California Lawmaker Says Back to Ground Zero for Online Poker Legislation

The decade-long debate over regulating online poker in California won’t be ending anytime soon, according to Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer.

Speaking from his offices in Los Angeles during a recent interview with Online Poker Report, the sponsor of California’s latest attempt to legalize online poker – Assembly Bill 1667, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act – said no progress will be made this year.

Jones-Sawyer’s bill represents the culmination of over 10 years’ worth of political bickering between several stakeholders – including the Golden State’s horse racing industry, a coalition of concerned tribal organizations, civic leaders opposed to gambling expansion, and major platforms like PokerStars.

But even as his AB-1667 contains several compromises designed to ease tensions, Jones-Sawyer admitted that acrimonious debates during the last few years have derailed the legislative agenda. As he revealed to Online Poker Report, the effort to legalize online poker in California will require a proverbial rebuild:

“I don’t want to sound like a minister or psychologist, but we’ve got to start from ground zero where we’ve got to at least get people to want to try to get it done again.

When I first started on this in earnest, we were going slow and methodical, and we had some successes. We weren’t trying to rush anyone and we weren’t pitting one side against the other, as best we could.”

Jones-Sawyers’ comments refer to a previous legislative push by Assemblyman Adam Gray, who co-chairs the Governmental Organization Committee and served as co-sponsor of an earlier online gaming bill along with Jones-Sawyer.

Despite securing a pivotal agreement between racetracks and tribes last year – which would forfeit the former’s right to run online poker rooms in exchange for a $60 million stipend paid annually – Gray moved too aggressively and alienated many potential allies in the Assembly.

As Jones-Sawyer described the situation, 2017’s legislative agenda will not be highlighted by the pursuit of online poker, partly due to the controversy generated by last year’s debate:

“Obviously, we’re not going to put anything across the desk now. If you look at the Assembly, we have other big things such as the transportation bill to focus on.

This would not be a good year to put something controversial in. I think the ability to work out something next year has a bigger chance if we do some of the come-together healing things right now.”

After reaching an agreement between the racetracks and tribes, Gray attempted to broker a pact between PokerStars and the tribal coalition standing in opposition to the world’s largest online poker room reentering California.

Many stakeholders are opposed to PokerStars returning to California. The primary argument against PokerStars holds that the site gained an unfair competitive advantage between 2006 and 2011 – when the site operated unopposed within California, despite the federal government’s passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006.

To solve the so-called “bad-actor” issue, Gray initially proposed a $20 million flat fee be paid by any operator which violated the terms of UIGEA. This idea was supported by one of the tribal coalitions standing in the way of online poker progress, but opposed by the other.

Gray then abruptly reversed course, abandoning the $20 million penalty fee in favor of a five-year ban for bad actors. This shift in policy angered both sides, scuttling the once promising collaboration when it appeared that passage was all but imminent.

As Jones-Sawyer sees it, learning from Gray’s mistakes provides the key to securing online poker passage at some point in the near future:

“He may have thought there was a way to make the deal, to finally get this done. I don’t know what happened after that to unravel something for which I thought we were very close.”

Now we have to go back to the same methodical strategy as before, but we may have to go even slower because you don’t want to have people pushed up against the wall. That’s when people start to get a little nervous and strained.”

RAWA Author Chaffetz Announces Leave of Absence and Decision to Decline Re-Election

Back in March of 2014, as Senator Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) entered his fourth term as a member of Congress riding a wave of 72% voter support, he sought his first major legislative accomplishment.

Partnering with fellow conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chaffetz introduced a Senate Bill 2159, also known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).

If passed, RAWA would effectively reverse a previous opinion issued in 2011 by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which interpreted the Wire Act of 1961 – a federal law used to ban online gambling – as applying exclusively to sports betting. The DOJ’s opinion paved the way for states to create online casino and poker industries – an invitation Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware soon took them up on – and with RAWA, Chaffetz and Graham hoped to reverse that trend.

The original RAWA bill was backed by multibillionaire Las Vegas Sands casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, but despite a well-funded lobbying push, it failed to garner widespread support.

Chaffetz sought to revive RAWA in 2015 with HR-707, but once again the hardline anti-iGaming stance was roundly ignored by Congress.

Today, amidst industry fears that newly installed Attorney General Jeff Sessions may direct the DOJ to reverse its Wire Act opinion, Chaffetz has curiously bowed out of the proceedings.

On April 19, Chaffetz issued a statement via his personal Facebook page, announcing his intention to end his Congressional run when his current term elapses in 2018:

“Since late 2003, I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career.

Many of you have heard me advocate, ‘Get in, serve, and get out.’ After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018.”

The sudden announcement by Chaffetz – who currently serves as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee – sparked rumors that he would soon resign his Senatorial role altogether.

Chaffetz has become increasingly embroiled in the political scandals of President Donald Trump, due to perceived lack of interest in pursuing proper oversight of the executive branch.

Having crafted a reputation as a dogged defender of ethical norms as Oversight Committee chair when a Democrat occupied the White House, Chaffetz’ newfound reluctance to pursue meaningful investigations into the Trump administration has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle.

