Key Lawmaker Shifts Position to Pave Way for Online Poker in New York

When state senators in New York passed an online poker bill by a 53-5 margin last June, full passage of the legalization effort appeared to be a done deal.

But at that time, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow dampened enthusiasm considerably, expressing “pessimism” about the subject of regulating a statewide online poker industry. Soon enough, Pretlow was calling the bill “dead in his chamber,” and his prediction proved prescient, as the online poker package was left to languish in the Assembly.

It’s a new year, however, and with a new legislative session underway, Pretlow is making headlines once again – this time as a vocal supporter of online poker.

In an interview published by local news outlet FiOS1news.com on February 25, Pretlow outlined his revised stance on the subject:

“I had some issues with [online poker] in the past. If New Yorkers are going to participate in online poker, I want it to be the fairest it could possibly be.

I took a field trip, down to New Jersey, and I went to Atlantic City to meet with the Attorney General. We went over their geolocating apparatus … and I’m satisfied that geolocating works. I’m pretty satisfied that cheating isn’t going to take place.”

Pretlow detailed a specific concern of his, one shared by many lawmakers unfamiliar with modern geolocation technology, that players outside of New York could gain access to the state’s online poker rooms. But as he explained, that field trip to New Jersey provided clear proof that such services “cut right out” when a player leaves the state’s jurisdictional boundaries.

As the Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering, and a 25-year veteran of the Assembly, Pretlow’s appraisal of any gambling legislation is well-respected among his peers. For this reason, combined with the Senate’s nearly unanimous support in June, iGaming industry experts have heralded Pretlow’s reconsideration as a potential game-changer.

Currently, a pair of identical bills are being considered by the state’s Senate and Assembly, with Pretlow himself serving as the sponsor for A-5250. The bills are carbon copies of last year’s effort, which received overwhelming support in the Senate before stalling in the Assembly.

Under the proposed legislation, players 21 and older who are physically located within the state of New York would be permitted to risk real money in online poker games. Poker itself would henceforth be defined as a “game of skill” under state law, and potential player sharing compacts with other states would be authorized.

Up to 11 operator’s licenses would be issued to various brick and mortar casino establishments throughout New York, at a cost of $10 million per. These licensees would then partner with iGaming servicers like PokerStars, PartyPoker, and 888 Poker to launch affiliated online poker rooms.

The resulting gross gaming revenue would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent.

Pretlow was careful to couch his optimistic outlook by observing that “there are some individuals within the administration that are really opposed to this,” a reference to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s government.

Even so, Pretlow expressed confidence that his role as a senior leader within the Assembly would hold sufficient sway to ensure eventual passage:

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So, I don’t really see that there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

2017 NCAA Tournament Odds: North Carolina, UCLA, Gonzaga Lead the Pack

Two weeks ago we reviewed the odds offered by online sportsbook Bovada for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, and with March Madness right around the corner it’s time to take a second look.

The tournament tips off on Tuesday, March 14, but two days before that Selection Sunday will officially set the 68-team field. In the meantime, most teams have but a handful of dates left on the schedule.

That leaves top contenders and potential number one seeds like Kansas (26-3), Gonzaga (29-1), and Villanova (27-3) time for fine tuning, while bubble teams such as Syracuse (17-13) and Seton Hall (18-10) get a few more chances to impress the selection committee.

The top-ranked team in the nation is the Jayhawks, but Bovada lists Kansas (+800) as its fourth-most likely team to win the tournament – despite their six-game winning streak.

Conversely, the best of the bunch on Bovada is North Carolina (25-5; +500), and while the Tar Heels’ record isn’t the gaudiest, it includes three wins over Associated Press top-25 ranked squads in as many weeks. The bookmakers have taken notice, moving North Carolina from +1200 to their current position atop the betting table.

Momentum may just be on head coach Roy Williams’ side, and with two tournament titles already under his belt, that’s a bad sign for the field.

The previous top odds at Bovada were held by Gonzaga at +700, but the Bulldogs’ only loss of the year to BYU put a stop to their runaway regular season. Gonzaga (+750) now sits in third overall in terms of odds.

Among the other heavyweights offering odds of 10-1 or better are UCLA (26-3; +700) and Duke (22-7; +900).

