Archive for December, 2015
The battle regarding the regulation of online poker in the United States has grinded to a halt. Since three states passed laws regulating the industry in 2013, there has been little to no action since then towards more states joining in the party (2016? Let’s talk that over tomorrow…). Now a small Indian tribe in the middle of the country seems to have done something that state legislatures have been unwilling to do since 2013.
After a decision in U. S. District Court in Oklahoma City, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has won the right to be able to offer online poker to customers on an international basis. The Iowa Tribe is looking to have their website, PokerTribe.com, up and running in early 2016 with all the amenities that online poker fans have previously enjoyed (full casino gaming would come at a later date). Perhaps the biggest caveat of all is that it will be an international system, something that might draw the crowds initially.
According toNewsOK.com’s Brianna Bailey, the Iowa Tribe received a ruling from an arbiter that an online poker operation run from the tribal lands was not a violation of either federal or state law. In fact, Bailey reports, the freedom to offer online gaming and poker was covered by the Oklahoma Tribal-State Gaming Compact. The arbiter’s decision wasn’t binding until the U. S. District Court in charge of that area of the U. S. approved, with that decision coming down last week.
The Iowa Tribe has teamed with Universal Entertainment Group to provide the software for the proposed site, which apparently has been in the works for some time. “(We) could be launched within a matter of weeks,” Isaias Almira, the manager of UEG, said to Bailey. “I and our entire team have been working on this for many years.”
That may be a bit of an understatement. According to Bailey, UEG has been courting an Oklahoma Indian tribe to partner with for internet gaming. Prior to this agreement with the Iowa Tribe, UEG had teamed with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma for another venture, PokerTribes.com, believing that an Indian operation could generate as much as $ 132 million by 2018 from an online gaming site. After a change in tribal leadership (and some legal difficulties on the federal front), those tribes dropped out of the deal with UEG in 2014.
Where there may be some disagreement is in how many customers (and where they are) that PokerTribe.com might be able to reach. While areas of the United States that don’t have any online gaming regulations wouldn’t be able to participate, Almira says that players in the three states that have been able to pass regulation – Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware – would be able to partake of the PokerTribe.com product as well as the international poker community. The problem with this is that those three states have essentially made operating an online gaming operation within their borders that isn’t licensed by their regulators illegal. Additionally, international players would be able to play on PokerTribe.com but, with already legal options such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, 888 and others out there, how would PokerTribe.com break into the game?
What might be the best sign in this decision is that, according to the Iowa Tribe’s tribal chairman Bobby Walkup, it isn’t a decision that was set aside for just the Iowa Tribe alone. “The arbitrator’s decision applies to all tribes in the state of Oklahoma,” Walkup is quoted by Bailey as saying in a statement following the announcement of the legal decision. “Every tribe has the same opportunity as the Iowa Tribe to engage in internet gaming consistent with the arbitrator’s decision.”
The road may be opened for the Iowa Tribe to open their online gaming and poker operation, but there are some hoops left to jump through. Much like the previous operations by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, the federal government may step in at the last minute and override the District Court decision at a higher level, forcing the small tribe (800 members) to spend a great deal of capital on legal fees if they want to pursue the issue. Still, it is a good sign to end 2015 with another potential outlet for online gaming and poker in the United States.
Last Wednesday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan proclaimed that daily fantasy sports (DFS) are illegal under current state law and while she did not take immediate action against any sites, namely DFS industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel, she did tell them that she expected them to leave the market posthaste. Both sites announced their intentions to fight the ruling – after all, they don’t want to lose the fourth largest DFS market in the U.S. and possibly start the domino effect of losing more states – and filed complaints against Madigan. It looked like it was going to be a long, legal slog. It still might be, but on Monday, Cook County (IL) Circuit Court Judge David B. Atkins ordered that DraftKings’ complaint will be heard on an expedited schedule.
Both DraftKings and Madigan’s office have agreed to the accelerated schedule, which mandates that Madigan file a response to DraftKings’ complaint by January 22nd.
The points Judge Atkins made in his ruling:
The Parties agree as follows:
1. Defendant shall answer or otherwise respond to the Complaint on or before January 22, 2016.
2. All pretrial proceedings, including any discovery or pre-trial motion practice (other than summary judgment motions), shall be completed on or before April 28, 2016, with the Parties to reach agreement on an expedited discovery schedule or else the Court shall direct one.
