Entain extends ethics, legal & compliance training in US

The move builds on the inaugural Gaming Law, Compliance and Integrity Bootcamp which launched at Seton Hall with the Entain Foundation US in March 2020, attended by an initial group of 50.

Entain said its goal is to make Seton Hall’s Law Bootcamp the premier annual program in the industry.

 “The Bootcamp aligns with Entain’s focus on promoting sports integrity, responsible gambling, and corporate compliance,” said Martin Lycka, senior vice president for American regulatory affairs & responsible gambling.

“We look forward to extending our partnership with Seton Hall Law School, a leading law school and a recognized global leader in compliance education, to help provide professionals with the specialist skill needed to support the growth of this sector in the U.S.”

Read the full story on iGB North America.

500.com spends RMB226.3m on Bitcoin and Ethereum mining machines

500.com entered a definitive agreement with a subsidiary of BitDeer to secure 1,923 S17 Bitcoin mining machines for RMB31.3m, with these deployed and operational in Xinjiang, China.

The provider also agreed a deal to purchase 2,000 new ETH mining machines for a total consideration of RMB195.0m.

This agreement will see 100 Ethereum mining machines delivered between May and June this year, followed by 150 in each July and August, while the remaining 1,600 will arrive between September and December.

The purchases mark 500.com’s latest movement in the cryptocurrency sector, with the provider having this week also received 356.04342 Bitcoins and $11.5m in cash through a private placement transaction with Good Luck Information.

The placement, agreed in December, will see Good Luck Information receive 85,572,963 newly issued Class A ordinary shares in 500.com.

Last week, 500.com acquired Blockchain Alliance Technologies, owner of the BTC.com platform, while the provider in January also set out plans to acquire $14.4m worth of Bitcoin mining machines, adding a further 15,900 machines from two additional sellers this month.

Ukraine committee approves 10% tax rate for all forms of gambling

The committee considered bill 2713-d, put forward by committee chair Oleg Marusyak, to complement the Gambling Act that legalised various forms of gambling in Ukraine and was signed into law in August 2020

This bill initially proposed a 5% GGR tax on bookmaking, 10% for online gambling and for lotteries and 12.5% for slot machines. However, the committee opted for a single rate on all verticals instead.

Operators will also be required to pay an 18% general corporate tax rate

In addition, gambling winnings of more than eight months’ minimum wage (currently UAH48,000) will be taxed as income.

The country’s Gambling Act had also previously required that online betting and gaming licence fees start out three times higher than normal, and would only be lowered once an online player monitoring system is put in place. However, the new tax bill abolishes that requirement.

The Rada will still have to approve the new tax bill, after which it may be signed into law.

Even though the bill has not come into effect, Ukraine’s Gambling Commission (KRAIL) has already approved the country’s first licences, to online operators Spaceiks , which operates the Cosmolot brand, and Parimatch. These operators must pay licence fees before the licences are officially granted, though.

Prior to 2713-D, the country had introduced four other tax bills setting different rates of gambling taxes.

BGC proposes five-point Covid-19 recovery plan to Chancellor

The proposals come ahead of 3 March’s Budget, when the Chancellor will make a series of major announcements for the upcoming financial year.

Included in the five-point plan is a proposal to extend business rates relief for a further year, with the BGC saying this would help supports betting shops and casinos that have been forced to close for much of the pandemic.

Introduced in March last year, the business rates relief meant retail, leisure and hospitality businesses were exempt from paying business rates for 12 months. This initially did not apply to gambling business, but was eventually extended to the industry following pressure from the BGC.

“With premises shut for much of the past year, this would help protect jobs and remove a major financial pressure on businesses that have suffered a significant loss of income during the pandemic,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

The BGC plan also included a call for the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland to provide similar help to gambling businesses as part of their own Covid-19 support plans.

Meanwhile, the BGC urged the Chancellor to ensure to government keeps to its timetable for easing restrictions and allow betting shops to reopen alongside other non-essential retail from 12 April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed this in an announcement earlier in the week as part of England’s exit from lockdown, saying betting shops could start to reopen from 12 April if certain government Covid-19 targets were met.

In relation to this, the BGC urged the government to ensure the existing 10pm curfew on casinos and other hospitality venues not come back into effect when these facilities are allowed to reopen on 17 May.

