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By: Phil Kabler of Charleston Gazette-Mail

Launches of sports betting at Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras casinos, tentatively expected by the end of this month, have been delayed, Lottery spokesman Randy Burnside said Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, he said the parent company of both casinos, Delaware North, had advised the Lottery it would be delaying the launch of sportsbooks at its Wheeling and Nitro locations, but did not specify reasons for the delay.

“Delaware North has pushed back their timeline for opening the sportsbooks at both Wheeling and Mardi Gras,” Burnside said. “The Lottery is waiting to hear back from them to schedule testing at some point in October.”

Kim Florence, president of Wheeling Island, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Gaming industry officials have expressed concern that the Justice administration might attempt to amend legislative rules governing sports betting — which have to be filed with the secretary of state before Oct. 7 — to mandate that the state’s casinos share sports betting profits with professional sports leagues.

That’s despite legislators soundly rejecting previous attempts by the Justice administration to mandate paying “integrity fees” to the leagues or require that the casinos enter into contracts with those leagues.

Industry concerns were heightened by the abrupt resignation of Lottery Director Alan Larrick and the ongoing suspension of Lottery general counsel Danielle Boyd, who had both championed sports betting rules that do not include compensation to the sports leagues.

Earlier this month, West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association President John Cavacini said the sports leagues are trying to use the rule-making process to force policies that the Legislature rejected in the regular session.

“It would be very hard for the tracks to go back and start all over with a new set of rules and regulations,” he said, adding, “We object to them bringing the same old stuff they lost on in January, February and March, and trying to get them through the backdoor through amending rules and regulations.”

Meanwhile Thursday in Congress, a House subcommittee hosted the first public hearing on possible federal legislation to regulate sports betting at the state and tribal level.

Those testifying included Jocelyn Moore, executive vice president of the National Football League, who said that without federal oversight, “We are witnessing a regulatory race to the bottom.”

She said the NFL is asking Congress to consider federal regulations of sports betting, including requiring operators to contract with the league for official game data, to restrict or ban “risky” in-game wagers on individual performances that she said are more susceptible to fixing, and to prevent the use of intellectual property, including league and team logos, without consent.

“Our product is widely available for unofficial data providers to abuse,” she said.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice has pushed for concessions in the state’s new sports betting law to compensate professional sports leagues, first proposing paying a portion of state profits to the leagues through an “integrity fee” and more recently proposing that the state’s casinos be required to contract with the leagues for game data.

During Thursday’s hearing, Sara Slane, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, and Becky Harris, chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, argued that paying fees to sports leagues would make legal sports betting uncompetitive with existing illegal and offshore markets, and said legal sports betting provides transparency to help assure the integrity of the games.

Both noted that sports betting has a low profit margin, and that paying taxes or fees to professional sports leagues could make legal sports betting uncompetitive with illegal, black market betting using bookies or offshore Internet sites.

Part of developing successful legal sportsbooks, they said, requires drawing bettors away from the illegal operators, who don’t require valid identification, who often take bets on credit, who don’t report big wins to the Internal Revenue Service, and who frequently can offer better odds.

“They don’t care about regulations. They don’t care about consumers, and they don’t pay taxes,” Slane said.

She said polls show 70 percent of sports bettors would prefer to move from illegal to legal sportsbook operations.

Slane said legal sports betting promotes the integrity of sports events, since the legal operators have the ability to detect and report to authorities any unusual betting patterns.

“Right now, we have no idea if any illegal activity is occurring because there is no transparency in the black market,” she said.

Harris noted that the Nevada Gaming Control Board has detected and reported cases of betting improprieties in the past.

“Integrity in gaming is absolutely critical,” she said. “Sports betting scandals are more likely to occur in illegal markets where there is no regulatory responsibility, where monitoring betting patterns is of no concern, and where line movements may not matter.”

The subcommittee also heard from anti-gambling advocates, including Les Bernal, with Stop Predatory Gambling, who said state-sanctioned gambling is a “con game” that deprives Americans of $118 billion of income each year.

“Adding sports betting to the mix is going to make these gambling losses more severe,” he said.

The hearing was the first since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May overturning a federal law banning sports betting in most of the country.

However, closing comments by the subcommittee chairman, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, D-Wisconsin, suggested it would not be the last.

“The one thing I think we all agree on is for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative,” he said.

By: CBS News

House Republicans say they strongly favor new federal regulations on sports gambling after the Supreme Court allowed states to open sports books.

At a hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee, GOP members Thursday said they were concerned advertisements and online gambling platforms could target minors, and said they feared the potential for match-fixing.

"For Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. Without any action to regulate sports gambling, he said, "there are going to be people who get hurt and get hurt badly."

The hearing was the first Congress has held on the issue since the Supreme Court in June struck down a law that limited sports gambling to four states, and full-service sports books only to Nevada. Since then, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia have legalized betting on pro and amateur sports, with more states considering adding sports books to their existing racetracks or casinos.

The prospect of federal action is murky at best. No bill has been introduced to enact the reforms discussed by Sensenbrenner and other GOP members, and the committee may have different priorities if Democrats take over the House in the midterm elections.

A gambling-industry representative and a Nevada regulator told the committee that states were fully capable of regulating sports gambling on their own and said many of the fears about the ills of expanded sports gambling have not been realized.