3. The Parties shall submit any cross-motions for summary judgment on or before May 5, 2016; oppositions to any such motions shall be due on May 19, 2016; and any reply papers shall be due on May 26, 2016.
4. Trial, if necessary, shall be set for June 27, 2016, or as soon thereafter as the Court is able to hear the case for trial.
5. The Parties waive any demand for a jury trial and agree to proceed by bench trial before this Court. The jury demand in the Complaint is stricken.
6. The Parties will not pursue any other action against the other Party concerning the legality of the daily fantasy sports contests that Plaintiff offers in Illinois, except before this Court.
The bench trial is scheduled for June. It is entirely possible, though (then again, with the way politicians work, who knows), that a trial could be avoided completely if the state legislators move on a current bill that would regulate daily fantasy sports in Illinois. Should that make it through before June, this whole kerfuffle could end without any lawsuits or further trouble.
In a statement, DraftKings’ legal counsel Randy Mastro said, “We are pleased that we have reached agreement with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office today on an expedited court schedule for determining the legality of the daily fantasy sports contests that DraftKings is offering in Illinois. We remain committed to providing DFS to the hundreds of thousands of loyal Illinois fans who love the game, and we look forward to our day in court, where we are confident we will prevail.”
It has been a long time since we saw any online poker commercials here in the United States. Those of you who have been around poker for at least a decade may remember the awful “bad poker face” PartyPoker commercials (perhaps better known as the “OOOOOOHHHH PARTYPOKER!” ads). And of course, before Black Friday, we had some decent, humorous Full Tilt spots with the sites many star players. But now, not so much, for obvious reasons.
But in the United Kingdom, it is a different story. Recently, 888poker launched a new ad campaign in the UK that continues the now multi-year trend of targeting recreational players. Rather than showing a hardened, calculating professional player conducting mental gymnastics and looking serious behind mirrored shades, the “Live the Game” campaign conveys a more silly, fun approach to the game of poker.
In an eGaming Review piece, 888 PR and Marketing Director Sivan Finn said, “The idea behind the concept is that for true poker players, the dynamics of poker are reflected in everything they do – it’s how they view the world. Whether they are in a dance-off, diving into a pool or even just chilling on holiday, they love to outplay each other in whatever game they’re playing. They live and breathe the game.”
In all three commercials, a group of three friends (the same three in each spot) are playing poker somewhere other than their house: at a pool, at a jazz dinner club, and at a beachside bar. One guy does something, the next friend decides to raise him by one-upping his act, and the third goes “all-in” by outdoing the others. For instance, after one guy scoops the pot as they sit in a booth at the jazz club, one of the friends heads to the dance floor to put on some fancy moves for the crowd. One of the trio sees that and “raises” him by whipping off his jacket, hopping up on stage, and doing a little upside-down piano playing. The final buddy makes his all-in move and leads the entire club in a version of the Macarena.
You can probably imagine what might be going on in the other two commercials. They aren’t particularly funny, but they get the point across. Poker players have fun out-doing each other in any situation. Perhaps more importantly, they are telling potential players that poker is first and foremost fun, that it’s a game. It’s not that sharks need not apply, but if you like games, if you like contest, poker is for you.
888poker is currently the second largest online poker room on the planet Earth, according to cash game traffic statistics provided by PokerScout.com. With a seven-day average of 2,300 cash game players, it sits comfortably in that second spot, 600 players ahead of Bodog. 600 players might not sound like a ton for a poker room that attracts players from around the world (but not the U.S. *sigh*), but consider that a) that is more than one-third the traffic of Bodog and b) 600 players would rank 15th on PokerScout’s charts.
Barring the apocalypse, 888poker won’t catch first place PokerStars any time soon, as the world leader has a seven-day average of 17,000 cash game players.
We are in a bit of a holiday lull right now when it comes to major live poker tournaments (though that doesn’t differ much from the lull most people are in at this time of year – how long does each work day this week feel?), but once the calendar page turns, it is off to the races once again. One of the first live poker tours that will step to the plate is the PokerStars Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT). Today, PokerStars released the schedules for the first and third stops on the tour: the Macau Millions and the Macau Poker Cup 24.
