Florida Legislature Closes Door to Expansion of Gambling for at Least the Remainder of 2018

 Florida Legislature Closes Door to Expansion of Gambling for at Least the Remainder of 2018

With a referendum regarding gambling in the state being held during the 2018 midterm elections, the Florida Legislature had a final shot to make any moves regarding the state’s gambling laws. Instead, the politicians in Tallahassee punted the subject down the road, ensuring that there would be no further changes to the state’s regulations at least for the 2018 calendar year.

As the close of the legislative session loomed this week, both leaders in each chamber of the Florida Legislature revived the discussions on gaming in the state. Those two men, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, would be facing starkly different roads to coming to an agreement, however. The job, at first glance, would have been easier for Negron, with a Senate willing to expand gaming where voters had approved of it, rather than Corcoran, who would have to convince fellow Representatives that have shown previously to be anti-expansion.

Negron’s Senate contemporaries were the first to fire off, approving an expansion of gambling in eight counties that had previously passed new laws. Those laws would have allowed pari-mutuel outlets – horse and dog racing tracks and simulcast locations – to offer slot machines to their customers. The problems would develop when the bill was sent to the House for consideration.

The House wasn’t quite as willing to go with the plan, however. After at first completely rejecting the Senate plan, the House eventually came to the point where it would allow three of the eight counties to offer slot machines to their customers. Discussions with House members to allow all eight eventually would result in the Senate bill dying in the House, much to the consternation of their leadership.

“Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” Corcoran and Negron said in a statement quoted by The Palm Beach Post’s Dara Kam. “Gaming remains one of the most difficult issues we face as a Legislature. We are pleased with the progress made over the last week and know that our colleagues will continue to work on this important issue.”

Why is the decision by the Florida Legislature not to take up new gambling regulations important? Part of the problem is that the current compact between the state and the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida, which expired in 2015, is currently working its way through a federal court. Under question are “designated player” games that the poker rooms, pari-mutuel tracks and other gaming outlets have been using to circumvent the “house-banked” games that is the exclusive property of the Seminoles and their casinos. A “designated player” game is one in which a player in the game being designated as the “player to beat” by other players on the table, with the house winning bets on the “designated player” rather than having a hand in the game themselves.

Under the compact, the Seminoles have paid $ 300 million per year for that exclusivity (and have continued to pay since the compact ended in 2015), but they also see locales that are allowing for other gaming outlets to offer house-banked games under the “designated player” discipline. They want the state to be more proactive in preventing these “designated player” games that, the Seminoles contend, are cutting into the profits of their tribal casinos. But the state, while working with the Seminoles to either come to a new compact or extend the one that expired, also must contend with the individual county governments.

That is why the Florida Legislature was looking to amend their gambling laws. Many counties in the Sunshine State are looking to pass their own gambling laws, outside of the state’s purveyance and with no new statewide compact agreed upon, because they don’t see the state legislature looking out for their interests. There is also a huge desire for such tourist destinations as Miami to be able to expand their gambling options, while areas such as Orlando look to restrict any access to gambling in their area due to their “family” atmosphere.

The upcoming referendum in November also has lawmakers a bit nervous. Should the voters of Florida vote for expansion of gaming in the state, the legislature would be bound by the vote to expand gambling in the state outside of the Seminole compact. With this said, the Florida Legislature was forced by referendum to legalize the usage of medical marijuana in the state in 2016; the Legislature has been molasses-slow regarding any passage of laws regarding that issue.

While the Florida Legislature may not consider gambling expansion for the remainder of the year, there will be plenty of discussion on the subject outside of the halls of Tallahassee. What the eventual end of these discussions will be is still up in the air, however.

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Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York-New York Casino Robbery

 Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York New York Casino Robbery

In the midnight hour of January 10th, a black male robbed a cashier at the New York-New York casino in Las Vegas. On January 25th, Cameron Kennedy, a white male, was arrested for the crime. Did the police nab the wrong guy? Nope, it was Kennedy, alright, just in disguise.

After the incident, the Las Vegas police said that a black male wearing a black beanie cap, black rimmed glasses, a black hooded jacket, black mechanics gloves, dark jeans, and black shoes showed the cashier a handgun that was tucked into his waistband, and demanded money. Cash was handed over without violence and the perpetrator escaped through the south entrance of the casino, leaving the area in a taxi.

Cameron Kennedy New York New York robber black face 150x150 Cameron Kennedy Apprehended for New York New York Casino Robbery

Cameron Kennedy in black face

The Las Vegas Review-Journal provided more detail this week, reporting that the man said to the cashier, “I want all your hundreds, and don’t mess around.”