The industry argues that legalization will move sports betting from illegal offshore operators to licensed businesses that pay taxes and have consumer protections. Gambling proponents also argue that match-fixing and other nefarious activities are easier to prevent and snuff out in a regulated market.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he thought there was a federal role to play in regulating online gambling because it can't be contained within state borders.

"I do not believe gambling is a victimless activity," Goodlatte said. "I think that online gambling, in particular, can be more destructive to the families and communities of addictive gamblers than if a bricks-and-mortar casino were built next door."

Jon Bruning, a Republican former Nebraska attorney general, told the committee that young people in the United Kingdom, where legal sports betting is widespread, were being exploited by licensed online operators, citing studies that showed minors are placing bets and being bombarded by advertisements.

In Nevada online sports gambling has not yet proved popular, said Becky Harris, the chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. She said protections are in place, including a requirement that bettors go to a casino in person and undergo a background check before placing bets online.

Jocelyn Moore, an NFL spokeswoman and lobbyist, used the word "integrity" 24 times in her seven-page written testimony. She urged Congress to limit legal gambling to those 21 and older, require operators to use official data from leagues and bar risky bets on in-game action that, she said, are particularly susceptible to match-fixing. The league also wants more aggressive enforcement against illegal bookies.

Unions for the four major U.S. professional leagues and Major League Soccer asked Congress to include protections for players and their families in any federal regulation.

By: Steven Stradbrooke of Calvin Ayre

Thursday’s sports betting hearing in the US congress was not unlike The Lord of the Rings, in that the forces of darkness significantly outnumbered the wagering heroes.

Thursday saw the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations tackle the issue of what role the federal government should – or shouldn’t – have in overseeing sports betting activity in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down the federal betting ban.

Subcommittee chair Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) opened the proceedings by noting the lack of any real media presence, given the hearing was taking place at the same time as the Senate’s far more consequential hearing into whether a Supreme Court nominee was a rat-bastard frat-boy rapist.

Sensenbrenner immediately copped to his impartiality on the subject of betting, saying that the “temptation is there to throw games” and unless something – exactly what went unspecified – is done, Sensenbrenner foresaw “a huge amount of trouble in the future” as legal betting spread across the land.

Next up was Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VI), one of the architects of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), who rejected the view that gambling was a “victimless activity” and claimed that online gambling was “more destructive” to families than if a brick-and-mortar casino opened on the other side of their white picket fence.

Goodlatte claimed to be a supporter of state’s rights, but also claimed that state gambling regulations were impossible to enforce in this modern age of newfangled gizmos. Speaking of, Goodlatte rubbished the concept of geo-fencing, saying that the best its proponents could say was that the technology “allegedly” works.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) concluded the committee members’ opening remarks by saying that the feds have a responsibility to ensure that sports are “free of fraud” and that the games are “on the up and up.”

WITNESS TESTIMONY
The first of the five invited guests to speak was Jocelyn Moore, the National Football League’s VP of communications and public affairs, who warned of a state-level “regulatory race to the bottom” that practically begged for federal intervention, conveniently ignoring the fact that the NFL felt no particular urge to oversee the legal wagering going on in Nevada over these many decades.

Moore recited the NFL’s longstanding demands, including the mandatory use of league-supplied data for betting purposes, the ability to veto bookmakers offering “risky” in-play betting markets and protection of the league’s intellectual property.

Next up was the reliably hyperbolic Les Bernal, director of Stop Predatory Gambling, who has made it his life’s mission to get state governments out of the gambling business. We’ll spare you the bulk of Bernal’s testimony, but can’t resist repeating his lines that “states are laboratories of fraud, exploitation and budgetary shell-games” and that “no illegal gambling operator is putting liens on people’s houses.” (On that last point, touché.)

Legal betting’s first backer was Sara Slane, the American Gaming Association’s senior VP of public affairs, who argued that state and tribal gaming regulators were already well equipped to adapt to include sports betting in their areas of oversight.

Slane noted that the feds have no input into oversight of slots, table games and other gambling products, and thus there was “no need to overcomplicate or interfere with system that is already working.”

Slane added that there was also no need for the feds to legally mandate official sports data deals between leagues and operators. If there are any data deals, they should be done between the leagues and individual operators.

Jon Bruning, a former Attorney General (Nebraska) and now a counselor at the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling(CSIG), steered the ship back on its crazy course by claiming that the feds have “effectively abandoned” enforcement of UIGEA and demanding that the Wire Act be “restored” to its pre-2011 DOJ opinion era of zero tolerance for onine gambling.

Given that CSIG is funded by Las Vegas Sands’ boss Sheldon Adelson, it was appropriate that Bruning utilized the same ‘I have a smartphone’ prop comedy so often used by Sands’ Andy Abboud at previous hearings to illustrate, er, something about online gambling being “uniquely susceptible” to criminality, public corruption and terrorism.

The witness testimony concluded with Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, who noted that Nevada has been dealing with legal wagering for decades without any problems. Harris also pointed out that onerous federal regulations would only serve to drive punters to the more attractive offerings of internationally licensed online operators.

Q&A
When it came time for interaction twixt legislators and witnesses, Sensenbrenner turned Harris’ regulation comments on Slane, wondering why any bettor wouldn’t opt to wager with international sites that don’t alert the IRS regarding a punter’s tax obligations.