The BGC also called on the Chancellor not to introduce any increase in taxation or duties for gambling operators, again noting how the industry had suffered significant losses in 2020 as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Finally, the BGC said the Chancellor must ensure any future regulation of the betting and gambling sector does not undermine the essential support horse racing receives from betting, adding any changes could harm the racing sector.

“By any measure, the betting and gaming industry is an important contributor to Britain’s economy,” Dugher said. “It is our hope that the forthcoming Budget will be a springboard to recovery as the country begins to emerge from the Covid-19, unlocking the potential of our high street businesses to return to growth and job creation.”

BetMakers revenue up to AUD$7.6m H1 FY21

Revenue for the 6 months ended 31 December 2020 was up 88% year-on-year, leaving the business with a closing cash balance of $68.6m.

However, it made a loss of $1.7m in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA).

Underlying EBITDA, meanwhile, was $37,000. This was calculated after accounting for professional fees in relation to the acquisition of Sportech’s global tote and digital assets, and around $880,000 spent on the BetMakers’ US expansion, including progression of its fixed odds strategy throughout the country and in particular in New Jersey.

The board said that the acquisition of Sportech’s tote and digital assets is on track to complete during the next financial quarter.

It added that the acquisition is expected to add substantial revenue and earnings to BetMakers’ consolidated business.

On a pro-forma basis for FY20, the Tote and Digital business, combined with BetMakers’ existing operations, would have delivered $56.1m in revenue and $7.7m in EBITDA, BetMakers said.

It said it believes the acquisition will deliver transformational growth for the business in the US.

Once completed, it said, the deal will give access to 36 states across the country, with more than 100 customers including race tracks and casinos.

The company said it plans to commence an exclusive agreement with the operator of Monmouth Park race track in New Jersey, to manage fixed odds betting on horse racing as soon as the Bill introduced to the New Jersey Legislature to permit the vertical in the state becomes law.

As announced in 17 February, BetMakers has entered into an agreement with Matt Tripp as a partner to accelerate the growth of its B2B wagering strategy.

Tripp also agreed to subscribe for $25m in new shares, subject to shareholder approval, and the company completed a placement of an additional $50m from several existing shareholders.

Last month, the company raised $26.2m through an oversubscribed share purchase plan, in order to support its proposed acquisition of Sportech’s Tote and Digital business, as well as to accelerate its global expansion plans.

Grand National remains scheduled for 10 April despite industry calls to delay

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans for England’s exit from novel coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown, including allowing betting shops to reopen alongside other non-essential retail from 12 April.

In the wake of the announcement, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) called for the Grand National to be delayed until after betting shops reopened to help maximise income from the event for land-based operators.

However, Dickon White, north west regional director for the Jockey Club, said that having consulted with stakeholders and considered the pros and cons of delaying the race, the event will take place on 10 April as originally planned.

“This has been a really difficult time for the retail and on-course betting industry and we very much hope that retail outlets will re-open on 12 April, but like so much in this pandemic, this is far from certain at this stage,” White said.

“The Prime Minister has been clear that timings for lifting restrictions in England are best case and not guaranteed, while already we know outlets will not be open in Scotland.

“With timings fluid and several downsides of delay, as well as some upsides that may or may not happen, there is not a solid enough basis to move one of the biggest racing fixtures in the calendar just six weeks out.

“Therefore, the three-day meeting will remain in its planned 8-10 April slot.”

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher hit out at the decision, describing it as a “disappointing blow” to the retail betting market.

“Briefly delaying the race could have provided a much-needed boost to racing, to the high street and to millions of punters who support this great sport,” Dugher said.

“Races are routinely rescheduled, including most recently because of bad weather. Of course there is always a risk with any decision, but I regret that a ‘can-do’ approach did not prevail in this instance.

“This decision will also surprise many people who understand the challenging financial climate racing currently faces.”

Covid-19 cuts Melco revenue by 69.9% in 2020

Full-year revenue for the Asian gaming giant declined 69.9% to $1.73bn (£1.24bn/€1.43bn), with all of its venues closed as a result of Covid-19 for significant parts of the year and facing restrictions after reopening. 

Its Macau and Philippines propers were worst affected. In Macau, travel bans, restrictions and quarantine requirements on visitors to and from the special administrative region slashed tourism and visitation.

None of its Macau properties – the Altira, City of Dreams or Studio City – had an occupancy rate greater than 36% for the year. 