On April 26, Chaffetz issued another social media announcement which fueled the resignation flames further.

Posting a photograph of his injured foot being X-rayed, Chaffetz informed his constituents that a fall from a ladder 12 years ago suddenly necessitated emergency surgery – a procedure which would require him to take a leave of absence from his Congressional duties:

“My recovery is expected to take three to four weeks. I’m sorry to miss the important work we are doing in Washington.

This is not an opportune time to be away but medical emergencies are never convenient. I appreciate my constituent’s patience and understanding as I take time to recover.”

For an online gambling community that has been intently following the RAWA drama since 2014, Chaffetz’ departure is undoubtedly good news. As one of the two primary actors pushing RAWA forward, along with Graham, Chaffetz played an integral role in keeping the unpopular legislation alive for this long.

With him effectively sidelined by self-imposed exile, online gambling’s fate now rests largely in the hands of Sessions and the DOJ.

Pennsylvania’s Politicians Can’t Forge Clear Path to iGaming Legislation Despite Budget Gap

In the early months of 2016 progress on Pennsylvania’s prolonged iGaming debate appeared to be imminent, but as of now that momentum has stalled.

Last year, the state’s House of Representatives passed two bills to authorize online gambling, but they both died amidst stalling by the Senate. In February of this year, a pair of identical bills were put forth, with SB-477 and HB-392 both replicating the omnibus iGaming legislation that previously sailed through the House.

But while members of the House favor a 14 percent tax rate on gaming revenue – a figure which aligns closely with neighboring New Jersey’s thriving iGaming industry – several Senators have insisted on much higher taxes of between 25 and 54 percent.

Accordingly, many land-based casino operators which would ostensibly be applying for iGaming licenses have balked, stating that they won’t participate under such onerous taxation.

This standoff between the House and Senate over tax rates has threatened to derail the once promising legislative agenda in Pennsylvania – along with the state’s budgetary viability.

Governor Tom Wolf has specifically tabbed $250 million from proposed gambling expansion to fill holes in the 2017-18 budget. That infusion of cash can only be made possible through the multimillion dollar cost of interactive gaming licenses which underpin each of the previous proposals.

A third bill was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-43) on March 20, with his SB-592 co-sponsored by three of Costa’s fellow Democrats. The bill, like SB-477 and HB-392 before it, would authorize comprehensive iGaming regulation to legalize online casino games, poker, and daily fantasy sports (DFS).

Under Sen. Costa’s proposal, however, gaming revenue would be taxed at a 25 percent rate, while online lottery sales would also be legalized. Furthermore, SB-592 would raise the licensing fee for land-based casinos from $8 million to $10 million, while the fee for industry vendors such as software providers and iGaming operators would rise from $2 million to $5 million.

Further complicating matters, a fourth bill known as HB-271 was passed by the Senate Community Economic & Recreational Development (CERD) Committee in an overwhelming 13-1 vote.

HB-271 was introduced by a coalition of 10 representatives in the House, with a stated goal of legalizing tablet-based gaming at airports, but it really serves as an open slate response to the Senate’s budget-based stalling last year.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. George Dunbar (R-56), recently spoke with Online Poker Report to explain the impetus for HB-271:

“We put in one thing, tablets in airports, and basically said, ‘You load it up with what you want in it. It puts the ball in their court.

We sent up the bill for them to load up along with the budget for them to figure out this is what we need to do to get this done. It’s up to them to change the budget or send the bill back to us with everything on it.”

Despite its 13-1 passage, HB-271 was immediately returned to the House CERD Committee for further budgetary tinkering.

Finally, the legislative waters were muddied once more on April 25, when Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25) took to Twitter and suggested that cooperation from the state’s land-based casinos may not be needed at all:

“It appears that the PA Lottery could administer iGaming more efficiently than the gaming industry & still make substantial profits.”

Sen. Scarnati’s proposal has already been assailed from parties on both sides of the debate, as shifting from a casino-based to lottery-based operational model would forfeit the state’s right to charge lucrative licensing fees.

Prop Betting Preview for the 2017 NFL Draft

When the 2017 NFL Draft kicks off on Thursday, football fans around the world will be tuning in to see which prospect their team takes.

Dynasties can be built on the back of a successful draft, while the league’s perennial laughingstocks can usually look to a lackluster slate of picks as the precursor to their misery. The NFL knows how important this annual ritual has become too, stretching the draft’s seven rounds over three nights.

Sports bettors can get in on the action too, courtesy of online sportsbook Bovada and its assortment of special draft day props:

Draft Position – Christian McCaffrey

Over 9.5 (-140)/Under 9.5 (EVEN)

This prop concerns Stanford’s standout running back and slot reciever Christian McCaffrey, and which pick will be used to select him.

As the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015, McCaffrey has been heralded as a potential top-10 pick. His numbers came back down to Earth a bit in 2016, but even so teams like the New York Giants have been rumored to be looking at trades to move up and grab McCaffrey.

Per Bovada anyway, he’s a favorite to be chosen with picks 1 through 9, rather than dropping any further.

