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Navajo Gaming Appoints John James as Chief Executive Officer

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Navajo Gaming has appointed John James as its Chief Executive Officer.

John James brings more than two decades of professional gaming and hospitality experience to Navajo Gaming. He previously served as CEO of River Rock Entertainment Authority in Geyserville California. There he exemplified his strong leadership skills by identifying and implementing innovative operational improvements to grow revenue while improving morale through thoughtful strategic direction and mentoring.

Prior to that, he led numerous tribal casinos including serving as CEO of Muckleshoot Casino Resort in Washington, CEO of Soboba Casino Resort in California, COO of Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in California, and CEO of Gila River Gaming Enterprises in Arizona. Additionally, he has served in leadership positions for Seminole Gaming Inc., Pechanga Resort and Casino, and various successful Station Casino properties.

As CEO of Navajo Gaming, John James will oversee and manage Navajo Gaming properties in New Mexico and Arizona, as well as ensure that Navajo Gaming policies and objectives are met. His three main objectives are to strengthen Navajo Gaming and the hospitality economy, return revenue to the Navajo Nation, and provide additional jobs to members of the Navajo Nation.

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“Navajo Gaming has grown to a multi-million-dollar enterprise over the past 15 years. John James brings extensive gaming and management experience and leadership qualities to lead Navajo Gaming. James has been widely recognized as the industry’s ‘best of the best’ for his exceptional strategic and positive impact. He will stimulate continued growth and success for Navajo Gaming as we remain focused on job creation and enhancing the Navajo economy,” Quincy Natay, Chairman of the Navajo Gaming Board of Directors, said.

“I am honored to serve Navajo Gaming’s team and guests under the stewardship of the board and alongside such a strong management team. Our industry is transforming rapidly and there is tremendous opportunity for Navajo Gaming to capitalize on opportunities, elevate guest experiences and solidify our reputation as exceptional destinations where memories are made,” John James said.

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Penn Entertainment to Lay Off About 100 Employees

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Penn Entertainment plans to lay off about 100 employees as it focuses on growth for ESPN Bet.

CEO Jay Snowden told staff members in an internal email that the changes will enhance operational efficiencies following its 2021 acquisition of Canadian media and gaming powerhouse theScore.

The company employs about 20,000 people.

“When PENN acquired theScore, we hit the ground running with the build-out of our proprietary tech stack and the migration of our sportsbook to theScore’s best-in-class-platform,” Snowden wrote in the memo. “This led us to temporarily set aside any potential organizational changes that would typically follow a major acquisition.”

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Penn went on to say it’s embarking on a new phase of growth in its interactive business, which includes ESPN Bet, a $2 billion branding partnership with Disney’s ESPN. Snowden said the initiatives include product enhancements and deeper integration into ESPN’s ecosystem.

Investors are impatient for Penn to demonstrate its muscle with the rebranded sportsbook, and activist investor Donerail Group has called on the board to sell the casino company.

Rumors have swirled about the potential interest from many other online gaming and brick-and-mortar casino companies.

Truist gaming analyst Barry Jonas wrote in a note Thursday that a sale is unlikely in the near term because of the complexity of a transaction that would likely involve major divestitures.

Penn’s release of new ESPN Bet features this fall during football season should meaningfully improve its product, Jonas said, and a focus on costs indicate the company’s commitment to seeing its investment yield results.

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Penn shares have plummeted 25% year to date. It has missed earnings expectations the last two quarters and lowered guidance.

“Investors continue to wonder what an ESPN Bet success could look like, and how much more investment (beyond what’s guided) it’ll take to reach,” Jonas notes.

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Stevin ‘Hedake’ Smith to Promote Gambling Harm Awareness Through EPIC

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Stevin ‘Hedake’ Smith was at the center of one of the most high-profile examples of gambling-related harm in basketball history, which makes him the perfect latest addition to EPIC Global Solutions’ team as they continue to educate the current generation of professional and collegiate athletes on how to avoid the repeat of a similar scenario.

The former point guard made his name as a star player at Arizona State University in the early 1990s, setting college records for three-point attempts and being a two-time All-Pac-10 selection. However, his involvement in point-shaving – which was the subject of a 2021 Netflix documentary – led to a one-year prison sentence and impacted an NBA career with hometown team, Dallas Mavericks.

The source of his gambling harm – being approached by a gambler to change the final score of a game without changing who wins – is an issue that remains very pertinent to student-athletes 30 years on, in spite of the significant changes to sports wagering legislation.

This ensures that his planned involvement in EPIC’s range of education sessions to teams connected to partners such as the NCAA, MLB, and MLSPA will be an important lesson for the athletes, coaches, and staff in attendance when he travels to address them in his new role as US sports advisor for the company.

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“I’m passionate about wanting to tell my story and get out there to prevent this from happening again,” he explained.

“I’ve been able to tell my story to players previously and I’m able to have a relationship with all of them in the audience because of the way I deliver my message and coming from one big fraternity in sport. Knowing that EPIC has a global reach is something that really stood out to me about this opportunity and I’m passionate about getting out there and speaking about my experience.”

Though already a renowned name in sporting circles, Smith’s profile is set to rise again in the months ahead with the release of eponymous autobiography, ‘Hedake’, which will coincide with his work with EPIC.

“We’re proud to welcome Hedake to our team and can’t wait to see the impact he’ll have on audiences,” added Teresa Fiore, EPIC’s VP of partnerships.

“In being approached to shave points on game, Hedake has experienced a type of gambling-related harm which is different to many of our other team members. His story represents an area of increasing concern within sports, which adds to the range of our education designed to benefit our valued partners and the key people in their organisations.”

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Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) Calls for Overhaul of “Responsible Gambling” Model

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As the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) gathered for their annual conference in San Diego last week, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI)—a nonprofit research center for public health laws affiliated with Northeastern University School of Law— released a new video to highlight the ethical and scientific failure of the “Responsible Gambling” model.

Under the direction of its president, Professor Richard Daynard, Executive Director Mark Gottlieb, and Director of Gambling Policy Dr. Harry Levant, PHAI is leading the efforts to replace the Responsible Gambling model with a comprehensive public health response to the unprecedented expansion of the gambling industry and online gambling. PHAI will be advocating for and advancing much-needed public health reform and regulation at both the federal and state levels.

The new video, which can be found on the PHAI website here, analyzes key flaws in the Responsible Gambling model—an approach favored by both the gambling industry, and the gambling-industry-funded NCPG.

In the video, Dr. Levant highlights the situation’s urgency, stating “The expansion of online gambling without appropriate safeguards and regulation is an industry-driven ‘wild west’ environment, resulting in a looming public health crisis.”

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President Daynard echoed this statement by criticizing the current Responsible Gambling model: “The Responsible Gambling model puts the onus on the customer, rather than focusing on the irresponsible design and marketing decisions of the gambling industry.”

Professor Gottlieb also emphasized the need for change. “The time has come to expose the failures of the Responsible Gambling model and move forward with a public health approach to regulation and reform,” he said.

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