Jason Somerville DraftKings daily fantasy sports DFS legality

Jason Somerville is using his online presence to direct poker fans to daily fantasy sports network DraftKings after reaching a marketing deal with the second-largest DFS operator. (Image: pokerstars.com)

Jason Somerville is one of the more likeable and popular poker pros, and DraftKings is hoping his large fanbase will make the transition from watching and playing online poker to its daily fantasy sports (DFS) betting platform.

Just in time for the start of the NFL season, which kicks off September 10th, DraftKings and Somerville reached a marketing partnership that will have the poker pro regularly hyping DFS competitions to his 42,000 Twitter followers and millions of Run it UP eyes on Twitch.

Though Somerville revealed he has little experience in actually playing DFS, he’s a loyal observer of boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The first cross-promotion feature was a $5 DraftKings buy-in during Sunday’s UFC Fight Night that came with a chance to win a $565 Main Event entry into Somerville’s Run it UP Poker tournament in Reno slated for late October.

Daily Fantasy Debate Continues  

No sport in America is more celebrated than football. The NFL averages some 68,000 fans per each of its 256 regular season games, and the median value of a franchise in 2015 is nearly $1.5 billion.

That’s because 202 million fans watched a game during the 2014 season, and 45 of the 50 most-watched television shows last year were NFL broadcasts. The sport, while controversial at times due to players’ on and off-field conduct, is more popular than ever.

But regardless of its immense viewership and interest, Americans still can’t legally bet on NFL games except in Nevada and Delaware. The passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a law that sent sports betting into prohibition, grandfathered in Oregon and Montana since they were offering lines at the time, but both states have since abandoned the practice.

However, millions of Americans are still placing wagers on sports through DFS networks, a loophole in the 1992 bill and 2006’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that prohibits only point-spread gambling. Because DFS consists of “contests” and requires players to create teams and rosters, operators claim skill is involved. 

It’s a murky space that has been heavily criticized by many including MGM Resorts boss Jim Murren. “I don’t know how to run a football team, but I do know how to run a casino, and this is gambling,” he said recently.

As the DFS market continues its rapid ascent and new companies like Yahoo and CBS enter the space, pioneers such as FanDuel and DraftKings are looking to solidify their stake.

The latter is betting on poker players, people who are already used to wagering online, will follow Somerville to his preferred DFS operator.

New Jersey Shutdown

This week a three-judge panel in New Jersey voted two-to-one against legalizing sports betting, ruling that the 1992 law still stands. The four major sports leagues and the NCAA had sued New Jersey for attempting to allow sports betting, claiming the state was repealing long-standing law, and the court ultimately agreed.

The ironic twist is that DraftKings now has branded DFS lounges at the stadiums of the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs, and also has locations in Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center.

Since the federal government allows DFS, so do the leagues, but don’t you dare think about betting on a points spread.

“The big winner today is the daily fantasy companies who now have the legal sports gambling space all to themselves for years to come,” Daniel Wallach, a sports and gambling lawyer told the New York Times on Tuesday.

Undercover poker video Sheldon Adelson Tim James

Sheldon Adelson is the target of an undercover poker video produced by Tim James, a professional gambler who set out to prove the hypocrisy of the Vegas tycoon. (Image: Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal/APl)

Tim James says his undercover poker video proves the hypocrisy in Sheldon Adelson’s war on Internet gambling, documenting the ease underage players had participating in slots, table games, and even being served alcohol at Adelson’s Venetian and Palazzo properties.

Adelson, the billionaire founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is the leading proponent of banning all forms of Internet wagering by pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill that’s been introduced in both chambers of Congress by Republican lawmakers eager to continue receiving the financial backing of the GOP mega donor.

Preventing online gambling from becoming legalized on the federal level is a moral crusade Adelson claims, saying in a Forbes op-ed in 2013 that iGaming would create “the possibility of underage children finding ways to place online wagers and the possibility of people betting under the influence of drugs.”

James, a professional poker and blackjack player, recently launched The Tim James Show, a web series that will cover the poker and gambling industry.

It’s already making waves for its first episode that targets one of the richest and most powerful figures in the entire country.