The Macau Millions kicks off Friday, January 8th with the first of nine events and will run through January 18th. The Main Event, which begins Thursday, January 14th, has a HK $ 3,000 buy-in (approximately USD $ 387) and a HK $ 3,000,000 (USD $ 387,093) guaranteed prize pool.
Similar to what is being done with the Colossus II at the 2016 World Series of Poker, the Macau Millions Main Event will have six starting flights, divided equally across three days (so for those scoring at home, that is two per day). In an interesting twist, though, the two starting flights that share each day will have different blind structures – the first each day will use the standard structure, while the second will be a turbo event.
Tournament organizers believe the Macau Millions Main Event will break this year’s record of field of 1,804 players. If so, it will easily eclipse the guarantee.
One new event at the Macau Millions is the HK $ 9,000 (USD $ 1,161) China Poker Championship. The PokerStars press release says that it is “closed to citizens of the People’s Republic of China,” but this wording is confusing: it is actually open ONLY to Chinese citizens. This is the first time the PokerStars LIVE Macau poker room is hosting a country-specific poker tournament.
After what is arguably the star of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour – the Aussie Millions – it is back to PokerStars LIVE Macau for the Macau Poker Cup 24. Running February 19th through March 6th, the third tour stop on the APPT Season 10 will feature 17 events. By the name, you probably thought there would be 24 events, as did I, but the “24” refers to this being the 24th edition of the Macau Poker Cup.
The headliner tournament of the Macau Poker Cup is the HK $ 12,000 (USD $ 1,548) Red Dragon Main Event with a HK $ 8 million (USD $ 1,032,240) guaranteed prize pool. It will be held February 28th through March 4th and will have three starting flights.
While the Macau Millions boasted over 1,800 entrants last year, the Red Dragon event actually holds the Macau record for most unique players in a tournament, with 995 (that’s unique as in “separate individuals” not as in “distinctive or special”).
The complete schedules for both Asia Pacific Poker Tour stops can be found at pokerstarsmacau.com.
New Jersey casinos outside of Atlantic City are unthinkable, aren’t they? Maybe not. According to an Associated Press article, state lawmakers are currently trying to put together a plan to make exactly this happen.
State Senator Ray Lesniak, perhaps the biggest supporter of online poker in the entire state, and State Senator Joseph Kyrillos urged their fellow elected officials last week to settle on one plan to present to voters. There are currently two competing measures, one in the Senate and one in the Assembly, and the main holdup seems to be which one to move forward.
They are essentially the same plan, authorizing two casinos outside of Atlantic City: one at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford and one in Jersey City, both in northern New Jersey. The two casinos are required to be at least 75 miles away from Atlantic City; both of these locations are well outside that radius.
The difference comes from who would be permitted to own the casinos. The Senate’s plan would mandate that the two casinos be owned by companies who already own current Atlantic City casinos, while the Assembly’s bill only requires one to be owned by a current Atlantic City operator.
Should one plan eventually be agreed upon, it would be put to the voters in a referendum in November 2916. The state constitution only allows for casinos in Atlantic City; in order to change that, state residents would have to weigh in at the ballot boxes.
Atlantic City has been struggling greatly in recent years. Last year, the city saw four of its casinos close, reducing the total number to eight. Competition from neighboring states has drawn customers away, even those from New Jersey who can more easily drive to a casino in another state than to one in Atlantic City. The idea behind putting casinos in northern New Jersey is to give area residents a reason to stay within the state as well as tempt people from across the border to venture out.
But right now, politicians can’t agree on the plan. “Casino expansion will create jobs and generate economic growth for the entire state,” said Lesniak. “This is an opportunity we have to capitalize on. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature should work together on a plan that can go to the voters for approval on the next ballot in November of 2016.”
Kyrillos added, “The entire Assembly, including Republicans and Monmouth County’s two new Assembly Democrats, need to wake up and join the Senate’s initiative to help save this effort.”
Of course, Assembly leaders think their bill is better, as it serves as a compromise between keeping Atlantic City operators content and serving the needs of the northern part of the state.
“Anyone who walks away from the Assembly bill at this moment is walking away from a strong compromise bill that would bring jobs and economic development to our state and new ideas and competition to our casino industry,” said Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto.