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Archive for January, 2019

Wynn, Genting Settle on Casino Resort Design Dispute

Wynn and Genting have settled their copyright infringement dispute over the design of Resorts World Las Vegas off-court

Gaming and hospitality companies Wynn Resorts and Genting Group announced on Monday that they have reached a settlement agreement on a copyright infringement dispute over the design of Genting’s Resorts World Las Vegas integrated resort.

The two gambling groups revealed that they have settled the issue out of court a day before they were to appear before US District Court Judge for the District of Nevada, Gloria Navarro.

News broke late last year that Wynn was suing Genting over the design of Resorts World Las Vegas, a multi-billion-dollar hotel and casino resort the latter company is currently building on the Las Vegas Strip.

Wynn claimed that the mega-complex looked strikingly similar to its flagship properties Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, which are located across the street from where Genting is developing Resorts World Las Vegas.

Wynn sued its rival resort operator on five counts of trademark infringement, including trade dress infringement, federal and state trademark dilution, copyright infringement, and unfair competition. The company argued that Resorts World Las Vegas ripped off the signature concave facade of its properties as well as the horizontal banding between floors and bronze glazing.

In a statement from earlier this month, Genting denied Wynn’s claims, saying that its hotel and casino resort will look “dramatically different” from the latter’s properties upon completion.

Genting Agrees to Redesign the Property

In the latest round of developments in the case, Wynn and Genting jointly announced that they have settled the issue and that Genting has agreed to change the design of its property. The changes implemented are not expected to delay the scheduled 2020 completion and opening of the integrated resort.

In its court filing, Wynn sought a temporary restraining order that, if granted, would have threatened Resorts World Las Vegas’ timetable. Genting could have lost an estimated of $169 million and would have had to lay off 500 construction workers, if a restraining order had been issued.

In a statement from yesterday, Genting’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Development, Michael Levoff, said that their Las Vegas resort “will be the launching point for the next generation of integrated resorts” and that its aesthetics “will play an important role in its future success.” The official went on to say that while Genting believed the design had differences, it decided to make several changes that “will clearly differentiate the two properties.”

Wynn Chief Communications Officer Michael Weaver said in yesterday’s joint statement that their “world-renowned signature architecture and design” were among the elements that have cemented the company’s reputation for excellence. Mr. Weaver added that the new design changes offered by Genting will resolve their concerns.

Resorts World Las Vegas is currently being constructed in the northern end of the Strip, an area that has remained underdeveloped but has captured quite some investor interest over the past several years. While Genting has not announced how much exactly it intends to spend on the property, analysts believe that its total investment could hit the $7 billion mark.

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More and More Dutch People Gamble on Unregulated Websites, Survey Shows

New report shows more Dutch gamblers have opted for unregulated online gambling in the past few years

The number of Dutch gamblers opting for unregulated online gambling services has increased 20% over the past two years, according to a survey conducted by market research agency Motivaction and commissioned by Holland Casino.

The recently released research shows that more than 1.86 million Dutch people gambled on websites that did not hold licenses from the local regulator, Kansspelautoriteit, in the period between 2016 and 2018.

Here it is important to note that gambling on unlicensed offshore websites is prohibited under the Netherlands’ current gambling law. In addition, the country’s current regulatory framework does not contain provisions for the issuance of licenses to interested international online gambling operators. Gambling services in the country are provided by state-run entities.

In 2016, when Motivaction’s previous study was conducted, there were 1.5 million Dutch people to have gambled on unregulated websites, which means that the unregulated market grew 20% or by more than 300,000 over the course of the past two years. Poker and online casino games were the most popular online gambling activities. Motivaction further notes that the popularity of sports betting has increased significantly over the past several years.

In terms of revenue generated by unlicensed operations, Motivaction researchers believe the market has remained roughly the same. According to estimates, the Netherlands’ unregulated online gambling market is worth around €600 million. This means that the country is losing significant amounts of tax money every year due to the lack of regulations.

Commenting on the results from the survey, Holland Casino CEO Erwin van Lambaart said that they highlight the need for the re-regulation of the local market to better protect online gamblers.

Senate to Vote on Remote Gambling Bill

Internationally licensed companies have been operating in the Netherlands for years, despite the existing prohibitions and the local regulator’s efforts to prevent local gamblers from being targeted bu such companies.

An effort for the re-organization of the Dutch market was launched a few years ago, but it has been advancing slowly. The Dutch House of Representatives passed the so-called Remote Gambling Bill in the summer of 2016. Generally speaking, the piece calls for the re-regulation of the gambling market in a manner that would allow foreign companies to apply for licenses from Kansspelautoriteit and operate in a regulated environment.