In the Philippines, operations were badly affected by an enhanced community quarantine that ran until 30 November 2020. 

During this time its City of Dreams Manila property has been conducting a trial run of gaming and hospitality operations since 19 June, which is ongoing. Its occupancy rate, at 53%, was significantly better than Melco’s Macau properties, though still well down from 2019’s 98% rate. 

Gaming operations in Cyprus, meanwhile, were subject to a new regional lockdown from 12 November, which has since been extended nationwide. Melco’s operations in Paphos and Limassol remain shuttered at the time of writing. 

As a result operating revenue was down across the board. Casino’s contribution remained the largest at $1.47bn, though also saw the largest year-on-year decline, falling 70.4% below 2019’s total. 

Hotel rooms accounted for $108.6m of Melco’s 2020 revenue, down 69.0%, while food and beverage revenue declined 68.3% to $74.5m. 

Revenue from entertainment, retail and other sources was the smallest segment for the year, at $58.1m, though this also experienced the smallest year-on-year decline. 

As with the majority of land-based operators, Melco saw the sharp decline in revenue accompanied by a slower drop in outgoings for the year. Total operating expenses for 2020 were down 46.5% at $2.67bn, resulting in the business swinging from an operating profit of $747.7m in 2019 to a $940.6m loss. 

When items such as depreciation and amortisation, share-based compensation and developments costs were factored back in, as well as fees and levies, loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA loss) came to $177.3m. 

Financial expenses rose year-on-year to $517.0m, which resulted in a pre-tax loss of $1.46bn. This was reduced slightly by a $2.9m income tax benefit and a $191.1m contribution from Melco’s share of non-controlling interests’ profits, for a full-year net loss of $1.26bn. 

This followed a fourth quarter that Melco chairman and chief executive Laurence Ho said showed a “moderate recovery” in business operations. However, revenue for the three months to 31 December was still down 63.6% year-on-year at $528.0m. 

This was comprised largely of gaming revenue, which made up $440.4m of the total, down 64.7%. Hotel rooms accounted for a further $41.4m, with $26.5m coming from food and beverage, and $19.7m from entertainment, retail and other sources. 

Operating expenses, meanwhile, dropped 47.3% to $672.8m, for an operating loss of $144.8m. However Q4 EBITDA remained positive, at $43.6m, though this was still down significantly from 2019’s $383.2m total. 

Financial outgoings were down year-on-year, at $87.8m, for a pre-tax loss of $232.6m. This was reduced to a net loss of $199.7m after an income tax charge and a share of profits from non-controlling interests were factored in.

Looking ahead, Melco said it was difficult to say how or when it would recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. This, it explained, would be affected by multiple variables, from effective vaccination programmes, to new strains of the virus, to declines in the share of individuals’ discretionary income allocated to gaming.

However, restrictions on Macau have been slowly lifted since September 2020, when the Chinese government reinstated the individual visa scheme for the island. It was not until 23 February that the final quarantine requirements – for Shijiazhuang in Hebei province and Suihua in Heilongjiang province – were lifted. 

Two key development projects have already been pushed back as a result. The second phase of construction to expand Studio City will require additional work, while it has been granted additional time to complete work on the City of Dreams Mediterranean in Cyprus. 

That was originally required to be completed by 31 December 2021, though that has been pushed back to 30 September, 2022 by the government of Cyprus. 

Ho added that the operator remained committed to bidding for an integrated resort licence in Japan. 

“We believe our focus on the Asian premium segment, a portfolio of high-quality assets, devotion to craftsmanship, dedication to world-class entertainment offerings, market-leading social safeguard systems, established track record of successful partnerships, culture of exceptional guest service, and a continuing commitment to employee development puts Melco in a strong position to help Japan realize the vision of developing an exceptional IR with a uniquely Japanese touch,” Ho explained. 

“Due to Covid-19, the process in Japan has been delayed and remains complex but has renewed momentum as jurisdictions are again initiating RFP processes. We will continue to be patient as we evaluate the landscape to ensure that Melco pursues the right opportunity that takes advantage of Melco’s core strengths to drive strong value creation.”

DraftKings ends 2020 with strong Q4 showing as revenue grows 98%

On a like-for-like basis, revenue for the three months to 31 December 2020 grew 146.1% year-on-year to $322.2m. If prior year figures from Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp (DEAC) and SBTech were factored in, revenue grew 98.2% on a proforma basis. 