How Many Alabama Players Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 4.5 (EVEN)/Under 4.5 (-140)

Simply put, this prop asks how many players from Nick Saban’s dynasty down in Alabama will be selected in Round 1. The Crimson Tide have only put one player through as 1st-rounders in each of the previous two drafts, making Under the clear favorite.

How Many Defensive Players Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 18.5 (-120)/Under 18.5 (-120)

With pigskin pundits proclaiming this year’s draft class to be cornerback and linebacker heavy, Bovada asks how many defensive players will go in the first round. Last year saw 16 defenders chosen, while 15 made it in the first round in 2015, but this year could be the exception.

How Many Offensive Players Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 12.5 (-200)/Under 12.5 (-150)

Without a battle for quarterback supremacy, the prop for offensive players drafted in the first round looks a little low – especially considering 15 went last year, and 17 the year before. But defensive prowess is expected to be prized this time around, leading to the lopsided disparity between the underdog Over and favorite Under.

How Many Quarterbacks Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 2.5 (-300)/Under 2.5 (+200)

Speaking of QB’s, veteran football writer Peter King’s latest MMQB mock draft lists three passers going in the first round: Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes. That aligns nicely with Bovada’s line, and given Dak Prescott’s ascendance in Dallas last year as a rookie, the Over is a heavy favorite.

How Many Running Backs Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 2.5 (-300)/Under 2.5 (+200)

Using the same MMQB metric, King only lists two running backs among his top-32 – McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette of LSU. And once again, Bovada straddles that line with its numbers, so Under bettors are banking that no team takes a flier on Florida State’s Dalvin Cook.

How Many Wide Receivers Will Be Selected in the 1st Round?

Over 2.5 (-400)/Under 2.5 (+250)

King and his MMQB column predict three wideouts going in the first round: Mike Williams of Clemson, Corey Davis of Western Michigan, and John Ross of Washington.

If his predictions hold up, the big line to lay on the Over bet makes perfect sense. But King has Ross going at #32, so gambling on the Under wouldn’t be the worst bet by any stretch.

Stanley Cup Odds Update: Washington Capitals Leading the Futures

Following a first round that saw it all – from the vaunted Chicago Blackhawks getting swept without scoring a goal at home, to overtime thrillers and the ascendance of stars in Toronto and Edmonton – the NHL playoffs are set for the second round.

With only eight contenders remaining for the Stanley Cup, online sportsbook Bovada has reshuffled its futures odds on which team will lift the greatest trophy in all of sport.

And just like they were back at the All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals (+300) are the favorites to finally get over the Stanley Cup hump. To accomplish that feat, superstar Alexander Ovechkin and his Presidents’ Trophy winning supporting cast must do something they’ve never done during the Russian sniper’s 11-season reign: get out of the second round.

That’ll be a tough task though, as the Capitals face off against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+450) – Bovada’s number-two on the Stanley Cup pecking order.

Sidney Crosby and Co. put up the second-best regular season point total, with 111 to the Caps’ 118, and the two teams have been on a collision course all year. And while Pittsburgh coasted by an overmatched Columbus in a 4-1 romp, Washington was pushed hard by overachieving, rookie-powered Toronto in a six-game nail-biter.

The next two teams on Bovada’s list both carry (+550) odds to win it all, which is fitting as the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks meet in Round 2.

The Ducks won their fourth straight division crown in the new look Pacific, posting 105 points this year after a 103-point campaign last year. But they nearly saw their divisional dynasty end, and to an Oilers team that finished in the cellar last season no less.

Edmonton’s consistent drafting at the top of the class finally produced a major improvement, as Connor McDavid made the leap with a stellar 100-point season. That equated to a 32-point turnaround in the season standings for the Oilers, who weren’t content to celebrate simply making the postseason in dispatching the Sharks in six.

Up next at Bovada are a pair of Central Division also-rans that managed to steal the thunder from their regular season rivals.

Both the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators are offering (+700) odds against winning the Cup, which makes sense for two teams coming off such similar seasons.

The Blues and Preds finished 3-4 in the Central, well behind the Blackhawks and Wild at 1-2, respectively. But in the first round, St. Louis ousted Minnesota in five, while Nashville authored a stunningly dominant sweep.

Stingy defense led both teams to the second round, so a tight, low-scoring series should be in the cards.

The last matchup of the second round pits the New York Rangers (+800) against the Ottawa Senators (+1100), but Bovada doesn’t like either team to make it much further.

New York was lost in the proverbial shuffle during the regular season, finishing fourth in the Metropolitan Division behind Washington, Pittsburgh, and Columbus. Even so, the Blueshirts knocked off the Atlantic Division leading Canadiens in a back-and-forth six-game series to start their postseason in style.

As for the Sens, they may not have much left in the tank after an exhausting six-game survival over the Bruins – a series which featured three overtime finishes, plus a double-OT ending to boot.

Team Stanley Cup Odds on 4/25
Washington Capitals +300
Pittsburgh Penguins +450
Anaheim Ducks +550
Edmonton Oilers +550
St. Louis Blues +700
Nashville Predators +700
New York Rangers +800
Ottawa Senators +1100

 

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.