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Read this if you are a part of the gaming industry.

BerryDunn has been servicing the gaming and lottery industry for over 25 years. Our experience performing SOC examinations in the gaming and sportsbook industry provides you with trusted professionals who understand your environment, regulations, and customer expectations. As more states pass legislation allowing for sports betting, new rules and regulations are included in the legislation. These rules and regulations are typically focused on maintaining the integrity of systems and public confidence in the sportsbooks and other vendors. SOC 2 has quickly become the international standard for reporting on internal controls over security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. States have included wording in proposed rules and regulations for SOC 2 examinations to be completed annually by key vendors.  

What is SOC 2?

Developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), SOC 2 defines criteria for managing customer data based on five “trust service criteria” (TSC): Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality, and Privacy. 

Organizations design their own controls to address specific, pre-defined criteria within one (minimum TSC is Security) or more TSC. The SOC 2 report provides sportsbook providers with important information about how they manage data and systems and is shared with their customers and other relevant stakeholders such as regulatory bodies and auditors. We have explained how each TSC applies to a sportsbook environment below:

Security (often referred to as the common criteria)

The security TSC focuses on the protection and management of information and systems. This includes criteria on policies and procedures, operations, change management, incident management, logical security, and risk mitigation.

Applicability to sportsbook environments
Sportsbooks require a secure approach to help ensure that all data in the environment is securely designed, managed, and protected. Whether you are processing, managing, or storing data for your customer for the use of back-office administration, data feed providers, or traders, or players are making transactions in the environment, all data must be secure. 

Controls may include human resource, board, or management oversight, policies and procedures, third-party risk management, user access management, securing your environment (assessing firewall, anti-virus, intrusion protection, vulnerability scanning), operational management and incident handling, and change management. 

Availability

The availability TSC refers to ensuring both information and systems are available for operation and accessible to users. 

Applicability to sportsbook environments
As a sportsbook, you provide your customers with an environment that requires continuous up-time and system and business recovery measures to be in place for both full system recovery, and where required, failovers to backup hot sites. This TSC allows you to demonstrate to your customer the controls in place for your own environment, service providers (data centers), and data feed providers. 

Controls may include high-availability clusters, backup processes, operational monitoring, incident management, capacity management, and data recovery.

Processing integrity

The processing integrity TSC addresses whether the system processing is complete, valid, accurate, timely, and authorized to meet the entity’s objectives. 

Applicability to sportsbook environments
As a sportsbook, the integrity and correctness of data and transaction processing are essential to your system. Whether that processing entails odds, quotations, results, bets placed, or payouts—all data within the sportsbook requires accurate and consistent processing.  

Controls may include database logs of all transactions with unique IDs, game changes, failure messages, results processing, system checks and balances, and reporting functionality. 

Confidentiality

The confidentiality TSC assesses that information designated as confidential is protected to meet the entity’s objectives. (Confidential data focuses more on protecting business sensitive, trade secret data, and proprietary information that is not for public consumption.)

Applicability to sportsbook environments
Confidentiality in a sportsbook environment includes confidentiality for the bettors and confidentiality of the business. Sportsbooks hold the transactional data of players' accounts that are confidential to the individual. Additionally, other data you or your customer have contractually committed to protecting requires confidential safeguards in place more than non-critical or pieces of data. Most often, in sportsbooks we focus on the confidentiality of transactions, movement of data from one location to another, encryption in rest and in transit, and the destruction of data in a secure manner. 

Controls may include policies and processes for the handling, maintenance, storage, backup distribution or transmission of data, and destruction of confidential information.  

Privacy

The privacy TSC addresses how personal information is collected, used, retained, disclosed, and disposed of to meet the entity’s objectives and is designed to protect against unauthorized use or access.

Applicability to sportsbook environments
Privacy focuses on how an organization manages Personal Identifiable Information (PII). Sportsbooks house PII of their players (bettors) including name, address, birth date, social security number, banking information, or other government-issued identification, among other types of data. PII is used to validate a player’s identity and location. In many instances, third parties may be used for player validation and controls may also focus on third-party management and due diligence.

Controls may include policies and procedures, safeguards in place to protect PII, role-based access, disclosures, choices and consent, monitoring, and enforcement.