The combination with special purpose acquisition company DEAC and SBTech saw DraftKings list on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in April 2020. 

DraftKings chief executive Jason Robins explained that a favorable sporting calendar in Q4, as well as strong marketing execution, helped the operator generate “tremendous” customer acquisition and engagement. 

“In the fourth quarter of 2020, we saw [Monthly Unique Players (MUPs)] increase 43.9% to 1.5m and [average revenue per monthly unique player (ARPMUP)] increase 54.8% to $65,” he said. 

The fourth quarter saw the business continue to expand, rolling out mobile betting in Tennessee. DraftKings noted that the state had the best two-month launch in the US to date, with over $300m staked across November and December.

A number of commercial and strategic agreements were also struck during the quarter. Perhaps most notable among these was an agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Resorts Casino that sees the brand gain access to Connecticut’s sports betting market when regulation permits. 

On the B2C side, it also announced agreements with Turner Sports, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Detroit PistonsNashville Predators and its first golf partnership, with professional player Bryson DeChambeau.

The legacy SBTech B2B business, meanwhile, rolled out a new sportsbook for PalaceBet, a brand operated by South Africa’s Peermont Hotels, Gaming and Resorts, and extended its partnership with Mansion Group’s MansionBet brand

However, the business’ rapid growth was accompanied by a sharper rise in operating costs. Expenditure more than doubled across all segments, including marketing spend of $192.0m (up 205.3%); cost of revenue jumping 142.9% to $159.3m; and product and technology expenses growing from $7.4m in the prior year to $66.1m. 

This resulted in the business’ operating loss widening to $268.3m. Adjusted loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, meanwhile, came to $87.9m. Once financial items and income taxes were factored in, DraftKings’ net loss for the fourth quarter came to $266.4m. 

The operator’s strong fourth quarter performance has prompted it to raise its 2021 revenue guidance from a range of $750m to $850m, to the $900m to $1bn range. 

This, it said, was based on its 2020 growth, coupled with new state launches – such as Michigan and Virginia – in January 2021, and the assumption that all scheduled sporting seasons could run without interruption.

Should 2021 revenue fall within this range, it would suggest year-on-year growth of between 39.9% and 55.4% from the $643.5m generated in the 2020 calendar year. 

Read the full story on iGB North America.

Peru’s top football league renamed Liga 1 Betsson

The agreement marks the first time the league has changed its name in more than 20 years, and, Betsson said it reaffirms the operator’s commitment to adding positive value to Peru’s national sport.

Liga 1 Betsson 2021 will be the 105th edition of Peru’s top flight. Its logos and branding will now feature Betsson’s logo, in both physical and digital form.

Betsson said it will promote its #JuegoResponsable (Responsible Gambling) campaign as the central axis of the league’s rebrand, in order to promote responsible gambling at all levels.

“This alliance with the Peruvian Football Federation is a historic step for Betsson Peru,” said Jesper Svensson, chief executive of Betsson Group.

“Being part of the first division of professional football is an achievement that fills us with pride, and it also implies a responsibility that we happily shoulder.”

“We are aware of the tough times that sport is going through all around the world, and for this reason, through this sponsorship, we are contributing towards the development of Peruvian football this year.”

Benjamín Romero, marketing and commercial manager of the FPF, added: “It is very important for the League that a brand as relevant as Betsson joins us as the main sponsor and that the Peruvian tournament changes the name to Liga 1 Betsson this season.

“This encourages us to continue the work and add value to the growth of the national sports industry”

Intralot completes sales of Peru business

The original deal, announced earlier this month, saw Nexus agree to pay $21.0m (£15.1m/€17.3m) to take ownership of the stake.

However, after taxes and transaction expenses, the final value of the deal was $16.2m.

Ahead of the deal completing, Intralot signed a three-year extension to a contract with Intralot de Peru SA, until 2024, to continue providing gaming technology and support services.

This came after Intralot signed extended deals with a number of other clients, including Lotterywest, the state lottery of Western Australia.

Intralot also renewed its lottery services deal with Greek lottery monopoly OPAP until 2023, and became one of the first companies to receive a Buenos Aires provincial igaming licence in partnership with local operator Binbaires.