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State of the Union: ICE North America, Scheinberg, Casino closures and more

Insight | Analysis

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, covers the continued impact of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic on the US gambling sector, as well as a new CEO at MGM, Galaxy Gaming’s 2019 results and a sports betting bill in Maryland.

Clarion Gaming postpones ICE North America

Clarion Gaming managing director Kate Chambers has confirmed that ICE North America, originally due to take place in May this year, has been postponed as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The event will now take place in Spring 2021, with exact dates to be announced shortly.

“Gaming, in common with all sectors of the global economy, has been severely damaged by the horrendous impact caused by Covid-19,” Chambers explained. “As event organisers immersed in the industry that we serve, we are fully aware of the economic turbulence being experienced by our friends and colleagues throughout the international supply chain and our thoughts are with them.

PokerStars founder Scheinberg pleads guilty to illegal gambling charge

Isai Scheinberg, founder of PokerStars, has pled guilty in a New York court to running a multi-million dollar unlawful internet gambling business.

Scheinberg pled guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business, for which he faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. Judge Lewis Kaplan will be responsible for determining the punishment, with the date for sentencing yet to be set.

Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, revealed that Scheinberg, 73, had been arrested in Switzerland on 7 June 2019, as a result of the US charges. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice then ordered his extradition to the US in October that year, a decision that he appealed.

US economy faces $43.5bn hit from casino closures

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has said that the widespread shutdown of casinos across the US could cost the country’s economy as much as $43.5bn over the next two months.

According to the AGA, 95% of all commercial casinos in the US have closed in the past week, while 76% of tribal casinos have shut their doors in line with state government orders to help slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

The AGA said the mass closure risks almost $74bn in total annual wages, with 98% of the whole gaming workforce – some 616,000 casino and resort employees – impacted by the shutdown.

AGA hails Senate passage of $2tn disaster aid bill

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has hailed the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act through the US Senate, saying it would help prop up the gaming industry during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

AGA president and chief executive Bill Miller urged the US House of Representatives to move quickly to pass the legislation, which would allow the bill to progress to President Donald Trump.

The president has already pledged to sign the bill as soon as possible.

Maryland sports betting bill heads to Governor

A bill to allow legal sports betting in Maryland will head to Governor Larry Hogan after passing both of the state’s legislative houses.

Senate Bill 4 – introduced by Craig Zucker – was approved on Tuesday (17 March) by the state House of Representatives after new amendments from the House Committee on Ways and Means were added to the bill.

The House then voted 129-3 for the bill’s passage and the amended version was then passed by the Senate unanimously yesterday. An earlier version of the bill was also approved unanimously by the Senate on 11 March.

GAN reiterates 2020 forecast despite Covid-19

Gambling software supplier GAN has reiterated its confidence in its 2020 forecast, which projected revenue of $37m-$39m, even as the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) affects its sports betting vertical.

This came alongside the developer’s 2019 results, which revealed a 114% year-on-year increase in revenue, to $30.0m for the year, as well as the signing up of Penn National Gaming and Michigan’s Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians as its latest clients.

GAN said that, as of March 12th, online sports betting revenues had exceeded expectations. Even considering the suspension of all major sports from mid-March, revenue for the vertical is projected to come in ahead of target.

MGM Resorts names Hornbuckle as acting CEO

Casino operator MGM Resorts International has appointed Bill Hornbuckle as acting chief executive and also named Paul Salem as the new chairman of its board.

Hornbuckle will replace Jim Murren, who last month announced that he was to step down from the role, bringing to an end almost 12 years in charge of the operator.

Murren had agreed to remain in the role until a successor was appointed, but has now left MGM to provide continuity of leadership, in light of the ongoing situation with the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

Galaxy Gaming revenue and earnings increase in 2019

Table games supplier Galaxy Gaming’s revenue increased 14.5% to $21.3m for 2019 and said it remains confident that it has the funds to survive the closure of many casinos due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

The business’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation EBITDA, meanwhile, came to $8.8m, up 33.3% year-on-year.

Final US commercial casinos close amid Covid-19 outbreak

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has repeated its call for the federal government to support the US gambling industry after the last remaining commercial casinos temporarily closed their doors in response to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

South Dakota had been the only state in which casinos remained open, but after Deadwood Mayor Dave Ruth Jr. ordered the closure of casinos in the city, this means that all 465 commercial casinos across the US have now shut.

KamaGames and Hard Rock launch social casino app

Social gaming operator KamaGames has linked up with Hard Rock International to launch a new social casino mobile application.

Hard Rock Blackjack features a range of free-to-play casino games from KamaGames’ portfolio, including roulette, craps, baccarat, blackjack and slots.

Loto-Québec sets online focus as retail sales suspended

Loto-Québec has switched its focus to online after it temporarily suspended retail sales in response to provincial government measures to slow the spread of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

The Canadian provincial lottery operator will halt the sale of tickets and also deactivate its sales terminals at retailers and in kiosks operated by non-profit organisations.

Golden Matrix sees new client boom amid casino shut-down

Social gaming solutions provider Golden Matrix Group has licensed its GM-X platform to 24 new clients, and expects this number to grow significantly, as operators shift online amid the shutdown resulting from novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Having stated that it did not expect any negative impact from the pandemic last week, Golden Matrix has now revealed that it expects an additional 40 operators to sign up for the GM-X platform by the end of April.

MGM commits $1m to employee coronavirus fund

Casino operator MGM Resorts has announced a number of initiatives to support people in the US impacted financially by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, including a $1m crisis and disaster relief pledge into an emergency grant fund for staff.

The MGM Resorts Emergency Relief Fund provides MGM employees and their families with short-term relief in making payments during unexpected hardships and emergencies.

Nevada to permit wagering on Counter-Strike ESL Pro League

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has given its approval for licensed operators in the state to begin accepting bets on esports competition, the ESL Pro League Season.

Consumers will be able to place legal wagers on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition’s ESL Pro League Season 11: North America series, following the regulator’s decision.

Washington Governor signs off on tribal sports betting bill

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee has signed off on a bill that will legalise sports betting at tribal gambling facilities in the state.

House Bill 2638 authorizes in-person sports betting at tribal casinos, as well as on-premises mobile wagering.

Boyd withdraws dividend after Covid-19 closures

Land-based gaming operator Boyd Gaming has suspended its quarterly cash dividend due to the continued effects of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The decision came after all of Boyd’s casinos – and all other casinos in the United States – have closed in order to limit the spread of the disease. The operator closed casinos in the nine states in which it operates in line with orders in each state for casinos to close.