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Archive for March, 2019

Tilman Fertitta Reportedly Gearing Up for Icahn-Boosted Bid to Buy Caesars

Carl Icahn building a stake in Caesars makes a purchase deal much more affordable for any suitor of the company

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta is planning to make a fresh new offer to acquire Caesars Entertainment Corp., and his bid might be boosted by the company’s controlling stakeholder, Carl Icahn, the New York Post reported earlier this week citing information from unnamed sources.

Mr. Fertitta is the owner of the Houston Rockets, the Golden Nugget Casino chain, and the Landry’s dining and hospitality corporation. The businessman approached Caesars last fall with a takeover offer that would have seen the combination of the Las Vegas casino and hospitality powerhouse with Mr. Fertitta’s smaller casino business. Caesars declined the offer, deterred by the fact that a transaction would have ballooned its debt, which stood at around $9 billion at the time.

Mr. Fertitta has reportedly been looking for cash partners to shore up his bid over the past several months. Bloomberg reported last month that the businessman has bought 4 million shares of Caesars, which represented less than 1% of the company’s overall stock.

Sources told the New York Post that while Mr. Fertitta has not found cash partners, he is gearing up to make a new offer for the hotel and casino operator. According to people familiar with the ongoing developments, the businessman’s bid to buy Caesars could get help from the fact that the company’s largest shareholder – New York billionaire investor Carl Icahn – is pressing for sale, while amassing a whopping stake.

Affordable Deal

Mr. Icahn begun buying Caesars stock earlier this year to build a 28.5% stake and become the company’s largest shareholder. In addition, the businessman has secured representation on the company’s board after it agreed to appoint three new directors named by Mr. Icahn.

The billionaire investor will be entitled to a fourth board seat if Caesars fails to replace its outgoing CEO Mark Frissora by mid-April.

With Mr. Icahn owning a 28.5% stake in the company, any interested buyer would only need to purchase the remaining 71.5%, which makes the deal much more affordable for Mr. Fertitta than it would have been last fall, if Caesars had not declined it.

News emerged earlier this week that Caesars and fellow casino operator Eldorado Resorts were in the early stages of merger talks. According to sources, Caesars has given Eldorado access to certain financial data so that the latter can decide whether to make an offer.

Mr. Icahn has said that a merger or sale is the best path forward for Caesars and has urged the company to explore available opportunities. In addition, the businessman wants a person with experience in the gambling industry to take over as CEO and help the Las Vegas casino giant trim corporate and other costs.

The New York activist investor is also reported to be pressing Caesars to focus on its domestic business instead of expanding into Asia. The company recently launched two non-gambling resorts in Dubai and is planning to bid for a casino license in Japan.

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Spelinspektionen Fines Two Gambling Operators for Self-Exclusion Violations

The Swedish Gambling Authority has moved to show its licensees that it was pretty serious with its warnings to punish all violations of Sweden’s new gambling law, which took effect on January 1, 2019

Spelinspektionen today announced that it has fined two online gambling license holders over failures to comply with the nation’s strict self-exclusion rules. Genesis Global Limited and Paf Consulting Corporation were each slapped a hefty penalty and a warning by the Swedish gambling regulator for failing to prevent self-excluded players from gambling on their websites.

Genesis, which was licensed to operate multiple Sweden-facing online casinos, including Casino Joy, Casino Cruise, Sloty, and Vegas Hero, was fined SEK4,000,000 (approximately $432,341) for its failures. As for Paf, it was slapped a SEK100,000 fine (approximately $10,808). The company operates the and in the newly re-organized Swedish market.

As mentioned above, both license holders have failed to secure the socially responsible provision of online gambling services to Swedish customers, which is one of the main rules licensed operators need to follow in order to be allowed to serve local customers.

Self-Exclusion Failures

Sweden’s new gambling law took effect on January 1. As part of the reorganization of its market, the country also launched a self-exclusion tool enabling gamblers who want to abstain from gambling for a certain period of time to register with the system and be prevented from wagering money on all locally licensed casino and betting websites.