Slane claimed that 70% of bettors currently wagering with international operators wanted to move to US-licensed books, but they wouldn’t shift if the feds “hamstrung” US books with heavy taxes and overly restrictive regulations.

Addressing Bernal, Nadler claimed that “sociopathology” had increased wherever off-track betting was permitted, and Bernal claimed that all that was necessary was to “take the government out of” the equation, end all gambling marketing and the urge to gamble will somehow “dissipate.”

Slane rebutted this exchange, saying eliminating regulatory oversight “does not make a whole lot of sense to me” and that legal operators can work with customers to reduce problem gambling. Bruning played his one-note instrument again, saying only land-based operators can properly vet their customers, while online was “a whole different thing.”

[At this point, we pause to note the blonde woman sitting directly behind Bruning, who perpetually nodded and smiled every time Bruning spoke, much like a devout parishioner during a particularly stirring evangelical preacher’s sermon. One half expected her to jump to her feet and bellow ‘can I get an amen’ but sadly it didn’t happen.]

Rep. Goodlatte didn’t so much ask questions as continue his opening statement, saying he wanted to “modernize” the Wire Act and properly enforce UIGEA. Bruning used this moment to point out that New Jersey regulators had the nerve to issue a license to PokerStars, who he claimed were “still on the lam” from their 2011 federal indictments, despite the original owners having sold out in 2014.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) wanted to know whether all gambling operators – online or land-based – could be restricted to accepting only debit cards, not credit cards, in order to protect citizens from going into debt. Bernal claimed “getting you to chase your losses” was actually all gambling operators’ “business model,” which we took as a ‘no’ response.

[At this point, the livestream began flashing intermittently, effectively rendering the testimony indecipherable, which we assumed was God answering the blonde woman’s prayers by blocking anyone hearing any favorable gambling references.]

When the signal resumed, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) expressed concern that legal wagering would pose a threat to the safety of athletes, referees and their families from bettors irate over a dropped pass or ill-timed penalty.

The NFL’s Moore somehow steered her response into another call for preserving game integrity, without acknowledging the fact that BETTING IS ALREADY TAKING PLACE and there have yet to be hordes of angry Manson Families besieging players’ homes.

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) wondered whether college athletes could be more susceptible to taking money in a legal betting world. Slane noted that the NCAA doesn’t pay its athletes, and appeared to suggest that colleges monitor athletes’ financial transactions to look for any activity that might indicate something untoward.

BIG FINISH
Sensenbrenner brought the festivities to a close by noting that the hearing was primarily informational, but claimed that everyone was in agreement that Congressional inaction was the “worst possible” reaction following the Supreme Court ruling, and that Congress should probably enact both “short-term and more permanent” solutions.

It remains to be seen whether there’s sufficient appetite outside the subcommittee’s narrow confines for Congress to proceed with actively regulating sports betting. Certainly, few impartial observers expect any concrete action in the dwindling days of the current legislative session, which means I wasted my time watching this fiasco, and you wasted your time reading this recap. Sorry.

By: Devin O'Connor of Casino.org

Sports betting was the topic of discussion at today’s hearing in the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and gaming industry experts testified that an overly regulated market will only allow underground and offshore illegal sportsbooks to thrive.

Five witnesses provided their respective expertise, and opinions, to the House subcommittee.

Critics to the liberalization of sports betting following the Supreme Court’s May decision to strike down the federal ban issued threats on the dangers of expanded gambling and mobile betting. NFL spokeswoman Jocelyn Moore expressed concerns that widespread legal sports gambling jeopardizes the integrity of sports.

“AGA does not believe an additional layer of federal regulatory oversight is needed,” Slane declared. “Just as Congress has refrained from regulating lotteries, slot machines, table games, and other gambling products, it should leave sports betting oversight to the states and tribes that are closest to the market.”

Feds Step Aside

The hearing was a result of Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) saying a federal framework should be created to form a unified regulatory environment. Schumer believes it’s imperative for “the federal government to take a leadership role and provide the necessary guidance to prevent uncertainty and confusion for the leagues, state governments, and fans alike.”

Harris said protecting the integrity of sports is of utmost concern, and that’s why regulated books are in everyone’s best interest.

"“Sports betting scandals are more likely to occur in illegal markets where there is no regulatory responsibility, where monitoring betting patterns is of no concern, and were line movements may not matter,” Nevada’s chief gaming regulator testified"

Harris added that states would be wise to consider Nevada’s sports betting regulations, which can “help guide other jurisdictions through this historical time.” She concluded that state gambling regulators are more than equipped to oversee sports betting without additional federal governance.

Bettors Want Better Odds

Subcommittee Chair Jim Sensenbrenner (D-Wisconsin) asked the panel, “If I were running around with a fistful of money that I wanted to bet, where would I go when the illegal sportsbook is offering all of these other goodies that a legal sportsbook cannot?”

Slane responded, “You hit the nail on the head. Sports betting is a low margin business, so in order for us to compete with the illegal market there has to be the policies in place that allow us to offer competitive odds and drive traffic to our legal sites.”

