Pennsylvania Sports Betting Bill Introduced, Penn State Football Popular at Sportsbooks

A Pennsylvania sports betting bill has been introduced by State Rep. Rob Matzie (D-District 16) that seeks to allow residents in the Keystone State to place financial wagers on sporting outcomes should a federal law be repealed.

James Franklin’s Penn State football team provided large payouts for fans who backed the Nittany Lions last fall, and a Pennsylvania sports betting bill has been introduced to keep those monies inside the Commonwealth.

House Bill 519 would allow the business of accepting wagers on sporting events or on the individual performance of athletes. Traditional Vegas sports betting formats including straight bets, moneylines, parlays, exchange wagering, and pools would all be authorized. However, Matzie’s bill wouldn’t legalize daily fantasy sports.

‘Sports betting is a $400 billion business in the United States,’ Matzie said in a statement. ‘Most of that betting takes place illegally, through bookies and offshore wagering companies. This bill would position Pennsylvania’s casinos to be among the leaders in sports betting as soon as the legal hurdles are removed.’

Those legal hurdles are complex, as sports betting is currently outlawed in all but Nevada. For that to change, a federal statute passed in 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), would need to be repealed by Congress.

Pennsylvania is currently considering a massive gambling expansion package that would include the introduction of internet casinos.

Ready to Act

Though the law is to be determined by states when it comes to issues not explicitly covered by the US Constitution, sports betting managed to become a federal beef a quarter-decade ago when then-Senator Dennis DeConcini (D-Arizona) introduced PASPA. The legislation garnered widespread support in Congress and was eventually signed into law by President George HW Bush.

PASPA gave exemptions to Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana, as those four states were engaged in some form of sports gambling in 1992. Today, only the Silver State takes full advantage of its PASPA immunity.

There’s a growing movement to repeal PASPA in state capitals across the nation. New Jersey is currently trying to legalize sports betting, and is petitioning the US Supreme Court to intervene in a lower court’s ruling that is preventing the state from opening lines at its casinos and horse racetracks.

Matzie wants to make sure Pennsylvania is ready should PASPA be annulled.

‘We should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted,’ Matzie explained. ‘Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion-dollar industry that already exists.’

Nittany Lions Roar

During last year’s college football season, no time provided bigger payouts for sports bettors than Penn State. The Nittany Lions began the year at 2-2, and then rattled off nine straight wins that included the Big Ten Championship.

The run also included the Lions going 10-3-1 against the spread, the most popular football bet among sports gamblers.

With most of the team returning, including star quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, two early candidates for the Heisman Trophy, the Blue and White faithful are placing wagers on Penn State’s title chances in 2018.

Bovada currently has PSU at +1600 to win the College Football National Championship. Only six other teams have smaller odds.

But until PASPA is replaced and Matzie’s bill is implemented, all of those betting revenues will go to the coffers of offshore companies.

Macau Casino Stocks Look for Recovery After Losing $146 Billion

Macau casino stocks are in recovery mode, but the overall consensus among financial analysts is that the rebound won’t restore the massive value lost over the past three or so years.

Macau casino stocks have been on a hot streak, but market observers are beginning to worry about history repeating itself. (Image: Bloomber/Getty Images)

From Bloomberg to Barron’s, market commentators are issuing stern warnings on the overall health of the Macau gaming and hospitality sectors. Multiple international casino companies are posting fourth quarter and full-year 2016 fiscal reports this week, and many are showing signs of underperforming compared to expectations.

MGM Resorts fell far short of previous earnings projections, as did Melco Crown.

‘The market’s being too bullish about the quantum of industry recovery,’ Vincent Khoo, an Asian gaming analyst, told Bloomberg.

The most prominent US gambling companies that are invested in Macau, MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts, are all trading lower this week on the New York Stock Exchange.

Between 2014 and 2016, publicly traded gambling stocks in Macau saw their overall value decrease by $146 billion.

VIP Crackdown Hurts Earnings

Three years ago, the Chinese government began cracking down on VIP junket operators that catered to the mainland’s wealthy elite. Working in conjunction with the resort casinos, touring companies brought high rollers to the special administrative region via first-class travel, and loaned them large stakes of money to gamble with.

Directed by People’s Republic President Xi Jinping, the crusade to reduce the alleged flowing of money out from under the communist party’s control has worked. Total gross gaming revenue in Macau totaled $45 billion in 2013. Three years later, that figure shrunk in 2016 to $28 billion.

A renewed sense of enthusiasm developed following Macau posting six straight monthly gaming percentage year-over-year gains. In conjunction with a blossoming stock market, investors began venturing back into Macau casino stocks. Now they’re being told by many experts to tread carefully. But it might already be too late.

The Bloomberg Macau Intelligence index that combines the six biggest Asian gaming stocks is up nearly 70 percent over the last 12 months. That means plenty of high-stakes investors have bought into the Macau recovery narrative.

Mediocrity New Norm

Financial observers keen on the Asian gambling sector don’t believe Macau’s attempts to appeal to the mass market will be able to generate the massive amounts of revenue that flooded the region from VIP players.