For the Blue Devils, sitting as the 17th-ranked team in the nation according to the AP after entering the year as the preseason number one must be a tough pill to swallow. But even as head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been forced to use 10 different starting lineups, Duke has hung around to at least put itself in the national title discussion.

If you prefer longshots to leaders, Syracuse (17-13; +4000) offers a curious case from a betting perspective. After enjoying a surprise run to the Final Four last year, head coach Jim Boeheim turned over most of the Orange’s roster. That inexperience is evidenced by a lackluster regular season record, but Syracuse still has the ACC tournament to turn things around.

Last time we checked in the Orange were listed at +6600, but despite dropping two of three since then, they’ve climbed in Bovada’s estimation.

You can review the current odds posted for all 49 NCAA Tournament contenders via the table below:

2017 NCAA Tournament Winner Odds

Team NCAA Tournament Odds on 2/27
North Carolina +500
UCLA +700
Gonzaga +750
Kansas +800
Duke +900
Villanova +1100
Kentucky +1200
Oregon +1200
Louisville +1400
Arizona +1400
Florida +2500
Florida State +2500
Baylor +2800
West Virginia +2800
Virginia +2800
Wisconsin +2800
Purdue +2800
Maryland +4000
Syracuse +4000
Cincinnati +6600
Butler +6600
Notre Dame +7500
Southern Methodist +7500
Creighton +10000
Michigan State +10000
St. Mary’s CA +10000
Wichita State +10000
Iowa State +12500
Miami (FL) +15000
Xavier +20000
USC +20000
South Carolina +20000
Oklahoma State +20000
Indiana +25000
Michigan +25000
Northwestern +30000
Kansas State +30000
Dayton +30000
Marquette +30000
Virginia Tech +30000
Rhode Island +30000
California +50000
Seton Hall +50000
Alabama +50000
Clemson +50000
North Carolina State +50000
Wake Forest +50000
Monmouth +50000
Middle Tennessee +50000

 

FantasyDraft Agrees to Bail Out Fantasy Aces Player Base Following Latter’s Failure

Following the sudden collapse of mid-major daily fantasy sports (DFS) site Fantasy Aces, players who were left in limbo have been offered a reprieve courtesy of rival DFS platform FantasyDraft.

Per a press release issued on February 13, the owners of FantasyDraft have reached an agreement with the bankruptcy trustee handling Fantasy Aces’ dissolution. As part of that agreement, FantasyDraft obtained information on player accounts and related balances in hopes of reimbursing player funds.

In the statement, FantasyDraft outlined a plan to commit cash on hand to pay the vast majority of Fantasy Aces players back,

“As members of the DFS community, committed to doing things the right way, we feel that we need to do our part to protect the lifeblood of the industry: the players.

Through this agreement, we have committed to reimburse Fantasy Aces players up to $1,000 cash to cover missing account balances, this makes 99.6% of the players whole.”

As for the small group of Fantasy Aces players with balances between $1,000 and $5,000, Fantasy Draft will provide $1,000 in cash before paying off the remaining funds with FantasyCash – or credit available for wagering on their site.

Players with more than $5,000 stuck on Fantasy Aces will receive $1,000 in cash, $4,000 in FantasyCash, and the remaining balance as an earnable bonus.

All reimbursement terms are conditional, pending court approval of the agreement reached between Fantasy Draft and FantasyAces’ bankruptcy trustees.

The agreement seemingly concludes a whirlwind month for the two former DFS competitors, one which began in late January with the announcement that FantasyDraft was poised to acquire Fantasy Aces.

At that time Fantasy Aces, which was founded in 2012 by brothers Brian and Trent Frisina, ceased running real money contests in anticipation of transferring player accounts to FantasyDraft.

A day later, on January 30, FantasyDraft issued a brief statement pointing to “issues identified during our due diligence” which left the site “unable to purchase the assets of Fantasy Aces.”

Within the week, as speculation mounted about Fantasy Aces’ financial situation, players’ worst fears were confirmed. Fantasy Aces filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Central District of California, before informing players that the site was “temporarily shuttered” with “all accounts on hold.”

Fantasy Aces also sent an email to its player base which claimed that the site was suffering from unforeseen financial burdens:

“We have unfortunately exhausted every possible financial option with no success. We fought as hard as we could, in the end without a major infusion or acquisition we just were not able to make it.”