"Slane added that 70 percent of bettors who currently access illegal sportsbooks say they would gamble on legal sites if the odds were the same. The AGA rep finished by stating overburdensome tax rates and an unneeded federal regulatory layer will prevent sportsbook from offering odds that compete with those found on illegal books."

At the end of the hearing, Rep. Sensenbrenner strangely concluded, “I think all of you can agree, is that for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative. So, we have some work to do.”

He then adjourned the sports betting hearing.

Update on the latest business

September 27, 2018

By: KOIN6

NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are moving broadly higher in midday trading on Wall Street as several big technology companies including Apple post solid gains. Health care companies are also doing well.

Bed Bath & Beyond plunged after reporting earnings that fell far short of analysts' estimates and slashing its outlook for the year. Packaged food company Conagra fell after reporting weak results of its own.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.07 percent.

MORTGAGE RATES

US mortgage rates up; 30-year at 7-year high 4.72 percent

WASHINGTON (AP) - Long-term U.S. mortgage rates are up for the fifth straight week, with the key 30-year rate reaching its highest level in more than seven years.

Costs for would-be homebuyers continue to climb. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 4.72 percent from 4.65 percent last week. The average benchmark rate has risen from 3.83 percent a year ago.

The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans increased to 4.16 percent this week from 4.11 percent last week.

The Federal Reserve signaled its confidence in the economy on Wednesday by raising a key interest rate for a third time this year, forecasting another rate hike before year's end.

PENDING HOME SALES

US pending home sales fell in August

WASHINGTON (AP) - Pending home sales slipped in August as fewer Americans signed contracts to purchase a house, the fourth decline in the past five months.

The National Association of Realtors says that its pending home sales index fell 1.8 percent last month to 104.2. This measure of contract signings has tumbled 2.3 percent in the past year, with the sharpest annual decline of 11.2 percent in the West where homes generally cost more.

The recent setbacks suggest that the combination of rising prices, higher mortgage rates and a limited number of sales listings are hurting affordability.

In August contract signings slipped on a monthly basis in the four major geographic regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

Pending sales are a barometer of home purchases that are completed a month or two later.

DURABLE GOODS

Orders for US durable goods jumped 4.5 percent last month

WASHINGTON (AP) - Orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods rose at a healthy pace last month, though the increase was mostly driven by a surge in aircraft demand.

The Commerce Department says orders increased 4.5 percent in August, the most in six months. Excluding aircraft, cars, and other transportation equipment, however, orders increased just 0.1 percent.

U.S. manufacturing is expanding at a solid pace, with orders up 9.2 percent year-to-date. Consumers are confident and spending more, and businesses have stepped up investment in machinery and equipment. Still, President Trump's trade battles with China, Europe, and Canada pose a risk in the coming months.

A category of orders that is a proxy for business investment fell 0.5 percent last month, but that follows two strong months and those orders are up 7.4 percent year-to-date.

BED BATH & BEYOND-STOCK

Bed Bath & Beyond nosedives after cutting forecasts

NEW YORK (AP) - Bed Bath & Beyond's stock plunged to its lowest price in 18 years after the home goods store chain posted weak results in the second quarter and cut its forecasts for the rest of the year.

The company's profit fell by almost 50 percent compared to a year ago. Its stock sank 21.5 percent to $14.76 in very heavy trading. It's down about 33 percent in 2018.

Bed Bath & Beyond, which traded above $75 in early 2015, fell to its lowest level since early 2000.

KeyBanc analyst Bradley Thomas said competition for Bed Bath & Beyond from both online and physical retailers is getting worse. He said that competition, along with continued spending on its website and mobile business, will continue to hurt the company's profits.

AETNA-BUSINESS SALE

Aetna sells Medicare business as it eyes close of CVS deal

UNDATED (AP) - Aetna is selling its Medicare prescription drug business, potentially clearing the way for CVS Health to complete its $69 billion takeover of the insurer.

CVS announced plans to buy Aetna late last year. The deal is expected to give the drugstore chain a bigger role in health care, with the companies combining to manage care through CVS stores, clinics and prescription drugs.

Industry experts say regulators may have been concerned about a Medicare business overlap between the companies. But Leerink analyst David Larsen says he is more confident the deal will be approved due to the sale that Aetna announced Thursday.

Aetna is not disclosing terms of its deal with fellow insurer WellCare.

Aetna Inc. and CVS Health Corp. expect their combination to close before the end of this year.

RITE AID-BOARD SHAKE-UP

A board reshuffle at Rite aid after 2 failed merger attempts

UNDATED (AP) - After two failed buyouts, Rite Aid is shuffling its board of directors and dividing power at the top of the drugstore chain.

Rite Aid said Thursday that three new, independent directors will be nominated to its board and that CEO John Standley will no longer hold the title of chairman. That goes to current board member Bruce Bodaken.

Shareholders will vote next month on whether to approve new board nominees Robert Knowling Jr., Louis Miramontes and Arun Nayar.

Bodaken said in a prepared statement that a push for a board reorganization was accelerated after hearing from shareholders following the collapse last month of an attempted buyout by Albertsons. Rival Walgreens also failed in a separate attempt to acquire Rite Aid Corp., which is based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

HEALTH OVERHAUL

Trump health chief: Premiums to drop for popular ACA plan

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. health secretary Alex Azar says premiums for a popular type of health plan under the Affordable Care Act will edge downward next year.

