Each week, CasinoBeats breaks down the numbers behind some of the industry’s most interesting stories. Our latest edition takes a look at a potential divestment of a key Tabcorp division, Hard Rock employee bonuses, Entain’s The Players’ Panel, and UKGC slots rules.
The UK Gambling Commission has detailed a raft of strict measures that must be implemented by operators, with an aim of strengthening protections and controls for those who gamble through online slots games.
These include the introduction of limits on spin speeds and a permanent ban on features that speed up play or celebrate losses as wins, which need to be fully implemented by online operators by October 31, 2021.
This follows a consultation with the public and players, gambling industry and other stakeholders, with the subsequent measures aiming to make online casino games less intensive, safer by design and hand players more control over their gambling.
The new rules include the outrights ban of features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over the outcome; slot spin speeds faster than 2.5 seconds; autoplay, which it says can lead to players losing track of their play; and sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to, or below, a stake.
Furthermore, a permanent ban on reverse withdrawals will also come into effect, and operators have been instructed that they must clearly display total losses or wins and time played during any online slots session to players.
Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive of William Hill, has said that the black market “is a growing problem that we must confront,” and suggests action “is all the more important now” amid evidence of growth.
The comments follow mounting black market concerns being expressed from numerous quarters, with the Betting and Gaming Council warning of the “dangers of complacency” following a PwC review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK.
Key findings indicated a jump in unlicensed operator usage to 4.5 per cent from 2.2 per cent compared to a similar study conducted in 2019, meaning that the number of customers using an unlicensed betting website has grown from 210,000 to 460,000.
An increase in unlicensed operator spend from 1.2 per cent to 2.3 per cent was also documented, which sees figures rise from approximately £1.4bn to £2.8bn.
However, reductions in both unlicensed operators in Google search results, from 12 per cent to five per cent, and unlicensed operator awareness, from 47 per cent to 44 per cent, were also evident.
Giving consumers a voice on key issues around betting and gambling in the UK has been asserted by Entain, as the betting and gaming group launches The Players’ Panel.
Coming at a “critical moment,” the panel is drawn from the group’s customers across the UK on a voluntary, unpaid basis, and intends to be a platform for them to speak out on issues such as the future of betting, freedom of choice, funding for sports and gaming trends.
Debuting amid the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act, the views of the Players’ Panel are their own and they will be interacting with political decision-makers, stakeholders and the media to give the perspective of the day-to-day customer. Members include a retired printer, a customer service executive, a library worker and a health and safety executive.
PlayStudios became the latest firm to unveil its intentions to go public, doing so via a $1.1bn valuation and a definitive merger agreement with Acies Acquisition Corp, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company.
Upon the closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named PlayStudios and remain listed on Nasdaq under the new ticker symbol “MYPS.”
Acies’ management team is led by chairman Jim Murren, formerly chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, and co-chief executive officers Dan Fetters and Edward King, formerly managing directors at Morgan Stanley.
PlayStudios is led by Andrew Pascal, founder, chairman, and CEO, who will continue to lead the combined group along with his current founder-led management team.
Each firm’s board of directions have approved the transaction, with the go-ahead now needed by stockholders of Acies. The deal, which is expected to close during 2021’s second quarter, is also contingent on the receipt of certain regulatory approvals.
A New South Wales Office of Responsible Gambling commissioned study found that almost 30 per cent of young people have participated in illegal gambling in the past year.
The NSW Youth Gambling Study 2020 investigated the gambling attitudes and behaviours of young people aged 12-17 from March 28 to May 11, 2020, through focus groups and an online survey of 2,200 people.
Of those participants, with it noted that the “main limitation was the smaller than expected sample attained from the letterbox drop,” young people, on average, were found to have started simulated gambling and monetary gambling at 11-12 years.
In the past year, 29.8 per cent reported participation in monetary gambling and 40.1 per cent reported having played a video game or app with a gambling-like component, with 46.1 per cent noticing gambling advertising on television during sports and racing events weekly.
Over 2,000 Hard Rock International employees in Atlantic City are to receive bonuses in recognition of their efforts throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Implementing the pledge for the second consecutive year, the bonuses, which are said to be worth $1m in total, aim to reward the loyalty, hard work, and dedication to the gaming resort.
US media outlets report that similar moves are also being made by the firm further afield, including in Florida, where Seminole Tribe of Florida owned group boasts the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.
Companies across a range of industries are said to have made similar moves in recent weeks, with a number of Macau focused casino operators, including MGM China; Melco Resorts and Entertainment; Wynn Macau; and SJM Holdings, also reported to have implemented employee bonus structures.
Tabcorp confirmed that it has received “a number of unsolicited approaches and proposals,” following speculation of a transaction involving its wagering and media business.
The group made the confirmation in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, however, it is noted that despite the interest from multiple parties “there is certainty that any transaction will occur”.
Despite taking full control of Australian retail betting in 2017 following its merger AU$11bn merger with rival Tatts Group, Tabcorp’s wagering units have floundered year-on-year against increased competition from online competitors. A potential transaction would see the underperforming wagering arm split from its lotteries counterpart.