[COLOR="Navy"]NEW DIRECTOR FOR ISLE OF MAN GAMBLING[/COLOR]
Gambling Supervision Commission appoints Steve Brennan
The Gambling Supervision Commission on the Isle of Man, licensing jurisdiction for many reputable online gambling firms, has announced the appointment of Steve Brennan as director. It is understood that Brennan was previously a senior manager in the Income Tax Division of the government's Treasury department, which provides resources to the island's licensing authorities.
Brennan will be responsibile for the licensing and regulation of all online and terrestrial gambling activities, including the Island's casino, betting and lotteries, and amusement and slot machines.
The Gambling Supervision Commission is a body corporate initially established in 1962 and consists of a Chairman and four members.
The regulatory core principles the Commission upholds are: To keep the gambling industry crime free; to protect the young and vulnerable and to ensure that the facilities offered by licenceholders are fair and that players receive their true winnings.
The Isle of Man Treasury provides a dedicated resource to the Gambling Control Commission with three Gambling Supervision inspectors and a senior secretary who collectively have over 50 years’ experience in the licensing and regulation of gambling.
[B][COLOR="navy"]VICTOR CHANDLER NOW LIVE ON GTS EdGE PLATFORM[/COLOR][/B]Open gaming platform will widen games choice
Gaming Technology Solutions plc has announced that the Victor Chandler online gambling group has gone live with a selection of game titles running on its EdGE "open" software platform.
“We are very happy to be working with GTS," commented Andy Dymock, Casino and Games Marketing Manager at Victor Chandler. "The EdGE platform has been seamlessly integrated with our own existing back office management system to provide customers a broad array of new game titles ideally suited to complement both our sports, casino and poker products."
The GTS EdGE platform is an easily integrated open games engine that allows operators to manage and operate diverse games with ease. The enhanced EdGE Back-office (ICE) delivers many functional and performance enhancements to Victor Chandler including improved player management tools, support for games marketing campaigns and report customisation in an improved user interface that is both practical and easy to use
The EdGE platform has now been integrated with a number of major international betting groups such as 888.com and is the subject of an ongoing improvement program.
[B][COLOR="navy"]U.S. SHRUGS OFF E.U. QUESTIONNAIRE[/COLOR][/B]
Scene is set for further litigation regarding the American policy on Internet gambling
A questionnaire sent by the European Union to various American parties concerning the US discriminatory policy on Internet gambling has been shrugged off by the United States Trade Representative to the World Trade Organisation, the Financial Times reports.
The negative response is hardly likely to improve the atmosphere when European Commissioner Peter Mandelson and his team meet the Americans next month to further discuss the issue following complaints referred by the Remote Gaming Association (see previous InfoPowa reports)
Depending on the conclusions reached as a result of the questionnaire and the meetings, the EU could launch further action in pursuit of the claims.
The RGA urged the European Commission to investigate complaints from European online gambling operators that European companies are being targeted by US gambling laws to protect certain US operators, such as the websites run by the American horse-betting industry.
The FT reports that Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative, responded to the European Commission's questionnaire saying there was "no basis for any allegation of ‘discriminatory enforcement’ of US gambling laws”.
Schwab told the Commission its queries were based on 'mistaken assumptions', saying the 2006 legislation did not alter which gambling activities were lawful or unlawful. Enforcing US law and bringing charges was based on a number of factors, but nationality was not one of them, the USTR added.
The response suggests a lack of concern on the part of US officialdom, and seems to ignore the blatantly discriminatory "carve-outs" or exemptions in US gambling laws like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that enable online betting through US horse racing and lottery websites whilst barring transactions with European companies and prosecuting visiting European gambling executives.
The advent of the UIGEA in late 2006 caused several major European companies to hurriedly exit the US gambling market at a cost of billions of dollars in lost revenues and declining share prices.
Exacerbating the issue is the fear among several large European companies that they may be pursued by the US Department of Justice for activities in the United States prior to the passage of the UIGEA, leading to currently ongoing negotiations with the Americans and the possibility of punitive "settlement" agreements.
The RGA's chief executive, Clive Hawkswood claims the US is guilty of “unfair and discriminatory treatment of the EU gambling industry and the continuing threat of prosecutions cannot be allowed to go unchecked”.
The focus will be on the UIGEA next week, too as Congressman Barney Frank's HR5767 bill prohibiting further implementation of the supporting regulations for the UIGEA goes before the House Financial Services Committee for discussion and markup on June 24. Two more Congressman joined those co-sponsoring HR5767 this week, bringing total political sponsorship for the measure to 20 Representatives.
[B][COLOR="navy"]RGA CHIEF RESPONDS TO USTR REJECTION OF EU QUESTIONS[/COLOR][/B]
Tone of Schwab reply described as "very dismissive."
The arguably offhand response of the US Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, to a European Commission questionnaire on claimed protectionist and unfair policies in the USA regarding Internet gambling (see previous InfoPowa reports) has triggered a critical reaction from the Remote Gaming Association.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, the operators’ trade body through which the complaint was filed, told eGaming Review this week that the covering letter and two-sided response dismissing the questionnaire appeared to have been sent on behalf of all US federal authorities which received the European Commission document.
Hawkswood revealed that the RGA complaint covered over 30 sides plus annexes. "You would have thought the US would have had more to say than we would," he said. "The tone is very dismissive. If I was a Commissioner or an official, my nose would be severely out of joint, as a lot of work went into what was a long, well thought-out questionnaire," he added.
Lodged with the EC last December, the RGA complaint protested the uneven treatment, when compared to their US counterparts, meted out to European and other foreign online operators by the US Department of Justice prior to the UIGEA.
Hawkswood questioned the assertions of the USTR, who appears to feel that a compensation agreement with the EU over the American withdrawal of its World Trade Organisation gambling obligations settled the matter.
“It’s a completely different aspect," the RGA executive claims. "The deal was on them [USTR] withdrawing their commitments, not applying the [WT
O] treaty unfairly while we still had the commitments.”