But as initial bankruptcy files were submitted, it became clear that Fantasy Aces’ failure was self-inflicted.

Per those filings, the site’s management failed to segregate player funds for its 30,900 accounts – the same act of negligence that sparked the infamous failure of Full Tilt Poker. By player funds to be freely spent on operating expenses, Fantasy Aces’ management burned through $1.3 million of its players’ money.

The financial malfeasance was documented in the court filings as occurring thusly:

“Although Debtor was supposed to keep the amounts in the Players’ ‘accounts’ in trust and separate from Debtor’s operating funds, it did not do so and all Player funds were used by Debtor to pay operating expenses.”

Other revelations from the bankruptcy filings include the high level of stratification within DFS player bases. Of the 30,900 player accounts on Fantasy Aces when the site shuttered, only 14 are owed more than $10,000, while the highest amount of debt owed to a single player is $91,000.

Pai Gow Poker Cheat in Washington State Finally Pays the Piper

For a Pai Gow poker player in Washington State who wasn’t content to wait on good luck, several acts of cheating have resulted in a particularly unlucky array of criminal allegations.

Per a report published February 13 by the Daily Herald, the as yet unidentified 43-year-old man – who works as an aerospace engineer and resides in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood – is likely to face 13 counts of second-degree cheating related to repeated violations at the Pai Gow poker tables.

The report reveals that the man was apprehended at his home back in December by agents of the Washington State Gambling Commission, before being released hours later on bail.

Commission investigators then forwarded accumulated evidence of the aforementioned cheating violations, as well as five counts of misdemeanor theft, to the Snohomish County prosecutor’s office.

That office did not immediately file charges against the suspected cheater, pending review with neighboring King’s County, where several of the alleged crimes were committed.

Under the state’s gaming laws, second-degree cheating is also classified as a misdemeanor.

According to the Daily Herald report, the incidents in question occurred between March and September of last year. Based on video surveillance footage provided to authorities, the man frequented several casinos located between the cities of Seattle and Everett and played a variant of Pai Gow poker known as Fortune Pai Gow.

His targets included Royal Casino and Great American Casino near Everett, Crazy Moose Casino and Red Dragon Casino in Mountlake Terrace, and Silver Dollar Casino near Mill Creek.

After making use of a public records request to obtain the agents’ reports to the prosecutor, the Daily Herald published an excerpt written by Special Agent Danny Lisa which describes the specific cheating methodology observed via surveillance footage:

“(He) furtively switched cards between each hand to improve one or both hands. This gave him an unfair advantage over the card rooms.”

The investigation into the man’s proclivity for Pai Gow poker – a seven-card game based on arranging two distinct hands to play against the house – began in March of 2016 at the Royal Casino. There, a dealer reported that the man in question whispered the words “don’t say anything” to her in Vietnamese. When the dealer alerted casino management, security personnel began a review of past surveillance footage to identify prior instances of suspicious behavior.

As the investigation spread, several local casinos began sharing photographs of the man which labeled him as a suspected cheat. By September, a dealer at the Silver Dollar Casino had caught on to the man’s behavior and attempted to alert his superiors, before the alleged cheater absconded with $2,950 in uncashed casino chips.

All told, investigators believe the man pocketed more than $6,600 during the seven months in which he was under surveillance.

That figure could be much higher, however, as the Gambling Commission reports evidence of the man playing Pai Gow poker on more than 200 occasions at the Great American Casino dating back to 2007.

Additionally, the man has been linked to formal accusations of cheating levied last year by a Las Vegas casino.

New Jersey iGaming Industry Sets New Monthly Revenue Record in January

Per the latest monthly revenue report issued by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), the state’s online gambling industry began 2017 with a record-setting January.

All told, the five brick and mortar casino entities licensed to operate online gambling ventures generated $18.8 million in revenue last month. That figure represents a 28 percent rate of growth over January of 2016, when New Jersey’s iGaming industry recorded $13.3 million in revenue.

And while the state’s streak of nine consecutive months tallying year-on-year revenue growth of 30 percent or higher came to an end, that near miss still qualifies as a rousing success.

In terms of month-on-month growth, the entire industry experienced a 2.4 percent uptick from its revenue count in December of 2016.

