Posts Tagged ‘Bill’

New York Online Poker Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee

 New York Online Poker Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee

It is on to the full Senate for a bill that would regulate and legalize online poker in New York state, as the bill has passed the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday by a 27-9 vote. On Valentine’s Day, the bill passed the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee by a unanimous 11-0 vote.

The purpose of S3898, according to the text of the bill itself, is:

To authorize the New York State Gaming Commission to license certain entities to offer for play to the public certain variants of internet poker which require a significant degree of skill, specifically “Omaha
Hold’em” and “Texas Hold’em.”

Straightforward, it is (Yoda…I am?).

The bill is sponsored by Republican State Senator John Bonacic, who has taken up the online poker cause during the last few years. He introduced a bill last year and everything was going well, especially when it sailed through the Senate by a 53-5 vote, but the Assembly never even voted on it.

Bonacic has been confident about his bill this year, telling GamblingCompliance, “Last year, there was too much gaming for the Assembly to consider with fantasy sports and the efforts in New Jersey for a referendum to put a casino in the Meadowlands, and I really think that it got put on the back burner. So now we are putting it in the front burner.”

We won’t bore our readers with all of the finer points of the poker bill, but some of the provisions, as we listed out in February, as well, include:

•    Permits the state to enter into interstate gaming compacts so that player pools can be combined.
•    15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue
•    A maximum of ten licensed operators who must pay a licensing fee of $ 10 million each. Licenses would be good for ten years.
•    Most forms of poker would be authorized, even though the above “purpose” statement only mentions Hold’em and Omaha (that was likely just a simplification, as Hold’em and Omaha are the two most popular forms of online poker – there would be no reason to exclude other forms, like Stud).
•    When and if the bill is signed into law, there will be a 180-day grace period before licenses can be issued and games can start, likely to make sure the state is properly prepared.
•    Operating an online poker site without a license is a crime. Unlicensed operators will be both fined and taxed.

One of the reasons that the bill didn’t get voted upon in the state Assembly last year was Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who was actually the sponsor of the Assembly’s version of the bill. In a February interview with FIOS1 News’s Andrew Whitman, he said that he was not confident about operators’ ability to prevent cheating. Fortunately, after visiting New Jersey’s Attorney General, he came away impressed and is now “satisfied” that cheating can be prevented as much as is reasonably possible. Pretlow now believes the bill shouldn’t have problems in the New York Assembly, assuming it gets there.

“When I do sign off on something,” he told Whitman, “my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

Poker News Daily

Oregon House Passes Bill to Shut Down Portland Poker Rooms

 Oregon House Passes Bill to Shut Down Portland Poker Rooms

A bill that would amend Oregon poker laws to ban the “for profit” industry that has sprung up has passed through the Oregon House of Representatives and now is waiting for the Oregon Senate’s review and vote.

The legislation that would ban Portland poker rooms, known as HB 2190, passed through the House by a prohibitive majority of 39-16. In that legislation, the current laws would be amended to state that only “social” poker games could be conducted and that those gatherings would have to be “operated and controlled by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization” such as the American Legion or Knights of Columbus groups. At this time, Portland is home to a thriving, for-profit industry, with 13 poker rooms that exist in the city limits for the past decade and another seven that are within the county.

Over the past year, the focus of law enforcement has been on the Portland poker scene, looking for violations of the law as it is currently written. Several of the most popular outlets have been targeted by Portland police for employing dealers – the games are supposed to be self-dealt – and, once they were found to be in violation of the law, were fined significant amounts of money and closure for up to two weeks. The new bill, if implemented into law, would completely remove these types of businesses.

When the Oregon legislature passed gaming regulations back in 1973, poker was allowed as “social gaming” in businesses and private clubs. Although there are regulations prohibiting “gambling” in the state of Oregon and after several challenges to the way the law was written, Portland became a thriving hub of poker rooms. Those rooms, however, didn’t open until 2007, and they have become an integral industry in the city.

Now, however, there are opponents that would like to see Oregon (and particularly Portland) tighten up those laws. In the state of Oregon, Indian tribes operate eight different casinos, including the Klamath Tribe, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Those casinos are losing about $ 10-$ 15 million per year to the Portland poker room industry and, with a strict law stating that only certain organizations can offer poker events, would stand to recoup a great deal of that money.

The tribal casinos aren’t just talking a big game, they are putting the money up to take in the patrons of the Portland scene. In La Center, WA (about 20 miles north of Portland), the Cowlitz Tribe opened Ilani Casino, a state-of-the-art casino in late April. Consisting of 378,000 square feet of entertainment and gaming space (including 2500 slot machines and 75 table games and a 20-table poker room, according to the World Casino Directory. The new casino is expected to draw in 4.5 million visitors per year, employ 1200 people and bring in $ 200 million annually in revenues.