Speaking in Nashville on Thursday, Azar said premiums for a popular type of "silver" plan will drop by 2 percent in the 39 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website. The number of marketplace insurers will grow for the first time since 2015.

Azar's comments track with a broader independent analysis earlier this month.

The analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health and The Associated Press found that average premiums across all plans under the Obama health law will rise 3.3 percent.

The Trump administration is taking credit for market stability, but experts say premiums would be even lower but for administration attempts to undermine "Obamacare."

SPORTS GAMBLING

Republicans favor new federal regulation on sports gambling

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Republicans say they strongly favor new federal regulations on sports gambling after the Supreme Court allowed states to open sports books.

Thursday's hearing of a House Judiciary subcommittee was the first Congress has held on the issue since the Supreme Court decision in June to strike down a law that limited sports gambling to four states. Since then, sports books have opened in Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi and West Virginia, with more states considering legalization.

Republicans expressed concerns about advertisements and online gambling platforms targeting minors, as well as the potential for match-fixing.

GOP Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin says "for Congress to do nothing is the worst possible alternative" and that with no federal action, "there are going to be people who get hurt and get hurt badly."

WTO-TRADE FORECAST

WTO cuts trade growth forecast to 3.9 percent for 2018

GENEVA (AP) - The World Trade Organization has lowered its global trade growth forecast for this year by one-half percentage point to a still-robust 3.9 percent, saying increased trade tensions between large economies and heightened uncertainty contributed to the downgrade.

For next year, the Geneva-based trade body predicts a further slowing of growth in volume terms, to 3.7 percent.

WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said Thursday: "While trade growth remains strong, this downgrade reflects the heightened tensions that we are seeing between major trading partners."

The WTO cited new trade measures targeting exports from "large economies," a clear allusion to U.S. tensions with some key trading partners.

CHINA-US-INTERFERENCE

China urges US to stop slander after Trump's meddling claim

BEIJING (AP) - Beijing has urged the United States to stop slandering China after President Donald Trump accused the Asian giant of trying to interfere in the upcoming American congressional elections.

Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said Thursday that the Chinese government does not interfere in other countries' internal affairs.

Trump said China was interfering in the elections because it opposes his tough trade policies. The White House provided scant evidence of anything akin to the level of Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Geng said Beijing "urges the U.S. to stop making unwarranted accusations and slanders against China and stop the words and deeds that harm bilateral ties and the fundamental interest of the two peoples."

Trump later said there was "plenty" of evidence but didn't provide details.

EUROPE-FACEBOOK

Senior EU lawmaker urges cyber, data audit of Facebook

BRUSSELS (AP) - A senior European Union lawmaker says Facebook should be audited by Europe's cyber security agency and data protection authority.

The chairman of the EU Parliament's civil liberties and justice committee, Claude Moraes, said Thursday that the audits "need to be done."

The parliament summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in May to testify about allegations that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used the data of millions of Facebook users to target voters during political campaigns.

The audit demands a part of a resolution that Moraes has drafted in response to the scandal. The committee aims to pass the resolution by Oct. 10 and put it to the full assembly in late October.

GREECE-ECONOMY

After 3 years, Greece ends limits on bank cash withdrawals

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greek authorities say they will soon lift restrictions on domestic cash withdrawals imposed more than three years ago to prevent a bank run by depositors at the height of the country's debt crisis.

The finance ministry said Thursday that from Oct. 1 depositors will face no limits on withdrawals from bank accounts in Greece.

Greeks abroad will be able to withdraw up to 5,000 euros ($5,800) a month. Furthermore, the limit on carrying cash abroad will be increased from 3,000 euros to 10,000.

The restrictions were imposed in June 2015, to prevent banks from collapse as depositors tried to empty their accounts after talks between the government and bailout creditors appeared on the verge of collapse.

The moves come a month after the country formally ended its latest bailout program.

CRAB MEAT-FALSE LABELS

Seafood firm owner pleads guilty to falsely labeling crab

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) - The owner of a Virginia seafood company has pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsely label foreign crabmeat as fresh Chesapeake blue crab.

News outlets report 74-year-old James Casey of Poquoson, who owns Casey's Seafood in Newport News, entered the plea Wednesday in federal court. He faces up to five years in prison at sentencing Jan. 9.

Prosecutors say the company mixed discount "distressed" crabmeat from Indonesia, Brazil and elsewhere with Chesapeake blue crab, labeling it a "Product of the USA." Some of the crabmeat sold as Chesapeake blue crab contained only foreign meat.

Court documents state Casey's Seafood sold about 360,000 pounds of falsely labeled crabmeat from 2012 to 2015, worth $4.3 million at wholesale prices in Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida.

THE OKLAHOMAN-SOLD

The Oklahoman has been sold to GateHouse Media

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoman is being sold to GateHouse Media.

Publisher Chris Reen announced the sale to staff Thursday. Terms have not been disclosed. The sale is expected to close Monday.

Reen says some layoffs would happen Thursday to help stabilize financial operations for Oklahoma City's only daily newspaper. Reen says he will be leaving his position as publisher.

The Anschutz Corp., owned by Denver businessman Philip Anschutz, bought The Oklahoman in 2011.

