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Arkansas Supreme Court Rejects Casino Appeal, License Back to Racing Commission

The Arkansas Supreme Court will not hear an appeal petitioned by the Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB) regarding its planned Legends Resort & Casino in Russellville.

Arkansas Supreme Court Cherokee Pope County
The Arkansas Supreme Court will not take up an appeal from an Oklahoma tribe seeking to build a commercial casino in Pope County. The Cherokee Nation Businesses, however, is still the presumed front-runner for the gaming license. (Image: AP)

A year ago this month, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ruled that the Arkansas Racing Commission erred in issuing a commercial casino license earmarked for Pope County to CNB, the commercial business unit of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. In considering a lawsuit challenging the granting by a rival casino bidder, Gulfside Casino Partnership in Mississippi, Fox determined that the Cherokee bid violated rules established through Amendment 100 of the Arkansas Constitution.

State voters in November 2018 passed the amendment to allow a single casino in the counties of Crittenden, Garland, Jefferson, and Pope. The casino bidding rules, however, required the state Racing Commission to only consider pitches from single entities.

Fox concluded that CNB applied as a consortium with a newly formed company called Legends Resort & Casino, LLC. The state Supreme Court last week opted to deny reconsidering the case. The high court in October upheld Fox’s decision in a 5-2 ruling.

License Returned to Racing Commission

With the Cherokee’s appeal formally settled, the Pope County casino license has been returned to the Arkansas Racing Commission. The state gaming regulator is expected to conduct a new bidding round, but the $300 million Legends Casino will presumably be the only qualified bid.

In separate litigation, it’s been determined through the Arkansas court system that bidders must have the support of either the sitting county judge or the present county quorum court. Last month, the Pope County Quorum Court voted 7-6 to endorse the CNB proposal. Pope County Judge Ben Cross has also backed the Legends development.

Gulfside previously applied with a letter of support from former Pope County Judge Ed Gibson, who issued his backing on the final day of his tenure before he exited the position in December 2018. Gulfside pitched a $254 million casino in Russellville called River Valley Casino Resort.

While Fox ruled against the Cherokees in January 2023, he also discredited the Gulfside plan when he decided that “the county judge” in Amendment 100’s language refers to the current judge — not a former county judge.

CNB will be expected to reapply as a single entity, likely as Legends Resort & Casino, LLC, which the company fully owns.

License Dilemma Continues

More than five years since Arkansans approved a casino in Pope County, the gaming license still hasn’t been issued. Meanwhile, casinos have opened in the three other counties.

The Pope County controversy began in 2020 when it was determined that Racing Commissioner Butch Rice had a bias in his grading of the Gulfside bid a perfect 100 out of 100 and the Cherokee plan just 29/100. The Racing Commission decided to exclude Rice’s scoring, which had tipped the overall score in Gulfside’s favor and opted to issue the license to the Cherokees.

That initiated the legal controversy, with Cherokee and Gulfside attorneys battling for the casino concession ever since. Ricer is no longer a commissioner on the seven-person state agency.

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Hacksaw Gaming Expands North American Footprint with New Jersey License

hacksaw-gaming-expands-us-presence-with-new-jersey-licenceHacksaw Gaming, the growing international supplier of games for online casinos, has announced that its presence on the United States market will further expand after having secured a provisional license in New Jersey.

The license was issued by the Division of Gaming Enforcement in New Jersey and it allows Hacksaw Gaming to supply its content to online casinos that operate in the American state. With the license secured, Hacksaw Gaming can now form partnerships with approved operators in New Jersey.

The supplier announced that its intention is to launch its games in the state of New Jersey by the end of 2023. Moreover, Hacksaw Gaming revealed that it will be working together with Light & Wonder, the global gaming giant, to support the roll-out of its content in the state. The two companies signed an agreement to that respect in 2021, when Light & Wonder was operating under the old brand, Scientific Games.