Do I already have required controls in place? 

In many cases, you likely already have many of the needed internal controls in place because of the nature of the highly regulated gaming industry. SOC 2s may easily leverage the controls you already have in place for other frameworks and requirements, such as NIST, ISO, and PCI. 

Preparing for a SOC 2 examination may take a significant amount of time (six months to a year) and we highly recommend you complete a readiness assessment first. In a readiness assessment, we take inventory of your current controls in place for all aspects discussed above and map the control for each TSC. Where gaps may be present, guidance is provided on ways to implement new controls or to enhance current practices. More information on preparing for a SOC 2 can be found here

Contact us for a SOC 2 readiness assessment 

Our team has conducted over 50 iGaming and Sportsbook SOC audits and has over 10 years of experience in the industry. Using industry experts for SOC 2 examinations allows you to get the most value from the process and helps you refine controls to reflect industry best practices. Please contact Josh Clark if you have questions about SOC 2 or your specific operation. 

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Sportsbook SOC 2 compliance: An introduction

Read this if your organization receives charitable donations.

As the holiday season has passed and tax season is now upon us, we have our own list of considerations that we would like to share—so that you don’t end up on the IRS’ naughty list!

Donor acknowledgment letters

It is important for organizations receiving gifts to consider the following guidelines, as doing some work now may save you time (and maybe a fine or two) later.

Charitable (i.e., 501(c)(3)) organizations are required to provide a contemporaneous (i.e., timely) donor acknowledgment letter to all donors who contribute $250 or more to the organization, whether it be cash or non-cash items (e.g., publicly traded securities, real estate, artwork, vehicles, etc.) received. The letter should include the following:

  • Name of the organization
  • Amount of cash contribution
  • Description of non-cash items (but not the value)
  • Statement that no goods and services were provided (assuming this is the case)
  • Description and good faith estimate of the value of goods and services provided by the organization in return for the contribution

Additionally, when a donor makes a payment greater than $75 to a charitable organization partly as a contribution and partly as a payment for goods and services, a disclosure statement is required to notify the donor of the value of the goods and services received in order for the donor to determine the charitable contribution component of their payment.

If a charitable organization receives noncash donations, it may be asked to sign Form 8283. This form is required to be filed by the donor and included with their personal income tax return. If a donor contributes noncash property (excluding publicly traded securities) valued at over $5,000, the organization will need to sign Form 8283, Section B, Part IV acknowledging receipt of the noncash item(s) received.

For noncash items such as cars, boats, and even airplanes that are donated there is a separate Form 1098-C, Contributions of Motor Vehicles, Boats, and Airplanes, which the donee organization must file. A copy of the Form 1098-C is provided to the donor and acts as acknowledgment of the gift. For more information, you can read our article on donor acknowledgments.

Gifts to employees

At the same time, many employers find themselves in a giving spirit, wishing to reward the employees for another year of hard work. While this generosity is well-intended, gifts to employees can be fraught with potential tax consequences organizations should be aware of. Here’s what you need to know about the rules on employee gifts.

First and foremost, the IRS is very clear that cash and cash equivalents (specifically gift cards) are always included as taxable income when provided by the employer, regardless of amount, with no exceptions. This means that if you plan to give your employees cash or a gift card this year, the value must be included in the employees’ wages and is subject to all payroll taxes.

There are, however, a few ways to make nontaxable gifts to employees. IRS Publication 15 offers a variety of examples of de minimis (minimal) benefits, defined as any property or service you provide to an employee that has a minimal value, making the accounting for it unreasonable and administratively impracticable. Examples include holiday or birthday gifts, like flowers, or a fruit basket, or occasional tickets for theater or sporting events.

Additionally, holiday gifts can also be nontaxable if they are in the form of a gift coupon and if given for a specific item (with no redeemable cash value). A common example would be issuing a coupon to your employee for a free ham or turkey redeemable at the local grocery store. For more information, please see our article on employee gifts.

Other year-end filing requirements

As the end of the calendar year approaches, it is also important to start thinking about Form 1099 filing requirements. There are various 1099 forms; 1099-INT to report interest income, 1099-DIV to report dividend income, 1099-NEC to report nonemployee compensation, and 1099-MISC to report other miscellaneous income, to name a few.