The US trade representative denial that European Internet gambling operators had been singled out for prosecution is also questioned by Hawkswood. “The US trade representative has said limited resources mean they’re unable to prosecute everyone, and it’s just coincidence that only EU operators are being prosecuted. The RGA will be seeking some balance," he said.
The American authorities will soon be meeting with a European Union delegation led by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to further discuss the dispute, again focusing attention on the protectionist issue on both sides of the Atlantic.
[COLOR="navy"][B]IDENTITY THEFT CHARGES LAID AGAINST FORMER BETONSPORTS EMPLOYEE[/B][/COLOR]
Ex-credit card clerk faces conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud in the US.
Reports from WNBC-TV this week reveal that a former employee of the now defunct Costa Rica based online gambling group BetonSports has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud in a Manhattan court. The charges have been laid by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York against Patrick Kalonji (27) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and more recently Canada.
The prosecution claims that whilst working in the credit card department of BetonSports, Kalonji was part of an identity theft ring and helped to steal personal information of at least 150 clients. Kalonji was arrested in Philadelphia over the weekend and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted, said U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.
Kalonji is charged with sharing personal information – names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers – with other ring members for various frauds, such as making purchases over the Internet.
Kalonji has been remanded and may apply for bail at a later date.
Last spring, BetOnSports.com pleaded guilty (see previous InfoPowa reports) to federal racketeering charges and agreed to cooperate in a St. Louis federal case against the firm's founder Gary Kaplan and others. The gambling firm closed in 2006 after a US Department of Justice action, which included the incarceration of CEO David Carruthers whilst he was at a US airport in transit to Costa Rica. Carruthers still remains under house arrest awaiting a trial.
[B][COLOR="navy"]CHARTWELL TECHNOLOGY APPROVED BY UK GAMBLING COMMISSION[/COLOR][/B]
Online and offline licences granted
The UK Gambling Commission has awarded both remote and non-remote operating licences to online gambling technology provider Chartwell Technology. Additionally, each of Chartwell's senior executives have received personal management licences, the company has announced.
Under the terms of these licenses, the Canadian company is authorised to manufacture, supply, install or adapt gambling software in accordance with the UK Gambling Act 2005: consistent with Chartwell's unique business model of acting as a technical partner to a number of top online gambling brands.
Chartwell's gaming system underwent a thorough certification process by the UK regulatory authority to meet its stringent requirements. The process included both corporate and software certification to ensure maximum security, reporting and responsible gaming functionality. In addition to the operating licences, each of the senior executives at Chartwell has received personal management licenses from the Commission.
"Receiving these licenses from the UK Gambling Commission confirms our dedication to achieving the highest level of probity in the online gaming industry," Darold H. Parken, President and CEO of Chartwell commented. "By remaining development-focused, committed to fair and responsible gaming systems and to corporate transparency, Chartwell is at the forefront of the evolving online gaming regulatory environment."
[B]ANOTHER ANTIGUA VS. USA DELAY[/B]
WTO negotiations drag on, with new deadline of July 11 now set
Antigua and the United States remain locked in negotiations this week as yet another World Trade Organisation deadline (see previous InfoPowa reports) has passed without a positive result.
The two parties in the dispute over online gambling informed the World Trade Organisation this week that they had mutually agreed to another deferral of arbitration proceedings and continue to seek an amicable agreement to bring years of litigation to an end. The new deadline agreed by the parties is July 11 2008.
Antigua's Minister of Finance and the Economy Dr. Errol Cort told the Antigua Sun newspaper that both sides will continue discussions in the hope of coming to an agreement. Dr. Cort and Ambassador to the WTO John Ashe are leading Antigua and Barbuda’s negotiations, facing a US delegation headed by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador John Veroneau.
[B][B][COLOR="navy"]MORE SUPPORT FOR ANTI-UIGEA MEASURE[/COLOR][/B][/B]
Two more sponsors for bill that seeks to stop implementation of UIGEA regulations
HR 5767, the bi-partisan bill introduced by Congressmen Barney Franks and Ron Paul to halt the implemention of supporting regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, has attracted the sponsorship of two more Washington politicians.
The measure has moved to "mark-up" stage scheduled for June 24 in the House Financial Services Committee, where amendments may be suggested.
Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and Representative Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) are the latest politicians to sign up for the bill, which was introduced on April 11 and in its current form would prohibit the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve from "proposing, prescribing or implementing" any regulations under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
The draft regulations have been the subject of widespread criticism for a lack of precision and practicality, and the burden the UIGEA places on the US banking industry. The new sign-ups bring political support to 20 Representatives across both political parties.
Representative Abercrombie is a liberal Democrat who voted against passing the UIGEA when it was proposed, attached to an unrelated security bill in a late night session of Congress just before an election recess in late 2006. He has also signed on as a supporter of Frank's HR 2046 bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, which seeks to legalise and regulate online gambling in the United States, effectively overturning the UIGEA.
Representative Lynch is also a Democrat and a member of the influential House Finances Committee. Although he voted for the UIGEA, he is apparently concerned about the possible consequences of the controversial draft regulations that have been widely condemned for a lack of precision, and the enforcement burden these place on an already overstretched financial industry in the United States.
Washington hearings on the issue have indicated serious reservations about the UIGEA in a wide cross-section of interested and involved parties. Lynch has not signed up for HR 2046 and the regulation and licensing of online gambling.
The full list of HR 5767 cupporters is currently:
Barney Frank (D – Mass.)
Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.)
Joe Baca (D-Calif.)
Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)
Michael Capuano (D-Mass.)
Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.)
William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)
Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.)
Bob Filner (D-Calif.)
Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas)
Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.)
Michael Honda (D-Calif.)
Peter King (R-N.Y.)
James McGovern (D-Mass.)
Steven Rothman (D-N.J.)
Robert Wexler (D-Fla.)
Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)
Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
[B][COLOR="DarkRed"]ANTI-UIGEA REGULATIONS BILL DEFEATED[/COLOR][/B]
A close-run vote, but emotional anti-gambling arguments and political divisions prevail
The defeat of Barney Frank's attempt to halt the implementation of the UIGEA regulations dominated Thursday's mainstream press headlines around the world. The House Financial Services Committee attempt to require federal regulators to write a uniform definition of which types of gambling should and should not be allowed on the Internet, ended in a tied vote and, consequently, defeat under committee rules.
Wednesday's delayed vote on HR5767, the Payments System Protection Act attacking the proposed regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, failed on a tied 32-32 vote before the Committee.
The bill would have prohibited the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve from proposing and implementing much critcised regulations to enforce the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and its defeat leaves the US banking industry still bereft of clear definitions as to what constitutes an illegal financial transaction for online gambling.
In the HR5767 mark-up session, the House committee adopted an amendment proposed by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) that would not only stop the implementation of any UIGEA regulations, but would also force the Treasury Department, the Justice Department and the Federal Reserve to specifically define 'unlawful Internet gambling.'
Representative King stressed that this "was a banking issue, not a gambling issue" and that the banking industry shouldn't be in the position of determining what is legal and illegal. "This is a banking amendment, not a gambling amendment," urged King. "I hope this will be considered in a non-partisan way…not whether you are opposed to gambling or not. Let's take our time and have regulations that mean something."
Regrettably, his distinction between ensuring clarity for a controversial law and arguing about the morality of gambling fell on deaf ears as far as most of the Republican members of the committee were concerned, and opposition centred mainly on anti-gambling assertions, some of questionable accuracy.
The King amendment was defeated by the full committee with a vote of 32 for and 32 against, and the original bill proposed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) was defeated in a voice vote.
The debate produced some interesting statements on both sides.
The chairman of the one million member strong Poker Players Alliance, former Senator Alfonse D'Amato expressed surprise that the session had not been able to reach any clarity on what constitutes "unlawful Internet gambling," a key definition if the banking industry was to efficiently carry the burden of enforcement for the UIGEA thrust upon it by Congress.
"The King Amendment would have required a separate formal rulemaking with an administrative law judge to determine the definition of unlawful Internet gambling," D'Amato explained. "The Federal Reserve, Department of Treasury and the banking industry have all testified before Congress that the lack of a definition of 'unlawful Internet gambling' makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to enforce this law and would result in a broader review and denial of financial transactions because they could possibly be deemed unlawful under UIGEA."
D'Amato said it was disappointing to realise that opponents of the bill had not truly understood its intent: "It was clear today that those who oppose this bill chose to focus on emotional and non-germane issues, such as the harmful impact of gambling on children, instead of on the merits of the bill itself," he said, commenting that as it presently stands the UIGEA is "a completely unworkable and unenforceable bill that would do little to address the main concerns of its sponsors – namely, protecting underage and compulsive gamblers as well as cracking down on money laundering."
“Unfortunately, debate over the morality of gambling trumped debate on the fact that UIGEA is completely ineffective and unenforceable,” D'Amato concluded.
Most vociferous in opposition was Republican Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, a longtime opponent of Internet gambling who characterised the pastime as "the fastest growing addiction, more so than drugs" and went on to explain that "problem gambling doubles within 10 miles of a gambling facility. The closer you get to a casino, the more problem gamblers you have. Well, the Internet puts the casino right in the home."
He also invoked the rather weary but catchy slogan: "You just click your mouse and you lose your house."
Bachus raised concerns over youth gamblers, saying: "The banks have decided that this is a financial burden. We have decided, on the other hand, that our children are worth protecting." He went on to make the questionable claim that one third of college students who gambled on the Internet ultimately tried to commit suicide.
"The financial institutions are in the position of being told not process bets, but it's not clear what is legal and what is illegal," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the committee's chairman. He said financial institutions had been given "a job that is undoable."
Banks and other financial institutions have complained that they are being forced into a UIGEA law enforcement role with regulations that lack both precision and practicality.
"If there is ever a time not to burden the banks it is today," Frank asserted. "Why are we making the banks lives miserable? We are putting the banks at risk. Giving banks the job of carrying out an unclear mandate when the banks are at such heavy stress doesn't make sense."
Frank said that Congress is putting the U.S. financial services industry at risk by not clarifying the regulations to enforce UIGEA and defining unlawful Internet gambling activities. "Hijacking the financial payment system at a time when it is under major stress and giving them the job of carrying out an unclear mandate doesn't make sense," he opined.
The Committee chairman illustrated the lack of clarity by pointing out that U.S. horse racing was apparently exempted from anti-online gambling laws, but that government enforcement agencies couldn't seem to agree on the issue and the financial institutions therefore "cannot get formal guidelines on horse racing". He also questioned the equity of the anti-gambling law, indicating that Internet pornography laws do not hold the banks responsible for enforcement.
Jeffrey Sandman, a spokesman for the Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (SSIGI) which yesterday took Representative Bachus to task for statements it described and detailed as "misinformation," said that it was disappointing that Republican politicians would turn their backs on the credit unions and banks at a time when the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve admit the proposed rules to enforce UIGEA are unworkable.
He added: "Given the freedom of the Internet, it is foolhardy to impose the current regulations and force U.S. financial service companies to police for illegal activity. Rather than prohibit an activity millions of Americans enjoy to do in their homes, just as they can do in a casino, Congress should create a regulatory framework for Internet gambling as a way to
protect consumers and collect billions in much-needed federal revenue that is currently lost in an underground, uncontrolled marketplace."
Representatives of the U.S. financial services industry, including the Chamber of Commerce, The Financial Services Roundtable, Credit Union National Association, and National Association of Federal Credit Unions, had all pledged their support for the Payments System Protection Act and King amendment in letters to Rep. Frank and members of the Committee on Financial Services.
