International Game Technology Sends Lobbyist to Oppose DFS Bill in Oregon

A longstanding industry suspicion was confirmed in Oregon with nothing but a check mark, as a lobbyist representing International Game Technology (IGT) officially aligned the company in opposition to daily fantasy sports (DFS).

At a March 29 public hearing held by the Oregon House Committee on Business and Labor, state legislators heard comments and testimony on a pair of DFS-related bills introduced this year: HB-2549 and HB-2761.

The first bill, introduced in January by Representative Jodi Hack (R-19), would direct the Oregon State Lottery Commission to oversee the regulation of legal DFS contests for real money. Crucially, HB-2549 states that DFS is a game of skill, observing that “winning outcomes reflect the knowledge and skill of the fantasy contest players.”

The second bill, introduced in February and sponsored by the Committee on Business and Labor, would classify DFS as a “contest of chance” within the state’s overall system of gambling law. In effect, HB-2761’s passage would deem DFS to be an unlawful gambling activity under Oregon state law.

John Powell, who attended the hearing as a lobbyist for IGT, signed a pair of Witness Registration documents – one opposing HB-2549 and another supporting HB-2761. This marked the first public position on the DFS industry taken by IGT, following years of neutrality and silence on the issue.

The two major operators within the DFS industry – DraftKings and FanDuel – both hold an operational philosophy that sees them withdraw from any market which classifies their business model as chance-based gambling rather than a skill-based competition.

Thus, IGT’s support of HB-2761 in Oregon can be interpreted as the casino gambling equipment titan working to push DraftKings and FanDuel out of the state. That interpretation is bolstered by the fact that IGT signed an exclusive agreement with the Oregon Lottery last year, one which saw the company ship 1,500 video lottery terminals (VLTs) to the state.

According to Marc La Vorgna, who serves as a spokesperson for both DraftKings and FanDuel, the VLT deal provides IGT with incentive to corner the fantasy sports market for itself. La Vorgna spoke with Dustin Gouker of Legal Sports Report on April 13 to outline his theory on IGT’s renewed resistance to DFS in Oregon:

“It’s all a phony effort to use their government contracts – where they take tens of millions from taxpayers – to block competition and create some kind of cheap, scratch-off version of fantasy sports for them to profit off.

But we were glad to see in Oregon, IGT was finally willing to put their name on being anti-fantasy sports.”

During the public hearing, Committee chairman Representative Paul Holvey (D-8) and his colleagues heard testimony from several stakeholders on both sides of the DFS debate.

Organizations like the Oregon Council on Problem Gambling and the Lane County Public Health Department commented on the need for greater consumer protections to protect against addiction.

Daniel Haight of Yahoo Fantasy Sports, a mid-major DFS operator, offered its full support for HB-2549 and its game of skill designation.

One organization offered particularly strenuous opposition to DFS during the hearing, as the newly formed Stop Daily Fantasy Gambling (SDFG) issued a stern rebuke of the industry as a whole.

Michael Grimes, the lobby group’s executive director, provided the following testimony in support of HB-2761:

“Many states across the nation are struggling with the question of whether and how to allow online daily fantasy sports gambling amid an aggressive legislative push by the big companies that run these games of chance, and the approach taken by HB 2761 will ensure the best interests of the citizens of Oregon are protected.”

Speaking with Legal Online Sports, La Forgna cast doubt on the legitimacy of SDFG’s efforts, even making an as yet unsubstantiated claim linking them to IGT:

“They have been operating in the shadows, building a sham, astroturf anti-fantasy sports group based out of Texas. Three people on the board, one is a San Francisco attorney who has represented IGT interests for 20 years – not a coincidence.”

PokerStars 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker Series Preview

When the 2017 edition of PokerStars’ popular Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) kicks off on April 30, online poker players will be treated to the largest such series ever held.

With over $55 million in combined guarantees across 57 events, the 2017 SCOOP will eclipse last year’s record for largest online poker series by $15 million.

