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Archive for February 20th, 2019

Breaking: Remote Gambling Bill Passes Dutch Senate

Dutch Senate passes Remote Gambling Bill, online gambling licensing process expected to begin in mid-2020

Three and a half years after the lower house of the Dutch Parliament passed the Remote Gambling Bill, the piece of legislation survived through a Senate vote that took place minutes ago.

The Netherlands will now move to re-organize its online gambling market in a manner that will make it possible for interested international online gambling operators to apply for a license from the local regulator, Kansspelautoriteit, and to operate in a regulated environment.

It is yet unknown when exactly the new regulatory regime will be enforced, but analysts believe this might happen on January 1, 2021, with the licensing process set to begin in mid-2020.

Despite its rules and regulations, the Netherlands has long been a popular market for internationally licensed online gambling operators. And recent reports confirm that such internationally licensed companies have been extremely popular with Dutch customers. According to a recent study, more than 1.86 million Dutch nationals engaged in gaming and betting activities between 2016 and 2018, up 20% from the preceding two years.

Kansspelautoriteit has been trying to prevent unregulated operations from taking place in the country, but current regulations do not give the regulatory body enough power to effectively monitor and protect the online gambling space. Most notably, Kansspelautoriteit has slapped multiple hefty fines to companies targeting local customers, but has had little success in actually collecting those fines.

Blackout Period Approved by Dutch Senate

Members of the Dutch Senate discussed the Remote Gambling Bill and voted on the piece during a debate that took place earlier today. The implementation of a blackout period for companies previously servicing Dutch customers was among the most broadly discussed provisions in the legislation during today’s debate.

Dutch Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker, one of the staunchest supporters of the introduction of a new regulatory regime, proposed earlier this month that a two-year cooling down period for “cowboys” is implemented as part of the market’s reorganization. His proposal was supported by a majority of Senate members today, which means that companies previously discovered to have neglected the rules and targeted Dutch gamblers will have to wait for two years before being able to apply for a license with Kansspelautoriteit.

Once enforced, the Netherlands’ new gambling law will also obligate online gambling companies to adopt the necessary tools and policies for minimizing the risks associated with gambling and protecting players more effectively. For instance, all licensed operators will be required to register with a centralized self-exclusion program that will aim to help problem gamblers self-exclude from gambling for a certain period of time.

Commenting on today’s positive vote, Minister Dekker said that he is happy that the country will finally be able to offer people a safe and secure gambling environment so that online gaming and betting activities can be conducted in a responsible manner.

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EGBA Slams Norway’s Latest Gambling Payment Blocking Actions

The European Gaming and Betting Association today issued a statement in response to recent media reports that Norway has blocked payments to and from bank accounts discovered to be used for processing gambling reactions

The association, which represents a number of online gambling companies servicing gaming and betting customers across Europe, once again slammed Norway’s current online gambling regulatory regime calling it unsustainable and pointing out that the latest news came as evidence of that.

The Times of Malta reported over the weekend that the Norwegian Gaming Authority (Lotteri- og stiftelsestilsynet) has penned warning letters to six Malta-licensed online gambling companies and has ordered that Norwegian banks block transactions to and from accounts used by the companies for gambling-related purposes.

The move came as part of Norway’s ongoing efforts to purge the local online gaming space from unregulated operations. The state-run Norsk Tippin and Norsk Rikstoto are the only entities currently authorized to provide gambling services in the Scandinavian nation. Lawmakers have long refused to replace the current monopoly system with a more liberal one that allows international companies to obtain licenses from the local regulator and operate in a regulated environment.

Norway’s neighbor, Sweden, liberalized its gambling market on January 1, 2019, opening it to international operations. However, Norwegian authorities seem to remain firm on their stance that the monopoly system provides the best consumer protection tools.

EGBA Calls For “Well-Regulated and Controlled Environment”

In today’s statement, EGBA said that instead of blocking payments to prevent Norwegian gamblers from “making informed and free choices”, the country’s authorities should move to develop a regulatory framework “which is fit for the realities of the borderless, digital age.”

It is important to note that some of the companies affected by the Norwegian Gaming Authority’s recent actions are EGBA members.

The association’s statement reads further that in an age when gambling customers expect variety the monopoly system allowing just two state-run companies to provide gambling services is not sustainable. EGBA also noted that gamblers can easily access unregulated websites and the country is thus losing tax revenues, while putting its task to keep control of the local market in serious jeopardy.

EGBA said it supports the establishment of a “well-regulated and controlled environment” that will keep players safe, and the best way for Norway to create such an environment is by introducing a multi-licensing system. According to the association, the economic and social reality will prompt Norway to confront the re-organization of its market at some point.

EGBA’s full statement can be read here.