Unstoppable In Its Ventures

Marcus Cordes, the Chief Executive Officer of Hacksaw Gaming, declared himself “ecstatic” at the rate at which the company has been expanding recently. “Hacksaw is unstoppable in its ventures,” the Chief Executive Officer proclaimed while also stating that Hacksaw Gaming will undoubtedly “thrive in the U.S.”

The provisional license obtained in New Jersey comes almost a year after Hacksaw gaming first entered the United States with another provisional license, obtained in the state of West Virginia in November 2022. That was the first step in the company’s strategy to expand more and more on the United States market.

The first move into North America for Hacksaw Gaming came earlier in 2022, in May the company secured a supplier license in Ontario, the only Canadian province that has a regulated competitive online gambling market.

The supplier has also expanded in other parts of the world in recent months after having secured a license in the Isle of Man. With the New Jersey license obtained, Hacksaw Gaming now has secured a presence in almost 20 regulated markets all around the world.

Hacksaw Gaming was founded at the end of 2018 in Malta and since then it has grown into a truly global presence. The main focus of its slot games has been on mobile devices, but their creative games can be played very well on desktop stations as well.

Source: “Hacksaw Gaming Hits Second Target Market in USA with Provisional Licence in New Jersey“. Hacksaw Gaming. November 23, 2023.

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Curaçao Launches Updated Online Gambling License Application Process

The Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB), Curaçao’s gaming regulatory body, has taken an important step in regulating the country’s online gambling by officially opening the application process for those operators looking for new online gambling licenses.

Latest online portal

curaçao_opens_licence_application_portal_From Friday, September 1, interested operators may access the GCB’s newly launched online portal, which provides guidance to new applicants on the licensing procedure. Once inside, they may fill out a license application form and see instructions and downloads, which are there to make sure everything goes smoothly. Additionally, submission of finalized applications will begin in November of this year.

The portal isn’t only open to the newest operators, but also to those who already own existing sub-licenses. However, those operators can operate unhindered and “under their current arrangements.” What’s more, the latest opening of the portal represents a preparation for the National Ordinance for Games of Chance (LOK).

However, the latest licensing process does not “reform the National Ordinance on Offshore Games of Hazard, Curaçao’s existing legislation, but adds to it.”

Temporary license

As soon as the submission of finalized applications is completed by the end of November, those who have been officially accepted for a license will receive a temporary license from the aforementioned regulator. Additionally, this will be subject to the adoption of revised policies as well as procedures during a period of 6 months of its issuance.

However, the most important benefit is that those operators who have officially received the mentioned license will not have to apply again under the aforementioned LOK, because their position will be “transferred to the new authority.”

LOK to change the excising regulatory framework for online gambling

The goal of LOK is to update and simplify the regulatory framework for online gambling, ranking it with the best global standards and practices. In addition, it will present the newest licensing requirements, improved oversight to make sure the continued fairness and integrity of Curaçao’s online gambling segment, and compliance measures. In addition, this new law will certainly be “monumental for the market”, although it was once defined as “passive when it comes to regulation.” Relatedly, after it was pointed out that the newest, updated licensing standards could lead to the removal of excising operators from the region, the Minister of Finance of Curacao, Javier Silvania, commented that “he saw no issue with the matter.”

Because the country’s excising law requires operators to submit application for 1 out of 4 “existing master licensees” to obtain a sub-license, once the LOK comes into effect, the holders of the above sub-licenses will have a period of 3 months to file new application to the regulator to receive a “direct operator license.” 

Speaking about the details of the newest licensing process, Curaçao’s Finance Ministry legal advisor, Sixiènne Jansen, said at the iGB L!VE held in July: “The application process consists of three forms. Each of the forms will require relevant supporting documentation. The first is an online gaming application, in which the applicant will provide projections for business operations and strategic targets. The second is a personal declaration, detailing information about key figures involved in the business. A source of funds check will be carried out on any involved person with more than 10% control of the business. The final form consists of corporate and business disclosures.”

Source: Curaçao opens license application portal”IGB. September 1, 2023

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Curacao Online Casino License Changes Coming End of Summer

curacao_online_casino_license_changes_coming_end_of_summerChanges are coming to the online gambling jurisdiction of Curacao with a new law coming into effect soon. For background and a frame of reference, readers can find more information at the end of this article.