“A few people knew I was working on a show but I told no one of my first topic so that I wouldn’t be stopped while filming undercover,” James told CasinoOnline.com.

Hip Hip Hypocrisy

“I wanted to explore the main points behind Sheldon Adelson’s arguments against online gambling,” James states in the video. “Surely what he preaches he must also practice. I was shocked and appalled at what I found.”

“Sheldon Adelson Exposed” features two 19-year-olds on casino floors, one armed with a fake identification and the other without, but both were able to play table poker, slots, blackjack and more. After wagering on multiple games, the minors cashed out their chips at the cage effortlessly. 

The video then demonstrates how the only game the underage female couldn’t access was online poker, her account routinely being denied by Internet safeguards that rejected her fake identity.

Speaking at Adelson, James says, “A person can go into your physical casino and lose their money, but they can’t even sign-up for WSOP.com.”

Prostitution Institution

James’ sting certainly seems to push Adelson off his high-moral ground as the 82-year-old gambling tycoon isn’t taking the necessary steps to prevent underage access in his venues, nor is he combatting another illegal activity: prostitution.

In response to Adelson saying in a Bloomberg interview that iGambling makes about as much sense as legalizing prostitution and illicit drugs and that sin activities should be controlled, James decides to try and pick up a prostitute and he’s successful on his first try at the Palazzo bar.

The female later reveals after being informed of the undercover op that she’s worked at the venue “ungodly amounts” and that the staff welcomes her as she’s catering to the high-roller VIP audience.

“All of the things you’re saying that online gambling promotes that you’re trying to protect us from… it actually goes on in your casino,” James asserts.

Though opponents to legalizing iPoker can claim these are isolated incidents, that blocking minors is a task prone to error, and that these issues are prevalent in all casinos, Adelson’s hypocrisy is surely on display.

“I can’t tell over the Internet who is underage,” Adelson said in July. “Wherever we can control it, we should control it.”

That last statement is one James and Adelson likely agree.

New Jersey online poker revenues Ray Lesniak PokerStars

Finally some good news for New Jersey online poker as the trend has changed in regard to revenues, and that should continue especially once PokerStars makes its long-awaited debut. (Image: bluff.com)

New Jersey online poker has been taken off life support, as its July revenues finally reversed the tide from its low-water mark last month for its first increase since March.

Revenues rebounded by 2.73 percent, a modest yet critical turnaround in thwarting the previous three-month downward trend.

The summer months are typically a slow period for Internet gaming as Garden State residents travel “down the shore” to vacation, plus the annual World Series of Poker held in Las Vegas late May through early July also doesn’t help.

Any sort of recovery for July certainly wasn’t expected, but surely welcomed.

Overall, Internet casinos continued its strong 2015 performance, up 7.4 percent from June and a staggering 24 percent year-over-year. $12.5 million was collected by Internet casinos, a $2.5 million increase compared to last July’s statistics.

Budding Garden State

Things are looking bright for New Jersey’s online gambling market.

Governor Chris Christie is hoping to be on his way to Washington, DC, and even if he shouldn’t prevail in winning the GOP nomination, he might not be welcomed back to Trenton as a recent Rutgers poll found that 54 percent of New Jersey residents want him to resign.

“New Jerseyans want the governor to resign now that he is officially in the 2016 primary race,” Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers said. 

Should he win the presidency or eventually exit the governorship through resignation, an emerging favorite candidate is State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-District 20), a career politician with nearly 40 years experience who was responsible for the legalization of iGambling in New Jersey.

Lesniak recently said he would make sure no steps his state took to bring online gambling to constituents would be reversed by federal overreaching law, primarily the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

That bill would send online casinos into prohibition, and its efforts are being pushed by GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire in close cahoots with Christie.

“I would be a champion for expanding New Jersey online gambling internationally and would fight any further efforts to curtail it.” While Christie has become a friend to iGambling over the years, Lesniak recently told PokerNews, “I dragged him there.” 

