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New York State Senate approves online poker bill

State Senate Chamber in Albany, New York
FOR the second year running, state senators in New York have voted in favour of legalising online poker.

Senator John Bonacic’s S-3898 bill passed through the upper house on Tuesday with an overwhelming 54-8 majority.

The proposed legislative changes would allow up to 11 licensees to offer real money online poker games to NY residents aged 21 and up.

Poker licenses would only be granted to existing casinos and racetracks (or ‘racinos’), thus ensuring taxable revenue goes to Albany rather than interstate or overseas.

“Our bill makes sure you have to do it [play online poker] at the racinos or the casinos,” Senator Bonacic said in a recent interview.

“That’s where the platforms have to be. That’s where you make the money.”

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the bill will enjoy the same level of approval when it reaches the Assembly.

Last year, the lower house dismissed a similar proposal even after the Senate voted 58-5 in favour.

EU rejects Gibraltar’s appeal over UK gambling tax

Gibraltar has suffered a big blow in its bid for exemption from recent revisions to the United Kingdom’s tax code.

In 2014, the Cameron government instituted a 15 per cent tax on all online gambling revenue derived from customers in the UK.

That did not sit well with Gibraltar-based gaming operators, who asserted that the British Overseas Territory was not part of the UK and should therefore remain exempt from any such tax obligations.

They also argued that the new laws contravened Article 56 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which shields businesses from taxes aimed at revenue-grabbing rather than consumer welfare.

The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA) took the matter to the Britain’s high court, which then referred the matter to the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU).

On Tuesday, a preliminary ruling from the CJEU stated that although Gibraltar was not officially part of the UK, the matter in question was “a situation confined in all respects within a single Member State.”

It is a significant setback to the territory’s hopes of being classed as a separate jurisdiction, and one that could have severe consequences for GBGA members in the post-Brexit landscape.

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Belgium pushes for tighter restrictions on gambling ads

The Belgian government is one of several nations with plans to impose stricter regulation of gaming and betting advertising on television.

Reports in local media last week revealed that Koen Geens, the nation’s justice minister, was putting together a bill that would introduce a blanket ban on all gambling-related TV adverts before 8pm.

It is also believed the proposal would prohibit any and all modes of wagering promotion during live sports broadcasts, covering commercial breaks, in-play banner ads and integrated content.

The bill is said to have complete backing from the Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) – one of Europe’s strictest gambling regulators.

In a recent statement, the Belgian Association of Gaming Operators (BAGO) voiced support for “clear regulatory framework” and “ethical and responsible advertising”.

However, the gambling lobby also warned that overbearing restrictions would limit the reach of local operators and drive Belgian punters to illegal gaming and betting sites based overseas.

The BAGO statement said: “Gambling publicity is an essential tool to familiarise the players with an ethical, responsible and recognised game variety that forms a barrier against illegal online game offering that thrives and offers no guarantees in terms of consumer protection.”

Kenyan president wants 35% tax on betting revenue

Kenya’s head of state has thrown a curve ball at local sports betting operators who thought they had dodged proposed tax reforms.

Last month, the East African nation’s parliament voted down plans to include in the federal budget a 50 per cent tax on all gambling revenue.

That figure represented a massive hike on the existing model, which charges wagering firms 7.5 per cent on their takings.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has stepped in, however, refusing to sign the finance bill into law unless increased gambling taxes are included.

His solution is a coverall 35 per cent tax on gambling revenue – that is, a 15 per cent reduction on the original proposal put forth by Henry Rotich, the treasury secretary.

That would apply not only to sports betting firms, but also to lotteries, casino gaming and other gambling-related competitions.

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