"I wish to be clear that we do not support the notion that financial services companies should be 'deputised' to police gambling activity in any form or function," wrote Steve Barlett, president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable. "While we would support the passage of H.R. 5767 as introduced, I agree that the King Amendment makes essential improvements to a deeply flawed law and therefore support its inclusion."
The Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) also opposed the implementation of the UIGEA in its submission to the Committee, saying that if the UIGEA was implemented as proposed in current regulations, it would have "a number of serious, negative consequences for the nation's economy."
Congressman Melvin Watt said that the King amendment at least gives regulators an opportunity to review the controversial regulations more closely. "We [Congress] kicked the ball over to the regulators. They don't know how to figure this out so they kicked it over to the banks. That is not responsible legislating on our part," he said.
Congressman Ron Paul, who co-sponsored HR5767 with Rep. Frank, said that he believed individuals have the right to spend their money the way they want. "If you can regulate the way people spend money on the Internet, you open up a whole new can of worms. Also there are special interests involved," he commented.
"The real issue is what the role of government should be. When it comes to economic and moral behavior, this becomes a problem. Why can't individuals make up their own minds? If it involves kids, the responsibility is with the parents. There are many more dangers out there than with gambling."
A spokesman for Congressman Frank, asked for comment by IGN after the late afternoon vote, said that traditional 'family-values' Republicans had defeated a common-sense measure that had nothing to do with the underlying issue of whether American adults
should be allowed to freely gamble with their own money.
[B][COLOR="Navy"][/COLOR]ONLINE GAMBLING FOE ACCUSED OF MISINFORMATION[/COLOR][/B]
Has the UIGEA resulted in a decline in online gambling?
The American Banker published an op-ed article by Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus this week which contained misinformation regarding the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, according to the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative (SSIGI)
Bachus was pre-emptively arguing against HR5767, the proposed Payments System Protection Act introduced for markup in the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday by Representatives Barney Frank and Rob Paul. The proposal seeks to halt the implementation of supporting regulations for the UIGEA, which have been widely condemned for a lack of precision (see previous InfoPowa reports).
Jeffrey Sandman, a spokesman for the SSIGI commented: "It is unfortunate that Rep. Bachus is using scare tactics to argue for the continued prohibition of Internet gambling."
"The reality is that regulated Internet gambling, which is clearly working in the U.K. and other parts of the world, can utilise technology to offer strong consumer protections to combat underage and compulsive gambling in the U.S. Currently, prohibition leaves millions of Americans susceptible as they continue to gamble in an underground, uncontrolled marketplace without such guaranteed protections."
Sandman contradicts a statement by Bachus that since the UIGEA was passed, gamblers and businesses engaged in Internet gambling have been deterred by the fear it would be enforced.
"Publicly traded foreign online operators left the U.S. market – privately held companies did not," Sandman points out. "Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, a U.K. based organization that provides economic research on worldwide gambling activities, found that there was a short-term dip in Internet gambling in North America right after the law was passed due to the consequences of the regulated companies pulling out, leaving the market to unregulated ones.
"Over the past year, online gambling has increased by 10 percent. Millions of Americans continue to gamble online, despite the attempt to prohibit Internet gambling."
Sandman also takes issue with Bachus's statement that UIGEA passed with the support of a broad coalition that included.the American Bankers Association.
"Representatives from the American Bankers Association, Financial Services Roundtable, Wells Fargo & Co. and Credit Union National Association unanimously opposed regulations proposed to implement UIGEA in testimony to the House Committee on Financial Service's Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Trade, and Technology on April 2, 2008," remarks Sandman. "They all questioned the fundamental approach taken by Congress in enacting legislation to force financial institutions to police online gambling."
Sandman quotes Wayne Abernathy, the American Bankers Association's executive vice president of financial institutions policy and regulatory affairs, who said: "The UIGEA and the Proposed Rule do not provide a rational path towards halting unlawful Internet gambling. The path leads to an increased cost and administrative burden to the banks and an erosion in the performance of the payments system, but it will not result in stopping illegal Internet gambling transactions.
"Imposing this enormous unfunded law enforcement mandate on banks in place of the government's law enforcement agencies is not likely to be a successful public policy."
Rep. Bachus's assertion that tens of thousands of young people are becoming compulsive, addicted gamblers as a result of Internet gambling is also questioned by the SSIGI.
Sandman says that a report released in September 2007 by the U.K. Gambling Commission, which regulates Internet gambling in Britain, reveals that the prevalence of problem gambling has not increased over the last eight years despite the advent of Internet gambling. The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 found that the rates of problem gambling were 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent of the gambling population, the same percentage of problem gamblers as reported in the last gambling participation survey conducted in 1999.
Allegations by Bachus that the UIGEA was essential because enforcement tools were so inadequate are also tackled by Sandman, who points out that top experts have testified before Congress that a regulatory framework for Internet gambling would protect consumers and ensure the integrity of Internet gambling financial transactions.
"Leaders in the fields of internet payment processing, identity identification and online safety [have] described how existing systems and technology have proven successful in combating underage and compulsive gambling and protecting against money laundering, fraud and identity theft," he adds.
Sandman closes his attack on the Bachus misinformation by reminding readers that the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforce
ment Act (H.R. 2046) introduced by Barney Frank last year, seeks to establish a regulatory and enforcement framework for licensed gambling operators to accept bets and wagers from individuals in the U.S.
It would include a number of built-in consumer protections, including safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identity theft. States would also have the right to control what, if any, level of Internet gambling is permissible within their borders and could apply additional taxes and restrictions.
[B][COLOR="navy"]IRELAND TO LIBERALISE GAMBLING LAWS?[/COLOR][/B]
Minister indicates new gambling laws may allow casinos
It looks as if Ireland may be joining the European trend to a more liberal but regulated approach to all forms of gambling, following a statement Friday by the Minister of Justice Dermot Ahern.