Beginning September 1, all new licenses will be issued by the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB).

At a recent iGB LIVE (iGaming Business conference) Curaçao’s Ministry of Finance, Sixienne Jansen laid out how the online gaming licenses issued by the jurisdiction of Curacao will function beginning on September 1, 2023, under Curacao’s National Ordinance for Games of Chance (LOK).

LOK is Not Yet the Law of the Land

It’s important to note that the LOK is not yet the “law of the land” but binding agreements exist between Curacao and Amsterdam for its content and full implementation. After August this year, new licenses will be issued to the Master License holders under new rules, even though the LOK has not been introduced into parliament yet. In order to ensure continuity, all four Master License holders will automatically receive one of the new licenses on September 1. The license will be provisional and valid for one calendar year.

The LOK will reform how online gambling licensing will work for foreign operators. Nearly all licensed offshore casinos accessible to players in the United States are licensed in and regulated by Curacao.

Under the current law, there are four Master License holders in Curacao and those license holders can issue “sub-licenses” for operators of any game of chance or skill – whether it is poker, table games, bookmaking, online casinos, lottery, or any other form of remote gambling. By some estimates there could be as many as 12,000 gambling operators licensed in Curacao. However, the number of active operators is most likely much smaller

The Curacao government plans to change the entire system in a phased reform without disrupting current business operations.

According to Jansen: “No operator is going to have to pause or stop any business as a result of anything done by the Ministry. One of the primary elements of the transitions into the new regime is to facilitate uninterrupted continuity of all operations of sublicense holders.

When the LOK actually becomes law, all “sub-licensed” operators will only have 90 days to apply for a new license without regard to any time remaining on their former license. However, Master Licensers will no longer issue any new permits and all interim or provisional licenses will be issued directly by the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB). Those licenses will automatically convert into LOK licenses later on.

New Regime to Comply With International Standards

However, the new regime will be a bit tighter to conform more to international standards. While current license holders already have specific obligations and are investigated by the Master License holders, three forms must be submitted by operators under the LOK whereas the application process under the current regime has never been fully explained to the public.

  • Online Gambling Application:
  • Personal Declaration:
  • Corporate Disclosures:

Once an applicant has satisfied the GCB in terms of the forms and documentation submission, then a license will be issued,” Jansen said.

Within 6 months of that license audited policies and procedures will need to be submitted for evaluation.

The same regulations that apply now will continue to be binding during a 9-month transitional phase so there should be no disruption of business practices for operators.

Jansen explained that operators who don’t wish to participate in the new regime will have ¾ of a year to wind up their businesses under existing regulations: “For those operators who do not wish to move to the new licensing regime, they can continue to conduct business up until the date the relevant master license expires,” said Jansen.

A summary of points regarding the new licenses includes the following:

  • Licenses issued from September 1 will be issued by the GCB under current legislation and regulations and will not immediately be controlled by the LOK as it is not yet the “law of the land”.
  • Sub-licenses will not be issued by the GCB, however, they will still be available from master License holders from September 1, 2023, until the LOK is implemented.
  • New provisions addressing anti-money laundering and responsible gambling will become known to the public as they will be part of the new licenses.
  • Current license holders or those with approval in process should consult with their master licenser for more information on how to proceed – this includes operators whose licenses are currently “on hold”.

Business as Usual – For Now – As Operators Go – New Process Coming

“Contrary to much speculation, there has been no change whatsoever to the legislation or permissions since the minister publicly announced the drafting of the new legislation last November,” said Jansen.

One point bears repeating:
Beginning September 1, all new licenses will be issued by the Curaçao Gaming Control Board (GCB).

The Minister is expected to issue further guidance and more updates in September as well as a new fee structure for operators.

More Information on Curacao Gambling Law

Curacao is an online gambling website license provider and casino regulator with an antiquated and semi-transparent framework that is little understood by laymen and government officials in other nations. In a nutshell, the government has issued “Master Licenses” to four Master Licensers who then accept or reject individual gambling operators and issue “sub-licenses” to online casinos, bookmakers, and other remote gambling providers.