The bill needed to pass the Senate, as well, but a vote on it has never taken place over the past two and a half years. News outlets reported that the much-anticipated vote could finally happen on February 5. It is also believed that the re-regulation drive has gained support from most of the parties that comprise the nation’s Parliament.

While the bill could pass through the Senate as early as next week, the actual re-organization of the market will probably take a while. According to analysts, it will not be before 2020 when the first online gambling licenses will be issued.

The bill contains a number of provisions that aim to ensure that online gambling services will be offered in a socially responsible manner. For instance, each company that obtains a license from Kansspelautoriteit will have to appoint an addiction prevention manager.

It is yet to be seen how lawmakers and regulators will treat gambling companies that have been penalized by Kansspelautoriteit. The regulatory body has issued multiple six-figure fines to online gambling operators that have targeted Dutch players without being authorized to do so, with Betsson and Mr Green being among those.

There have been proposals that such companies should not be allowed to enter the local market once it is re-regulated. Under separate proposals, fined operators would be allowed to apply for licenses from Kansspelautoriteit, but would have to wait for a while before being able to do so as a form of punishment for previously servicing local players.

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New York Hedge Fund Buys Ocean Resort Casino

A New York private investment firm has been identified as the new owner of the ailing Boardwalk hotel and casino resort

New York-based hedge fund Luxor Capital Group has been revealed as the mysterious buyer of Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino after several weeks of speculations about its identity.

The private investment firm has no relation to the Las Vegas-based Luxor Hotel & Casino, which is owned by MGM Resorts International.

Luxor is buying Ocean from Colorado businessman Bruce Deifik just seven months after the opening of the Boardwalk property. Mr. Deifik acquired the hotel and casino resort early in 2018, paying $229 million to its previous owner, Florida investor Glenn Straub.

Mr. Deifik’s purchase of the Atlantic City casino resort was actually partially funded with a $122.5 million bridge loan from Luxor.

A press release from Monday revealed that Luxor would become the principal owner of Ocean, while Mr. Deifik will retain a small non-controlling interest in the property. First suggestions that the Colorado investor was looking for buyers for the hotel and casino resort emerged in a lawsuit filed last December by the former manager of the HQ2 club at the property, Joseph Morrissey.

Mr. Morrissey said in his lawsuit that he had his contract terminated due to the fact that he had a small stake in the Boardwalk property and Mr. Deifik wanted to eliminate any stakeholder who could hamper Ocean’s potential sale.

Renovation at the Property

The sale of the Boardwalk property was confirmed earlier this month when Mr. Deifik said that an undisclosed buyer would purchase the resort. While the identity of the buying entity was yet to be revealed at the time, the Colorado businessman said that the property’s new owner planned to invest $70 million to add a buffet, more rooms and suites, and for renovations at the casino floor.

There will also be a “substantial increase” in Ocean’s entertainment programming and player events in the coming months. The investment needs regulatory approvals and final documentation to close. That is expected to happen in the next few days.

Luxor also needs to obtain a gaming license in order to be able to operate in Atlantic City. While awaiting approval from New Jersey’s gambling regulators, the firm will hand the management of the property to a specially created temporary trust. A trustee will be appointed once the $70 million investment is finalized to oversee the trust until Luxor obtains interim authorization to enter the local gambling market.

Ocean said in a statement from Monday that it does not expect the transaction and the temporary existence of the trust to have effects on its daily operation.

The Boardwalk property originally opened doors in 2012 as Revel but was shuttered just two and a half years later, failing to become a profitable business. It reopened doors in June 2018 as Ocean Resort Casino and with Mr. Deifik and his team at the helm. The Colorado businessman spent $200 million into property renovations that aimed to mend the mistakes made by its previous owners.

Ocean was launched on the very same day that saw the opening of another Boardwalk property – Hard Rock’s reimagined former Trump Taj Mahal. While Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City managed to quickly cement its position in the local casino market, Ocean’s gaming revenue has remained at or near the bottom of the pack among the city’s nine operational casinos.

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MGM’s Bid to Buy Empire City Casino Could Get Regulatory OK Today

MGM-Empire City Casino deal could get the go-ahead today, securing the Las Vegas powerhouse’s entry into the local gambling market

The New York State Gaming Commission is expected to approve today during a scheduled regular meeting MGM Resorts International’s proposed acquisition of Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway, The Journal News reports.

The gaming regulator had originally scheduled a January 3 meeting to review the deal and give it the go-ahead. However, it canceled that meeting, providing little information as to why it decided not to hold it.