And while the police press release showed a picture of what appeared to be a black man, it was really Kennedy, a white man, disguised in black face. In the pictures and security video, it’s a pretty convincing makeup job, but the cashier was skeptical, telling police that his skin tone looked “blotchy” and “off.”

More clues came in, as someone anonymously informed investigators that it was Kennedy that robbed New York-New York. A month later, someone else told police that Kennedy had gone to his apartment just hours after the heist and that his skin looked darker than normal, like one might look after initially wiping off Halloween makeup, before being able to do a more thorough cleaning.

Phone records also placed Kennedy near where the taxi dropped off the suspect after the crime. And not suspicious at all, Kennedy bought a $ 1,500 gold bracelet (come on, man), $ 1,800 in money orders, and a $ 1,000 prepaid debit card (at least he put the latter in someone else’s name).

Kennedy was no rookie to breaking the law. In 2012, he pleaded guilty to two bank robberies and was put in prison. He was release in June 2017, but was arrested again in December for trying to cash a bogus check at the Gold Coast casino. Kennedy was under federal supervision, but cut off his monitoring bracelet so he would be free to commit the crime. It was not reported when and if law enforcement officials were aware that he was no longer being tracked.

Kennedy faces up to 20 years in prison. One would guess that he will be seeing at least some time behind bars, as the case seems pretty cut and dry at this point.

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Nevada AG Hates Online Poker and is Running for Governor

 Nevada AG Hates Online Poker and is Running for Governor

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced Tuesday via Twitter that he had officially filed the paperwork to run for Governor this fall. That he has thrown his hat into the ring is significant because he is extremely anti-online poker.

His stance on internet poker became known in late 2015, when he confirmed that he would be signing a letter with other state Attorneys General in support of Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill. Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is a billionaire Republican donor and has stated that he will do “whatever it takes” to get online gambling banned in the United States.

One of those things that he has done is pen (or have his legal flunkies pen) RAWA, a bill which would revert the Department of Justice’s official interpretation of the Wire Act to the incorrect one and include all online gambling under its umbrella. The Wire Act, passed in 1961, specifically bans sports betting over communications lines, but for years, the DoJ interpreted it so as to make all online gambling illegal. In late 2011, the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) clarified its stance on the Wire Act, saying that it only applies to sports betting. The goal of RAWA, as mentioned, would be to turn back time and go back to the former, wrong interpretation, making online poker illegal.

And Laxalt, the Attorney General and aspiring Governor of the first state to legalize online poker, supports RAWA. Go figure.

Speaking with Jon Ralston on his Nevada Public Television show, “Ralston Live,” in November 2015, Laxalt tried to explain:

There’s a couple giant exceptions to this, alright? One is Congress spoke on this issue and had an existing Wire Act, ok? And then Attorney General Holder issued an opinion a few days before Christmas some years ago and changed that landscape. He changed that landscape without gaming companies, without law enforcement, without all the parties that should’ve been involved to make sure that we can keep consumers safe and all this can be done properly. So, I think obviously in this case we’re looking to return it back to what the status quo was, that Congress passed, and, you know, the other thing is obviously gaming is a different animal. You know, you have, you need to know where the sources of money are coming from and you need to make sure you can police this area.

He used the excuse at the time that Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller all supported RAWA.

Then and current governor Brian Sandoval, a big supporter of online gambling, said of Laxalt’s opinion, “….I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry. At its core, this is a state’s rights issue and I disagree with the Attorney General that a federal government one-size-fits-all solution is in the best interest of Nevada.”

I don’t know who will be running against Laxalt, but here’s to hoping Laxalt loses.

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Jennifer Harman Auctioning Off Lunch Experience for Charity

 Jennifer Harman Auctioning Off Lunch Experience for Charity

One of the things that the world of poker does well is show its charitable side. From poker tournaments that have raised millions for many causes to individual efforts that have demonstrated the true heart of the poker community, the game literally puts its money where its mouth is. One of the top philanthropists in the poker world, Jennifer Harman, is giving of herself again in a unique auction event.

A member of the Poker Hall of Fame and the Women in Poker Hall of Fame, Harman is offering one fortunate individual the chance to sit down for a one-on-one lunch engagement with the poker legend. The charity auction is benefitting the Lollipop Theater Network, which is a non-profit organization that “brings the magic of movies currently in theaters to children confined to hospitals nationwide due to chronic or life-threatening illnesses.” The organization counts supporters such as actresses Jennifer Garner and Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway amongst its ranks and has been in existence since 2001, delivering over 2400 hospital events and 338 movie screenings to children otherwise unable to attend the movies.

