Ex-MGM Resorts CEO to Lead Nevada’s Coronavirus Task Force

  • COVID-19 prompts Nevada to shut down casinos and set up a relief task force
  • Former MGM CEO Jim Murren appointed head of the task force
  • Murren’s expertise will help contain the outbreak, Nevada Gov. Sisolak says

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the now-retired MGM CEO Jim Murren has been selected for the job of heading the coronavirus relief effort in Nevada.

MGM’s Former Number One at the Helm of Nevada’s COVID-19 Task Force

Jim Murren will be leading the newly established COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, announced Governor Steve Sisolak this Sunday afternoon, following the closure of Nevada’s casino for 30 days. According to Gov. Sisolak, the experience that Murren has in a handful of industries will help Nevada’s healthcare system and ultimately lead to containing the outbreak.

Murren became a part of MGM in 2008 and for the past 12 years as CEO. It wasn’t long after his retirement in February that he was appointed a head of the new task force. Gov. Sisolak noted that Murren’s position is unpaid, voluntary and due to start straight away.

Murren’s first job on the list will be to allocate/source all of the useful assets from the private sector that can help in the fight with the coronavirus.

Considering Murren’s vast experience and contacts in Asia and the Middle East, it is expected from him to greatly help Nevada. Murren took part in a COVID-19 tourism industry round table with President Donald Trump and other White House leaders early in March so the announcement of Sisolak came at the right moment.

Gov. Sisolak noted that Murren will help the state receive the needed personal protection equipment, COVID-19 test kits and other essential supplies that the federal government cannot source currently. Sisolak also added: “Jim Murren can open doors that otherwise, I, as governor, can’t open up,”.

Some in Nevada Has Its Doubts About Addressing the Outbreak

Nevada state reaction was mixed as Jon Ralston, an old-timer editor and reported of The Nevada Independent questioned why a gaming insider such as Murren was picked. Ralston deemed that Gov. Sisolak was handling the crisis quite well so far but did note on Twitter that his announcement can face a bit of criticism.

Driven by fear of spreading the virus, states ordered the closing of many businesses and casinos. A lot of US leagues canceled their entire seasons or banned their fans from watching the games live, in person.

MGM did not stand idle by and took action to close all of its Strip casinos in Vegas. Only a few days after this decision, on Thursday, Sisolak ordered a state shut down for 30 days of all gambling establishments.

Murren noted that “There’s nothing more important right now than helping our state and each other through this crisis”. He continued with: “When we defeat this pandemic, I am confident that our state will come roaring back, as we have from the great hardships of the past.”

Aran Malik

“Magic Malik”—as we like to call him—is not only a tech whiz but a wizard when it comes to getting obscure news hot off the press so we know exactly what’s happening and can explore and report it back to our growing and loyal readerbase.

The Guardian: 83% of All Bets Came From 2% of Player Base

  • The Guardian obtains a report showing over-reliance by betting companies in the UK on VIP customers
  • UK Gambling Commission promises tougher measures on the segment
  • In some cases, 83% of all bets came from 2% of the player base

New evidence has surfaced that the UK gambling industry may be over-reliant on problem gamblers, The Guardian wrote citing a report obtained by the newspaper. High-spending VIP customers were the drivers of economic and financial results for companies, the newspaper reported.

More specifically, The Guardian argued that the likelihood of VIP customers being addicts was bigger than that of regular and casual players. In fact, VIP schemes brought in 83% of the deposits, from just 2% of the player base on at least one occasion.

VIP Programs and the Root of All Evil

The report obtained by the newspaper focused on criticizing the methods used by gambling companies to incentivize players into playing. A reward VIP program was designed from head-to-toe to provide players with various incentives, such as free bets, cash backs, and even football tickets.

Stepping into the discussion, the UK Gambling Commission said that measures have been taken to address the issue and correlation between addiction and high incidence of gambling addiction. Specifically, a spokesperson for the Commission had this to say:

Operators must improve their interaction with VIPs and we have challenged the industry to make faster progress to improve how they manage their customers. We have also taken robust action against operators who fail to protect consumers and we will be even tougher if behavior does not change.

The worst case was that of a company which collected 83% of all its deposits from 2% of the customer base. Meanwhile, there were other worrying examples, such as another company that accumulated 58% of all deposits through 5% of its customer base.

A third company scooped up some 48% of all deposits from just 3% of its members, pointing to a growing inadequacy between existing regulatory measures and how VIP customers are protected. With some 47,000 VIP customers in the United Kingdom, at least 8% of them are already gambling addicts, the Commission said.

We Have the Means to Fight Gambling Addiction

One section of the report said that gambling firms are already aware of which customers are more likely to play and spend more, thanks to advanced algorithms. However, there has been no real effort to offer help to individuals who are likely to also be developing a gambling addiction.