Today’s meeting is part of the commission’s regular schedule. Aside from the MGM-Empire City Casino deal, New York gaming regulators are also expected to finally open discussions on the regulation of sports betting in the state. If the practice gets authorized in New York, MGM will certainly look to establish itself in the local wagering market.

For now, the Las Vegas gaming and hospitality company needs to secure its entry into New York. MGM first announced its plans to purchase Empire City Casino and the accompanying Yonkers Raceway last spring. The operator is set to pay $850 million to the Rooney family that has owned the casino and racetrack since the early 1970s.

Any transactions of this kind need approval from the NYS Gaming Commission. As mentioned above, the regulator was expected to give the nod to the deal earlier this month, but it unexpectedly canceled its meeting.

MGM Acquires New York’s Largest Racetrack

Once the transaction is finalized, MGM, whose portfolio includes properties in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Asia’s gambling mecca Macau, will take the reins of a massive gaming property with 5,300 video gaming terminals and New York’s largest harness track.

According to local news outlets, MGM would look to add a hotel and new entertainment facilities at the site, but the company is yet to confirm any plans for the future of the property, which is located just 15 miles from Times Square. Last summer, the Las Vegas gambling powerhouse opened Massachusetts’ first commercial casino resort in the city of Springfield. The property features a full-blown Las Vegas-style gambling floor.

MGM will probably seek a table game license from New York gambling regulators to boost the existing gambling offering at Empire City Casino. However, the state has a moratorium on the issuance of new casino licenses until 2023, or precisely ten years after its law authorizing commercial gambling at four Upstate casinos took effect.

As mentioned above, the sports betting debate is likely to officially start today as the Gaming Commission has included the topic on the agenda for its meeting. New York legalized sports betting in 2013, but the state’s gaming regulator needs to craft and approve the necessary regulations for the provision of sports gambling services within state limits.

According to analysts, if the sports betting regulation process goes with no complications, the state could go live with retail wagering by May.

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Croatian Lawmakers Consider Online Betting Market Re-Organization

Lawmakers in Croatia are believed to be working on the introduction of a new online betting regime as unregulated market exceeds HRK2 billion

The Croatian Ministry of Finance has been crafting a legal framework that would re-organize the local gambling field in a manner that would require foreign online betting operators to obtain a license from local authorities or cease operations in the market, news outlets Jutarnji List and Total Croatia News reported over the weekend.

Croatia’s current gambling regulations mandate that a betting operator should establish physical presence in the country in order to be able to operate in the local market. However, offshore online gambling operators have been targeting Croatian gamblers for years without holding the necessary authorization.

According to local media reports, Croatia’s unregulated sports betting market is worth HRK2 billion (approx. $307 million). The country is thus losing millions in tax revenue as internationally licensed operators targeting local customers are not paying any taxes.

Advocates of the current regulatory situation in the local sports betting market justify the fact that customers opt for unregulated operations with the “high and unjust” fees and taxes on betting winnings they are required to pay when gambling through regulated outlets. At present, gamblers are charged 10% on their winnings, with the rate going all the way up to 30% for winnings of over HRK500,000.

Underage Gambling

The legal age for gambling in Croatia is 18. Gamblers that want to place wagers with any of the locally licensed betting outlets are required to register and prove their eligibility to gamble. However, Jutarnji List noted in its report on the matter that underage gamblers are able more easily to circumvent age verification requirements when registering with offshore operators.

The Croatian Ministry of Finance has apparently been working on a legislation that would include requirements for unlicensed operators to either obtain licenses from local regulators or leave the market. However, critics of the current regulatory regime have pointed out that lawmakers have been taking too long to craft the new regulations.

While other European countries have failed to introduce sports betting rules that allow international companies to operate in a regulated field due to the fact that they prefer a monopoly regime, the case is slightly different in Croatia. The country’s two biggest sports betting chains – SuperSport and Hattrick-PSK are both already owned by private companies.

According to the latest figures available, Croatia’s regulated gambling market was worth HRK2.7 billion in 2016, with the state-owned Hrvatska Lutrija being the top performer with revenue of HRK500,000 that year. SuperSport generated revenue of HRK393.5 million in 2016, while Hattrick-PSK recorded revenue of HRK401.6 million that year.

Local gambling insiders calling for a change in the nation’s current regulatory regime have pointed out that unlicensed operations should be combated by multiple organizations, including the Finance Ministry, the State Attorney’s Office, the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNET), as well as local courts as they are the only institutions that can enforce actual prohibition of unregulated activities.

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