GateHouse CEO Kirk Davis says he is enthusiastic about the purchase and that Gatehouse also owns Oklahoma City business publication The Journal Record.

New York-based GateHouse is one of the largest publishing companies in the U.S. with 145 newspapers, including The Austin American-Statesman and The Florida Times-Union.

By: Susan Heavey of Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee will weigh sports betting at a hearing next week following a Supreme Court ruling on the issue earlier this year, the congressional panel said in a statement released on Wednesday.

The Sept. 27 hearing by the House Judiciary Committee’s crime subcommittee will include representatives from the National Football League, the gaming industry, consumer advocates and a state gaming control board, the statement said.

By: Nicholas Garcia of Play USA

Lawmakers will converge on Capitol Hill Thursday to discuss sports betting for the first time following the repeal of the federal ban.

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations is comprised of 16 members. Most noteworthy, the House will hear testimony from industry stakeholders. Therefore, these include the National Football League (NFL), which continues to lobby Congress for a federal framework.

The hearing is titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.” It’s scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

LIST OF INDIVIDUALS PROVIDING TESTIMONY

The committee will hear testimony from five witnesses which include:

  • Les Bernal: National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling
  • Sara Slane: Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, American Gaming Association
  • Jon Bruning: Counselor, Coalition to Stop Online Gambling
  • Becky Harris: Chair, Nevada Gaming Control Board
  • Jocelyn Moore: Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, National Football League

POTENTIAL TALKING POINTS

Due to various sports betting issues, much of the discussion will revolve around tackling them. Certainly these include integrity feesofficial data suppliers, illegal black market and a federal framework.

All of these issues have been discussed by a number of states looking to pass sports betting bills. Most noteworthy, this follows the Supreme Court repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992.

From the AGA’s perspective, the hearing will provide a platform. Industry stakeholders can educate lawmakers on the current gaming landscape, post-PASPA.

“It’s really an opportunity for us to talk about how highly regulated we are in the industry and our commitment to ensuring all illegal activity becomes legal,” Slane said in an interview Wednesday.

Many expect Harris to shelter the load of questioning. Above all, she is the chairman of the NGCB. Nevada has years of experience in regards to regulated sports betting.

Expect strong opposition from Bruning, Bernal and the NFL to push heavily for more federal oversight.

In written testimony submitted Wednesday, Moore urged Congress to act “immediately.” He said to create a “new statutory and regulatory standards for legalized sports betting.”

“The absence of a clear and enforceable set of legal standards for sports betting threatens the integrity of our nation’s professional and amateur sports contest – something Congress has sought to protect for more than 50 years,” wrote Moore in her seven pages of written testimony.

NEXT FOR SPORTS BETTING AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL

A spokesman for committee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican, said the hearing has an ultimate goal. This is to determine if Congress needs to intervene.

“Sensenbrenner is very open-minded on this issue and is interested in what all parties have to say. There will only be next steps if the committee determines Congress has a role to play,” he said.

A number of states are looking to introduce sports betting bills beginning in 2019. Seems like the hearing could potentially sway them. This includes Washington, D.C., which recently saw its own version of a sports betting bill released earlier this week.

IllinoisIndianaKansasKentucky and Ohio have all shown extensive interest in sports betting. Therefore these states plan on introducing legislation at the start of their respective legislative sessions.

Washington, D.C.—Last night, the House unanimously passed H.R. 6847, the Preventing Child Exploitation Act. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) cosponsored this legislation, which includes key provisions of the 2006 Adam Walsh Protection and Safety Act that he authored.

Throughout his career, Congressman Sensenbrenner has taken the lead on initiatives to protect children. He was instrumental in passing the 2003 PROTECT Act, which enhanced the AMBER Alert system, strengthened penalties against kidnappers, and aids law enforcement in protecting children. And in 2006, The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act expanded coverage of the national sex offender registry, mandates the collection of DNA from sex offenders, and forces states to comply with requirements to keep information on the sex offender database current.

Rep. Sensenbrenner
: “The sexual abuse of children is a despicable crime, and Congress must protect those most innocent and vulnerable among us. This bipartisan legislation, which contains a reauthorization of my Adam Walsh Act, is an important step to preventing sexual exploitation of our nation’s children.”

Background on the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act


Originally passed in 2006, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act has played a vital role in the prevention of sexual exploitation of America’s children. The comprehensive, bipartisan law strengthened sex offender registry requirements and enforcement across the country, extended registry requirements to Native American tribes, increased penalties for child predators, and authorized funding for various programs to strengthen our defenses against child exploitation.

Language included in H.R. 6847 reauthorizes the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act— The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) and The Sex Offender Management Assistance Program (SOMA). SORNA sets minimum guidelines for state sex offender registries and establishes the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, which is a comprehensive national system for the registration and notification to the public of sex offenders. SOMA provides funding to the states, tribes, and other jurisdictions to offset the costs of implementing and enhancing SORNA, and funding for the U.S. Marshals Service and other law enforcement agencies to assist jurisdictions in locating and apprehending sex offenders who violate registration requirements. 

By; Matt Rybaltowski of Forbes

As key stakeholders prepare for a sports betting hearing this week in Washington D.C., it is safe to say that the hearing will garner less attention than a more publicized one Thursday morning on Capitol Hill.