Breaking the numbers down by game type, the online casino segment – which includes virtual slot machines and table games like blackjack and roulette – accounted for $16.5 million. That was good for a 32 percent rate of growth over the same period last year, while online casino revenue expanded by 1.2 percent over December’s mark.

The online poker segment contributed $2.34 million in revenue during January, or 8.7 percent more than the same period last year. But when comparing December of 2016 to January, online poker revenue spiked by 11 percent.

As far as the various licensed operators and their collection of online gambling products were concerned, the Golden Nugget’s licenses (Golden Nugget Casino, Betfair Casino, and Play SugarHouse) topped their competitors with $4,776,218 in combined revenue. That figure nearly matched the group’s record-setting performance in December – despite the Golden Nugget iGaming operation being limited to casino games only.

The group of Caesars Interactive Entertainment licenses (Caesars Casino, Harrah’s Casino, WSOP.com, and 888.com) were second-best with $4,032,263 in total monthly revenue. Of that amount, $3,318,899 was generated by casino play, while poker produced $713,364 more.

New Jersey also has Caesars licensees to thank for its strong online casino performance month-to-month, as its 10.80 percent rate of growth over December represented the only one over 0.51 percent within the industry.

Judging by market share, the Golden Nugget’s trio of licensees have made the greatest gains, while the Borgata’s four licensees (Borgata Casino, Borgata Poker, PartyPoker NJ, and Pala Casino) have slumped badly.

Back in May of 2016, the Golden Nugget group sat in fourth place in a five-horse race, holding only 19 percent of New Jersey’s iGaming industry market share. At that time, Borgata owned 24 percent market share and enjoyed a dominant position within the emerging industry.

When January’s numbers were in the books, however, Golden Nugget had jumped in front with 22 percent market share – while Borgata slipped into second place at 21 percent.

Industry experts point to Golden Nugget’s early adoption of Live Dealer online gaming – wherein players access live streamed footage of human dealers operating genuine casino equipment – as a key driver in the company’s recent iGaming surge.

Conversely, Borgata hitched its proverbial wagon to the poker sector, which has since been cornered by the arrival of PokerStars, the world’s leading online poker room.

Having contributed $2.8 million in tax revenue over January, the regulated iGaming industry which launched back in late 2013 has now contributed $75 million in taxes to New Jersey’s state coffers.

Daytona 500 Betting Odds Hit Sportsbooks Ahead of Sunday’s Race

After the NFL’s big game resulted in historic fireworks, NASCAR fans are hoping to see the same at this year’s “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing” when the checkered flag flies.

Taking place at Daytona on February 26, the 59th running of the Daytona 500 signals the start of NASCAR’s 2017 season. With a 42-car field comprised of the best stock car drivers on the planet, the Daytona 500 is a spectacle unlike any other.

Another reason for sports bettors to sweat the action from Daytona Beach, Florida is the relative unpredictability of NASCAR racing.

With 42 drivers listed by Bovada as contenders for the sport’s most prestigious title – including legends of the sport, ascendant superstars, rookies, and extreme longshots – a late surge from an unexpected figure can return enormous rewards for very little risk.

Consider last year’s race, when Denny Hamlin overcame +900 odds to notch his first win in the game’s greatest race. And back in 2011 a fresh-faced 20-year-old rookie named Trevor Bayne overcome the longest odds on the board to become the youngest Daytona 500 winner ever.

Value is the name of the game in NASCAR racing, and this year offers no shortage of sleeper picks to consider.

As defending champion, Hamlin (+1200) has additional pressure to bear, but he can be backed at great odds with seven drivers ahead of him at Bovada.

Veteran driver Martin Truex Jr. (+1600) is coming off the best year of his decade-long career, having racked up four wins – more than he had in nine years prior – so momentum may be on his side.

Another sleeper to watch is Austin Dillon (+3300), who is winless in his 121 career starts. That’s not a good sign, of course, but he does own a pole position at Daytona International Speedway from 2014, and finished ninth in the 500 last year.

If chalk is more your game, you can’t go wrong with either of the two favorites. Both Brad Keselowski (+600) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (+600) finished within fractions of a second from pole-sitter Chase Elliott (+1200) during Sunday’s qualifying.

For Earnhardt Jr. especially, winning this year’s Daytona 500 would be something special indeed – elevating him into an elite club of three-time (or more) champions.

