Archive for October, 2017

Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner

 Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner

A Clark County, Nevada District Court Judge isn’t making it easy for Australian poker pro Matthew Kirk to get $ 2 million back from King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik, but she did leave the window open a crack for Kirk to keep trying. In a decision on Friday, District Judge Linda Marie Bell tossed out all but two of ten claims from a lawsuit Kirk filed against Tsoukernik in July from a disagreement stemming from a chip transaction made at an Aria poker table.

It is very common for poker players to loan each other money and this is often done by simply handing over some poker chips. There is an honor code of sorts among players and if someone doesn’t repay what they borrowed, good luck getting along with anyone in the poker community for a while.

It was a supposed poker chip loan in May that is the center of this controversy. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Kirk and Tsoukernik were playing in Ivey’s Room at the Aria and Kirk passed stacks of $ 500,000 and $ 1 million in chips to the King’s Casino owner with at least two other people present. Kirk’s attorneys obtained the security video showing the chips being exchanged and witnesses sitting at the table.

Documenting the transactions for proof, Kirk texted Tsoukernik at 4:34am, “Gave you 500k.”

About half an hour later, he texted, “Gave you 1million.”

Tsoukernik replied after the second text, saying, “Ok.”

At 5:46am, Kirk texted that he had given Tsoukernik a total of $ 3 million, to which Tsoukernik also responded, “Ok.”

So it all seemed pretty cut and dry. While the texts didn’t outright say that the $ 3 million was a loan and needed to be repaid, it is understood. After all, why would Kirk just give the guy millions of dollars?

But then, at 5:58am, Tsoukernik oddly wrote, “Not valid,” following that up with, “0 now.”

“The defendant has committed a fraud upon the plaintiff,” Kirk’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “Those text messages indicate that defendant never intended to pay his loans.”

Somehow, Tsoukernik’s attorneys were able to convince the judge that the $ 3 million (Tsoukernik actually paid $ 1 million of it back) was a gambling debt, rather than a loan. As such, the judge ruled that gambling debts were not enforceable.

The two claims Judge Bell did not throw out were fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

“Tsoukernik entered into the contract intending to use its unenforceability to refuse repayment. If proven, this could place Mr. Tsoukernik at the greatest moral fault in this matter,” she said.

Thus, as the Review-Journal reports, Kirk’s lawyers are going to continue to go after Tsoukernik for the $ 2 million, claiming that he took the money never planning on paying it back, knowing he could fall back on the fact that gambling debts can’t be enforced to just keep it.

An interesting tidbit here is that Tsoukernik’s King’s Casino is hosting the World Series of Poker Europe, which begins Thursday. As high stakes cash game table at the Rio during the WSOP this summer was named for the casino as a way to advertise for WSOP-E.

Cover photo credit: WPT via Flickr

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Illinois Online Gambling Legislation May Still Have Breath This Year

 Illinois Online Gambling Legislation May Still Have Breath This Year

According to Online Poker Report, it is very possible that a few online gambling bills may be looked at in some short veto sessions in Illinois coming up next week and in November. These sessions, which will only be from October 24th to October 26th and November 7th through November 9th, are used mainly for state lawmakers to review bills vetoed by the Governor, but some other bills that haven’t even gotten to the Governor’s desk are sometimes looked at, as well.

In June, the Illinois State Senate passed a piece of legislation that would have legalized and regulated online gambling – including poker – and daily fantasy sports (DFS). The bill dominated, too, passing by a whopping 42-10 vote.

The bill authorized licensed casinos and race tracks in the state to apply for online gambling licenses. Taxes would have been 15 percent on gross gaming revenues, but for the first five years, the first $ 100 million in revenues would have been taxed at only 10 percent. Unfortunately, there was also a “bad actor” clause in the bill, which disqualified any operator who “accepted wagers via the internet in contravention of this act or in contravention of any law of the United States.”

Yup, that’s PokerStars.

As for daily fantasy sports, the tax portion would have been on a sliding scale. The taxes were listed at 5 percent on the first $ 1 million in gross gaming revenues, 7.5 percent on revenues up to $ 3 million, 10 percent for the portion up to $ 8 million, and 15 percent over 8 million. Licensing fees would be just $ 500 for operators that make less than $ 100,000 and increase to a max of $ 25,000 for those who make over $ 10 million.

The bill stalled out in the House, though you probably guessed that by now. There was actually a chance that Governor Bruce Rauner would have vetoed the bill, as when he ran for office in 2014, he said he didn’t want to expand gambling in Illinois. At the same time, Illinois faced a nearly $ 10 billion deficit, so any potential tax income would have been welcomed.

Online Poker Report says that three bills could possibly be considered. H 479 was the one passed by the Senate, now sitting in the House. S 209 was referred to the House Executive Committee’s Gaming Subcommittee this week. And there is S 1531, another bill moved to the House, this one to the House floor.