More background on the former “Netherlands Antilles” island shows the difficulty in whether to even call it a country or to explain its relationship with the Netherlands, its independence, or its obligations to the Dutch government.

The following is from Wikipedia and is known to be a true statement: “Following a referendum, and as a result of constitutional change, Curaçao became a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010.

The further background shows that since that time the kingdom and the government in Amsterdam have wrestled with how to modernize gambling law there and more recently, to bring it more in line with how regulation and gambling law enforcement functions in other jurisdictions.

The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy. Dutch people can choose who represents them in parliament. The Netherlands is also a constitutional monarchy.

Further complicating the push for reforms from the Dutch government includes the following fact:
Curaçao has full autonomy on most matters, with the exceptions summed up in the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands under the title “Kingdom affairs”.

It wasn’t until the small island constituency needed assistance from Amsterdam during the world health emergency of the Covid pandemic that the Dutch government was able to exert enough influence over Curacao to “encourage” them to change the way gambling regulation and enforcement is handled and to get them on a timeline to implement those changes.

It is also important to note that the Netherlands itself has only recently reformed its online gambling laws.

The UK’s Law Review is a well-known and trusted website with specific and well-cited information on gambling law around the world. Lawyers there state the following about Dutch online gambling law:
As of 1 April 2021, remote gambling licenses are available for casino games and sports and horse race betting.

A more transparent regulatory framework with public and private assurances that it is in line with international standards can only be a good thing for Curacao. More accountability in regard to responsible gambling measures can only improve the player experience. However, until a process for complaints is outlined by the CGB and it is shown to be working on behalf of players, perceptions are not likely to change much.

If the CGB is no more responsive than most of the Master License holders have been to “small” complaints, it will have been an exercise in futility and lip service to the problem of murky terms and conditions including “gotcha” and “God” clauses. As it stands now, only a serious breach of licensing terms will be investigated and the public has no direct knowledge of what those terms might be and rarely if ever learns the result of an intervention.

Source: Curaçao: All master licences to get one-year extension, iGaming Business, July 12, 2023

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3370 Feet from Hell’s Kitchen is Times Square – New York Casino License Contest Shows Embers

3370_feet_from_hells_kitchen_is_times_quare_new_york_casino_license_contest_shows_embersAs one old adage goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Another cautions that adding fuel to the fire only increases the heat. None we are aware of speak to what happens when you add your own fuel by stating your case and promoting your own interests or having others do that for you.

Hell’s Kitchen is a part of New York City with a storied past quite unlike that of Times Square, a little more than a mile away. Centre Street, the Bowery, Canal Street, and Park Row – the general location of Martin Scorcese’s and Leonardo Di Caprio’s epic historical fiction story, the Gangs of New York is only about three miles away.

Setting the Stage for an Epic Battle

That backdrop should set the stage for what could be about to commence in the competition for three new downstate casino licenses in New York state – the first actual bonafide real Las Vegas casino licenses ever issued in or around a bustling metropolis holding some 19 million potential casino customers. A market that some have deemed to be potentially be the most lucrative latent casino market in the world.

Although there are three casino licenses available in downstate New York, potentially in and around New York City, most reporting indicates that two of those licenses are “widely believed” to be destined for the existing lottery-based casinos in Yonkers and Jamaica, Queens. The existing casinos are relatively large gaming venues that already provide tens of millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions in annual tax revenues, jobs benefits, and other financial knock-ons to local communities and the state in general. They are also operated by Resorts World and MGM, two of the largest casino operators in the world.

If two of the licenses are as good as thrown to the wind by simply changing the way two large casinos account for their handle, churn, and hold more to “real casino” standards rather than the simpler video lottery terminal and more or less fixed odds electronic gaming table accounting practices with wilder swings in gross gaming revenue for the more volatile games or natural swings in deviations from the mean for “coin flip” games like real baccarat, roulette or even baccarat, what is to be gained by the state?