See below for the full listing of Daytona 500 odds found at Bovada:

2017 Daytona 500 Odds @ Bovada

Driver (Number) Daytona 500 Odds on 2/21
Brad Keselowski (#2) +600
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88) +600
Joey Logano (#22) +800
Jimmie Johnson (#48) +1000
Kevin Harvick (#4) +1000
Kyle Busch (#18) +1000
Chase Elliott (#24) +1200
Denny Hamlin (#11) +1200
Matt Kenseth (#20) +1400
Martin Truex Jr. (#78) +1600
Clint Bowyer (#14) +1800
Kyle Larson (#42) +2000
Kurt Busch (#41) +2200
Daniel Suarez (#19) +2500
Jamie McMurray (#1) +2800
Austin Dillon (#3) +3300
Erik Jones (#77) +3300
Kasey Kahne (#5) +3300
Ryan Blaney (#21) +4000
Danica Patrick (#10) +5000
Ryan Newman (#31) +5000
Trevor Bayne (#6) +5000
Paul Menard (#27) +6600
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#17) +6600
A.J. Allmendinger (#47) +7500
Aric Almirola (#43) +7500
Chris Buescher (#37) +10000
Ty Dillon (#13) +10000
Elliott Sadler (#7) +10000
Michael Waltrip (#15) +10000
Joey Gase (#23) +10000
Jeffrey Earnhardt (#33) +15000
Landon Cassill (#34) +15000
David Ragan (#38) +15000
Brendan Gaughan (#75) +15000
Michael McDowell (#95) +15000
Matt DiBendetto (#32) +20000
Timmy Hill (#51) +20000
Reed Sorenson (#55) +20000
Corey Lajoie (#83) +20000
Cole Whitt (#72) +20000
D.J. Kennington +20000

 

Russia Introduces Bill to Ban International iGaming Transactions

As the ongoing cyberwar waged by Russia on various Western democracies rages on in the shadows, the country’s government has made the iGaming industry an explicit target.

Per reporting published by the Russian news service RBC.ru and industry outlet iGamingBusiness.com last week, the country’s Ministry of Finance has introduced a bill which would ban financial transactions made between Russian citizens and international online gambling operators.

Officially known as Bill 1113576-6, this anti-iGaming legislation was first submitted to the State Duma – a legislative body loosely akin to the U.K. parliament or U.S. Congress – back in 2015. That initial draft proved to be contentious, however, with several government ministries and Russian financial institutions objecting to its strict limitations.

Even so, the original version of the bill did receive support from Russia’s autocratic ruler, as President Vladimir Putin expressed his approval for tighter iGaming regulations.

After several rounds of revision and amendment, the bill has returned – largely intact on the fundamental level – to the forefront of the Duma’s legislative agenda.

Having recently been passed through a second reading, the consensus among Russian political experts is that the bill’s passage is a foregone conclusion.

If and when that passage occurs, the Federal Task Force would begin compiling a so-called “blacklist” of internationally licensed online gambling operators which currently serve Russian customers. From there, any attempt to deposit money to one of these banned sites would be blocked by the facilitating bank, credit card company, or online payment processor.

Alexander Zakondyrin, a politician and lawyer based in Moscow, described the financial impetus for such a blacklist to Business Insider in January of 2016:

“Russians play poker, but their money goes abroad. In the crisis situation, low oil prices and sanctions against Russia, which excludes the use of foreign debt markets, Russia’s budget needs additional income.”

As Russia continues its attempts to enter the modern world of regulated online gaming – and reap the tax benefits therein – the country’s conservative government has made incremental progress. Online sports betting is now offered on a legal basis by licensed domestic operators, although online poker and casino games remain illegal.

Accordingly, one of the blacklisted operators that would be targeted by this bill’s passage would be PokerStars. Currently, the global leader in online poker reports more than 8 percent of its worldwide player base accessing the site from Russian IP addresses.

Online poker in Russia isn’t limited to PokerStars either, as a 2016 article published by PokerNews quoted academic researcher Roberto Carmona-Borjas’ estimate that 16 percent – or 20 million Russians – currently play on one platform or another.