Harman’s auction is doing well but, as normal with an auction, the rush of bidding will be closer to its conclusion. The auction will end on March 20 and, at this moment, seven bids have been received. Currently the winner of the auction is “The Baron of Houston,” who has put up a $ 5000 bid for the opportunity for lunch with Harman. It should get much higher than that as the auction ends, however; the value of the meeting with Harman is estimated at $ 10,000.

Harman’s own work in the philanthropic arena has been extensive. Plagued by kidney issues since she was a child – her mother and sister also are affected by kidney disease, with Harman’s mother passing from the disease when Harman was 17 – Harman has been an advocate for research into kidney disease and a proponent for organ donation. Harman has benefitted tremendously from organ donation, having twice had kidneys replaced after hers failed.

But it isn’t only medical research that Harman has been an advocate for. For many years Harman has run a charity poker event that benefitted animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA). Those tournaments have raised more than $ 1 million since their inception in the late 2000s.

Poker’s philanthropic efforts don’t end with Harman, however. Arguably one of the biggest charitable causes was developed by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Lalliberte when he created the One Drop Foundation. The organization, which tries to ensure adequate potable water worldwide, has raised millions through the “Big One for One Drop” and smaller buy-in tournaments run during the World Series of Poker.

Another group that has been very successful is Raising for Effective Giving (REG). The charitable fundraising non-profit group was created at the 2014 WSOP with several top poker professionals taking up the cause. Such players as Liv Boeree, Igor Kurganov, Philipp Gruissem and former World Champion Martin Jacobsen have pledged to donate a percentage of their lifetime earnings to the group in the pursuit of its goals. The funds raised by REG have gone to such organizations as The Nonhuman Rights Project, The Center for Applied Rationality, The Against Malaria Foundation and GiveWell, among others.

There are plenty of other charitable causes that poker has gotten behind, but these are arguably the highlights from the poker world. On an individual level, Harman must be commended for her continued altruism for a host of causes that she has taken up. For more details on Harman’s auction, the work of the Lollipop Theater Network or to perhaps lay down a bid on the auction, visit the auction site here.

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Female Poker Player to Play WSOP Main Event Undercover as Man

 Female Poker Player to Play WSOP Main Event Undercover as Man

From one story about a person in disguise to another. Card Player reported Wednesday that a female poker player who goes by the pen name Sia Layta plans to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event this summer dressed as a man.

Now, we have seen men dress as women at the WSOP before, but this is not like those instances. When men have done it, they have not tried to truly look like a woman, but rather entered the Ladies Event and dressed as women as a joke. I won’t get into all the reasons men are stupid and thoughtless for doing this, but suffice to say they are idiots for thinking it is sexist to have a women’s only event.

Layta is promoting her upcoming book, Black Widow Poker, detailing her experiences playing poker on the West Coast and how sexism and gender bias in the poker world hurts female participation. She intends to disguise herself as a man, facial hair and all, to illustrate how women are treated differently at the poker table.

From the Card Player piece:

Layta said women in poker encounter bullying, sometimes arising to the level where it makes it so “women aren’t able to play poker the way men are.” She also cited a strategy example, saying that most women are better off slow playing their hands in order to get action from men. “It’s really hard to win a tournament when you have to limp in,” she said. Her book is also part strategy guide.

Layta told Card Player that she will remove her disguise if she makes the money.

Phil Laak famously dressed in an “old man” disguise at the 2008 WSOP, a getup that ESPN commentator Norman Chad said made him look like Hume Cronyn in Cocoon (eh, that’s a stretch). It was a pretty darn good makeup/latex job, though he was eventually found out. That stunt, though, led to a rule being added to the WSOP rulebook:

Participants may not cover or conceal their facial identity. Tournament officials must be able to distinguish the identity of each participant at all times and may instruct participants to remove any material that inhibits their identification or is a distraction to other participants or tournament officials. Participants may wear sunglasses and sweat shirts with hoods, but may be asked to remove them if tournament officials cannot identify them.

It is entirely possible that if Layta is discovered, she could be disqualified from the tournament and lose her $ 10,000 buy-in. A spokesperson for her book told Card Player that they believe she would not be violating the spirit of the rule. She isn’t a ringer subbing in for a friend – she is playing as herself, just not looking like herself.

One could counter that argument by saying that if people can’t recognize her as SIa Layta, then she is at an advantage because anyone who might have otherwise recognized her from real life (as she does play poker on the West Coast) won’t know who she is and therefore can’t use their knowledge of her play to help them.

She doesn’t care, though, and has no plans to call off her effort. In her book, she describes several instances in which she has done the same thing in other tournaments.

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