In a press release announcing the full SCOOP schedule, PokerStars’ director of poker innovation and operations Severin Rasset referenced the record-setting guarantees:

“Every year, we strive to push the boundaries of our branded series. This is a particularly enjoyable time where we have the opportunity to review the structure, the buy-in and integrate the latest and most popular tournament formats.

This year, the Series guarantee is $55 million – which is a huge sum of money. We aim to beat a few records, including the total prize pool for a series – but taking into account other signature tournaments over the series period, we actually award closer to $200 million. During SCOOP, we have a tournament for every type of player so give it a try.”

The largest guaranteed prize pool on offer stands at $5 million. And while SCOOP #55-H, the $10,300 Main Event, naturally carries that massive incentive – along with a $1 million guarantee for first place – the series opening event also boasts the same generous payout structure.

The action begins on April 30 with SCOOP #1, one of PokerStars’ so-called “Phased Tournaments,” which essentially spreads the tournament out over a series of starting flights.

Like each of the 57 SCOOP events, this one is divided into the usual Low (L), Medium (M), and High (H) tiers – with SCOOP #1-L priced at $11, #1-M at $109, and $1-H at $1,050.

Those three events offer guarantees of $1 million, $1.5 million, and $5 million, respectively – putting $7.5 million on the line for SCOOP enthusiasts to chase on the series’ opening day.

SCOOP #1 is a Phased Tournament, however, so players can expect the events to be divided into multiple days, with the various finals playing out on May 21.

PokerStars has maintained its preferred L / M / H buy-in structure, with Medium-tier tournaments typically priced at 10 times higher than Low-tier events, while High-tier tournaments cost 10 times more than the Medium-tier on average.

As such, the smallest buy-in point for each of the tiers is $5.50 (L), $55 (M), and $530 (H).

The three-tiered structure also triples the tournament count for SCOOP, turning a 57-event series into a 171-event extravaganza featuring an average of seven tournaments per day.

The festivities will be capped off by SCOOP #55, with the L / M / H buy-ins set at $109, $1,050, and $10,300, respectively.

Each of the Main Events will take place on May 21, and the guaranteed prize pools will be $1.5 million (L), $3 million (M), and $5 million (H) across the three tiers.

Main Event (H) is expected to draw a wide cross-section of the game’s greatest high-stakes online players, and Team PokerStars Pro representatives like Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Jason Mercier, Chris Moneymaker, and Jason Somerville have all confirmed their attendance.

As for the Team PokerStars Online contingent, Randy Lew, Jamie Staples, and Lex Veldhuis will be among those taking to Twitch to live stream their SCOOP sessions.

Grospellier, Mercier, and Somerville will also be treating Twitch fans to extended live streams of their SCOOP exploits.

Other schedule highlights include the return of “Win the Button” tournaments (SCOOPs #10, #42, and #5), and High-Roller events (SCOOPs #15, #26, and #40) which raise the stakes considerably.

Satellite tournaments awarding entry to every event on the SCOOP schedule are running around the clock on PokerStars.

Fiscal Analysis of Michigan’s iGaming Legislation Creates Constitutionality Debate

Even as Michigan lawmakers continue to coalesce around recently introduced online gambling legislation, a recent bill analysis conducted by the state’s Senate Fiscal Agency has cast doubts over the proposal’s constitutionality.

In a bill analysis document completed on April 5, legislative analyst Drew Krogulecki provided legislators with a comprehensive examination of Senate Bill 203, focusing on its potential consequences for municipal and state government.

Using a format in which opposing arguments against the bill are presented, followed by responses addressing those concerns, Krogulecki concluded his analysis by stating that the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” would result in negligible financial impact:

“(The) bill would have an indeterminate negative impact on the City of Detroit, result in additional expenses to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, generate additional revenue to the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund, and have an indeterminate impact on the General Fund and School Aid Fund.”

On their own, those insignificant economic benefits would be enough to call SB-203’s viability into question, but within the 16-page document, Krogulecki also highlighted a more pressing concern.