Aim for the Stars

Though online poker represents just 15 percent of the total Internet gaming win in New Jersey, that will soon change once PokerStars, the world’s largest and most active poker network in the world, receives its license by the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

The approval process has been seemingly unnecessarily slow, with Lesniak placing blame on Christie for the continued delays, claiming the presidential politician is blocking PokerStars to favor Adelson’s campaign dollars.

Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts denied Lesniak’s claim saying, “The DGE licensing review is an independent, technical process, the length of which varies case by case. It’s a totally nonsensical argument.”

But what is sensible is the immediate impact a PokerStars entry will have on iPoker revenues in New Jersey, and perhaps in other states should compacts be reached to share player liquidity.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment social mobile gaming Q2 revenues

Finally a bit of good news for Caesars as its Interactive Entertainment subsidiary posted higher-than-expected earnings stemming from social and mobile games in the second quarter. (Image: linkedin.com)

Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE) grossed $186 million in quarter two earnings, a welcomed 29 percent jump for its parent companies, Caesars Growth Properties and Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

Across all Caesars properties and assets, revenues grew 17 percent thanks to the openings of Horseshoe Baltimore and The Cromwell casinos, but also “due to strong performance at Caesars Interactive Entertainment.”

Perhaps most surprising is that it’s the social and mobile games representing the core chunk of CIE revenues, with the World Series of Poker and online real-money products representing just $10.8 million of said revenue. “Our Interactive Entertainment business continues to record stellar results, primarily from our market leading social and mobile games business,” Mitch Garber, CEO for Caesars Acquisition Company said.

All Hail CIE!

Caesars reported an overall cumulative profit of $15 million, and while that’s certainly better than the $466 million it dropped in Q2 of 2014, it still fell short of expectations.

Caesars split its company into two main units, Caesars Entertainment Corporation (CEC) and Caesars Entertainment Operating Co., the latter which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January to ease the mounting debt and interest.

Creditors and hedge funds that are owed billions sued CEC for attempting to keep business as usual among assets that actually make money while dumping liabilities into an insolvent company. “CEOC and its subsidiaries are no longer consolidated with CEC subsequent to CEOC’s Chapter 11 filing on January 15,” the company’s financial report asserts. 

However, US bankruptcy Judge A. Benjamin Goldgar disagrees, ruling last week that regardless of the split creditors can still pursue assets listed under the CEC umbrella, making CIE a likely target.

The Free Secret

Caesars Interactive consists of several real money gaming properties:

CaesarsCasino.com

CaesarsBingo.com

The World Series of Poker: live play, and online networks

In addition, CIE also owns multiple free mobile gaming entities like Slotomania, BingoBlitz, and House of Fun.

And though the social products primarily use pretend money, they’re generating serious monetary returns, a signaling trend in the overall iGaming market.

Social casinos, once limited to older generations unwilling or unable to travel to physical land-based venues, have become increasingly popular via Facebook and mobile apps.

Through small in-app “micro transactions” paired with advertising, operators are doing the most real money winning in a new category dubbed by CNBC journalist Nicholas Wells “freemium” gambling.

According to a six-month study performed by The NPD Group consisting of people who volunteered to have their app purchasing habits documented, “Game of War: Fire Age” players spent an average of $400 during the period on in-game purchases.

Big Fish Casino users paid between $200 and $300.

While Caesars doesn’t come close to those shocking statistics, it has a much more robust database to pool.

Caesars has 19.2 million active monthly users, with 6.1 million active on a daily basis.

The NDP Group reported that 35 percent of its sample paid for an in-app feature, double the rate from two years ago. With 65 percent of the potential social gaming market still untapped, plenty of growth remains for Caesars Interactive Entertainment.

DraftKings $300 million FanDuel daily fantasy sports Robert Kraft

DraftKings is $300 million wealthier after a series of funding from investors including Fox Sports and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a much-needed influx of capital to keep pace with the growing demand of daily fantasy sports. (Image: fantasysportsdaily.com)

DraftKings has received the investment is so desperately sought to keep pace with rival FanDuel, raising $300 million this week from financiers, primarily Fox Sports which paid $150 million in exchange for an 11 percent stake in the company.

Other backers include New England Patriots owner The Kraft Group, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, and several other sports-targeted enterprises.