The city’s casino operators have recently been undergoing a ‘Las Vegasization’ of sorts. Similar to how the Nevada gambling mecca evolved into a family friendly destination over time, Macau is realizing a need to attract not only high-stakes gamblers, but also the more casual visitor.

It’s largely thought that investors failed to identify the impact of China’s potential crackdown on VIPs back in 2014. Shareholders paid a hefty price for the shortcoming, and some believe similar telling signs are once again present.

Death by Selfie: How Kim Jong-nam’s Facebook ‘Casino Selfies’ May Have Done Him In

As the shocking facts of the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, continue to unfold, it’s looking more and more like his love of Facebook and documenting casinos he’d visited may have hastened his demise. His habit of posting his travels photographically may have made it that much easier for operatives to catch up with him.

Gambling with his life: Kim Jong-nam, seen here posing outside the Wynn Macau, not only liked a casino, but wasn’t afraid to show it. Which may have been his undoing at the hands of North Korean assassins. (Image: Facebook)

Kim was killed on Monday after being attacked by a woman and her associate at Kuala Lumpar airport as he waited for a flight home to Macau. Malaysian police told Reuters he had described someone grabbing or holding his face from behind. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and authorities believe he was poisoned, although autopsy results have not been publicly released.

Not Laughing Now

Three people have been arrested in relation to the murder: a Malaysian man, an Indonesian woman, and a woman with Vietnamese ID. The latter is thought to be the woman seen on security footage wearing an ‘LOL’ T-shirt, who police believe grabbed Kim and put something on his face which ultimately killed him.

Seen here in front of the Casino Oriental in Manila, Kim Jong-nam was known as a low-level gambler. (Image: Facebook)

Despite an attempt on his life in 2012, the North Korean president’s older half-brother was an obsessive user of social media, particularly Facebook, where under a thinly veiled pseudonym he posted endless selfies posed in front of the casinos of Macau, Shanghai, and Singapore.

For an apparently marked man, his constant Facebook updates suggest he was hiding in plain sight, holding little regard for his own personal safety.

Kim used a fake name on Facebook, Kim Chol, and his profile picture showed a squirrel holding a nut, overlaid with the French flag. It was apparently not enough to throw ruthless North Korean agents hired to kill him off the scent.

‘Open activities like these do not look like they are coming from a person who is constantly under death threats’, said Cha Du-hyeogn, a former South Korean intelligence operative, told the NK News website. ‘I think it is possible that Kim was careless, leading to his unsuspecting death.’

Following the 2012 attempt on his life, about which little is known, Kim reportedly wrote to his brother Kim Jong-un, pleading with him to spare his life. But the pleas clearly fell on deaf ears with a man who had already had his own uncle and several nephews and nieces who were still children ruthlessly killed.

Fall from Grace

Kim Jong-nam had been groomed as heir apparent to his father, Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. He fell out of favor in 2001, however, when he was arrested in Japan while attempting to make his way to Disneyland Tokyo using a fake passport. He had been occasionally critical of the regime from his exile in Macau.

Kim led something of a playboy lifestyle in Macau, as evidenced by his social media posts. He liked to gamble and was known around the casinos, but not, apparently, as a high-roller.

According to the Guardian, his Facebook ‘likes’ included the French musician Serge Gainsborg, a bar in Singapore called ‘Girls Bar Kimidori,’ Vladimir Putin, and a Kim Jong-un impersonator called Kim Jong ‘Um.’

Despite Facebook’s Legacy page policy, which allows pages of deceased persons to continue on the social media site under friends’ auspices, the page was taken down on Thursday.

Fantasy Aces Hires Criminal Lawyer as New York Gaming Commission Turns Up the Heat

The New York Gaming Commission has launched an investigation into Fantasy Aces, the daily fantasy sports site that filed for bankruptcy at the end of January, apparently unable to pay its players.

Trent, Tom and Brian Frisina are the co-founders of Fantasy Aces. The company’s apparent co-mingling of player funds and operating costs may render it liable for wire fraud. (Image: Fantasy Aces)

According to the Wall Street Journal, the company’s management has hired attorney Robert J. DeGroot, a criminal defense lawyer, to field questions from the commission about exactly what happened to its players’ funds.

It became the commission’s duty to oversee DFS at the beginning of August last year, when the state enacted a bill to license and regulate the industry, one of eight states to do so last year. On August 22, the first temporary licenses were issued, one of which was granted to Fantasy Aces.

A condition of licensing was that licensees must keep player funds segregated from operating costs, an obligation Fantasy Aces, apparently, did not fulfill.

$1.3 Million Owed

Bankruptcy filings state that players are owed $1.3 million, while an account listed as ‘Players Account’ contains just $2,419. The company also states it has assets of $1.8 million, which will be liquidated to pay creditors, but it also has liabilities of $2.96 million.

Earlier this week Fantasy Draft, a rival site that had been close to purchasing the Fantasy Aces just prior to its application for bankruptcy, announced that it would step in to cover the players balances, a gesture, it said, would ‘preserve the lifeblood of the industry.’

But this does not excuse the fact that the Fantasy Aces’ management may have committed wire fraud if they are found to have violated their licensing by co-mingling player funds with operational costs, and the appointment of a criminal lawyer is a tacit acknowledge of this.

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