In the first opposing argument entry, the analyst outlines a legal argument which holds that SB-203 violates Michigan’s state constitution:

“Senate Bill 203 could be considered unconstitutional from several different perspectives.

Under Article 4, Section 41 of the Michigan Constitution, any law enacted after January 1, 2004, that authorizes any form of gambling must be approved by a majority of voters in a statewide election and a majority of electors voting in the township or city where the gambling would take place.

Without requiring a statewide vote, the bill would violate this provision.”

As observed by Krogulecki, the Michigan state constitution requires any law authorizing gambling related activities to be approved by voters, rather than the legislature.

However, Krogulecki then goes on to present a response that supports SB-203’s constitutionality.

According to this position, the fact that Detroit’s three land-based casinos, along with Michigan’s assortment of tribal gaming enterprises, would be iGaming licensees makes the bill constitutional due to a special exemption:

“Article 4, Section 41 of the Michigan Constitution specifically exempts the Detroit casinos (MotorCity, MGM Grand Detroit, and Greektown) and Indian tribal gaming from that section, and it is these casinos and the Indian tribes that would be potential licenses under the proposed Act.”

As currently written, SB-203 would only allow players physically located within one of the state’s brick and mortar casinos to participate in real money online gambling.

Should the bill be declared unconstitutional, the issue of iGaming in Michigan would not be dead. Rather, the proposal would be presented to voters via statewide referendum to comply with constitutional obligations.

Krogulecki’s report also called another potential obstacle into question, as his analysis suggests that SB-203 would create conflicts with the state’s tribal gaming authorities:

“The bills would erode tribal sovereignty. Specifically, Senate Bill 203 would require Michigan Indian tribes to waive their sovereign immunity if they wished to participate in online gaming.

While this would not be illegal, it could be unacceptable to the tribes. Furthermore, subjecting tribes to Michigan Gaming Control Board licensure and regulatory structures could be challenged as a violation of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

This particular opposing argument did not receive an accompanying response, which is not a surprise considering how California’s decade-long iGaming legislation debate has been hindered by tribal opposition.

Michigan is just one of several states currently mulling iGaming bills, along with New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, West Virginia, and New Hampshire.

If approved, SB-203 would make Michigan the fourth U.S. state to regulate online gambling, joining Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Online Gambling in NJ Providing Boost to Atlantic City Casino Industry

When the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) releases its monthly revenue reports for the state’s land-based and online casino industries, the news seldom makes mainstream headlines.

But the most recent March revenue reports, released by the NJDGE on April 12, did just that – after the state recorded a record-breaking performance.

With $21.7 million in gross gaming revenue from five licensed iGaming operators, New Jersey eclipsed the $20-million plateau for the first time, shattering its previous record of $18.8 million (January of 2017) in the process.

It wasn’t the state’s collection of online casinos and poker rooms garnering Associated Press coverage though, but the former crown jewel of New Jersey’s brick and mortar casino industry.

As noted by the AP, the NJDGE also released figures for the seven land-based casinos currently operating in Atlantic City, showing $221.8 million in gaming win during March. That marks a jump of 9.3 percent when compared to March of last year.

Atlantic City’s performance in March was made even better when the defunct Trump Taj Mahal is removed from the calculations. Without recently shuttered Taj’s revenue gap weakening the industry’s overall year-on-year comparison, Atlantic City casinos experienced a revenue increase of nearly 17 percent.

The improvement is striking for the East Coast’s former gambling mecca of Atlantic City. The seaside destination was once home to a thriving gambling industry, but has struggled during the last decade amidst casino closures and contraction, as well as competition from regional neighbors like New York and Massachusetts where casino gambling has been recently approved.

Speaking with the AP, New Jersey Casino Control Commission chairman Matt Levinson spoke optimistically about the state’s brick and mortar casino revival:

“Every month should be as good as March was. When coupled with the very strong earnings report that came out last week, it’s clear that casinos have started to grow the market and increase their profits.

That is generating a lot of positive interest in Atlantic City and has already attracted significant new investment in this market.”