The Irish Times reports that Ahern has signalled his intention to liberalise the State's gambling laws by legalising casinos and creating a new regulatory authority for all forms of gaming.
Ahern told The Irish Times that existing laws on gambling were "past their sell-by date", but added that no changes would be made until cross-party agreement was reached and the public had been consulted on the issue. Most parties had agreed to the proposal to set up a cross-party committee on gambling but talks were continuing, he said.
Under the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act, [land] casinos are illegal, but there are up to 50 private members' clubs offering roulette, blackjack and other casino-type games around the country. Asked if he intended to close these clubs down, the Minister replied: "We are past the day when we can outlaw them. What we need to do is regulate them in a way that is fair."
Ahern promised to publish in the near future the report of the inter-departmental Casino Regulatory Committee established by his predecessor (see previous InfoPowa reports). It is believed that this document recommends legalisation of moderately sized venues under strict regulatory controls with solid protection for players and vulnerable individuals.
It is also understood that the McDowell report is strongly against allowing fixed odds betting terminals in bookmakers' premises or pubs but may consider allowing them on licensed gaming premises.
[B][COLOR="navy"]FREE ONLINE GAMBLING TOOLS[/COLOR][/B]
Three quality player assists to attract traffic
Online gambling webmaster Jan Balslev and his software development team at Online-Casinos.com is offering webmasters three useful online gambling tools to enhance their websites and boost traffic…and other than an acknowledgement link it's for free.
Balslev and his team exclusively developed the three fully proven player assists, which have been key in building significant traffic for his portal Online-casinos.com over the past two years. The next phase of his plan is to make the programs available more widely in return for a simple link to his site.
The programs consist of a Blackjack Strategy Creator, Visual Tutorials for most casino and poker games and a Progressive Jackpot Tracker.
The Blackjack Strategy Creator appeals to visitors because it can be used to instantly adjust their blackjack strategy based on small rule variations. Simply choose the game options such as number of decks, dealer and player rules and the chart adjusts in real time.
The Visual Gambling Instructions program teaches visitors the optimum way to play casino games, using Flash-based animated visual training tutorials complete with voice overs that walk viewers step by step through the rules and how to play. Baccarat, Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Video Poker, Hold'em Poker, Omaha Poker and 7 Card Stud tuition is all available, making the program a potent attraction for players.
Over 100 popular progressive jackpot amounts updated regularly at a variety of online casinos can be accessed using Balslev's comprehensive Progressive Jackpot Tracker program, which covers progressive jackpots at Boss Media, Casino On Net, Cryptologic, Microgaming, Net Entertainment, Playtech and Real Time Gaming powered casinos. This popular product displays all the progressives together, sortable in either ascending or descending alphabetical order by jackpot names, software provider or current jackpot amount.
"My development team and I have invested a significant amount of time and effort in these products, which have proved to be effective player attractions and website traffic builders," says Balslev. "Our next phase is to build on this success by offering the programs free to webmasters at http://www.online-casinos.com:80/webmasters/ in return for a link to our site. Now that we have thoroughly proved the programs we want to make these available free to as many players as possible through other webmasters.
"We know from our own experience that the programs are the sort of valuable content that poker and casino players find useful, thus encouraging more visits to the host website."
The energetic Balslev recently acquired www.casino.de for half a million dollars and has extensively developed this desirable domain into a quality German language online gambling information portal.
[B][COLOR="navy"]TURKISH ORDEAL CONTINUES FOR SPORTINGBET DUO [/COLOR][/B]
Three weeks on, still no charges laid or bail granted
Two Turkish junior employees of the UK Internet gambling group Sportingbet must be regretting their decision to travel home to Istanbul for a holiday following their arrest over three weeks back and continued detention by Turkish authorities (see previous InfoPowa report). In a confusing situation it is still not clear what charges they face or when they will be released on bail.
This week the CEO at Sportingbet, Andy McIver, revealed that the company has hired a Turkish law firm to try and find out what the charges are and secure the release of the two London-based employees. It appears they were caught up in the arrests of 30 other individuals, twenty of whom were subsequently released, who were employees of Maslin Properties, a former marketing associate of Sportingbet's Turkish subsidiary Superbahis.
McIver told the London newspaper The Telegraph that the incident had been a frustrating experience and very unfair for the individuals involved, whom he declined to identify. "We are seeking a hearing next week to get the Turkish equivalent of bail or a charge," he said.
Reports in the Turkish media claim that police are investigating allegations of organised crime, money laundering and tax evasion rather than a specific crackdown on Internet gambling, and McIver has previously stressed that such reports focused on Maslin Properties.
He reiterated that Sportingbet has no immediate plans to pull out of the Turkish market, a course taken by some of Sportingbet's competitors such as Party Gaming and Bwin, however the Sportingbet board has directed that no director should travel to Turkey at present.
Turkish action is mainly centred on football betting and constituted 13.9 percent of Sportingbet's net gaming revenues in the company's third quarter, down from 25.8 percent in Q2.
McIver has previously said that Sportingbet's interpretation of the law is that it can continue taking bets in Turkey as long as it has no assets or operations in that country.
[B][COLOR="navy"]ONLINE GAMBLING RISES TENFOLD IN SINGAPORE[/COLOR][/B]
But no facilities offered by local gambling groups
e's sole authorised gambling companies, the Singapore Pools and the Singapore Turf Club, could be missing out on good revenues by not offering online betting facilities to local residents, it appears from new research statistics.
The Singapore publication AsiaOne reports that placing bets with operators not exempted from the Betting Act and the Common Gaming Houses Act is an offence, but that online gambling is on the rise anyway.
The publication quotes a recent survey by the Ministry for Community Development Youth and Sports, which shows that the participation rate for online gambling has risen tenfold over the past three years – 1 percent of 2 300 respondents said they gambled online, up from just 0.1per cent in 2005.
Popular sites include well known international betting groups like Betfair.com, which offer sports betting, casino games and poker via the Internet.