However, the Commission has not been without a response on the issue. Several suggestions have been put forward on how to police the VIP segment better so as to avoid gambling addiction. One measure in the report reads that operators must come under more pressure.

Another says that an “industry-wide VIP code of conduct” must be put into place. A third goes even further, suggesting to altogether ban the VIP segment. Similar moves have been undertaken in Sweden where the country’s regulator, the Spelinspektionen, has shown zero policy for gambling products that incentivize further play.

Labor MP Carolyn Harris has gone even further to say: “This report shows how completely reliant the industry is on people with gambling problems and that they are profiteering from them. “ VIP players are indeed the segment that all companies are trying to retain and keep playing the most.

Sophia Rojas

Growing up around law firms, Sophia keeps our team of reporters atop any legislative developments to follow up with a welcomed dose of positive news as our house trivia nut!

Macau’s GGR Takes a Tumble in November, 7th Time in 2019

Gross gaming revenue in Macau dropped for the seventh time in 2019 in November, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau revealed, posting the latest results.

Macau’s GGR Drops in November for 7th Month in 2019

Macau’s gross gaming revenue (GGR) took an 8.5% tumble year-over-year in November, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau reported. The regulator specified that the amount generated by the industry was $2.84 billion stood at November.

Previously, revenue dropped in August when it shrunk by 8.6%. This coincided with analyst forecasts who had been expecting Macau to take hits, occasioned by over-regulation, investigations in Australia, and a simmering trade war between the United States and China.

JP Morgan, an investment bank, said that the contraction was expected, but also better than original forecasts. The daily revenue amounted to nearly $88 million a day, the bank confirmed.

The VIP segment was also affected, registering a 13% drop in overall performance. More importantly, Macau posted a year in which the months of declining revenue exceeded those of positive growth. November was the seventh such month in 2019.

Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd, a brokerage firm with focus on Macau’s gaming sector, also confirmed the numbers, from falling VIP revenue to overall daily handle. A tightening VISA control from the mainland has also been an issue, as Chinese authorities are now more scrupulous about mainland visitors in Macau.

Meanwhile, brokerage Nomura, suggested that December may bring a modest growth for the gaming hub:

“Assuming December GGR increases sequentially in line with its trailing seven-year median, or up roughly 5 to 6 percent versus November, we estimate GGR for the month should settle around MOP24 billion,” said the institution.”

While Macau has a relative freedom to run its business as it sees fit, mainland China still has a big say in what happens. China President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Macau on December 20, marking the official handover of Macau back to China. Analysts predict that this would curb the growth of GGR in December.

Macau Claims $12bn in Taxes until October

While challenges continue, Macau claimed $11.7 billion in tax revenue from the casino gaming sector in the first 10 months of 2019. Despite several months of drops in the overall GGR, Macau generated 0.4% more handle over the period.

Despite the fairly strong results, Macau’s government has pursued a policy of exclusion whereby gambling revenue is never factored as a reliable source of tying up expenditures for the public purse.

Income is duly redistributed, however. Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong has recently said that Macau will focus on protecting public interest above all else.

Having just stepped into his position, the Secretary is committed to optimizing a number of matters related to the gaming industry in Macau, including the existing gaming concession contracts.

While no details about the future of Macau’s gaming have been revealed, it’s certain that management will be introducing changes.

George Hansen

Taking a liking to the occasional bout of slots, George used to moonlight as a roulette dealer, giving him a unique perspective into the casino world. From there he continued his journalist education and has been with us ever since a star-aligned graduation brought him and our team together.

Trade Group Calls for Liberalization of Austria Gambling Market

A trade group has called for the end of monopoly in Austria, specifically targeting Casinos Austria.

Does Austria Have a Gambling Monopoly?

Austria has called for an end of monopoly in the iGaming sector, and specifically Casinos Austria’s tight control over the industry. The appeal has been made by the leading gambling trade group in the country, The Austrian Association for Betting and Gambling (OVWG) .

The OVWG expressed concerns over Casinos Austria’s CFO Peter Sidlo and specifically his participation as a district councillor in Vienna from the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO). Not least of all, Mr. Sidlo is also a shareholder in Novomatic, one of the largest developers out there.

Both Sidlo and Novomatic have denied to have benefitted in any way from the councillor’s position and connections in politics.

An Investigation Proving Otherwise

The OVWG acted after the Economic and Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (WKStA) carried out raids as part of investigation looking into alleged links between politicians and the gambling business.

Responding to these developments, the trade group said that Austria needs to re-consider how gambling business operates in the country and that Casinos Austria need to lose clout by liberalizing the market and allowing more actors to join.