Since it is the most complete and furthest along, H 479 would logically have the best chance to do something and would have the shortest path to law, but you never know with these sorts of things. As mentioned, there are very few days for anything to happen, and as is usually the case, there are likely more important topics on the minds of Illinois legislators. But the windows, however small, are open, so action on internet poker is not impossible.

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MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

 MGM Acquires WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Will Relocate Team to Las Vegas

Fear of gambling keeps getting harder to justify for professional sports leagues as MGM Resorts International has purchased the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars and will move the team to Las Vegas for the 2018 season. After decades of staying away from the gambling capital of world, the leagues are now flocking there. The NHL’s Golden Knights just began its inaugural season, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders will be moving to Las Vegas by 2020, and the United Soccer League’s Las Vegas Lights are slated to begin play next year.

The NBA, which backs the WNBA, has had Summer League games in Las Vegas for a number of years.

WNBA President Lisa Borders told the Associated Press, which originally broke the story this morning, that the league has been eyeing Las Vegas “for some time.”

Simultaneous to the Stars’ move comes the hiring of former Detroit Pistons great and New York Liberty head coach Bill Laimbeer as the Stars’ new head coach and president of basketball operations.

“He’ll run the basketball side of the business,” Borders said in her interview with the AP. “The MGM team and the league will work to staff the business side. The folks that will run business, sales, social, digital, all the functions to run the business.”

The team will play at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Lilian Tomovich, MGM’s chief experience and marketing officer, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of the decision, “Mandalay Bay is a smaller, more intimate arena with about 12,000 seats. We feel it’s the absolute right size arena for the fans to have that intimate experience to come watch basketball.”

As mentioned, aside from NBA Summer League games and minor league baseball, the major professional sports leagues in the United States have kept their distance from Las Vegas, claiming that sports betting can damage the integrity of the game. This is true – sports betting could damage the integrity of the game – but the fallacy of this argument is that it really doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not a team is located in Las Vegas.

In instances when someone committed sports betting crimes – say, taking money to shave points – the teams involved haven’t been based in Las Vegas or Nevada. The gambler or mobster was able to bet the money no matter where the teams involved were. Perhaps they bet with an illegal bookie, perhaps they actually placed the bets legally in Vegas (or had an accomplice place the bets). It doesn’t matter.

And today it is even sillier to worry about a team being in Las Vegas when it comes to betting on the games, as the players involved in the games could always place bets online if they want. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics kick off the NBA season tonight and if he wanted, LeBron James could logon to an online sports book and bet on or against his team quite easily. And he is nowhere near Las Vegas at the moment.

MGM is the second gambling corporation to take ownership of a WNBA team. The Connecticut Sun has been owned by the Mohegan Sun since 2003.

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New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill in Play

 New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill in Play

If the stars align – and who knows what the real chances of them doing so are – New Hampshire could have legalized online poker in the near future. A bill, House Bill 562, has been revived in the New Hampshire House and is simply summarized as “An Act allowing online gambling.”

HB 562 was originally introduced on January 5th, 2017 and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee a couple weeks later. It had a public hearing at the end of the month and then an executive session – the meeting during which the committee members deliberate over the bill – in February. The bill has had no further movement until now.

On October 12th, another executive session was scheduled for next week, October 25th. According to the New Hampshire government’s website, at the end of the session, “A report is submitted to the Clerk of the Senate or House entitled ‘Ought to pass,’ ‘Ought to pass as amended,’ ‘Inexpedient to legislate,’ ‘Refer to interim study,’ or ‘Re-refer to Committee.’”

“Inexpedient to legislate” is the really bad status in this case, as that means the bill is dead. Clearly, one of the first two is best, with “out to pass as amended” being the preferred outcome for poker fans.

As far as the content of the bill itself, there really isn’t any. It is just a skeleton bill, a sort of “insert regulations here” type of document. The bulk of the text is in the following paragraph:

This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647. The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures. To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.

It does not specify any specific games to be legalized, just the general, “Gambling done over an Internet connection on a website on the Internet.”

If passed, the Act would take effect on January 1st, 2018, though obviously New Hampshire would need some rules and regulations first. One would assume operators would have to be approved and licensed, software would need to be tested, and all sorts of other things would need to be done, so even if this passes before the end of the year, it is hard to imagine people in New Hampshire being able to play online poker in just two and a half months.

The optimist, at least, can point to the fact that New Hampshire legalized online lottery ticket sales in July, so obviously there has been approval for online gambling among state lawmakers. The actual online sales are expected to begin early in 2018. There is no indication one or the other, but it would not be surprising to find out that if online gambling does become legalized in New Hampshire that the state lottery commission might be in charge of it. We shall see, won’t we?

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