Going online to gamble is popular with the young and tech-savvy, counsellors from the Institute of Mental Health's Community Addictions Management Programme told AsiaOne. A 21 year old online gambler confirmed this when she told the publication that she places her sporting bets online because it is so convenient. She said: 'You can do it anywhere, at any time…You don't have to keep calling a bookie.'
[B][COLOR="navy"]MORE NEWS ON MALAYSIAN ARRESTS[/COLOR][/B]
15 Victor Chandler employees released on bail, but no charges yet
More detail is emerging on the arrest a week ago of 15 employees at the Victor Chandler International customer service and IT centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The latest news is that the 15 have been released on bail without being charged, and are required to report to the police later this week. In the meantime, Victor Chandler International has sent a team to Kualua Lumpur to enquire into the nature of the arrests and any charges that may be made.
It is understood that the arrests were made as part of wider enforcement action by the Malaysians in an attempt to curtail illegal gambling in the region due to signs of increased betting on the Euro 2008 football championships in Europe. There have been thus far unsubstantiated claims by the authorities that bets up to $5 million a month from China and other eastern countries were being facilitated through the region.
[B]EVEREST SIGNS MARKETING PARTNERSHIP WITH GERMAN POKER LEAGUE[/B]
Online and land poker convergence in new agreement
The GigaMedia online subsidiary Everest Poker.com and the German land subsidiary of World Poker Store in the United States have signed a marketing agreement that will see both entities benefitting from the convergence of Internet and land poker activities.
WPS's German Bar Poker League (GBPL) will launch its live poker operations in German bars later this year, supported by online promotions and coverage of GBPL live poker events on Everest Poker websites. In return, the Internet company will have exclusive brand visibility on the League's poker tables, chips, playing cards, advertising and website along with additional collaborative efforts and exposure through special events.
Chuck Chastain, CEO for WPS commented: "We are excited to welcome Everest Poker.com to the World Poker Store and Bar Poker League family.
"This partnership will offer our players in Germany more opportunity to compete worldwide for premiere tournament invites through the League and through EverestPoker.com's online contests as.
“The timing of EverestPoker.com's alliance with Harrah's Entertainment and brand exposure on table felts and television coverage at the World Series of Poker couldn't be better as it further validates the strength of our German partnership during our launch this Fall.'
Chastain added that Germany was setting a precedent for future launches in other countries as the first official European country to join the global Bar Poker League.
[B][COLOR="navy"]888 POWERED SEALS AWARDED BY ECOGRA[/COLOR][/B]
888.com white label client LuckyAce accredited for online casino and poker operations
888.com’s white label operation's online gambling sites LuckyAceCasino.com and LuckyAce Poker.com owned by the Kamay Holdings group, have successfully achieved accreditation and the right to display the eCOGRA "Safe and Fair" online gambling seal, a press release from the player protection and standards organisation announced this week.
White label operations are those that are owned and marketed by the client company, with back office operational management by the provider, in this case the well established and Gibraltar-licensed online gambling group 888.com, a founder member of eCOGRA in 2003.
Commenting on the awards, eCOGRA CEO Andrew Beveridge said: "Recently LuckyAce applied for the eCOGRA seal accreditation.
"After extensive testing and inspection the compliance team, and the Independent Directors who scrutinised the result of the compliance process, are satisfied that all issues have been fully addressed, and that the LuckyAce owners are now fully aware of what is expected of them as eCOGRA seal holders.
"Like all eCOGRA-accredited operations, the LuckyAce brands will be continuously and closely monitored for compliance with our wide-ranging player protection and operational standards going forward, and players who have any complaints will have full access to the online assistance of our Fair Gaming Advocate, Tex Rees.
"In the unlikely event that any players have issues with LuckyAce, we invite them to lodge a complaint at www.ecogra.org/disputes."
The LuckyAce brands bring the number of eCOGRA accredited operations to 106 with further accreditations currently in the pipeline.
eCOGRA is a non-profit London-based organisation that sets online gambling standards and provides an international framework for best operational and player protection practice requirements, with particular emphasis on fair and responsible gambling. These are enforced through inspections and reviews, and continuous monitoring.
Accreditation remains open to all software companies and their operators.
[B][COLOR="navy"]BETSSON AND SWEDISH GAMING BOARD CLASH[/COLOR][/B]
Company challenges Gaming Board fines for new land venture
When the Swedish online gambling group Betsson challenged the government land gambling monopoly by successfully opening a betting shop in Stockholm last month (see previous InfoPowa reports) the sparks were bound to fly. It appears that the Swedish Gaming Board made good on its threat to impose heavy fines for contravening Swedish gambling policy, and this week Betsson disputed the validity of its action in this regard.
The Swedish nespaper The Local.se reports that Betsson has engaged the Ombudsmen of Justice (JO) over the Gaming Board’s plans to fine it.
Betsson's feisty CEO, Pontus Lindwall questions how the Gaming Board can base a decision on paragraph 38 of the Swedish lottery law when the law’s validity has been called into question by both the Swedish Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. He was referring to claims that European Union law (which calls for free movement of goods and services between EU member nations) supercedes local protectionist and inequitable laws.
The reaction of the Ombudsmen – and the European Commission which has already noted Swedish government monopolistic policies – will be watched with interest.
[B][COLOR="navy"]SPORTBETTING WINS IN FRENCH FOOTBALL BRAND CASE[/COLOR][/B]
Betting websites are not in co
mpetition with football club, judge finds
A French court finding last week could place a significant question mark over a previous case in which the French Tennis Federation sought a ban on betting companies taking Internet wagers at the Roland Garros championhips, the European Gaming and Betting Association comments.
The case involved claims by the football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) that the use of its trademark and image rights by sports betting websites Bwin and Unibet represented counterfeiting or 'commercial free riding.'