The OVWG further said:

“On the one hand, this concerns the multiple function of the Federal Minister of Finance as the supervisory authority, licensing body and co-owner. On the other hand, it is an unjustifiable fact that there is only one national online gambling license, which also raises significant concerns about its compliance with EU law.”

Not least of all, Mr. Sildo’s appointment has been perceived as an appointment designed to exploit his connections in politics.

The OVWG also cited Denmark as a great example of how an industry should operate, both in terms of transparency as well as player protection measures. Specifically, the trade group argued that Denmark didn’t limit the number of licenses, for example, but rather, the country introduced very high customer protection and licensing standards in the first place.

Operators Need to be Supervised by the State

The necessity for a more liberal system is to guarantee that competition strives to meet the standards set out by the government, the OVWG has specified.

However, in the absence of high licensing standards, and the power concentrated in the lottery and Casinos Austria, there is little opportunity for a meaningful change to follow.

Earlier, the European Court of Justice issued a ruling that Casinos Austria was at odds with European regulatory measures in the gambling industry. Specifically, the court said that there was a clear absence of a competitive procedure to justify how the company has obtained its license.

While ‘European meddling’ has been a common dismissal of Brussels trying to tell member states how to run their gaming industries, even countries traditionally thought of as protectionists have been liberalizing their markets, including France.

European Union commissioner for financial services, Michel Barnier has long been calling for harmonization of European directives, and gaming is specifically an area where Austria needs to become more liberal in.

Carmen Thompson

Carmen is our residential reporter always on the move and hunting down the latest scoops and rumours to explore. Nothing gets past her keen nose, especially when it comes to some serious Jelly Bean poker tournaments.

Germany’s Ads Industry Boosted by Casino Spending

The German advertisement industry has been boosted by a spike in how much casinos have been advertising their bonuses and promotions across various mediums.

German Casino Ads Spending Goes Up

There is a link between how much the German advertising industry earns at home and how many casinos are looking for ways to sell their promotions, a new report has revealed. Advertisement in Germany has been going well with online casinos investing big buck into spreading the word about their current offers.

The data is based on a study by Research Tools, a consultancy firm. The firm simply collected publicly accessible data from AdVision, a media monitoring company and found out that all online operators have collectively spent around $450 million in running ads for their promotions as of May 31, 2019.

These numbers cover the last 12 months. As Research Tools’ report noted, these numbers were driven mostly by online advertisement in the iGaming sector. Specifically, operators have spent estimated $80 million more on promoting their products year-over-year, or 20% based on Research Tools’ assessment.

In other words, private advertisers have been spending more than state lotteries. Moreover, up to 64 brands have promoted gambling products, another increased compared with 47 a year before that. Specifically, it has been Kindred Group’s Unibet-owned operator, Wunderino, to significantly increase its involvement in the country and put more investment in online ads.

German TV Dominated by Casino Ads

The Research Tools’ study also established that TV remained the dominant medium of promotion in the country, with 80% of all advertisement revenue spent on that. Plus, the majority of the ads focused on stressing how “exciting” these offers were.

Brands also reached out to popular athletes to help them promote their product, such as in the case of Oliver Kahn and Diego Maradona. However, such moves have merited some negative attention from authorities, not necessarily in Germany. The study was focused on 500 consumer magazines, 190 specialist journals, 71 radio and 45 television channels, plus a sample of 500 pages.

Yet, Germany’s casino prospects are somewhat dimmer. The country is looking to enforce the Third State Treaty on Gambling which is coming on January 1, 2020 and will see the first official sportsbook in the country launch on June 30, 2021.

Presently, online casinos are operating in a sort of a grey legal area in the state. Furthermore, Germany has already issued recommendations to payment processors to restrict the transaction of money between German citizens and any offshore operator.

PayPal was one of the operators that needs to enforce the measures. The payment processor has had run-ins with authorities in the past, specifically in the United States and over the same issues with not suspending transactions.

George Hansen

Taking a liking to the occasional bout of slots, George used to moonlight as a roulette dealer, giving him a unique perspective into the casino world. From there he continued his journalist education and has been with us ever since a star-aligned graduation brought him and our team together.

Macau’s Casinos to Introduce More Facial Recognition

  • Macau to oversee facial recognition tech
  • China reportedly scooping up private data
  • More regulations needs for the proper use of the tech

Macau’s casino operators are becoming more serious about leveraging facial recognition tech to ensure customer safety. The measure may be backfiring as there have been reports of the misuse of the data to identify vulnerable customers and collect private data.

Macau Casinos’ Test Facial Recognition Tech

Macau is stepping up its efforts to better protect customers by introducing a series of technologically advanced measures, including facial recognition technologies. The Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau has confirmed that operators in one of Asia’s largest gaming huts have been leveraging the technology to ensure the safety of customers.