Earlier this month Disney-owned ESPN had agreed in principle to a $500 million contract with DraftKings but backed out at the last minute.

Jason Robins, DraftKings CEO, said the investment and divvying of equity was a necessity to respond to the growing popularity of daily fantasy sports through developing new web and mobile products.

“You want to put your foot on the gas,” Robins said. “And that’s certainly what we’re doing right now.”

Fantasy Sports Patriots

The legality and differencing of daily sports betting from simply sports betting, a practice that is illegal in all but Nevada, New Jersey, Montana and Oregon, is a tad murky.

When the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 was passed, a law that banned online gambling, fantasy sports escaped prohibition through a loophole that declared the games as requiring skill, ultimately ruling that the model doesn’t constitute gambling. 

Proponents of legalized sports betting argue the same, that knowing which team to pick to cover the spread or line requires in-depth knowledge and isn’t the same as simply placing $20 on red.

Professional and amateur sports leagues have long disagreed, with the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB suing New Jersey in 2012 when it motioned to legalize sports betting in its state.

At the time the lawsuit alleged that sports gambling threatens the “reputation and goodwill,” would “irreparably harm amateur and professional sports,” and “undermine the public’s faith and confidence in the character of amateur and professional team sports.”

But that notion seems to be changing with the revelation that the NHL and Major League Soccer are now invested in DraftKings.

Furthermore, having Robert Kraft owning not only a professional sports team but also partially a daily fantasy sports network seems to go against prior opinions of league executives.

Already not on good terms with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following the “Deflategate” scandal and subsequent four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, Kraft might simply be adding a little fuel to the fire.

Dueling Kings

Daily fantasy sports has become big business, with FanDuel valued at $1.3 billion and DraftKings at $1 billion.

The two market leaders have seen their player databases more than double in the last two years, and revenues skyrocket with FanDuel saying it will award $2 billion in prizes in 2015, and DraftKings surpassing $1 billion.

Those sorts of income statements attracted the eyes of Yahoo, which launched its own platform in early July.

Christopher Vollmer, a PricewaterhouseCoopers media analyst told the Boston Globe that all daily fantasy operators are in a scramble to acquire the most players before the market becomes oversaturated.

“You don’t know when the music stops,” Vollmer said. “But it’s a good time now for all of them.”

Mohegan Sun Resorts Casino online gambling PokerStars

Mohegan Sun is using its relationship with Resorts Casino in Atlantic City to launch its own online gambling site in New Jersey, another strategic move by both Mohegan Sun and Resorts to grow revenues. (Image: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)

Mohegan Sun received its licensing approval from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) this week, and the tribal operator wasted no time in launching its online site MoheganSunCasino.com, the 17th Internet gambling destination made available to residents of the Garden State.

With its tribal headquarters in Connecticut where it also owns its namesake casino, Mohegan Sun was able to fulfill New Jersey’s required partnering with a land-based casino through its 10 percent ownership and operational managing of the Resorts Casino; the first venue built on the famed Boardwalk. Mohegan Sun’s online destination offers 140 real money and fun money games, including 44 specially formatted for mobile devices.

Bobby Soper, president of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA), said in a press release, “Our goal is for MoheganSunCasino.com to become the premier online destination for both serious gamers and those who simply want to relax and have fun.”

Resorts Revels

Though online gambling in New Jersey got off to a slow start when it first launched in November 2013, the market has performed nicely in 2015. iGaming revenues were up 22.8 percent in June compared to 2014, and year-to-date the industry is up over 14 percent.

“We’re bullish on the potential,” Soper said regarding the future of Internet gambling.

Resorts Casino is bullish too, as it has skillfully aligned itself to perhaps profit more than any other brick-and-mortar casino in the country through the continued legalization of online gambling.

Though the oldest casino in Atlantic City, it was also one of the smallest and most outdated venues before Morris Bailey, a New York real estate mogul, bought the property in 2010 and invested $70 million in renovations.

For the first time since 2008, Resorts turned a profit in 2014, and its future looks bright considering it has secured a deal with PokerStars to bring the world’s largest online poker network to residents of Jersey, if DGE officials finally grant it a license. The general assumption is that PokerStars will be issued a license in the coming months.