Currently there are no efforts in the Senate regarding the Portland poker rooms, which has saved the industry in the past. There have been efforts for the past four years to close the poker rooms in Portland, but every year they have died due to no corresponding bill to reconcile and send to the governor. Current Governor Kate Brown‘s position on the subject of Portland’s poker rooms and/or the Oregon casino industry aren’t known should a bill come to her desk.

For now, the Portland poker scene is still in existence. The rooms are abiding by the laws as they are written – not charging a rake on players (the players instead pay a fee to play), not paying the dealers (the dealers are tipped) and making their revenues through food and drink sales. Should the Oregon Senate come up with legislation – and should it be reconciled with the already-passed House version of the bill – then the tension regarding the future of Portland poker rooms will ramp up.

Poker News Daily

Sports Betting Bill Takes First Step in Pennsylvania

 Sports Betting Bill Takes First Step in Pennsylvania

When it comes to legal news, the gambling world (or at least the gambling U.S.) has been focused on Pennsylvania this year, as it is expected that online gambling will be legalized in the Commonwealth before the year is up. Sneakily, though, a small move is being made to legalize and regulate sports betting in Pennsylvania, as well. On Tuesday, HB 519, a bill which would do just that, passed the House Gaming Oversight committee by a 13-1 vote.

That’s great news, but at the same time, it is a little bit misleading. Even if the bill goes all the way through the House and the Senate and then is signed by the Governor to become law, casinos in Pennsylvania won’t all of a sudden be opening sports books. This excerpt from page 10 of the bill should give a hint as to why:

The Secretary of the Commonwealth shall, when Federal law is enacted or repealed or a Federal court
decision is filed that affirms the authority of a state to regulate sports wagering, publish a notice in the
Pennsylvania Bulletin certifying the enactment or repeal or the filing of the decision.

Sports betting is currently illegal in most of the country, outlawed by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). At the time that law was passed, states that had licensed casino gaming for the previous ten years could have opted to be grandfathered into sports betting, but only Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware chose to do so. Nevada is the only one of the four that has true sports betting – the others have oddball sports lotteries. Thus, Pennsylvania can’t just up and start doling out sports book licenses.

HB 519 would essentially get Pennsylvania ready to launch a sports gambling industry if the federal government or court says that states are allowed. It might not be quite as simple as dropping the green flag and yelling, “GO,” but the competitors would at least be at the starting line.

As such, Pennsylvania will be closely watching New Jersey, which has been battling the federal government, claiming that it has the right to regulate sports betting in the state. The Garden State has gotten its butt kicked on the matter so far, but its case is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Pennsylvania is in the same Third Circuit Court of Appeals as New Jersey, it would make no sense for Pennsylvania to take up its own legal fight, as it would clearly lose.

Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Matzie, the lead sponsor of the bill, mentioned New Jersey’s efforts in a House Co-Sponsorship Memorandum he wrote in January:

As you may know, the State of New Jersey has tried, several times, to legalize sports betting. Although their initial attempts were denied, their final appeal was scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court on January 17. The Court, however, announced that it would wait until a US Solicitor General was confirmed to weigh in on the issue. This is encouraging, given that President Trump has addressed his stance on the sports betting industry – and his support for legalization – on at least two occasions.

He added:

Our Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to oversee sports betting in all its forms, and should be ready to act should the federal ban be lifted. As evidenced by yet another record setting year of gaming revenues, our licensed facilities are thriving. Legalizing sports betting will simply enable Pennsylvania to regulate a multimillion dollar industry that already exists.

The next step for HB 519 is to go to the full House, but as we have discussed, even if it keeps going, sports betting in the state is far from a guarantee.

Poker News Daily

Bill in Michigan Would License Online Casino Gaming and Poker – With A Catch

 Bill in Michigan Would License Online Casino Gaming and Poker – With A Catch

After the U. S. Department of Justice issued their famous dictate in 2011 that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting, many thought there would be a stampede towards individual states offering online gaming and poker to their constituents. After all, with rising budget deficits and few areas to further tax (or to even raise taxes at all), local and state governments had to find other ways to raise revenues for their coffers. As we’ve seen, however, that expected stampede has been more like a Sunday stroll, with only three states – Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey – stepping up to pass online gaming regulations.

This doesn’t mean that other states haven’t at least thought about acting. Some shockingly have actually put up bills (sorry, a bit of sarcasm there) for passing regulations on the industry. But, as of yet, there isn’t another state that has joined the trio from 2013. To demonstrate how illogical it has gotten when it comes to passing online gaming and poker regulations, we look towards Michigan for the latest in the legislative world of online gaming politics.