All licensed operators are required to have a “functioning connection” to, the nation’s self-exclusion register, and to make sure that self-excluded gamblers are protected and are not given the chance to gamble on their websites.

Following the launch of the self-exclusion website in January, Spelinspektionen was contacted by customers who found they were able to gamble on a number of websites, even though they had opted to self-exclude. Genesis was one of the license holders that was found to have failed to integrate its Swedish operations into the country’s self-exclusion system.

The company informed Spelinspektionen that it detected the issue and promised to address it timely. Genesis integrated its Swedish operation with the register following the scolding from the local regulator and reimbursed the affected players.

Spelinspektionen warned back then that it would terminate the licenses of companies that fail to comply with the nation’s self-exclusion requirements and impose heavy fines on violators. The regulator also clarified that a penalty would not exceed 10% of a company’s turnover from Swedish gamblers.

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Interior Acts on East Windsor Casino, MGM Threatens to Sue

Interior finally acts on East Windsor casino amid probe into alleged political interference into the tribal project

A project for the construction of a tribal casino in East Windsor, Connecticut finally cleared a federal hurdle on Thursday. However, securing federal go-ahead is far from the final obstacle before the plan as the state Legislature is mulling the opening of a bidding process for a larger-scale casino at a different location.

Connecticut lawmakers authorized in 2017 the state’s two federally recognized tribes to build a joint satellite casino on non-reservation land in East Windsor in a bid to blunt competition from MGM Springfield in neighboring Massachusetts and keep gambling money in Connecticut. The Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe each already operate a casino in the state.

Among other things, each of the two tribes needed individual approval from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs to be able to move ahead with their joint casino project. The federal government agency had to determine whether the amendments that would be implemented in the two tribes’ compacts with Connecticut would violate an existing deal between those tribes and the state.

The deal requires the tribes to contribute 25% of their slot machine revenue to the state. The Mohegans and the Masantucket Pequots get the exclusive right to operate casino gambling in exchange for their revenue contributions.

Hasty Reversal of Course

The Interior Department acted on the Mohegan Tribe’s amendment last May, but refused to do the same with the proposed amendment to the Mashantucket Pequot’s agreement with Connecticut. Department officials maintained that action was unnecessary due to how the state’s original compact with the tribe was struck.

The federal government agency has faced criticism and accusations that its former Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Trump White House were lobbied by Las Vegas casino giant MGM Resorts International to keep the tribal casino project on ice.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and Connecticut have filed a lawsuit against Interior, claiming that its refusal to act on the casino plan was “arbitrary and capricious” and was driven by improper political interference. A federal judge revived the lawsuit last month, but the tribe is now expected to drop it. A notice on Interior’s approval of the project is to be published today in the Federal Register.

While the two tribes have practically cleared the biggest hurdle before their project, the effort to bring a casino in East Windsor is far from over. Lobbied by MGM, state lawmakers are spearheading a bill that, if approved, would launch a bidding process for the development of a larger-scale casino in Bridgeport. The bidding process would be open to non-tribal, out-of-state bidders.

MGM has revealed plans for a hotel and casino resort on the Bridgeport waterfront that would create at least 7,000 jobs. The company is also the owner of the MGM Springfield property that Connecticut wants to blunt competition from.

A potential authorization of the Bridgeport plan would threaten the state’s current revenue sharing compact with its two tribes. The tribes have said that they would stop contributing revenue to Connecticut, if the MGM-spearheaded casino project gets the go-ahead as it would practically put an end to their exclusivity over casino gambling in the state. On the other hand, MGM said Thursday it could sue Connecticut if it opts for the tribal casino project over the one for Bridgeport.

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PAGCOR Forms Interagency Council to Combat Illegal Online Gambling

PAGCOR and four government departments form an interagency council to tackle the unauthorized provision of online gambling services

The Philippines’ gambling regulator, PAGCOR, has assembled an interagency task force to step up its fight against illegal online gambling. The move comes after the regulatory body announced late last year that it would ramp up efforts to purge the local gambling market from unlicensed operations.