Form 1099-NEC reports non-employment income which is not included on a W-2. Organizations must issue 1099-NECs to payees (there are some exclusions) who receive at least $600 in non-employment income during the calendar year. A non-employee may be an independent contractor, or a person hired on a contract basis to complete work, such as a graphic designer. Payments to attorneys or CPAs for services rendered that exceed $600 for the tax year must be reported on a Form 1099-NEC. However, a 1099-MISC would be sent to an Attorney for payments of settlements. For additional questions on which 1099 form to use please contact your tax advisor.

While federal income tax is not always required to be withheld, there are some instances when it is. If a payee does not furnish their Tax Identification Number (TIN) to the organization, then the organization is required to withhold taxes on payments reported in box 1 of Form 1099-NEC. There are other instances, and the rates can differ so if you have questions, please reach out to your tax advisor. 1099 forms are due to the recipient and the IRS by January 31st.

Whether organizations are receiving gifts, giving employee gifts, or thinking about acknowledgments and other reporting we hope that by making our list and checking it twice we can save you some time to spend with your loved ones this holiday season. We wish you all a very happy and healthy holiday season!

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Making a year-end list and checking it twice

Read this if you are a not-for-profit executive, CFO, or audit professional.

You may have heard—or tried not to—a lot about the new Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) accounting standard1 that has consumed much of the banking industry for the past few years. While the impact to banks has snagged most of the headlines, webinars, and conference sessions, the new accounting standard applies to a broad range of financial instruments, meaning it affects a lot of companies and organizations outside the banking industry. Assessing your readiness is critical, as the standard goes into effect for all remaining organizations in 2023. 

Does CECL affect your organization? 

The first step is determining if you have any in-scope financial instruments; ASU 326-20-15-2 is the section of the new standard that identifies these assets. Please do consult the standard directly but, to briefly explain, it applies to financial assets measured at amortized cost basis, including financing receivables, held-to-maturity debt securities, trade and other receivables, net investments in leases recognized by lessors, and off-balance-sheet credit exposures for loans, letters of credit, and financial guarantees not accounted for as insurance. If your organization has any of these financial assets – receivables and leases are likely the major categories for non-banks – then you will need to ensure you comply with the requirements of the new standard. 

What’s different?

In addition to applying to many more types of financial instruments, CECL meaningfully changes the way in which reserves are calculated. First, all in-scope assets must be segmented—or grouped—by common risk-based characteristics, determined and documented by each organization. ASC 326-20-55-5 provides examples of risk characteristics that individually, or in combination, may define a segment—a few examples include financial asset type, credit score or rating, geographical location, or term.

Once you have determined your segments, there are at least seven new methods for calculating the segment-level reserve. While the methods are mentioned in the standard, we’ve compiled a brief overview of the various methods for reference.

Another key change is that all in-scope assets must be considered for reserve—even those for which the likelihood of loss is small. Regardless of which allowable method(s) you choose for your calculation, the method is based on a life-of-asset time frame, meaning that you need to estimate risk of loss over the remaining time you believe the financial asset will be on your books.

Additionally, the standard requires you consider how this risk might change given a reasonable and supportable forecast of economic conditions over that remaining life. As a result of these key new elements, any in-scope financial asset(s) for which you compute and carry a $0 reserve must be very well-documented and explained.

New required financial statement disclosures

One final note: There are some new financial statement disclosures required with CECL adoption. Beyond those, there may be other CECL-related information either you want to share, or your audit/tax firm recommends be disclosed. Consulting with your auditor at least one quarter prior to financial statement preparation will help make sure you aren’t scrambling last minute to draft new language or tables. 

No matter what stage of CECL readiness you are in, our team of experts are here to help you navigate the requirements as efficiently and effectively as possible.
 

1Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 326

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CECL isn't just for banks: Are you ready?

Read this if your company is considering financing through a sale leaseback.

In today’s economic climate, some companies are looking for financing alternatives to traditional senior or mezzanine debt with financial institutions. As such, more companies are considering entering into sale leaseback arrangements. Depending on your company’s situation and goals, a sale leaseback may be a good option. Before you decide, here are some advantages and disadvantages that you should consider.

