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Jarrod LeBlanc

Jarrod serves as Casino City's associate editor and helps produce and edit all of our weekly newsletters, as well as the GPWA Times Magazine.

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Casino City’s Friday Five: A historic week edition

31 Mar 2023

By Jarrod LeBlanc
Do you want the good news or the bad news, first?

The answer is always the bad, and that’s where we start this week as the U.K. Gambling Commission informed the William Hill Group that it will be dolling out a record fine for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.

Headlines turned around though, as Houston Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta picked himself up another shiny new toy as he purchased Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Lake Tahoe, which following the completion of the sale, he will transform into a Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino property. The MLB season kicked off yesterday with thrilling homeruns and finishes, and the Casino City staff takes a look at the best bets for the 147th season. Not to be outdone, Nevada topped the $1 billion revenue mark in February for the 24th consecutive month.

The real history though, took place yesterday as Kentucky lawmakers sent a sports betting bill to the Governor, which if signed, would make the Blue Grass State the 38th state to legalize sports gambling.

In the spirit of this week’s MLB season, let’s throw out the first pitch with some high heat from the UKGC.

5. William Hill Group businesses to pay record fine from UKGC for failures
Three gambling businesses owned by William Hill Group will pay a total of £19.2 million to the U.K. Gambling Commission for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures.

WHG (International) Limited, which runs William Hill Live Casino, will pay £12.5 million, Mr Green Limited, which runs Mr Green Casino, will pay £3.7 million and William Hill Organization Limited, which operates 1,344 gambling premises across Britain, will pay £3 million.

“When we launched this investigation the failings we uncovered were so widespread and alarming serious consideration was given to license suspension,” said Andrew Rhodes, Gambling Commission chief executive. “However, because the operator immediately recognized their failings and worked with us to swiftly implement improvements, we instead opted for the largest enforcement payment in our history.”

This action comes just a week after the Commission fined two operators owned by Kindred Group plc a combined £7.2 million and is the largest enforcement case taken on by the regulator. The previous largest was £17 million action taken against Entain in August last year.

Since the start of 2022 the Commission has concluded 26 enforcement cases with operators paying over £76 million because of regulatory failures.

“In the last 15 months we have taken unprecedented action against gambling operators, but we are now starting to see signs of improvement,” said Rhodes. “There are indications that the industry is doing more to make gambling safer and reducing the possibility of criminal funds entering their businesses. Operators are using algorithms to spot gambling harms or criminal risk more quickly, interacting with consumers sooner, and generally having more effective policies and procedures in place.”

4. Fertitta Entertainment to acquire Hard Rock Tahoe

Fertitta Entertainment announced the company has signed a purchase agreement to acquire Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Lake Tahoe in Nevada from Paragon Gaming for an undisclosed price. The transaction is expected to close within the next seven to 12 months.

Shortly after the close of the transaction, Fertitta Entertainment will transform the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe property into a Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino with a remodeling of the property planned.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming the Lake Tahoe property to the Golden Nugget family,” said Tilman Fertitta, CEO and owner of Fertitta Entertainment. “This acquisition represents a significant opportunity for us to expand our footprint into the Northern Nevada marketplace.”

3. Top 10 Major League Baseball future bets for 2023

The last couple of weekends, everyone has been focused on their March Madness brackets and bets, but somehow the Major League Baseball regular season snuck up on us and the is underway.

The smart money of course is on anything to do with the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros. Somehow the American League West juggernauts got even better over the winter with the addition of former 2020 AL MVP José Abreu to their already stacked roster.

The Casino City Team takes a look at 10 futures bets to consider placing for this season, including a World Series Champion (hint: they wear orange, and it’s not the Orioles).

2. Nevada tops the $1 billion mark for the 24th consecutive month

According the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the state's nonrestricted gaming licensees reported a total “gaming win” of $1,237,272,530 for the month of February 2023, which marks the 24th consecutive month above the $1 billion plateau.

This amounts to an 11.15% increase compared to February 2022, when licensees reported a gaming win of $1,113,133,855. For the fiscal year (1 July 2022 through 28 February 2023), gaming win has increased 5.55%.

1. Kentucky sports betting bill receives approval from the Senate and heads to the Governor

Yesterday, the Blue Grass State inched closer to the finish line as Kentucky’s lawmakers approved sports betting bill HB551. Needing 23 votes to send the bill to Governor Andy Beshear, the bill passed with a 25-12 vote.

Sports wagering will be taxed 9.75% at horse-racing establishments and 14.25% online.

Based on Governor Beshear’s tweet, it appears it’s a very good bet that he will sign the bill into existence and make Kentucky the 38th state to legalize sports gambling.
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