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State of the Union, Scientific Games, Big Fish, Louisiana and more

Insight | Analysis

This week’s State of the Union, in partnership with Segev LLP, covers the proposed return of casinos in Nevada – and steps taken to to ensure venues may reopen safely. Also covered are Churchill Downs and Aristocrat’s agreement to settle two class-action suits relating to Big Fish Gaming and a bill to legalize sports betting in Louisiana.

Scientific Games rolls out contactless gaming solutions

Scientific Games has launched a new range of contactless gaming solutions, with the aim of helping gambling venues around the world to reopen safely after the temporary shutdown due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Some gambling facilities have already reopened after a period of closure, while others are in the process of implementing new measures to safely recommence activities.

Scientific Games said it can assist with this process, providing new tools such as the Unified Wallet. This is a cashless solution that allows players to instantly access funds to play slots and tables via an app on their mobile device, without needing to physically withdraw cash.

Louisiana Senate passes sports betting referendum bill

The Louisiana State Senate has passed a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, by a margin of 29-8, and now passes to the House of Representatives for further scrutiny.

SB130 – proposed by Senator J. Cameron Henry – aims to hold a parish-by-parish referendum on whether to allow sports betting in Louisiana. Only those jurisdictions that vote in favour will be permitted to offer wagering.

The proposition would appear on the ballot of the 3 November, 2020 election.

CDI and Aristocrat create $155m fund to settle Big Fish claims

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the former owner of social gaming studio Big Fish Games, and Aristocrat Leisure, its current owner, have entered into an agreement in principle to settle two class-action suits related to the business.

The pair will create a $155m settlement fund, of which CDI will contribute $124m, with a further $31m paid in by Aristocrat, to refund players that lost money playing Big Fish’s social casino titles.

This follows a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which concluded that Big Fish apps such as Big Fish Casino and Jackpot Magic Slots constituted a form of illegal gambling. This came just months after Aristocrat completed its $990m acquisition of the studio from CDI.

Covid-19 scuppers Saratoga purchase of Wildwood Casino

Saratoga Harness Racing’s planned purchase of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, Colorado from American Gaming Group (AGG) has been canceled because of the effect of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) on both businesses.

Saratoga Harness Racing had agreed to purchase the casino on 11 March, but the outbreak of the virus in the United States, and the economic impact this had on both Saratoga and AGG led to the deal’s termination.

“At this time, we believe it’s in the best interest of both companies, and our respective casinos, to cancel the deal so we can focus on doing what’s best for our casinos and our players,” Joe Canfora, the owner of Wildwood Casino, said.

MGM aims to reopen Las Vegas casinos on June 4

MGM Resorts International has announced plans to reopen its casinos in Las Vegas on June 4, in line with measures set out by Governor Steve Sisolak.

The Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Signature are scheduled to reopen next week, though amenities at all of the properties will be limited due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

MGM said the casinos would also operate in line with its seven-point safety plan, set out earlier this month to ensure the safety of all customers and employees.

Esports Entertainment targets US expansion with new NJ arm

Esports betting operator Esports Entertainment Group has formed a new US-facing subsidiary, GMBL New Jersey.

The group said the new subsidiary will make its first application for a betting license in the state in the “near future” and will provide updates for each of its license applications as they are submitted.

“Today’s announcement marks yet another significant milestone and provides the market with even greater insight as to our growth strategy,” Grant Johnson, chief executive of Esports Entertainment Group, said.

NV governor sets target date for casino reopenings

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has set a target date of 4 June for the reopening of the state’s casinos.

All casinos in the state were ordered to close on 17 March due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but with other states such as Louisiana and Mississippi reopening last week, Nevada has set out a roadmap of its own.

Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board provided guidelines for reopening. Casinos must limit the number of players in their facilities and at gaming tables in order to prevent transmission of the virus.

Caesars to start LV return with Caesars Palace and Flamingo

Caesars Entertainment has revealed that it will resume gaming and hospitality operations in Las Vegas at its Caesars Palace and Flamingo properties once state officials give operators the green light.

All of Caesars’ nine Las Vegas properties have been closed since 17 March, as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Both Caesars Palace and the Flamingo will offer lodging, dining options and access to outdoor pools, as well as slot machines and table games, all operated in compliance with physical distancing guidelines. Several retail and dining outlets along its Linq promenade, and its High Roller Observation Wheel, will also reopen in phase one.

Michigan legislator Iden honored for igaming contribution

Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden has received an honorary American Gambling Award for his pivotal role in Michigan’s successful legalization of sports betting, online poker and online casino in late 2019. said that the willingness of Iden, who serves the 61st District in the Michigan House of Representatives, to work with a broad range of stakeholders “helped establish a solid compromise bill in 2019 that had broad-based appeal for tribes, commercial casinos, online operators and fantasy sports providers.”

It added that this would allow online gamblers in the state to play at fully regulated and taxed operators with full player protections, as opposed to with offshore sites which continue to target the market without any local oversight.

Twin River reopens Hard Rock Biloxi Casino

Twin River Worldwide Holdings’ Hard Rock Biloxi Casino in Mississippi reopened on May 21, joining other major casinos in the state in resuming activities following the novel coronavirus (Covid-19 lockdown).

Mississippi – alongside Louisiana – has been among the earliest states in allowing casinos to reopen, provided that they abide by new measures to help combat the spread of the virus, including operating with limited capacity and promoting social distancing throughout their facilities.