At 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations will convene for a highly anticipated hearing on the state of the legalized sports gambling market. The hearing inside the Rayburn House Office Building will take place less than a mile from testimony in Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearing, scheduled to begin at the same hour inside the Dirksen Senate Office Building. While a media firestorm is expected throughout the day outside the chambers, sports betting experts will be more focused on a bevy of key gaming issues that could arise down the street on Independence Avenue.

The hearing, entitled Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America, will be the first by Congress since the Supreme Court rocked the gambling world with a historic ruling in May. In a 6-3 vote, the Court struck down a quarter-century federal ban on sports gambling in the U.S. Ever since, a debate has intensified on whether the activity should be strictly regulated by the federal government or if the responsibility should be left to the states. Already, four states -- New JerseyDelaware, Mississippi and West Virginia -- have legalized sports gambling over the last three months.

Five witnesses are scheduled to testify at the hearing including the Nevada Gaming Control Board Chair Becky Harris, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Jocelyn Moore and American Gaming Association Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Sara Slane. The hearing will be chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican. The chairman is looking forward to hearing a cross-section of opinions from a wide array of witnesses on whether sports betting should be heavily regulated, a Sensenbrenner spokesperson said.

Here are some key issues to monitor during Thursday's hearing:

What is the likelihood that Congress will eventually impose a federal framework for the legal sports betting market in the U.S.?

This is the million dollar question that carries widespread ramifications over the next several years, as legalized sports betting proliferates around the country.  Last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a policy proposal aimed at creating robust consumer protections for gamblers and ensuring integrity in professional sports. A comprehensive federal framework that oversees the legal market will likely be embraced by commissioners in the Big 4 sports leagues, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Shortly after the Court's decision, Goodell urged Congress to enact uniform standards for sports gambling, echoing the position of his counterparts in the other leagues. 

Such a framework has been met with resistance from the American Gaming Association, a leading trade group for the gambling industry. The group, which supports 1.8 million jobs nationwide, instead favors policies that empower state and tribal regulations. Current regulations for other forms of gaming already address age restrictions, record keeping requirements, licensing and suitability determinations, Slane wrote in a Sept. 13 letter to Schumer's office. In addition, U.S. casinos are subjected to strict anti-money laundering protocols from state regulators in order to combat structuring attempts from organized crime networks, an activity that could prosper as the legal sports gambling market expands. Both Slane and Harris may inform committee members on a rigorous model in Nevada, where regulators continually strive to protect the safety of the market.

Mandates for gaming operators on the use of a professional sports league's official data  

Over the summer, the NBA announced a historic partnership with MGM Resorts International that designated the company as the official gaming partner of the league. The deal provides MGM with access to the league's official data on a non-exclusive basis. In some respects, the access to the league's real-time data feed could give MGM a competitive advantage over competitors, namely with in-game wagering when speed is at a premium.

Schumer's proposal requires the use of official league data in determining betting outcomes, a provision that has been opposed by the AGA. As intellectual property creators of the data, the NBA believes it should receive proper compensation. The AGA, on the other hand, argues that there is "neither a need, nor a legal precedent" to mandate gaming operators to purchase data from the leagues. "Mandating every sportsbook contract with only one official data company will allow individual, preferred data providers to set inflated, non-competitive monopoly prices for their services," Slane wrote in the letter. Two states, New York and Missouri, have pending bills with language regarding the use of professional sports league data in determining sports wagering outcomes.

Societal effects of gambling addiction on Millennials and the nation as a whole

Schumer and Sen. Orrin Hatch, a co-author of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, have taken steps to address the epidemic of problem gambling across the nation. For its part, the AGA sides with Schumer in advocating for vigorous safeguards to adequately protect consumers.

John Warren Kindt, a professor at the University of Illinois, received inclusion on the committee's preliminary list but was omitted from a revised one on Wednesday. Kindt, who has written extensively on problem gambling issues, described sports gambling as a "gateway drug," to gambling addiction in a 2012 U.S. News & World Reports column. By legalizing sports betting, states can expose themselves to additional taxpayer costs for crime and the creation of new financial products that could lead to a potential "speculative bubble," he indicated at the time. The committee is scheduled to hear from Les Bernal, national director of Stop Predatory Gambling. Bernal's testimony could be watched closely by the leagues.

Curbing the influence of the Black Market

According to various estimates, Americans wager upwards of $100 billion annually on sports. The actual amount is difficult to ascertain given the complexity of monitoring betting patterns on the illegal, offshore market. Some gaming experts argue that high state tax regimes will simply push bettors away from regulated sports books back to the black market. The illegal market lacks consumer protections and threatens the integrity of sports, Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, wrote in a Sept. 25 letter to Sensenbrenner. Titus also took exception to a so-called integrity fee that some leagues have proposed in recent months. "Calls for integrity fees paid to leagues would chip away at state revenues and already slim margins for legal sportsbooks, hurting their ability to compete with offshore books and move more consumers to the regulated market," she wrote. The committee could also address implications of the Wire Act in the Post-PASPA era on the unregulated black market. 