As noted by David Rebuck, who serves as director of the NJDGE, the March revenue reports outline a clear link between the iGaming industry’s rapid rise since approval in 2013:

“(The numbers) provide further proof of the industry’s stability during the past 18 months.

For the first three months of 2017, internet gaming revenue is up 32 percent compared to last year, and the (online) industry is on pace for another record year.”

Under New Jersey law, land-based casinos in the state can apply for interactive gaming licenses, while partnering with established software providers and operators to run affiliated online casino venues.

Atlantic City’s largest casino resort, the Borgata, partnered with PartyPoker parent company bWin.Party, and currently runs its own Borgata online platform, along with a PartyPoker-branded alternative. Caesars Interactive aligned its Harrah’s AC property with 888 Holdings and the World Series of Poker, running four iGaming venues at this time.

The city’s other three iGaming license holders are Golden Nugget, Resorts AC, and the Tropicana.

The Golden Nugget’s collection of iGaming properties (Golden Nugget, Betfair, and PlaySugar House) recorded 101 percent year-on-year revenue growth during March – all without an online poker component.

Not to be outdone, the Resorts AC licensing umbrella (Resorts, Mohegan Sun, and PokerStars NJ) tallied 123 percent year-on-year growth – and 157 percent within its casino offerings alone.

Through cross-branding efforts and other promotional events – including live poker tournaments played out at the casino after online qualifying, free table game vouchers, and other rewards – New Jersey’s land-based casinos are successfully bringing online players into the fold.

DOJ Announces Repayment Plan for Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Players

Nearly six years to the day after the industry’s infamous “Black Friday,” players who had funds frozen on the Absolute Poker or Ultimate Bet online poker platforms have been offered an official opportunity to recoup their losses.

Per a press release issued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim has initiated a process to repay affected players:

“The United States has retained the Garden City Group (“GCG”) to oversee a process for compensating eligible victims of a fraud committed by Absolute Poker against United States players who were unable to withdraw funds from Absolute Poker following the Office’s filing in 2011 of a civil money laundering and forfeiture action against Absolute Poker and others in United States v. PokerStars, et al.

GCG is already overseeing the claims process for eligible victims of the fraud committed by Full Tilt Poker against United States players, as described in both United States v. PokerStars, et al., and the indictment in the parallel criminal case, United States v. Bitar, et. al.  To date, approximately $118 million has been paid to Full Tilt Poker fraud victims through that process.”

Both the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet online poker platforms operated as part of the Cereus Network during the industry’s boom years. The sites each suffered through separate cheating scandals which rocked the online poker world, before closing down for good on April 15, 2011.

Dubbed “Black Friday” forever afterward, that was the day the DOJ unsealed indictments collectively known as United States v. Scheinberg, 10 Cr. 336 (2011).

A subsequent case, United States v. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, et al., 11 Civ. 2564, specifically named Absolute Poker and Cereus Network executives.

The terms of those indictments called for five domain names to be seized and shuttered, effectively ending legal online poker in America at the time: Pokerstars.com, Fulltiltpoker.com, Absolutepoker.com, Ultimatebet.com and UB.com.

Of the five, only PokerStars proved to be a solvent financial operation, with chief rival Full Tilt Poker dissolving amidst executive fraud and misappropriated player funds.

As mentioned by acting U.S. Attorney Kim in the press release, the DOJ has contracted Garden City Group (GCG) – the same company which oversaw a largely successful repayment process for former Full Tilt Poker players.

According to Online Poker Report, that GCG-led remissions process has paid back 83 percent of Full Tilt Poker’s player base, resulting in $118 million in player funds being redistributed to their rightful owners.

The DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, working in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney for the District of New York, has launched the Absolute Poker Claims Administration website to assist affected players.

Players who believe they had funds frozen on Absolute Poker can visit the following link to begin the petition process: www.absolutepokerclaims.com.

In addition, the GCG began mailing out notices to potential victims on April 10.

A deadline of June 9 has been established for the filing of claims petitions.