In light of that and similar reporting, and taking the lucrative nature of online poker among iGaming enterprises, certain insiders believe that the Russian government’s new bill is designed to effect regulation rather than prohibition.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation, offered the following appraisal of the online poker debate last year:

“It should be legalized; too many people are involved and are playing online. There are no reasons that it should be hidden and illegal.

I am working together with the government in order to allow online poker to become an intellectual sport in Russia.”

Zakondryin went one step further, expressing his belief that legal online poker would soon follow sports betting:

“In my opinion, conceptually the decision to legalize online poker has been already made by the Russian government. As early as June 2014, Shuvalov instructed the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Justice to prepare a report on such a project’s prospects.”

U.K. Duo Busted, Fined for Running Online FIFA Video Game Betting Ring

As video games have allowed for increasing interconnectedness thanks to the internet, the most popular titles have become hotbeds for gambling-related activity.

Whether players are risking in-game weapons and character “skins” against one another, or betting on the results of high-profile eSports contests, video games have come a long way from the arcades of old.

Two entrepreneurs in the U.K. attempted to capitalize on this growing trend by monetizing FIFA – one of the most popular video game franchises in history – but their scheme ran afoul of British regulators.

Per reporting published by The Guardian, 33-year old Dylan Rigby and 32-year old Craig Douglas were ordered to pay fines and prosecution fees totaling £265,000 by the U.K. Gambling Commission for multiple violations of the country’s Gambling Act of 2005.

Specifically, the pair admitted to serving as company directors for Game Gold Tradings Limited, which owned and operated a website known as FutGalaxy.com.

Douglas, who maintains a thriving YouTube channel boasting nearly 1.5 million subscribers under the handle “NepentheZ,” used the medium to actively promote the FutGalaxy platform.

Referring to FutGalaxy as a “social gaming” site, Douglas starred in a video directing subscribers to sign up and wager using FIFA Coins – or the in-game virtual currency used by players to sign star soccer players and build competitive squads in the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode.

While playing in FUT mode, human players can earn FIFA Coins by meeting in-game benchmarks, with the currency then used to upgrade players and teams. Those players then can be sold on a transfer market which operates along the lines of a genuine sports league.

The FutGalaxy site was set up to allow users to purchase FIFA Coins via credit card, with the virtual currency then wagered between users on the outcome of matches.

The tandem managed to generate a pre-tax profit of £96,000 between July 2015 and February 2016.

Unfortunately, Douglas and Rigby failed to institute age restrictions on the site, leading to instances such as a 14-year old child losing £586 in a single day.

This fact was exacerbated by Douglas’ own words on the aforementioned YouTube video, which overtly targeted minors:

“You don’t have to be 18 for this, because this is a virtual currency.”

Furthermore, because FutGalaxy was not a licensed gambling operator, its very existence constituted a violation of the Gambling Act of 2005.

Appearing in front of a magistrate’s court in Birmingham, Douglas admitted to serving as an officer of an unlicensed gambling operator, and to advertising such services. Rigby admitted to a pair of charges tied to providing facilities for illicit gambling purposes, as well as the advertising charge.

In issuing his ruling, district judge Jack McGarva focused his ire on the fact that children were invited to risk real money:

“The aggravating features of these offences are they were committed over a relatively long period of about six months. Children were gambling on your site. It’s impossible for me to know how many or the effect on them.

In my opinion, both of you were aware of the use of the site by children and the attractiveness of it to children. At the very least, you both turned a blind eye to it.”

Rigby was ordered to pay £174,000 in fines and fees, while Douglas must pay £91,000.

Douglas issued a conciliatory tweet immediately after the ruling:

“I owe a huge apology to my family and close friends for putting them through this process, and appreciate all those that stood by me.”

McGregor’s Odds Against Mayweather Shift Slightly As Speculation Intensifies

Seeing how neither Conor McGregor nor Floyd Mayweather have any weight classes to conquer, the logical – and lucrative – next step for the two fighters is to have a boxing match.

McGregor would be coming over from the Octagon to the ring where Mayweather has a lifetime’s worth of specialized boxing training. Not surprisingly, the Bovada sportsbook shows McGregor is a +550 underdog against -900 favorite Mayweather in the event their much rumored mega-fight takes place. That’s an improvement for McGregor, who had been a +750 underdog earlier in the week.

