JaoPoker Allegedly Closes Doors, Players Monies In the Lurch

 JaoPoker Allegedly Closes Doors, Players Monies In the Lurch

In what has become a constant refrain in the unregulated online poker world, another online poker site has allegedly shut down and players with money on the site are once again in the lurch. This time, it is JaoPoker, which Poker News Daily warned players about over six months ago.

The information regarding the alleged closure wasn’t quickly known. It drifted out in fits and spurts over social media, sometimes with a simple sentence of “JaoPoker is closed” to irate expressions of hatred against the online site. Facebook and TwoPlusTwo seemed to be the hotbeds of discussion, with plenty of people calling out the former spokesman of the poker site.

One person made it known he was ready to release specific information on the Chief Executive Officer of the company. “I had numerous conversations with the CEO of Jao, wanted me to play it on my stream, when it came to paying me he always took a while to reply, strange eh? If anyone’s owed money give me a shout, his mobile number is saved firmly in my contacts list.”

The discussion then turned to Tam Nguyen, who was a prominent spokesman for the poker site and who has since deleted any discussion he had on Facebook on the subject. In his posts, he commented how he had made quite a bit of money from his “affiliate line” (more on this in a moment) and that those who lost any money in the situation could basically pound sand (AKA they knew the risks of putting their money on the site.

One particularly tense exchange with Nguyen was captured by another Facebook user and posted. That exchange, which allegedly occurred on Tuesday, is shown here:

 NguyensBusinessConduct JaoPoker Allegedly Closes Doors, Players Monies In the Lurch

The first notice of the existence of JaoPoker – and the problems that existed with the site – were through Todd Witteles’ Poker Fraud Alert. In May of last year, Witteles announced the results of his extensive research into what JaoPoker was doing. In his analysis, the poker site was not operating on the level, that basically it was using a multi-level marketing type program. In reality, it was allegedly closer to that of a Ponzi scheme, which depended on new players coming in to be able to pay the past players their “affiliate fees.” Poker News Daily reported on Witteles’ efforts to inform the poker world on this subject in July.

Over the past couple of days, the true status of JaoPoker has become quite murky. There are allegations that it has closed down and there is no mechanisms in place to ensure that the players will be refunded their money. But another voice has emerged earlier today to say that JaoPoker isn’t shut down but simply “refurbishing their software.”

Over his poker group Poker Knights, Lance Williams allegedly was in contact with the owners and/or the operators of JaoPoker. According to Williams, the site is “concerned with the amount of fraud perpetrated against the site and decided to have more safeguards implemented in the software. We have taken the site offline so the developers can work on the poker site. We will re-open as soon as testing is done. All player funds are safe and being reviewed due to some inconsistencies with bonus payouts and player fraud.

Whether JaoPoker is dead or not, it is simply the latest in a trend of non-regulated sites. In 2015, Lock Poker finally shuttered its online doors after almost two years of non-payment of players but the ability to sponsor players such as former World Series of Poker Europe champion Annette Obrestad (among others). It is estimated that the Lock Poker scandal bilked players out of somewhere between $ 15 million and $ 25 million. Other sites that shut their doors without paying back players include Pitbull Poker, JetSetPoker and Cake Poker.

Poker News Daily will continue to watch the ongoing situation with JaoPoker and report as necessary.

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Legislation Introduced in Hawaii to Regulate Video Game Loot Boxes

 Legislation Introduced in Hawaii to Regulate Video Game Loot Boxes

I suppose it is appropriate that I am writing this article about video game loot box legislation as I am watching Overwatch, one of the most popular video games in the world and one of the ones best known for its use of loot boxes. Recently, two pairs of bills were introduced in the Hawaii legislature that look to regulate loot boxes in an attempt to protect consumers.

For those unfamiliar, loot boxes are in-game collectibles that contain random items. These loot boxes (they go by different names in different games) can be earned by playing, be bought with in-game currency, be bought with real money, or any combination of the three, depending on the game. Players will usually know what sorts of items can be found in loot boxes, but they will not know EXACTLY what items will be revealed.

In some games, like Overwatch, loot box items are only cosmetic and serve no real purpose, whereas in other games, the items can give players an in-game advantage, like an ability boost or a more powerful weapon.

The criticism of loot boxes is that they represent a form of gambling, that every day, players spend money on loot boxes, hoping to open one up to find a very rare or powerful item (usually, the items are quite common or unexciting). There are even some (unauthorized) sites where players can make money buying and selling these items, or even using them to gamble with.

Because of their gambling-like properties, lawmakers in Hawaii have introduced the bills to try to accomplish a few things:

1) Restrict the sale of games with loot boxes or similar mechanism to customers 21-years of age and older
2) Require game makers to make the probabilities of receiving certain items very apparent when a customer is about to buy loot boxes or even simply open one
3) Require game makers to label games that have loot box mechanism. This label would be on the packaging if the game is on physical media like a DVD or on the game’s sale page if it is a downloadable game.

As a video gamer myself, I am fine with loot boxes to a certain extent, though I also consider them a form of gambling if players are buying them with real money or with in-game currency that has some sort of real-world value (even if it can’t actually be sold). The system Overwatch uses is totally fine with me, as loot boxes can easily be earned just by playing the game and nothing included in a loot box offers a player any sort of advantage in-game. Everything is cosmetic.

What I don’t like are games where it feels compulsory to buy loot boxes because they contain items that give players gameplay advantages. This gets into “pay to win” territory, as it really hurts people who either can’t afford loot boxes or simply don’t want to buy them. This is even worse in games that already cost money to buy, as opposed to free-to-play games that use loot boxes as a way to try to make a profit.

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UKGC Fines William Hill £6.2 million for Money Laundering Prevention Failures

 UKGC Fines William Hill £6.2 million for Money Laundering Prevention Failures

William Hill continues to put itself on the bad side of the UK’s regulatory agencies. Less than a month after coming to an agreement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority to remedy unfair promotional marketing practices, the gambling operator has been fined £6.2 million by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) for failing to protect problem gamblers and prevent money laundering.

“We will use the full range of our enforcement powers to make gambling fairer and safer,” said UKGC Executive Director Neil McArthur in a news release. “This was a systemic failing at William Hill which went on for nearly two years and today’s penalty package – which could exceed £6.2m – reflects the seriousness of the breaches.”

“Gambling businesses have a responsibility to ensure that they keep crime out of gambling and tackle problem gambling – and as part of that they must be constantly curious about where the money they are taking is coming from.”

In an investigation, the Gambling Commission found that William Hill fell short of money laundering and social responsibility regulations numerous times between November 2014 and August 2016. In that time, ten customers were able to deposit sizable sums of money – six-figures worth – that were “linked to criminal offences.” William Hill profited £1.2 million from these players.

William Hill will be required to surrender that money and make any players whole who might have been victimized by the customers who should not have been permitted to gamble. The other £5 is a punitive measure.

Here is a sampling of the violations committed by William Hill, per the UKGC press release:

• A customer was allowed to deposit £654,000 over nine months without source of funds checks being carried out. The customer lived in rented accommodation and was employed within the accounts department of a business earning around £30,000 per annum.
• A customer was allowed to deposit £541,000 over 14 months after the operator made the assumption that the customer’s potential income could be £365,000 per annum based on a verbal conversation and without further probing. The reality was that the customer was earning around £30,000 a year and was funding his gambling habit by stealing from his employer.
• A customer who was allowed to deposit £653,000 in an 18 month period activated a financial alert at WHG. The alert resulted in a grading of ‘amber risk’ which required, in accordance with the licensee’s anti-money laundering policy, a customer profile to be reviewed. The file was marked as passed to managers for review but this did not occur due to a systems failure. The customer was able to continue gambling for a further six months despite continuing to activate financial alerts.
• A customer was identified by WHG as having an escalating gambling spend with deposit levels exceeding £100,000. WHG interacted with the customer seeking assurance that the customer was ‘comfortable with their level of spend’. After receiving verbal assurance and without investigating the wider circumstances the operator continued to allow the customer to gamble. In our view that interaction was inadequate and did not review the customer’s behaviour sufficiently to identify if their behaviour was indicative of problem gambling.
• A customer exceeded deposits of £147,000 in an 18 month period with an escalating spend and losses of £112,000. WHG systems identified the issue but its only response over a 12 month period was to send two automated social responsibility emails. Our view is that this action alone was not sufficient given the customer’s gambling behaviour coupled with the severity of the losses.

So basically, William Hill saw players deposit tons of money and possibly lose tons of money or not really be able to prove they actually had this sort of money to spend and just said, “Yeah, it’s cool. Have fun.”

William Hill, for its part, has said that it has cooperated with the UKGC and is working to improve its customer screening procedures.

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Portugal Publishes Shared Liquidity Framework, Player Pools to Merge with Spain and France Soon

 Portugal Publishes Shared Liquidity Framework, Player Pools to Merge with Spain and France Soon

Just over a month since Spain and France merged their online poker player pools, Portugal is about to join them. On Friday, the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ), the country’s gaming regulatory body, published its technical standards framework for shared player liquidity. The next step is for Portuguese players to join Spanish and French players at the tables.

