but international companies have for years targeted Finnish players without holding a license from local regulators.

The government of the Scandinavian country has remained firm that the monopoly model was the best way to protect local gamblers from the risks betting and casino games involve. According to a 2017 survey by local news outlet Yle, 66% of the country’s residents actually supported the current regulatory regime.

On the other hand, it should be noted the unregulated online gambling space in the country has grown significantly, as online gambling companies have been luring customers with attractive alternatives to what Veikkaus has been offering.

Up until recently, the monopoly model was the status quo across Scandinavia. However, Denmark was the first country in the region to take a different course in the regulation of gambling and adopted in 2012 a new law that allowed international gambling companies to apply for licenses from the local regulator and operate in the country. Sweden re-organized its market this year to welcome some of the biggest players in the industry into its new, regulated online gambling space.

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