The judgment delivered by the Paris Tribunal of First Instance – the same court that decided the French Tennis Federation case – rejected all of PSG’s demands against Bwin and Unibet.
Sigrid Ligne, the secretary general of EGBA said in a statement this week: “This decision confirms that online sports betting companies are not violating the rights of Paris Saint Germain [football club]. Sports betting is a risk management business that requires specific skills and expertise. It is a complementary activity that goes hand in hand with the activities of sports’ clubs and sports’ events organisers.”
She added that the ruling confirms the activities of football clubs and online sports betting companies are separate and distinct commercial activities from those of sports clubs.
Remarking on the club’s claim of commercial free riding, the judge said that the betting websites were not in commercial competition with PSG, as “they organise bets on sports events that are likely to attract consumers betting on football as well as other sports.”
In the PSG case, the judge ruled that is was impossible to announce events or advertise bets without mentioning the name or brands of the participant clubs. Since the operators’ websites contain highly visible displays of their own marks, advertise a multitude of bets on a range of activities other than football and announce all matches in the same way, regardless of who is playing, the judge found there could be no confusion as to the origin of the service offered by the gaming operators, and rejected PSG’s claim that their trademark had been infringed.
[B][COLOR="navy"]HUGE ONLINE MARKETING DEAL TEAMS SPORTECH AND 888.COM[/COLOR][/B]
Three major football pool subsidiaries will benefit from agreement
UK football pools operator Sportech will gain access to millions of online poker and casino players following an important marketing deal signed this week with the Gibraltar-based online gambling giant 888.com. The agreement comes into effect in September 2008.
Describing the agreement as a "milestone" event, a Sportech statement said that its New Football Pools games, comprising the historic Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters brands, are to be marketed across 888's entire gaming database later this year.
The initiative will enable Sportech marketing to reach 888.com's 4.9 million globally registered customers, boosting Sportech's own player base of some 700 000 pools fans. Football pool betting has shrunk from highs in the 'nineties of 10 million players, and Sportech is attempting to revitalise the genre and attract a new and younger demographic.
888 will market all of Sportech's products, including casino, poker and bingo games, to the customers of both companies, with the creation of a new support and common gaming platform and wallet provided for Sportech. This element of the agreement will mean that Sportech's current online gambling software provider Cryptologic will be supplanted as Sportech's poker and casino games supplier by 888.
Ian Penrose, the CEO at Sportech, said: "This is a strong strategic partnership for Sportech. This fits exactly with our strategy of reinvigorating the pools business and delivering an enhanced and modern product for today's gaming customers."
[B][COLOR="navy"]CRYPTOLOGIC COMMENTS ON SPORTECH-888 DEAL[/COLOR][/B]
Loss of revenues amounts to only 4 percent – with new business aplenty in the pipeline
Cryptologic was quick to address the news this week that it was to lose the Sportech poker and casino software account as a result of the online betting company's new deal with 888.com (see previous InfoPowa report).
In a press release, Cryptologic CEO Brian Hadfield referred to Sportech as a "relatively small licensee" and said that the lost business would be more than compensated for by income from a minimum of five new clients this summer and fall.
“CryptoLogic is having a banner year in signing long-term contracts with leading gaming brands in both Europe and Asia, and that’s why we remain so bullish about our growth prospects,” said Hadfield. “CryptoLogic’s customer base has never been larger – and our customer pipeline has never been healthier.”
The Cryptologic statement reveals that Sportech currently licenses CryptoLogic software for its Littlewoods-branded gaming sites, representing approximately four percent of the software provider’s annual revenue.
And because Sportech has entered into a new relationship with 888 Holdings plc, CryptoLogic expects to continue earning at least some some revenues from Littlewoods players as a result of its cross-platform agreement with 888 to offer more than 10 of CryptoLogic’s top games to players and partners.
CryptoLogic also expects some Littlewoods players to migrate to its other licensees’ sites to find their favourite games that are not available on the 888 platform.
Sportech’s move to a new provider will have no material impact on liquidity in the poker room shared by CryptoLogic licensees, as the vast majority of Littlewoods business comes from its casino site, the statement clarifies before detailing the new Crypto licensees as Khel Galli (India), Maharajah Club (UK) and OPoker (Scandinavia). The company’s top games will be available at 888.com later this summer, and the company will launch a site for Betjacks (Ireland) this fall.
Other major, and as yet unannounced, online gambling brands will be generating revenues for Crypto soon and are currently in the pipeline.
Hadfield took the opportunity to point out that in addition to adding new customers, CryptoLogic expects to earn fresh revenues by providing localised versions of its casino games and poker software to help its licensees penetrate key markets in Europe and Asia.
The company is also promoting player acquisition and retention by rolling out new games and content more frequently, and by continuing to ramp up its business development and marketing activities.
[B][COLOR="navy"]U.S. SUPREME COURT RULES ON MONEY LAUNDERING[/COLOR][/B]
Jurists clarify the difference between laundering and moving money
The Supreme Court of the United States blog includes an interesting entry regarding a finding on money laundering which was handed down in the cases of Cuellar v. United States and United States v. Santos on June 2 this year.
Essentially, the finding is that merely smuggling concealed money in bulk does not constitute "money laundering" (although it may contravene some other law). To secure a conviction on money laundering, there must be an attempt to hide or disguise the nature of the transaction that involves an attempt to present the monies involved as originating in a legal enterprise.
The blog outlines the Cuellar case, describing how the accused was stopped whilst driving a car erratically in Texas, some 100 miles from the Mexican border. The suspicions of the police officers involved were aroused by Cuellar's
attitude and body language, resulting in a detailed search of the vehicle.
In a secret compartment US currency to the value of $81 000 was found concealed.
Cuellar was convicted at trial of international money laundering under section 1956(a)(2)(B)(i), which prohibits transportation of illicit funds. He was not charged with bulk cash smuggling, and he subsequently sentenced to 78 months imprisonment and three years supervised release. This was eighteen months more prison time than the maximum punishment available under the bulk cash smuggling statute.