What is a sale leaseback?

A sale leaseback is when a company sells an asset and simultaneously enters into a lease contract with the buyer for the same asset. This transaction can be used as a method of financing, as the company is able to retrieve cash from the sale of the asset while still being able to use the asset through the lease term. Sale leaseback arrangements can be a viable alternative to traditional financing for a company that owns significant “hard assets” and has a need for liquidity with limited borrowing capacity from traditional financial institutions, or when the company is looking to supplement its financing mix.

Below are notable advantages, disadvantages, and other considerations for companies to consider when contemplating a sale leaseback transaction:

Advantages of using a sale leaseback

Sale leasebacks may be able to help your company: 

  • Increase working capital to deploy at a greater rate of return, if opportunities exist
  • Maintain control of the asset during the lease term
  • Avoid restrictive covenants associated with traditional financing
  • Capitalize on market conditions, if the fair value of an asset has increased dramatically
  • Reduce financing fees
  • Receive sale proceeds equal to or greater than the fair value of the asset, which generally is contingent on the company’s ability to fund future lease commitments

Disadvantages of using a sale leaseback

On the other hand, a sale leaseback may:

  • Create a current tax obligation for capital gains; however, the company will be able to deduct future lease payments.
  • Cause loss of right to receive any future appreciation in the fair value of the asset
  • Cause a lack of control of the asset at the end of the lease term
  • Require long-term financial commitments with fixed payments
  • Create loss of operational flexibility (e.g., ability to move from a leased facility in the future)
  • Create a lost opportunity to diversify risk by owning the asset

Other considerations in assessing if a sale leaseback is right for you

Here are some questions you should ask before deciding if a sale leaseback is the right course of action for your company: 

  • What are the length and terms of the lease?
  • Are the owners considering a sale of the company in the near future?
  • Is the asset core to the company’s operations?
  • Is entering into the transaction fulfilling your fiduciary duty to shareholders and investors?
  • What is the volatility in the fair value of the asset?
  • Does the transaction create any other tax opportunities, obligations, or exposures?

The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s new standard on leases, Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 842, is now effective for both public and private companies. Accounting for sale leaseback transactions under ASC Topic 842 can be very complex with varying outcomes depending on the structure of the transaction. It is important to determine if a sale has occurred, based on guidance provided by ASC Topic 842, as it will determine the initial and subsequent accounting treatment.

The structure of a sale leaseback transactions can also significantly impact a company’s tax position and tax attributes. If you’re contemplating a sale leaseback transaction, reach out to our team of experts to discuss whether this is the right path for you.

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Is a sale leaseback transaction right for you?

Read this if you are in the senior living industry.

Happy New Year! While it may be a new calendar year, the uncertainties facing senior living facilities are still the same, and the question remains: When will the Public Health Emergency end, and how will it impact operations? Federal and state relief programs ended in 2022, and facilities are trying to find ways to fund operations as they face low occupancy levels. Inflation was at 7.1% in November and staffing remains a significant challenge. So, what can the industry expect for 2023?

Occupancy

Through the pandemic, occupancy losses were greater in nursing facilities than in assisted living (AL) and independent living (IL) facilities. This trend of care shifting away from nursing facilities had started before the onset of the pandemic. From 2018-2020, nursing facility volume decreased by over 5% while AL facilities occupancy increased by 1.1%.

Nursing facility occupancy nationwide was 80.2% in January of 2020 and declined to as low as 67.5% in January 2021. In 2022, nursing facility occupancy began to recover. As of December 18, 2022, nationwide occupancy had rebounded to 75.8%.

The assisted living and independent living markets were certainly impacted by the pandemic but not to the extent of the nursing facilities. AL and IL occupancy was reported at 80.9% in March 2021, a record low occupancy for the industry. Through the third quarter of 2022, NIC reported IL occupancy at 84.7%, which was up from 83.8% in the second quarter of 2022. AL occupancy was at 79.7%. in the third quarter of 2022. 

Providers are starting to see some positive signs with occupancy, but are reporting the recovery has been slowed by staffing shortages.

