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Caesars Engages in Discussions with Carl Icahn over Sale

Caesars to evaluate Carl Icahn sale push as billionaire investor discloses 10% stake in the Las Vegas hotel and casino giant

Casino and hospitality giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. said in a statement from today that it has engaged in discussions with activist investor Carl Icahn and will consider all his suggestions regarding the operator’s future.

The company’s statement arrives a day after Mr. Icahn disclosed that he has purchased roughly a 10% stake in Caesars in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The billionaire investor also confirmed that he is pressing for the hotel and casino operator’s sale.

Caesars’ main operating unit emerged from a complex Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the fall of 2017. The company then embarked on a multi-pronged growth strategy seeking to boost both the gaming and non-gaming segments of its business and to reduce an enormous debt.

Caesars said in its statement from earlier today that it is pursuing organic growth through investing in the innovation of its core gaming business, leveraging its loyalty and marketing programs, and capitalizing on emerging trends. The company went on that its strategy includes inorganic growth through strategic acquisitions and brand licensing opportunities.

In its statement, the operator also pointed out that it has engaged in discussions with Mr. Icahn, just as it does with all its shareholders, and that it will evaluate all his suggestions regarding stockholder value and how it could be enhanced.

Shareholder Value Best Served by Sale

In his filing, Mr. Icahn said that he believes Caesars’ stock is undervalued and that “shareholder value might be best served, and enhanced, by selling the company.” The activist investor has built a 9.78% stake in the Las Vegas gaming and hospitality powerhouse over the past few months.

Reports about Mr. Icahn’s interest in Caesars first emerged in January. Those were further fueled last week, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the businessman has taken a stake of around 10% in the casino operator.

Mr. Icahn also said in his filing that he intends to nominate “a slate of directors” to the board during Caesars’ annual shareholders meeting and that he plans to start discussions with other shareholders “to understand their perspectives and priorities.”

Caesars shares jumped 5% on news of Mr. Icahn’s involvement. The company is set to report its fourth-quarter and full-year results on Thursday.

It also emerged over the weekend that Golden Nugget owner, Tilman Fertitta, has, too, bought stock in Caesars and that he is still interested in merging his own gaming business with that of the Las Vegas giant. Mr. Fertitta made an offer to buy Caesars and step in as its CEO last fall, but discussions over a possible deal fell through.

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Spelinspektionen Warns Casino, Betting Operators to Follow Bonus Offer Rules

Spelinspektionen says it can fine operators or even terminate their licenses if they do not comply with the established bonus offer policies

The Swedish gambling regulator, Spelinspektionen, has sent a letter to all licensed operators, warning them to stick to the newly implemented rules regarding bonus offers.

Sweden liberalized its market on January 1, 2019, opening it to interested international online casino and betting companies. Spelinspektionen has so far licensed nearly 70 operators and more are poised to enter the newly regulated gambling space.

The regulatory body said in a Tuesday statement published on its website that it has come to its knowledge that some license holders have neglected the rules regarding the offering of bonuses and similar incentives to their customers. Under Sweden’s new gambling law, bonuses can only be offered to players/bettors who register with one licensee or another for the very first time.

Spelinspektionen said in its statement that incentives beyond the ones authorized risk attracting customers with problem gambling behavior. The regulatory body went to say that it monitors carefully the online gambling space and how license holders comply with bonus rules, and that it has initiated a probe into several gambling companies regarding how they handle bonus offering policies.

Companies offering bonuses and similar incentives beyond the ones allowed under current law risk being slapped hefty fines or even having their license revoked, Spelinspektionen warned.

Is Sweden’s Gambling Law Unclear?

Spelinspektionen addressed claims that the provisions in Sweden’s gambling law that are concerned with bonus offers might not provide clear explanation of what the term bonus offers stands for. The regulator stressed on the fact that the law says that all forms of financial incentives related to the provision of online casino games and sports betting are deemed a bonus.

As mentioned earlier, licensed gambling companies are only allowed to offer bonuses to first-time players.

Ensuring that gambling services are provided in a socially responsible manner and in full compliance with the nation’s new gambling law was one of the main tasks Spelinspektionen was charged with when the new regulatory regime was enforced.

The introduction of a nationwide self-exclusion system was part of the problem gambling prevention and assistance measures adopted in the new Swedish gambling law. Spelinspektionen said earlier this month that more than 20,000 Swedish nationals have opted to self-exclude from gambling since the new regulations took effect.

People can select whether they want to exclude themselves from gambling for a set period of time or indefinitely. Spelinspektionen revealed that most of those who self-excluded did that for an indefinite period of time. To self-exclude, Swedish nationals need to register with the nation’s Spelpaus.se system.