That seems to be the elephant-in-the-room question most reporting fails to ask. We proffer that all three licenses might actually be up for grabs because “damn the torpedoes”. New York state will choose whichever options actually generate the most revenue and benefits for the people of New York, the local communities, and the state, because “that’s actually the remit” isn’t it?

The state is not in the business of doing favors for competitive businesses or at least it shouldn’t be, and if existing “casino communities” and their attendant gaming operators lose a little for the greater good of the state by creating three brand new revenue streams “cannibalism be damned” then that’s exactly what the location selection committee will recommend – or should.

If, in the end, a greater benefit for the whole of the state and the populace can be shown to be better attained by simply expanding the current gaming venues – more or less grandfathering in existing operators without fear or favor, then that is what the selection will, or should determine its job is to do.

Back to the Heat in the Kitchen

If that is the case, and the world’s most powerful casino interests are about to embark on a competition for perhaps the most lucrative market on earth – observers and participants should be ready for an epic battle of the titans as has never been seen before and it’s going to get so hot in downstate New York that an outside observer wouldn’t know the difference between Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Staten Island, Coney Island, any of the potential sites for a single new casino license. Or hell itself.

We saw amazing machinations for placement, power and control of the upstate casino markets a few short years ago when the first Las Vegas-style casino towns and operators were chosen – so-called “grassroots organizations”, false-flag petition drives, disinformation, seriously flawed “gaming studies”, political upheavals and almost every other imaginable disruption of industry-standard business decorum and charm offensive imaginable.

You ain’t seen nothing yet

For now, we see self-promotion, goodwill advocacy, and some local resistance to each announced contender’s proposal. We see good corporate “citizens” pitching themselves as the most viable alternative and none of the half dozen or so serious contenders has attacked any other in public – nor are they likely to overtly. Nothing “dirty” has bubbled up yet and none of those vying for a new license outside of Yonkers or Queens has alluded to there only being one license available – nor have the two “widely believed” “shoe-ins”.

MGM Resorts International, the owners of Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers has remained mostly mum on the subject as has Genting Malaysia Berhad – the ultimate owner of Resorts World New York at Aqueduct Raceway. And that is the wise move. Isn’t it? That could change.

What’s Coming?

When the state opened bidding for the licenses they set the minimum bid at half a billion dollars and let it be known that it would be a competitive bidding process. At least one player stated it would not go down that route – it would offer a proposal, and negotiate in good faith, but not go head over heels into a bidding process. There are, of course, many possible reasons for such a position not the least of which could be that it would show weakness if it were to find itself unable to compete in a high-priced auction of sorts or that it might not have quite the resiliency to be an effective world power if it tied up resources in an unproven market due to the “known unknowns” of just how many licenses might be up for grabs in reality.

Perhaps New York state or the existing video lottery terminal and electronic table game providers should clear the air and let the public, as well as the potential contenders, know specifically if the existing lottery casinos are on equal footing with other competitors or if they are to enjoy a potentially unfair advantage. Each new proposal we have examined has addressed community benefits and other aspects expected of them in the request for proposals. There is still an elephant in the room and that elephant, if not stared down and asked to dance could quite possibly, become exhibit #1 in any “sour grapes” lawsuits, which inevitably arise before all is said and done when the stakes are this high.

For now, the question remains, just how hot is this contest going to get? The answer is most likely just hot enough to create inflection point after inflection point and just hot enough to bend reality in the mirror of time enough that when it is all said and done, most people will be glad just to be shut of it and to get on with life in the fast lane of gambling. However, it also could present myriad risks to consumer confidence in any and all processes involved in American casino license tenders.

Were two additional licenses approved by voters with a simple majority of Yay vs Nay votes after all seven currently authorized licenses have been issued under the 2013 referendum – all stakeholders, including the public, deserve the quietude of a clear and transparent process with no wild animals lurking in, stumbling. Around, or crashing through the room

If that is true, then why not now? If not now, when? The tender candidates who may risk many times the “minimum bid” to build the casino(s), as well as the public surely deserve to know.

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