Cost of capital

The lending market is tightening for senior living providers and occupancy issues are negatively impacting facilities bottom lines. In addition, there has been significant consolidation in the banking industry. As a result, interest and related financing costs have risen. For those facilities that aren’t able to sustain their bottom lines and are failing financial covenants, lenders are being less lenient on waivers and in some cases, lenders are imposing default lending rates. 

Ziegler reports in their Winter 2022 report the lending market for senior housing is beginning to pick up. The majority of the lenders surveyed were regional banks, and reported they are offering both fixed and floating rate loans. Lenders are also reporting an increased scrutiny on labor costs coupled with looking at a facility’s ability to increase occupancy. 

Despite these challenges, analysts are still optimistic for 2023 as inflation seems to be tapering, which will hopefully lead to a stabilization of interest rates.

Staffing

Changes to five-star rating
In July 2022, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) modified the five-star rating to include Registered Nurse (RN) and administrator turnover. The new staffing rating adds new measures, including total nurse staffing hours per resident day on the weekends, the percentage of turnover for total nursing staff and RNs, and the number of administrators who have left the nursing home over a 12-month period.

Short-term this could have a negative impact on facilities ratings as they are still struggling to recruit and retain nursing staff. The American Healthcare Association has performed an analysis, and on a nationwide basis these changes resulted in the number of one-star staffed facilities rising from 17.71% to 30.89%, and the percentage of one-star overall facilities increasing from 17.70% to 22.08%.

Staffing shortages 
Much like the occupancy trend, nursing facilities faced staffing issues even before the pandemic. From 2018 to 2020, the average number of full-time employees dropped at a higher rate, 37.1%, than admissions, 15.7%. Data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and CMS Payroll Based Journal reporting shows nursing facilities lost 14.5% of their employees from 2019-2021 and assisted living facilities lost 7.7% over the same time period. This unprecedented loss of employment across the industry is leading to burnout and will contribute to future turnover.

This loss of full-time employees has created a ripple effect across the healthcare sector. Nursing facilities are unable to fully staff beds and have had to decline new admissions. This is causing strain on hospital systems as they are unable to place patients in post-acute facilities, creating a back log in hospitals and driving up the cost of care.

While the industry continues to experience challenges recruiting and retaining employees, the labor market is starting to swing in the favor of providers. Some healthcare sectors have recovered to pre-pandemic staffing levels. Providers are also starting to report lower utilization of contract labor.

While the industry continues to experience challenges recruiting and retaining employees, the labor market is starting to swing in the favor of providers. 

Minimum staffing requirement
CMS is expected to propose a new minimum staffing rule by early spring 2023. Federal law currently requires Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes provide 24-hour licensed nursing services, which are “sufficient to meet nursing needs of their residents”. CMS issued a request for information (RFI) as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 Skilled Nursing Facility Prospective Payment System Proposed Rule. CMS received over 3,000 comments with differing points of view but prevailing themes from patient advocacy groups regarded care of residents, factors impacting facilities' ability to recruit and retain staff, differing Medicaid reimbursement models, and the cost of implementing a minimum staffing requirement. In addition to the RFI, CMS launched a study that includes analysis of historical data and site visits to 75 nursing homes. 

In a study conducted by the American Healthcare Association, it is estimated an additional 58,000 to 191,000 FTEs will be needed (at a cost of approximately $11.3 billion) to meet the previously recommended 4.1 hours per patient day minimum staffing requirements.

One potential consequence of the minimum staffing requirement is higher utilization of agency staffing. Nursing facilities saw a 14.5% decrease in staffing through the pandemic and are still struggling to recruit and retain full-time staff. To meet the minimum staffing requirements, providers may need to fill open positions with temporary staffing. 

Provider Relief Funds (PRF) 

Don’t forget if you received PRF funds in excess of $10,000 between July 1 and December 31, 2021, Phase 4 reporting period opened January 1, 2023, and will close March 31, 2023.
Many of the changes to the industry brought on by the pandemic are likely to remain. Facilities who are putting a focus on their staff and working to create a positive work environment are likely to keep employees for longer.

While there are many challenges in the current environment, they were made to be met, and we are here to help. If you have any questions or would like to talk about your specific needs, please contact our senior living team. Wishing you a successful 2023.
 

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Status of the senior living industry: The good, the bad, and the uncertain