Resorts has also created the first online gambling lounge in its physical casino, a 1,000-square-foot high-tech area that features 22 betting screens in what can only be described as an Internet betting bar. The goal, according to Resorts, is to attract the more traditional land-based gambler into trying a hand online.

PokerStars Impact

Bailey isn’t finished rejuvenating his resort, especially once New Jersey grants PokerStars its operating permit. David Baazov, CEO of Amaya, parent company to PokerStars, told investors in April he expects the online card room to enter the US market in the third quarter of 2015, meaning sometime before October.

When that occurs, Bailey says he’ll build an entire PokerStars room at the Resorts Casino. “We will be building a world-class poker room and they will bring many of their worldwide tournaments to Atlantic City.”

Bailey believes PokerStars could single handedly double the iPoker market in New Jersey as it’s “still in its infancy.” Considering online poker was responsible for just $1.8 million out of June’s $11.7 million total internet gaming take, that would be a welcomed notion for poker players in online rooms.

Sheldon Adelson RAWA lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs' Trent Lott

Upping the ante by lobbying up, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has hired one of the leading lobbying firms in DC to push the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. (Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

Sheldon Adelson has been pushing current lawmakers to support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) for nearly 16 months, but with little support being garnered in either the House or Senate, the billionaire casino tycoon is headed to K Street, the epicenter of the Washington, DC, lobbying industry.

In disclosures filed on Tuesday, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling revealed it has hired the firm of Squire Patton Boggs to lobby on its behalf, specifically House Resolution 707, “a bill to restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling.”

The filing identifies former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-Louisiana) as lobbyists along with Squire Patton Boggs Partner Matthew Cutts and three additional public policy advisors.

Lott served in the US Senate for 19 years before resigning in 2007 after the Honest Leadership and Government Act was passed, a law that prevented politicians from lobbying for two years after leaving office.

Though he said the legislation had no substantial influence in his resignation, Lott wasted no time in forming a lobbying firm just 20 days after his departure from Congress.

Restoring RAWA

Sheldon Adelson is worth $30 billion thanks to his Las Vegas Sands casino resorts empire, and he’s determined to make online gambling illegal at a cost of “whatever it takes.” Though neither his company nor himself is publicly identified as a member of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, his bankroll is funding the non-profit organization whose mission is to outlaw online betting.

Current 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced identical RAWA bills into their respective chambers on March 26, 2014.

Since then, the bills have been read and discussed, with Chaffetz even holding a public hearing on the issue through the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.

Following a year of stalemate, Graham reintroduced RAWA along with co-sponsor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), another 2016 candidate.

RAWA would reverse a 2011 opinion made by the US Department of Justice that says the Wire Act only applies to online sports betting, and not online casinos. The decision ultimately gave states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware a gateway to legalization.

But by and large, the Internet gambling debate has largely been confined to those who have vested interest in seeing its passage. Lawmakers not directly linked to Adelson or the gambling industry seem hesitant if not dismissive on debating such a bill.

What’s in it for Lindsey, Rubio, and Chaffetz? The backing of the GOP’s grandest financial supporter who spent a staggering $92.8 million during the 2012 election cycle.

Squirrel Gets The Squire

Adelson is involved with dozens of political action committees and causes, but banning Internet casinos seems to be atop his list of to-dos.

Following his pledge in 2013 to use his fortune to combat the iGambling industry, Adelson has gone through several lobbying firms in DC before hiring Squire Patton Boggs.

Having Lott fight for RAWA, a man who certainly knows the ins and outs of Congress, could pay off.

Working for international companies such as Amazon, General Electric and Citgo Petroleum, Squire’s lobbying efforts brought in $31,570,000 last year alone. According to most reports, the group is one of the top two most powerful firms in Washington.

A seemingly perfect fit for perhaps the most powerful man in the gambling industry.

WSOP online bracelet World Series of Poker event #64 WSOP.com

For the first time in its 46-year history, a WSOP online bracelet will be awarded, but the concept and format isn’t popular among everyone at poker’s marquee tournament. (Image: wsop.com)

The WSOP online bracelet, event #64, is just one of the many highlights for the 46th annual tournament in what is shaping up to be a historic year.