In mid-January, PokerStars became the first online poker room to host players from France and Spain at the same virtual tables. Prior to that moment, the two countries, along with Portugal and Italy, had ring fenced their players from the rest of the world, allowing them to play only on country-specific sites.

The four countries announced an agreement to share liquidity in July 2017 and wanted to merge their player pools by the end of the year, but obviously were not quite able to do so. Portugal clearly lagged behind Spain and France slightly, but is now expected to join them – almost certainly on PokerStars – within the next few days.

Roughly translated using the handy-dandy Google Translate and smoothed out by yours truly, the framework says that the SRIJ will make games and bets available between:

1. players registered on a “.pt” domain that is licensed to offer online gambling in Portugal;
2. players registered in the “.pt” domain and players whose access is established outside the Portuguese territory and which are registered in another domain under licenses issued in accordance with jurisdictions where online gambling and betting and shared liquidity are admitted under the law and / or its regulator.

The key online gambling product here is online poker. While online casinos (those that offer games like slots and blackjack) obviously want lots of customers, the actual functioning of their games is not dependent on player traffic. Customers can easily and happily play at tables by themselves and have the same experience they would if there were other players present. In fact, people might prefer to play alone, as they don’t have to worry about someone making an incorrect play in blackjack or wasting time at the roulette table.

With poker, though, player traffic is of the utmost importance. Cash games only run if there is more than one person at the table, multi-table tournaments often have registration minimums, and Sit-and-Go’s don’t start until they are full. And though cash games can operate with just two players, most people would much rather play at full or near-full ring game tables. Thus, if a site doesn’t have steady player traffic, the tables will be mostly empty, resulting in potential new players staying away and the tables remaining mostly empty.

Thus, shared liquidity is important. The larger a potential player base a country has, the more traffic its poker sites will have. Portugal by itself has struggled to supply players to online poker rooms, but with Spain and France to help (and hopefully Italy later), the poker rooms should be much more viable.

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ESPN WSOP Broadcast Schedule Released

 ESPN WSOP Broadcast Schedule Released

For the second year in a row, ESPN and Poker Central are teaming up to broadcast the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event. Combined, the two will air “start to finish everyday coverage” of the granddaddy of all poker tournaments from July 2nd through July 14th. Last week, ESPN and the WSOP released the broadcast schedule for ESPN and ESPN2.

During the times that the WSOP is not airing on the ESPN family of networks, Poker Central will stream coverage on its subscription program, PokerGO. PokerGO will not show coverage that ESPN airs, nor will ESPN broadcast anything that PokerGO airs. They will complement each other, not overlap. In addition to the Main Event, ESPN and Poker Central will also air the $ 1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop.

“Last year, both ESPN viewership and PokerGO subscription numbers were very strong throughout the WSOP Main Event,” said JR McCabe, chief digital officer of Poker Central, in a press release. “This year, we’re doubling down on live coverage of the World Series of Poker by adding the Big One for One Drop and bringing even more live poker to fans worldwide.”

The ESPN schedule:

July 2 – 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 1A – ESPN2
July 3 – 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 1B – ESPN2
July 4 – 8:30 PM – 12:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 1C – ESPN2
July 5 – 10:00 PM – 12:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 2A/B – ESPN2
July 6 – 8:30 PM – 12:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 2C – ESPN2
July 7 – 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 3 – ESPN2
July 8 – 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 4 – ESPN
July 9 – 10:00 PM – 2:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 5 – ESPN2
July 10 – 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 6 – ESPN
July 11 – 12:30 AM – 2:00 AM ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 7 – ESPN2
July 12 – 9:00 PM – END ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 8 – ESPN (Final Table – 9 to 6 players)
July 13 – 9:00 PM – END ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 9 – ESPN (Final Table – 6 to 3 players)
July 14 – 9:00 PM – END ET – WSOP Main Event: Day 10 – ESPN (Final Table – 3 players to champion)
July 17 – 12:00 AM – 2:00 AM ET – WSOP Big One for One Drop: ESPN2 (Live)
July 17 – 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM ET – WSOP Big One for One Drop: ESPN2 (Tape replay)
July 17 – 9:00 PM – END ET – WSOP Big One for One Drop: ESPN2 (Live)
July 21 – 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM ET – WSOP Big One for One Drop: ESPN2 (Tape replay)

ESPN will also broadcast another 130 hours of “originally produced” episodes, meaning not live poker. Poker Central’s broadcast schedule will be released at a later date.

“We’re ecstatic that ESPN and Poker Central continue to raise the bar and deliver more live poker content to audiences across the globe,” said World Series of Poker executive director Ty Stewart. “Fans today demand immediacy and wall-to-wall coverage and this year’s offering delivers on that in spades.”

No pun intended.

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