Yet, the technology is not as pervasive as Luddites may think. According to DICJ, the regulator’s acronym, all tests were in a stage of preliminary testing and a full-scale implementation would take a while.

At the same time, strict rules for the use of the technology have begun to emerge. For example, casinos cannot use these technologies for anything but monitoring their properties and ensuring the security on the premises of the casinos. Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International are already utilizing facial recognition whereas other big brands are in the process of negotiating with suppliers.

The Dangers of Face Recognition in Macau’s Casinos

New technologies will be coming to the fore in other important areas of casino operation as well, including anti-money laundering and know your customer (KYC) practices. The technology shouldn’t be leveraged to give casinos an edge, for example, as a recent Bloomberg article revealed.

According to the article, Chinese operators have been using facial recognition to identify the gamers that are the most prone to risk and targetting them specifically. Such misuse of technology underpins what the dangers lack of basic ethnic guidelines bring around with itself.

It’s not that such mismanagement practices are happening just in Macau. China may be exporting data outside the country via the so-called “data cloud” whereby data is breached and exported back to the mainland. This is in violation with Macau’s data protection policy. Then again, China is the overlord that sanctions gambling in its back yard.

The push to introduce better technologies ensuring the safety of customers has been a long-term goal of operators in Macau and a move approved and welcomed by Mui San Meng, assistant to the Commissioner-General of the Unitary Police Service.

Meanwhile, the Macau Gaming Bureau released a statement on Friday, June 28, saying that it had begun looking into a framework for authorizing the use of such technologies at a mass scale in Macau.

The Bureau also explained that any installation of surveillance technologies in casinos needs to be pre-approved by the regulator and given green light to. This ensures a stricter control over how surveillance tech and facial recognition is used.

Still, the Bureau didn’t comment on whether China has been syphoning off personal data and whether casinos have been targetting more susceptible gamblers to squeeze out better profit.

Grant Mahon

Grant is the self-professed casino madman and reporter that brought this eclectic team of dedicated and talented writers together from around the world to proudly build an humble empire of authentic casino news.

Switzerland Gives iGaming the Go-Ahead with Four New Licenses

  • Swiss Federal Council approves iGaming licenses
  • Regulator to conduct checks into the online software
  • ISPs to begin blocking foreign brands from July1, 2019
  • The Swiss iGaming industry is about to kick off on July 1 with the official approval of the Federal Council and the country’s regulator.

    Swiss Federal Court Gives Go-Ahead of iGaming Industry

    Switzerland has issued the country’s first four official gambling licenses to local operators and their online platforms. On Friday, the Switzerland’s Federal Council gave its approval for kicking off gambling activities in the country in earnest and issued four online gaming permits.

    The permits were also approved by the Federal Gaming Commission (ESBK), the country’s national watchdog, before making it to the Federal Council. As a result, Switzerland is now preparing to launch its fully-legalized iGaming industry come July 1, 2019. The first operators that will scale their operations online include:

    • Grand Casino Baden
    • Grand Casino Davos
    • Grand Casino Lucerne
    • Pfäffikon Casinos

    The List of Casino Software Providers in Switzerland

    Pfäffikon is owned by Swiss Casinos. Each operator will come with come under its own unique digital skin. Grand Casino Baden will be launching under Jackpot.ch, an online portal which offered free-play gaming opportunities for years.

    Meanwhile, Davos is teaming up with Ardent Group and it will launch the Casino777 brand. It’s worth noting that land-based casinos need online partners to develop their iGaming portfolio. However, the emerging brand doesn’t necessarily have to bear the names of either companies involved, hence the confusion in names.

    As to Pfäffikon, the company is teaming up with Playtech, a familiar face in the iGaming world. Before launching officially, though,the ESBK will need to audit the software used by each casino,w which is a standard procedure.

    Each online property should run their games based on something called a “Random Number Generator”, which in turns guaranteed the fair, randomized outcome of every game.

    No Country for Unlicensed Casinos

    Switzerland’s has opted for the gunk-ho approach towards unregulated brands,similarly to the Netherlands. Switzerland puts great store by its gambling industry which is also instrumental in funding the pension system.

    While officially the industry was given the go-ahead as of January 1, 2019, Swiss ISPs will wait until July 1 to start effectively blocking foreign and unregulated operators. In the summer of 2018, Switzerland held a referendum on whether foreign operators and brands should be banned in the country.

    There was a strong movement against allowing ISPs to ban website as that violated constitutional freedoms, the protestors argued. However, the faction pushing the ban used the negative connotation of gambling to get its way,citing also the importance of the industry for the country’s pension fund.

Aran Malik

“Magic Malik”—as we like to call him—is not only a tech whiz but a wizard when it comes to getting obscure news hot off the press so we know exactly what’s happening and can explore and report it back to our growing and loyal readerbase.