PAGCOR and four government agencies signed a mutual cooperation agreement to intensify the nation’s campaign against the unauthorized provision of gambling services.

The Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration, and the Department of Justice along with PAGCOR have formed an interagency council that will be tasked with cracking down on unlicensed online gambling activities, particularly offshore ones.

PAGCOR Chair and Chief Executive Officer Andrea Domingo said that there are 57 licensed online gambling companies in the Philippines, and that the new interagency council’s goal will be to clamp down on all other operators.

Ms. Domingo said that one of the big issues obstructing the fight against illegal operations was the fact that staff at foreign offshore gambling operators could not be deported immediately. Bureau of Immigration Chief Jaime Morente explained that if a foreign citizen was found guilty, they should serve prison time before their eventual deportation.

Efforts to Tackle Illegal Online Gambling

The members of the new interagency council will be sharing and gathering together information on how to combat illegal gambling. They will also provide manpower and will jointly implement investigation procedures that will help in discovering unlicensed operations.

Digital forensic examination, validation of gaming licenses, visa verification of foreign nationals employed at online gambling businesses, and filing charges against violators of Philippine gambling laws will all be part of the procedures that members of the council will be conducting.

Under the mutual cooperation agreement, PAGCOR will provide funds for different activities and projects aimed at curbing unauthorized gambling operations.

The Philippine gambling regulator said in a Thursday statement that it has seen a significant surge in revenue since the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) licensing system was introduced in 2016 and PAGCOR’s authority over offshore operations was extended.

According to the statement, POGO license holders generated PHP657 million in 2016, PHP3.9 billion in 2017, and PHP7.4 billion in 2018. Generally speaking, POGO licenses authorize their holders to provide offshore online gambling services from within the Philippines. However, these services cannot target customers that are located on the territory of the country.

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Riga Moves to Shutter Gambling Halls

Riga officials are spearheading proposal for a draft decree that would terminate the licenses of hundreds of gambling halls

A Riga City Council committee has supported a plan for a draft decree that aims to revoke the licenses of around 200 gambling halls in the Latvian capital, local news outlet reports.

The City Council’s Security, Public Order, and Corruption Prevention Committee today approved the proposal for the closure of gambling venues currently operating in Riga, even those located in suburban areas.

Jānis Liepiņš, head of the council’s legal department, said that if the planned decree gains enough traction it would result in the revocation of nearly 200 licenses for the provision of gambling services at special halls around the Latvian capital. Mr. Liepiņš further pointed out that if the decree is enforced, city officials will then have to issue separate decisions on the closure of each individual gaming facility, as it is required under current laws.

Riga’s crackdown on gambling halls kicked off in 2011 when the City Council stopped issuing licenses for the opening of new facilities. In 2017, officials ordered the closure of 42 gambling venues in the historical center of the Latvian capital.

Halls at Four- and Five-Star Hotels to Remain Operational

Riga’s Mayor, Nils Ušakovs, has instructed the City Council’s Legal Affairs Department and Urban Development Department to draft a decree that would revoke the licenses of all gambling halls in the capital, except for those located at four- and five-star hotels.

In other words, gambling facilities will not be completely banned in the city, although their number will be reduced significantly as part of officials’ effort to purge Riga from gambling.

Commenting on the latest move, Development Committee head Aleksejs Rosļikovs has said that the city’s economy should not thrive and depend too strongly on businesses that “ruin the lives of thousands of residents.”

Under Latvia’s gambling law, local governments are entitled to revoke casino, gambling and bingo hall, and betting shop licenses, if the operation of such facilities harms the interest of residents of the given area and the nation as a whole.

The President of the Latvian Association of Hotels and Restaurants, Jānis Pinnis, has told local media that the latest actions of the Riga City Council were somewhat unexpected and that the closure of gambling halls will certainly have an extremely negative and restrictive impact on business representatives who have invested considerable amounts of money into the establishment of the affected halls.

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