Reports this week suggested that the UFC lightweight champion and the undefeated five-division champion have agreed to terms for the fight, leading many to speculate that the only barrier is making sure McGregor fulfills his contractual obligations to the UFC and president Dana White.

Since coming to the UFC in 2013, McGregor has been both featherweight and lightweight champion. The Irish fighter has also become a premier knockout artist, winning 17 of his last 18 fights with 14 of those victories by knockout or technical knockout.

Odds-wise, McGregor has only been the betting underdog once. He closed at -105 ahead of his featherweight unification bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in December 2015. Of course, McGregor won that fight in 13 seconds.

McGregor boxed as a teenager, but fighting as an amateur hardly holds a candle to getting in the ring with Mayweather. Boxing rounds are three minutes long compared to five in the UFC, so having the conditioning and stamina might not be an issue. Of course, McGregor is light-years removed from Mayweather technically and, on top of that, would have to adapt to wearing heavier gloves.

Astoundingly, these are not the most overwhelming odds in favor of Mayweather during his career. He was listed at -3000 before defeating Andre Berto in September 2015. That bout 17 months ago was the last time that Mayweather, who is 49-0 as a pro, stepped into the ring. Some will wonder what that layoff will mean for a fighter who turns 40 before the end of February.

That said, if Mayweather takes the fight, it probably means that he is confident nothing will happen that would put a blemish on his career record. The five-division world champion is excellent technically, which is why 10 of his last 12 wins stretching back to 2006 have been by decision.

Encouraging Signs in Pennsylvania and New York as iGaming Legislation Pushes Forward

With local legislatures around the country getting to work on their 2017 agendas, news out of Pennsylvania and New York suggests that the list of states where online gambling is legal will soon grow.

Currently, only Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware regulate the iGaming industry, having established legalized online gambling in 2013. But despite several states floating similar legislation in the interim, progress has consistently stalled.

That trend may end this year though, as lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New York push forward with iGaming legislation that was nearly passed in 2016.

In the Keystone State, two attempts at comprehensive iGaming legislation – including online poker, casino games, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) – were approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives late last year, only to be ignored by the state’s Senate.

Further complicating matters, the state was faced with an ongoing budget crisis, one which was expected to be partially mitigated by a $100 million infusion of tax revenue and licensing fees generated by the bill’s expected passage.

Representative George Dunbar renewed the effort on February 8 by introducing House Bill 392.

The 209-page omnibus package would essentially replicate the iGaming components of last year, with online gambling revenue taxed at a rate of 14%, and interactive gaming licenses awarded to Pennsylvania’s casinos and racetracks requiring an $8 million flat fee for the five-year approval. Further upping the ante, the online gaming enterprises partnering with licensees would pay $2 million.

HB-392 was originally referred to the House Gaming Oversight Committee, but that hearing was cancelled in favor of a joint hearing by the House and Senate. This is widely considered as a move to streamline the process, following Governor Tom Wolf’s explicit mention of $250 million from gambling expansion efforts within his 2017-18 budget outline during his annual address to legislators.

State Senator Jay Costa has also been making the media rounds of late, expressing his full support for iGaming legislation and offering a general outline of his soon to be introduced bill.

New York is another state where iGaming legislation nearly crossed the finish line last year, and lawmakers are picking up right where they left off.

State Senator John Bonacic introduced Senate Bill 3898 in late January, which would legalize online poker only, and it was quickly referred to the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

As a carbon copy of last year’s iGaming package, which was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate by a 53-5 vote, SB-3898 had little trouble sustaining the same level of support, as the 11-member Committee voted unanimously on February 14 to move S-3898 forward.

Under the bill’s provisions, up to 11 online poker operators would be granted 10-year licenses at a cost of $10 million, while gaming revenue would be taxed at 15%.

In a statement made to industry outlet Gambling Compliance, State Senator Bonacic pointed to the limited focus on online poker as benefiting the bill’s chances of final passage:

“Last year, there was too much gaming for the Assembly to consider with fantasy sports and the efforts in New Jersey for a referendum to put a casino in the Meadowlands, and I really think that it got put on the back burner. So now we are putting it in the front burner.”

S-3898 will be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee next, before facing a possible vote by the full Senate.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow introduced Assembly Bill 5250 to coincide with the Senate’s process, signaling that last year’s divide between the two legislative bodies has been addressed.