And while neither Ultimate Bet nor the Cereus Network are mentioned by name in the DOJ announcement, chatter on Twitter by former players suggests that Ultimate Bet’s player base has been included in the GCG’s auditing process.

Ordinary players who have their petitions approved will be returned their last known account balance. As for affiliates, the Absolute Poker Claims website outlines a more complex formula used to calculate repayment plans.

Futures Betting Guide for the 2017 NBA Championship

When the NBA’s regular season tipped off way back in October, online sportsbook Bovada listed the Golden State Warriors as heavy favorites – better than even money in fact – to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers as champions.

The Cavs weren’t far behind at 3 to 1 against, while the San Antonio Spurs were the only other team in basketball offered better than 10 to 1.

Fast forward nearly six months, with 82 regular season games in the books, and not much has changed.

With the playoffs set to begin on Saturday, bettors at Bovada are faced with a nearly identical set of lines.

The Warriors (-160), with Kevin Durant finally back in the fold following an extended injury absence, are listed as massive favorites.

Anytime a squad is better than even money to prevail in four straight seven-game series, they’re clearly tabbed by oddsmakers as being head and shoulders above the competition.

And this Golden State team can certainly claim to be just that. A gaudy 67-15 record can’t quite match last year’s historic 73-9 run, but it still led the loaded West by six games. Throw in an 11.6 positive point differential, best in basketball by more than five points, and Steph Curry and Co. have all engines go for a trip to their third straight Finals.

If they make it, Bovada leans towards a rematch against Cleveland (+333) to complete an epic championship trilogy for the two juggernauts.

By sticking to a rest-oriented strategy late in the year, motivated by the extended swoons suffered by superstars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs (51-31) dropped the East’s top-seed by two games to the Boston Celtics (53-29).

But to illustrate the oddsmakers’ bullish view on Cleveland’s chances, those Celtics (+1600) offer odds nearly five times worse than the team they surpassed in the regular season.

Simply put, in the East, it’s LeBron and then everybody else.

As for the third wheel in this title tango, San Antonio (+600) seems to be, once again, the only team within striking distance.

Only the aforementioned Celtics and the Houston Rockets (+1600) are better than 20 to 1, and after the Toronto Raptors (+3300), every other playoff “contender” is a 40 to 1 shot or worse.

And the Spurs truly deserve to be so far ahead of that class.

Under the steady leadership of Gregg Popovich, they were the only team aside from Golden State to eclipse the 60-win barrier (61-21). San Antonio finished a full five games better than any non-Warriors team in the West, and eight games higher than the East-leading Celtics.

Bettors looking for longshots offering value will likely look to Toronto, a team riding an 8-2 wave of momentum and four straight wins to close the year.

At 51-31, Canada’s hardwood heroes tied Cleveland’s regular season record, and they should be a cinch to down the Milwaukee Bucks (+25000) in the first round. That would likely set up a second-round clash with the Cavs, so beating those (+3300) odds will require a high degree of difficulty.

For the latest odds on each of the NBA’s 16 title contenders, as currently offered by Bovada, check the table below:

2017 NBA Title Odds

Team NBA Title Odds on 4/13
Golden State Warriors -160
Cleveland Cavaliers +333
San Antonio Spurs +600
Houston Rockets +1600
Boston Celtics +1600
Toronto Raptors +3300
Washington Wizards +4000
L.A. Clippers +5000
Utah Jazz +6600
Oklahoma City Thunder +6600
Memphis Grizzlies +15000
Atlanta Hawks +25000
Milwaukee Bucks +25000
Indiana Pacers +25000
Chicago Bulls +25000
Portland Trail Blazers +30000

 

Weinman Wins WPT Tournament of Champions for $381,500

Last year the World Poker Tour (WPT) introduced its prestigious Tournament of Champions (TOC), inviting only those players with their name etched on the WPT Champions Cup to attend.

And while that inaugural event crowned a true Cinderella as the champion of champions, this year’s edition was claimed by a consummate professional.