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D.C. Council Passes Sports Betting Bill, Gives Betting Contract to Intralot

Legal sports betting services could go live in the District of Columbia before the start of the new NFL season

The D.C. Council passed on Tuesday a legislation that authorizes the provision of sports betting services and makes D.C. Lottery’s vendor, Intralot, the exclusive provider of mobile betting in Washington, D.C.

A proposal for the legalization of sports betting in the US capital emerged last year, following the US Supreme Court’s strikedown of a long-standing federal ban on wagering. Bill 23-25, the piece that the Council voted to approve yesterday, quickly gained momentum, although it contained several controversial issues.

Generally speaking, the piece of legislation aims to speed up the launch of sports gambling services in D.C. by awarding the mobile wagering concession to Intralot, the vendor that works with the local Lottery. In other words, the bill favors a monopolistic framework over putting out a request for proposals and carrying out an extensive process for awarding licenses to multiple interested operators.

While the legislation gained the necessary majority in the Council, there were still lawmakers who were vocally opposed to the proposed monopoly system. At-Large Council Member David Grosso was among the D.C. legislators to vote against the proposed bill, saying that awarding Intralot the sports betting contract was not “an emergency”, but rather a “giveaway.”

The Council member further noted that the lottery vendor had recently contributed funds to a Council member campaign, and hinted that this might explain why it has been selected as the preferred and sole winner of the betting contract.

D.C. to Lose Millions If It Puts Out an RFP

While some legislators, Mr. Grosso included, pointed out that a request for proposals and issuing multiple betting licenses to interested parties could be the right way of conducting sports betting in D.C., others said that a RFP would only delay the launch of wagering services by at least 27 months.

According to D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt, the city could lose more than $60 million in tax revenue if legislators chose to put out an RFP.

The District is trying to outrace neighboring Virginia and Maryland and become the first jurisdiction to go live with sports betting in that region. However, despite an initial push, wagering has not been given much consideration in Virginia since the beginning of the year, while Maryland may have to put the sports betting legalization issue on the 2020 ballot. Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill that aims to circumvent the referendum portion of the legalization push, but the piece is yet to be debated.

With yesterday’s vote, D.C. is now expected to roll out mobile betting ahead of the new NFL season. However, the sports betting bill still needs to be signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and to get approved by the Congress. Mayor Bowser previously indicated that she supported the legalization of wagering.

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SJM to Complete Lagerfeld-Designed Hotel as “Legacy to His Creative Genius”

Yesterday, fashion lost one of its greatest couturiers, a guiding force that shaped the industry for more than five decades. We may be bidding farewell to Karl Lagerfeld, but his enormous legacy will live on forever.

Macau casino operator SJM Holdings, with which Lagerfeld worked to design a hotel in the Chinese gambling hub, paid its tribute to the fashion visionary, saying in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by the news of his death.

The Chanel creative director passed away on Tuesday after being rushed to hospital Monday night. Lagerfeld lost a bout to pancreatic cancer at the age of 85. He raised speculations about his health last month when he missed Chanel’s haute couture shows in Paris for the very first time.

SJM went on to say in its statement that it was an honor to work with the iconic fashion designer and that it looks forward to complete the Karl Lagerfeld Hotel as a “legacy to his creative genius.” The hotel will be part of the gambling operator’s new Grand Lisboa Palace integrated resort that is currently under development on Macau’s Cotai Strip.

News about SJM working with Lagerfeld on a hotel, the first one ever fully designed by the fashion visionary, emerged a few years ago. The Macau casino operator is investing $4.6 billion into its new hotel and casino resort that is now slated to open doors in the second half of 2019 after previous delays.

The Karl Lagerfeld Hotel

Lagerfeld reimagined the catwalk, turning it into a theater that could assume many different forms. There is no doubt that the hotel designed by him will be just as equally unique as his fashion shows.

The Karl Lagerfeld Hotel will be one of three hotel brands to be featured at Grand Lisboa Palace, the other two being Grand Lisboa Palace and Palazzo Versace, designed by acclaimed fashion designer Donatella Versace. SJM’s new resort will have 1,400 hotel rooms and suites across three 20-story hotel towers.

The Lagerfeld-designed hotel will feature 290 guest rooms and suites in one of the three towers. As mentioned earlier, the hotel will be the first one fully designed by the late couturier and his team. A sculpture of Lagerfeld’s pet cat Choupette will welcome guests at the entrance. The designer’s own silhouette will be gracing the room keys.

The hotel’s interiors will be inspired by Chinese culture and art combined with European Art Deco. Pier Paolo Righi, CEO and President of Karl Lagerfeld, has previously said that Lagerfeld’s vision included the creation of something “really bespoke for the Chinese audience whilst still bringing his influence to the table.”

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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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