Response to palpable errors from pricing systems used by gaming operators to set odds

In an abrupt U-turn last week, FanDuel Sportsbook agreed to pay a small number of bettors who received erroneous odds of 750-1 on the Denver Broncos to defeat the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 16. For a period of 18 seconds, the book listed incorrect odds on the Broncos to win the game outright due to a pricing error. FanDuel initially declined to honor a $110 ticket that would have paid approximately $82,000, before changing its stance days later. Though palpable errors are well-documented in Europe, the incident represented the first time a legal book in New Jersey experienced a major gaffe since the state legalized sports betting. Legislators could be interested in the types of internal controls that books need to maintain to limit the occurrences.

By: Ryan Prete of Bloomberg

The three states that have recently opened their doors to legalized sports betting have already collected slightly more than $3 million in tax revenue.

Delaware continues to see a steady flow, while Mississippi and West Virginia are grappling with their first revenue figures since offering the activity. Policy specialists expect revenue totals to grow as the National Football League season continues.

“Gambling and football are intertwined like no other sport. Even non-gamblers know the point spread for their games. All the pregame shows do [game] picks with Vegas lines,” Richard Auxier, a research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told Bloomberg Tax.

Amid all the state-side activity, federal lawmakers have scheduled a Sept. 27 hearing on sports betting.

Tax Revenue Totals

Delaware was the first state to take bets, opening its doors to the activity on June 5. From June 5 through July 29, the state took in nearly $23 million in wagers, according to its lottery record. Delaware’s law allows the state to keep 50 percent of the proceeds from the activity, which means about $2.04 million for the state after winning bets were paid.

Mississippi began offering bets Aug. 1, and through Sept. 3 the Magnolia State had issued $9.8 million in wagers. Mississippi has a 12 percent tax on sports betting, which equates to $1.2 million in state revenue through the five weeks.

West Virginia opened its door to legal betting on Aug. 30, and has released totals through only the first week of legalized betting. From Aug. 30 through Sept. 2, West Virginia took in $320,631 in wagers; taxing those bets at 10 percent, the state yielded $32,063 in revenue.

New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have legalized sports betting, but haven’t begun taking bets.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to allow bets on sports in its May ruling in Murphy v. NCAA, which repealed the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). That law had prohibited states from “authorizing” gambling related to professional and amateur sports leagues.

NFL Season Will Boost Revenue

The NFL’s influence is visible in Mississippi’s sports betting totals. Of the state’s $9.8 million wagered from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3, $3.5 million was wagered in just the first three days of September, during the NFL’s last week of preseason games. The $3.5 million wagered in three days is nearly half of all bets placed during August.

“Betting revenue will obviously increase during the NFL season, and more states will legalize it, but they must realize that this is a low-margins business and should not be looked at as a way to fill budget holes,” Sara Slane, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Gaming Association, has told Bloomberg Tax.

In 2018, 19 states proposed legislation to legalize sports betting, and Slane said she expects at least the same number to push for the activity during the upcoming session.

A Short-Term Trend?

Auxier said states should be worried about competition.

“For example, Delaware and West Virginia would probably see a dip in revenue if the District of Columbia legalizes sports betting. And when we get to the point where sports gambling is near-universal, you might also see tax rates come down a little—further reducing revenue,” Auxier said. “Sports gambling is all about trends, right? This is a positive trend. But it’s a short-term one.”

District of Columbia council member Jack Evans (D) introduced a bill Sept. 18 that would allow bets and levy a 10 percent tax on gross revenue from wagers.

In gauging a state’s potential revenue numbers, Auxier pointed Bloomberg Tax to Nevada’s 2017 sports betting revenue, which was nearly $250 million. However, Nevada’s 6.75 tax rate means the state only saw about $17 million in tax revenue from the activity.

Auxier said that $17 million only equates to 0.01 percent of Nevada’s total state general revenue. He predicted that sports betting revenue won’t surpass 1 percent of total state tax revenue in any jurisdiction that legalizes it.

Federal Spotlight on Sports Betting

Sports betting has been an area of focus for federal lawmakers in the months following the high court’s reversal of PASPA.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations is set to host a Sept. 27 hearing titled “Post-PASPA: An Examination of Sports Betting in America.” It remains unclear what lawmakers will focus on during the hearing, as there hasn’t yet been a federal proposal introduced in either chamber of Congress.

Slane will be among those testifying before the subcommittee. She will be joined by:

  • Jocelyn Moore, executive vice president of communications and public affairs at the NFL;
  • Becky Harris, chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board;
  • Jon Bruning, counselor at the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG); and
  • John Warren Kindt, professor at the University of Illinois.

A spokesperson for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who chairs the subcommittee, told Bloomberg Tax Sept. 24 that the chairman “looks forward to hearing from these witnesses who represent a wide variety of positions on sports betting.”

The upcoming hearing follows recent calls for federal intervention from Senate leadership.

On Aug. 29, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed a “desperately needed” federal sports betting framework, a move that state tax policy specialists say could hurt state sovereignty and tax revenue pursuits.

Schumer also published a memo that included three principles he deems necessary in a framework: protecting young people and those suffering from gambling addiction, protecting the integrity of the game, and protecting consumers and individuals placing bets.

During an Aug. 24 update on the Senate floor, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said progress is being made, and that he would release a legislative proposal “in the coming weeks.” There is currently a 0.25 percent federal excise tax on all betting handles.