Atlanta-based poker pro Daniel Weinman overcame a field stacked with 65 poker superstars to earn $381,500, along with an array of additional prizes awarded by WPT sponsors. To finish the feat off, Weinman was forced to withstand a feverish comeback by Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi during the pair’s heads-up duel.

According to the WPT Live Updates coverage, after entering the final table 1-2 in the pecking order, Weinman and Mizarchi began heads-up play sitting on 2,745,000 and 555,000 chips, respectively. The blinds were set at 15,000/30,000 with a 5,000-chip ante, making it 92 big blinds for Weinman and just 19 for Mizrachi.

At just under 5:1, the stack advantage appeared to give Weinman a shot at ending the match in short order. But following his third-place finish at the first TOC, “The Grinder” was seeking redemption, and he gave himself every opportunity to climb back into contention.

On just the fifth heads-up hand, Mizrachi doubled through when his K-J offsuit spiked a king on the river to best Weinman’s A-6 offsuit, following the latter’s open-shove before the flop. That pot made it 2,020,000 to 1,280,000 in favor of Weinman, and Mizrachi began closing the gap even further with a series of small wins.

On the 14th hand of heads-up play, however, Weinman used a big river bluff to regain his traction in the match. With the board reading 10h-6c-3h-6h-8c, Weinman checked – slowing down after a lead-out on the turn. Mizrachi overbet the 260,000-chip pot with a wager of 400,000, prompting a shove by Weinman for effectively 1,050,000 on top.

To speed the game up, the TOC employed tournament director Matt Savage’s “Action Clock,” giving players 30 seconds to act on their hands, along with a few 30-second extensions via Time Chips.

Mizrachi was out of Time Chips and couldn’t tank it out, eventually folding what he said was a flush as the 5h accidentally flipped face up.

Weinman turned his 8h-9s, for just a middling two pair made on the river, face up for the world to see. And as Weinman later recounted to PokerNews, with that pivotal pot won, he had his swagger back for good:

“I really felt in control until he doubled, and then he won the next few pots.

There’s a chance that he could have said call, and it would have been over.”

Mizrachi couldn’t pull the trigger on a call though, and just four hands later Weinman won a flip with A-8 over 5-5 to win it.

He described the experience to PokerNews, mentioning the huge WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open victory in January that stamped his ticket to the TOC:

“I feel incredible. This is such a tough tournament; to come out on top is super special.”

To have a $900,000 score in February and then follow it up with this, it’s incredible.”

With titles from the European Poker Tour (EPT), WSOP-Circuit, Aussie Millions, and of course, the WPT, already on his resume, Weinman has been grinding the global tournament circuit since 2010. He now has just over $2.68 million in reported live tournament earnings, with what are by far his two largest scores occurring on the WPT in less than three months.

In addition to his seven-figure cash prize, Weinman was also awarded a bevy of sponsorship prizes, including a 2018 Audi S5 Coupe, gold wireless headphones from Monster, a luxury Hublot watch, and even a seat in the Tiger Woods’ Poker Night event.

Full final table results, including placement and payout, can be found below:

2017 WPT Tournament of Champions Final Table

PLACE

1

PLAYER

Daniel Weinman

PRIZE

$381,500

2 Michael Mizrachi $218,000
3 Daniel Santoro $133,525
4 David Ormsby $95,375
5 Erik Seidel $73,575
6 Dylan Wilkerson $57,225

 

National Governors Association Tells Jeff Sessions to Back Off Federal Online Gambling Ban

As the Trump administration continues to consolidate around conservatives opposed to online gambling, bipartisan support for the right of states to control their own iGaming industries is growing.

In a letter dated April 3, the National Governors Association (NGA) wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, expressing the group’s concern over recent efforts to revive RAWA – or the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

That bill was introduced in 2014 by a pair of Republican Senators – Lindsey Graham (SC) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) – having been funded by billionaire conservative donor and land-based casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Online Gambling (CSOA) lobby group. After several incarnations of RAWA failed to gain traction and died amidst legislative debate, Sessions has brought his longstanding opposition to online gambling to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

During his recent Senate confirmation hearings, Sessions was asked about his position on the DOJ’s revised interpretation of 1961’s Federal Wire Act, which was released in 2011 and essentially limited the law to sports betting – not online casino, poker, lottery, or other games. Sessions said he was “shocked” by the DOJ decision, and that he would “revisit it or make a decision about it based on careful study” as Attorney General if confirmed.