Not only did the World Series of Poker obliterate the all-time single event record for the total number of entries with 22,374 $565 buy-ins for the new Colossus, poker’s biggest convention is also making history by holding its first-ever bracelet contested entirely (mostly) online.

Originally scheduled to take place exclusively online until heads-up play where the final two would meet face-to-face at the Rio, the WSOP altered the format to live play for the final six.

The six-handed table was also pushed back from July 3rd to the July 4th Independence Day holiday, presumably to allow sufficient travel time for the competitors, and conclude the event on a day most have off from work and school.

“Now more than ever, the WSOP has something for everyone,” Ty Stewart, WSOP executive director said when the official tournament schedule was released. “And with this schedule we believe the value and the opportunity for player success exists in each and every event we are offering in 2015.”

Event Structure

The first-ever WSOP online bracelet event kicked off today at 12 noon local time with each player anteing up the $1,000 buy-in for 10,000 chips, with late registration concluding at 3 PM.

Play will continue throughout the day and likely into the early hours of tomorrow until only six players remain.

Once the secret six are identified, play will break until July 4th at 12 PM when the players reconvene at the final table for live play at the Rio.

The remaining six will carry over their balances to offline play, and the game will pick up at its respective level, although with a slight modification to the ongoing structure.

All levels for the final six will last 40 minutes, with breaks after every three levels.

One side note for any potential WSOP.com player reading: there will be no dinner break should the final table go on into the evening and night, so eat a full breakfast and early lunch!

Alternate Ending

Why not keep the entire online event, well, online? According to Bill Rini, head of online poker for WSOP, part of the overall experience and allure of the World Series of Poker is the winner’s photo op proudly holding their bracelet following the win.

But not everyone is in favor of basically switching the format from an online to live event at arguably the most crucial time of the contest. “I don’t think a bracelet should be awarded for this event because the WSOP has history behind it, it’s a poker series played at the casino where all you need is a ‘chip and a chair’ as they say,” Trevor Pope insisted, winner of the 2013 WSOP $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Eight-Handed event.

Some critics are skeptical, perhaps rightfully so, that the event isn’t marking the first time a bracelet has ever been contested online, but also the first time an event has basically switched formats mid-action, like a football game concluding with a fourth quarter of baseball.

But like it or not, online poker is how the game can grow exponentially, and one big name already in the field is none other than Greg Merson, the 2012 Main Event champ.

 

 

PPA John Pappas California testimony Sen. Lindsey Graham RAWA

PPA director John Pappas testified before the California GO Committee this week on the need for iPoker regulation, while Sen. Lindsey Graham is trying to ban Internet gaming on the federal level. (Image: allwebsolutions.net)

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) took its case to the California General Assembly Governmental Organization Committee on Wednesday to highlight the need for state lawmakers to legalize and regulate online poker.

Speaking in front of Adam Gray (D-District 21), the committee’s chairman and author of AB431, one of four bills that would authorize Internet poker in California, PPA Executive Director John Pappas advocated for an iGaming overhaul in the Golden State.

“Now is the time for the legislature to regulate Internet poker,” Pappas testified. “Any effort to regulate Internet poker should not be viewed as an expansion of gambling in California, but rather as an opportunity to better protect consumers.”

California Dreaming

All eyes in the gambling world are fixated on California as networks, coalitions, and advocacies are speaking out in support of online poker.

Amaya and PokerStars have launched Californians for Responsible iPoker along with two Mission Indian tribes and three of the most profitable card rooms in the state, and the world’s largest Internet poker network is also sending its brand ambassadors Daniel Negreanu, Chris Moneymaker, and Vanessa Selbst on a statewide tour.

It’s evident the coalition and PPA both believe 2015 is their best chance for legalizing online poker.

“Anyone who suggests that regulation of Internet poker is not possible is purposefully misleading this Committee,” Pappas attested. “Lawmakers should legislate, regulators should regulate and the players just want to play.”

RAWA Insta-Graham

While California deliberated over legalizing online poker, one of the GOPs most recent 2016 presidential candidates, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), decided it was an opportune time to reintroduce the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) into his federal chamber.