The Supreme Court reversed the money laundering conviction in a unanimous decision written by Justice Thomas, holding that the statute under which petitioner was convicted requires proof that the transportation was "designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control" of the funds.
Although this element does not require proof that the defendant attempted to create the appearance of legitimate wealth, neither can it be satisfied solely by evidence that a defendant concealed the funds during their transport. In this case, the only evidence introduced to prove this element showed that the petitioner engaged in extensive efforts to conceal the funds en route to Mexico, and thus his conviction cannot stand.
Justice Alito, joined by the Chief Justice and Justice Kennedy, concurred, clarifying that the government could have proved that once the cash got to Mexico that had the effect of being concealed, but in this case the government failed to produce such evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
The ruling will perhaps influence US Department of Justice officials who seek to use the more serious offence of money laundering in the prosecution of – for example – those accused of running online sportsbetting operations in the United States which are in themselves illegal in most states.
[B][COLOR="navy"]INAUGURAL BINGO AWARDS GO TO PARLAY[/COLOR][/B]
Best and most innovative bingo software recognised
Canada's bingo software developer Parlay Entertainment Inc. received two awards at the inaugural Online Bingo Awards presented last week at the Bingo Summit in London.
The company's Parlay 4 product was named Best Online Bingo Software 2008, while its patent-pending side game BingoBets was recognised as Best Online Bingo Innovation 2008. Parlay’s licensee Paddy Power also won the award for Best Newcomer 2008.
The nominees were selected by a panel of recognised industry experts and the award winners were chosen by over 200 industry delegates attending the Third Annual Online Bingo Summit.
“We are very pleased to have won these two major bingo awards. On behalf of our entire development and support team, I’d like to thank the online bingo industry for this recognition of excellence,” said Perry Malone, Chief Technology Officer for Parlay Entertainment."
Parlay claims that when it debuted in 2006, the Parlay 4 bingo platform virtually set the standard for excellence in online bingo software, with other bingo developers emulating its layout, features and functionality. Parlay 4 was the first bingo software to introduce tabbed components, a larger chat area, auto-purchase and multiple ways to select bingo cards. The world’s first bingo side game, BingoBet, which allows players to place up to nine different wagers on every bingo game they play is part of the platform. The game offers increased excitement because fortunes change with every number called. It also adds visual flair, offers more chances to win and increases bingo revenue for operators.
Parlay Entertainment recently unveiled Parlay 5, the next generation of online bingo software (see previous InfoPowa report). The powerful software includes a host of ground-breaking features that make it easy for bingo operators to increase their liquidity by pooling players who speak different languages and use different currencies into a single bingo game.
[B][COLOR="navy"]SPORTSBETTING ACCUSED SENTENCED[/COLOR][/B]
New Jersey man faces 3 to 4 years in jail
Vincent "Big Vince" Filipelli (53) the Philadelphia man convicted in a federal court of promoting Internet sportsbetting and possession of prohibited weapons earlier this year (see previous InfoPowa report) has been sentenced to 3-4 years in state prison after completing a 5-year federal prison sentence for threatening an undercover detective. Filipelli admitted he ran an internet-based gambling operation, and that he had been in possession of two billy clubs and a dagger.
Filipelli made the headlines when he was caught on video and audio tape threatening an undercover New Jersey state trooper as he tried to collect a gambling debt in a club parking lot, saying: "Because I will come to your house. I'll hunt you down until I'm paid…" and "He turns it into me. I turn into my people downtown. Okay, this ain't the Sopranos, this is real f****** life."
Filipelli's lawyer has insisted his client never meant to hurt anyone. "He never injured anybody, never put his hands on anybody, never raised his hands to anybody. He yelled at a guy to get him to pay the debt," he told the court.
Filipelli pleaded guilty last year in Federal Court to one count of interstate travel in aid of racketeering.
[COLOR="navy"][B]WAGERWORKS DA VINCI DIAMONDS LAUNCHED[/B][/COLOR]
New slot game has been eagerly anticipated
Virgin Casino.com is among the first Wagerworks-powered online casinos to launch the company's latest 5 reel, 20 pay-line slot Da Vinci Diamonds, which offers opportunities to win cash prizes of up to GBP 125 000 with a 100-credit maximum bet.
The Da Vinci Diamonds theme "explores the wonders of the Renaissance" as players use the Tumbling Reels, feature, enabling them to win repeatedly on a single play. With a re-triggering ‘Free Spins Bonus’, players can win up to 300 free spins. The reels are richer in the ‘Free Spins Bonus’ and there are more ways to win. In addition to paying on lines, several of the symbols also pay as scatter pays.
Recent premium WagerWorks releases including Cleopatra II and Vegas, Baby! have already been added to Virgin Casino’s portfolio of games in 2008, and the management promises further big IGT/WW names will be added in the coming months.
[B][COLOR="navy"]LADBROKES TOPS FOR UK POKER PLAYERS[/COLOR][/B]
Three choices for poker entertainment
The Hitwise competitive intelligence facility reports this week that Ladbrokes Poker.com is currently number one with UK players in terms of numbers of visits to the site, equating to a 19.5 percent share of the total online poker market.
The achievement coincides with a number of major milestones for the betting company such as the launch of its new look website (see earlier InfoPowa reports) and the billionth hand of poker played.
Ladbrokes Poker boasts that it is the only site to offer a choice of three ways to access its poker room – in 3D (with customised avatars, gestures and an interactive poker school), Classic view, and Instant (play in browser).
The billionth hand dealt on the site was celebrated by giving away over $300 000 of World Series of Poker prizes in one of the largest 'one off' freerolls ever. The hand hit on Saturday 14th June.
June also saw qualifications for the Main Event of the 39th World Series of Poker Main, which starts next (July) month in Las Vegas. 'Team Ladbrokes' will be taking over 100 qua
lifiers to the event with high hope