This news, coupled with the Trump administration’s lack of commitment either way on iGaming issues, prompted the NGA to pen Sessions personally.

The letter was signed by Terry McAuliffe (D) – Governor of Virginia and chair of the NGA – and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R), who serves as vice-chair.

In just a few sentences, the NGA clearly outlines a states’ rights argument in favor of leaving federal iGaming laws intact:

“The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming-in a variety of forms-within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input.

A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens.”

In 2013, Governor Sandoval signed a bill into law which made Nevada one of just three states – along with New Jersey and Delaware – to currently authorize online casino and poker sites. Dozens of states also operate, or allow operation of, online lottery services, which the NGA letter also asks Sessions to preserve.

The NGA letter showed that the group grasps the intricacies of iGaming legislation in 2017, pointing out that any federal ban would simply push American players to use unregulated offshore platforms:

“As you review this issue, we encourage you to take note of the current regulatory mechanisms put in place by the states to ensure that consumers and children are protected, and that licensees comply with strict standards of conduct.

States are best equipped to regulate and enforce online gaming. A ban drives this activity offshore to unregulated jurisdictions, out of the reach of state and federal law enforcement and with risk to consumers.”

Considering lack of support for RAWA in its earlier incarnations, on both sides of the aisle, that particular bill being revived and becoming viable isn’t necessarily a likely occurrence. Even so, the NGA is continuing its steadfast opposition of the bill, which began back in May of 2014 with a similarly worded letter sent to Congress.

British Columbia Site of Evolution Gaming’s First Live Studio Outside of Europe

The world’s leading provider of Live Dealer online casino gambling technology will enter the Canadian market by the end of this year.

In a press release issued on April 4, the Stockholm-based Evolution Gaming Group announced plans to build a 16,000-square foot Live Dealer studio in the heart of Vancouver.

The eighth Live Dealer studio constructed by Evolution Gaming, the Vancouver site will represent the company’s first foray outside of Europe. With dedicated venues in Riga, Latvia and Bucharest, Romania among its existing collection, Evolution Gaming provides cutting-edge Live Dealer gambling services to major online casino platforms like 888 Holdings, bWin.Party, and William Hill.

The Vancouver studio will be built as part of the company’s recently forged five-year partnership with the British Columbia Lottery Commission (BCLC). In a first for any of Canada’s provincially-owned iGaming monopolies, Evolution Gaming will provide the BCLC’s online casino PlayNow.com with a full-fledged Live Dealer component.

Initial plans call for the site’s Live Dealer extension to offer the table game staples baccarat, blackjack, and roulette. Players on the PlayNow.com platform will be able access these Live Dealer games via desktop and mobile devices.

Live Dealer online casino tables connect players directly to human dealers running games using genuine casino equipment. The dealers, usually attractive women who happen to be highly trained casino gaming professionals, can communicate with players in real time, celebrating big wins and commiserating after losses.

Players tend to prefer Live Dealer games because they remove the role of computerized random number generators (RNGs), allowing everyone to see actual cards fall and a real wheel stop spinning.

Martin Carlesund, who serves as chief executive officer for Evolution Gaming, praised the BCLC as the perfect partner for the company’s first transcontinental expansion:

“Entering the Canadian market with BCLC signifies a huge breakthrough, outside of our European operations.

Through this new partnership, we are confident we will deliver the very best Live Casino experience for BCLC players and an exceptional Live Casino studio facility for BCLC and other Canadian lottery jurisdictions in the future.”

Evolution Gaming states that it will eventually become the sole provider of Live Dealer technology for Canada’s other provincial gambling monopolies. Individual provinces control government-owned gambling entities, and the BCLC deal is expected to pave the way for Evolution Gaming to dominate Live Dealer services throughout the country.