Of course, the timing is being highly criticized by many considering just one week ago a 21-year-old killed nine people inside the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

RAWA seeks to restore the Wire Act to its pre-2011 interpretation and ban Internet gaming on a federal level, a bill that’s largely thought to be driven by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon who is a reliable supporter of the Republican Party.

Graham has been a longtime ally of Adelson, and his recent presidential announcement paired with him reintroducing RAWA amidst his state in mourning paints a rather ugly political picture according to the PPA.

“As the eyes of the nation are focused on South Carolina following the recent tragic event, I think I speak for most Americans when I express profound disappointment in Senator Graham for choosing this time to advance a bill for the sole benefit of a billionaire political donor,” Pappas said in a press release.

“The Congress made the decision to adjourn early so they could attend services on Friday in Senator Graham’s home state. Unfortunately, Senator Graham has not reset his priorities,” Pappas declared.

RAWA has been tossed around in both the Senate and House over the last year but with little progress. The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations held a much-publicized hearing last March, but the largely one-sided testimony from experts invited by Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the representative who brought RAWA to the House, was largely discredited.

 

Pennsylvania Senate hearing testimony online gambling

The committee on Community, Economic & Recreational Development heard testimony this week relating to online gambling as the Pennsylvania Senate considers passing such legislation. (Image: paonlinecasino.com)

The Pennsylvania Senate committee on the Community, Economic & Recreational Development spent more than two hours on Wednesday listening to experts deliver testimony on Internet gambling, providing insight on an array of topics including the timeframe for implementation and the market’s fiscal potential.

Chaired by State Senator Kim Ward (R-District 39), whose SB 900 is the leading piece of legislation on the table, the panel invited representatives from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) and Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), as well as Todd Mostoller, executive director of Pennsylvania’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

And while the conversation was long, nothing was said that would seem to hamper an impending vote on Ward’s proposition.

SB 900 would permit current land-based casinos to apply for and buy online gaming licenses, and offer slot machines in off-track and satellite locations.

Hearing Highlights

It can often be challenging to create a highlight reel of any political hearing as you often find even those in attendance fighting the urge to drift into dreamland sitting behind those testifying, but Pennsylvania’s wish to create an online gambling market provided plenty of headline making-comments.

Speaking first, Kevin O’Toole, executive director of the PGCB, told the committee that should the General Assembly pass online gambling legislation, his board is “anticipating a range of between nine and 12 months to actually begin the play on the Internet.” That’s relatively fast by most estimates considering the licensing application process seen in other states with legalized iGaming.

O’Toole also requested that Ward and her bill’s co-sponsors consider adding a clause to allow interstate agreements, granting Pennsylvania the potential to share player liquidity with New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada.

Kevin Kline, the director of racetrack gaming for the PGCB, said he does not believe online gambling would have any significant impact on the horse racing industry. “Advance deposit wagering on horse racing and iGaming may be able to complement each other by advertising or including a link on each respective website providing an opportunity to cross-market,” Kline said during his testimony.

But Mostoller disagrees, saying the Equine Coalition has strong concerns relating to SB 900, primary the expansion of slots to non-primary locations and the legalization of online gaming, two conditions that would cannibalize his industry.

“Instead of slots play occurring at existing facilities, the introduction of non-primary locations will merely disperse gambling wagers over at larger geographic area, decreasing the slots play at the Category 1 facilities, which is the main source of funding for our racing purses and breeder incentives.”

Cry Wolf

Pennsylvania has a $1.2 billion budget shortfall, but Republicans, who currently control both the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, is adamantly opposed to Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to raise taxes in order to combat the deficit.

While many covering the political climate in Harrisburg have speculated GOP lawmakers want to pitch iGambling as a saving grace, Ward adamantly denies that claim.

“Right now we’re working on a budget in the Senate that does not include any money from gaming,” Ward said after the hearing.

How much does the state stand to gain from online gambling? It’s a tough market to forecast, but Ward’s bill does come with heavy fees for operators that could equate to $260 million, and with revenues being taxed at an astronomical rate of 54 percent, potentially millions more per year.