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The post EGBA Slams Norway’s Latest Gambling Payment Blocking Actions appeared first on Casino News Daily.

Big Fish Faces Class Action Suit over Illegal Online Casino Games

Social games publisher Big Fish Games has been hit by another lawsuit questioning the legality of its social casino games in Washington

Big Fish Games, along with its new owner Aristocrat Leisure, has been named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit filed last week in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle.

Plaintiff Manasa Thimmegowda is leading the lawsuit. She said in her legal complaint that by operating Big Fish Casino and a number of similar social casino games, Big Fish and Aristocrat have violated Washington’s gambling law. Online gambling is currently illegal in the state.

Ms. Thimmegowda started playing Big Fish Casino on her smartphone in November 2017. She said in her legal complaint that she spent more than $3,000 over the course of a single month to purchase virtual chips that she needed to continue playing.

Players can only play Big Fish’s casino games if they are in possession of the so-called virtual chips. First-time players are provided with a bundle of free chips that can be used to play the games. However, once these run out, players need to buy additional chips in order to be able to continue playing.

Ms. Thimmegowda, on her behalf and on behalf of other players, seeks damages and treble damages from Big Fish and Aristocrat.

Washington Court Says Big Fish Casino “Constitutes Illegal Gambling”

Big Fish’s legal troubles in Washington date back years. In 2015, a Washington player sued the social games studio and its then owner Churchill Downs, seeking damages for being encouraged to buy chips for real money to play Big Fish’s casino games.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling last year, saying that the virtual chips used in Big Fish Casino were “a thing of value” and that purchasing such chips for real money represented illegal online gambling under Washington law.

The new legal complaint against Big Fish states that the proliferation of smartphones has led to a growth of what has been referred to “free-to-play” games. However, the “term is a misnomer”, the complaint goes on as it refers to a model which offers games that are free to download, but companies then “reap huge profits by selling thousands of “in-app” items” that start at just a few cents but “can quickly escalate to hundreds and even thousands of dollars.”

Aristocrat said in a statement from earlier today that it intends to “vigorously defend the action.” The Australian gaming giant purchased Big Fish Games from Churchill Downs last January for nearly $1 billion. The company wanted to boost its digital arm, which now accounts for nearly 38% of its total revenue.

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The post Big Fish Faces Class Action Suit over Illegal Online Casino Games appeared first on Casino News Daily.

MGA Cracks Down on Four Online Gambling Operators

MGA has suspended/terminated the licenses of four online gambling companies and has directed them to cancel operations

The Malta Gaming Authority is getting tougher on erring licensees as it moved to suspend the licenses of two online gambling companies and to terminate the licenses of another two companies over the course of the past few days.

Most recently, the regulatory body issued a statement on Monday to inform that it has canceled the license of online gambling operator Bet Service Group Limited. The company provides B2C betting services through its flagship brand Gamebet.

Bet Service Group was directed to proceed with the cancellation process of its authorization to provide gambling services under a license by the Malta Gaming Authority and to suspend operations with immediate effect. The operator also had to display a notice on its gambling website that its authorization has been canceled. At press time, no such notice can be seen on Gamebet’s website.

The MGA canceled on Friday the B2C license of World-of-bets EU Limited, which was first licensed by the regulator in 2008 to operate online sports betting services. The company has canceled operations under its MGA license since its termination.

License Suspensions

The MGA announced last week that it has suspended the licenses of Betixx Limited and Morpheus Games (MT). Betixx is a sports betting operator incorporated in Malta in 2013 that primarily targets the German gambling market. Morpheus Games, too, holds a B2C license by the Maltese gambling regulator.

The two operators were directed to suspend operations indefinitely, stop accepting new customers and deposits, and provide the MGA with the requested documentation.

The gaming authority said in separate statements on each of the four operators that it would not release more information about what prompted its decision to suspend/terminate the licenses in order to prevent any investigations performed by the regulator itself or other competent authorities from being compromised.

The MGA advised players with outstanding payments from any of the four operators to send an email to support.mga@mga.org.mt and submit the information they are requested.

Malta-licensed operators hit the headlines over the weekend in relation to Norway’s fight against companies targeting its market without being locally licensed. The Times of Malta reported that six gambling operators holding licenses by the MGA were sent warning letters by the Norwegian Gaming Authority to stop servicing Norwegian customers. It is understood that the regulator also sent copies of the letters to its Maltese counterpart.

The six operators that received the letters were Betsson Group, Co-Gaming Ltd., L&L Europe Players Ltd., Gaming Innovation Group, Kindred Group, and Lucky Dino Gaming Ltd.

The Norwegian Gaming Authority also ordered local banks to block payments to and from accounts used for processing gambling-related transactions.

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The post MGA Cracks Down on Four Online Gambling Operators appeared first on Casino News Daily.


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