Accordingly, Carlesund celebrated his company’s continued success within the lucrative Live Dealer market:

“This latest expansion consolidates Evolution’s position as global leader in the B2B Live Casino market. This delivery further highlights our ability to provide solutions that meet the most stringent requirements of regulated markets.”

Monica Bohm, vice president of eGaming for the BCLC, commented on the need to keep Canadian online casinos on the industry’s cutting edge:

“We are delighted to enter into this agreement with Evolution, to bring the thrill of live, interactive casino gaming to our online players.

New and innovative products like Live Casino will help BCLC continue to deliver the very best in gambling entertainment to our players while benefiting communities across British Columbia.”

Evolution Gaming estimates that construction on its new Vancouver facilities will be completed by the end of the year, adding 170 employment positions to the local economy.

Government Gambling Commission in Sweden Calls for Full iGaming by 2019

A panel commissioned by the Swedish government is calling for comprehensive reforms to expand the country’s current online gambling market, per a March 29 report by Reuters.

Over the last year and a half Sweden’s “Gambling License Enquiry” has studied the iGaming industry in hopes of improving the existing state-owned monopoly model. Known as Svenska Spel, that government-owned gambling enterprise currently controls the licensed online casino marketplace within Sweden.

Håkan Hallstedt, who serves as lead investigator for the Gambling License Enquiry and director general of the Lotteriinspektionen, or Swedish Gambling Authority, officially introduced the government’s proposal on March 31.

That plan would see Svenska Spel’s monopoly over online gambling ended, with Sweden shifting instead to the open-licensing scheme put in place by most major European nations.

Speaking to Sverige Radio, or Radio Sweden, Hallstedt offered a broad overview of his iGaming proposal, telling interviewers that “there will be one law to regulate everything.”

Asked about the potential for foreign-owned companies to apply for licenses, Hallstedt seemed receptive to the idea, saying “I think there are very good possibilities for that.”

According to statistics released by the Swedish Gambling Authority, the county’s iGaming marketplace sees only 77 percent of revenue directed to licensed and taxed platforms. Those include Storspiller.com, a recently launched online casino owned by Malta-based Kindred Group (formerly known as Unibet).

Despite maintaining an ostensible monopoly over iGaming, the Swedish government is acutely aware that offshore operators can serve Swedish customers with impunity.

To that end, minister for public administration Ardalan Shekarabi spoke to the government’s desire to shield Swedish iGaming spending from unlicensed operators, during a press conference to officially announce the commission’s findings:

“The government’s starting point in this work has concerned the state regaining control of the gambling market. This has been one of the most difficult inquiries of this mandate period.”

By instituting an annual tax of 18 percent on gross gaming revenues, the open licensing plan would invite offshore operators like 888 Holdings, Amaya, and others to apply for licensure.

Meanwhile, companies like Betsson and Kindred Group – both of which were founded in Sweden before relocating to Malta for tax purposes – would be given priority within the restructured marketplace.

Speaking with industry news outlet iGaming Business, a Kindred Group spokesperson outlined the company’s approach to the expected shakeup:

“After the proposal has been put forward the political process picks up. The strategy and default action by Kindred is to obtain local licenses in re-regulated markets.

The final decision however can’t be made until we know what set of regulations the Parliament will actually adopt in 2018. So far though it seems to be a reasonable regime being proposed.

Peter Alling, who serves as head of Nordic public affairs for Kindred Group, was far more bullish on the regulation agenda:

“We welcome the political consensus on the need for a modern gambling legislation, and the commitment that a new law will be in place before the next general election.

For re-regulation to be successful there is no room for major changes in the investigator’s proposal. Delays will endanger the whole reform.

We know that any attempt to regulate prices, limit the choice of games, or charge high taxes will have a negative effect on channelization.”

Hallstedt and the Swedish Gambling Authority have stated their objective to raise the “channelization” rate – or the percentage of players doing business with licensed platforms only – from 77 percent to between 90 and 95 percent.