Until late last year, Michigan wasn’t even on the radar for those looking at which state would be the next to pass online gaming regulations. After passing online lottery sales in 2014, the state sprung to life in October 2016, with Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall stating that a bill regulating online gaming and poker regulations could “still pass.” While that bill did make it out of its Senate committee, it did not come to the floor of the Michigan Senate for a vote and, perhaps more importantly, it didn’t have companion legislation in the Michigan House for consideration.

Now, according to Crain’s Detroit Business journalist Lindsay Vanhulle, the Michigan Legislature is trying to accommodate their desire for more money for government while quelling the cries from those anti-gaming forces who would normally look to shut them down. The plan would utilize the three commercial casino gaming outlets licensed by the state – the Motor City Casino, the MGM Grand Detroit, and the Greektown Casino, all located in Detroit – and the Indian casinos as the outlets for online casino gaming. There is one catch that would make the Michigan online industry much different from the others.

Under the legislation being discussed, those in Michigan would be able to access online gaming and poker, but it would only be if they were physically located on a casino property in the Wolverine State. There are a few reasons for this caveat in the Michigan regulations. One is the state casinos and the Indian casinos aren’t happy about potentially losing some of their revenues to online gaming (estimates say that Detroit alone could lose between $ 1.5 and $ 4.5 million if the law passed). If the players were at least on the casino grounds, there could be revenue generated for the casino from other streams (restaurants, shopping, etc.). This doesn’t make much sense to…well, anyone who is talking about the Michigan regulations.

Since players are already in a casino, why would they want to play online? This was a question posed by David Schwartz, the director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, when contacted by Vanhulle. “Would you drive to Home Depot to use Amazon to buy something?” Schwartz is quoted by Vanhulle. “I probably wouldn’t, as nice as Home Depot is. I want the convenience of getting something at home.”

The biggest issue seems to be avoiding the constituents of Michigan, however. The state Constitution was amended in 2004 with a clause that required any new gaming expansion – be it live or online – to be put up for referendum to Michigan voters. It would be necessary for those voters to approve of the action by majority vote. The only clause that works around that amendment is if the gaming comes from any of the state operations or the Indian casinos – those arenas can do seemingly whatever they want without approval from the citizens.

Whether this or any legislation in the state of Michigan moves forward is highly unlikely. Although they can talk a good game, politicians in Lansing are going to have a tough road getting the Michigan casino industry to give up any of their profits. It will also be difficult to get through anti-gaming forces, which are being led by anti-online gaming crusader Sheldon Adelson, to even reach the voters for their opinions. As such, don’t expect Michigan to become the fourth state with online gaming and/or poker anytime soon.

Poker News Daily

New Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Presents Major Tax Question

 New Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Presents Major Tax Question

Pennsylvania State Senator Jay Costa, along with co-sponsors Senators Wayne Fontana, Vincent Hughes, and Judith Schwank, introduced Senate Bill 524 on Monday, an overarching gambling bill which includes the legalization and regulation of online poker in the state.

Costa previewed the bill in January when he filed a Senate Co-Sponsorship Memorandum, but this is the first time we have seen the initiatives laid out in full. Much of it we already knew was coming. In addition to legalizing and regulating online gambling (not just poker), it also does the same for daily fantasy sports. It expands land-based gambling, as well, allowing for multi-state progressive slot machine jackpots as well as “skill-based” slot machines.

Airports would also be allowed to have “multi-use computing devices” (read: tablets) in designated areas for online gambling. Legislators were split on this issue last year, as many didn’t like the idea of expanding gambling out of casinos.

The part of SB 524 that will likely be the most controversial is the costs it sets for online operators. Compared to other bills that have already been introduced in Pennsylvania, Costa’s bill just pummeled licensed operators with taxes and fees to the point where it wouldn’t make sense for any but the richest operators to jump into the market.

SB 524 would impose a license fee of $ 10 million, compared to $ 8 million for the other bills. For vendors, those companies that would not operate online gambling sites, but rather provide them with things like software or servers to support their operations, the licensing fees would also be much higher: $ 5 million compared to $ 2 million.

The nuttiest one, though, is that Costa’s bill sets the tax rate for online gambling and daily fantasy sports at a whopping 25 percent, versus 14 percent in the other bills. 14 percent is reasonable; it is in line with the tax rates of other states and still gives the government a chance to pull in solid amount of gambling income. 25 percent, though, is just punishing.

Online gambling operators have to be able to actually make a profit in order to stay in business. They can’t do that if the government goes ballistic with taxes. That’s not to say there should be no taxes – we all know everyone needs to pay their fair share to help our societies function (well, except Donald Trump) – but making the added gaming tax so high is just unnecessarily punitive.

And if it doesn’t hurt the online gambling operators, it will surely hurt the consumers. Does anyone think the online poker sites wouldn’t just pass the tax expenses on to the players in the form of rake. Or do we not think the casino operators would just dial back the payout rates slightly to make up for their added tax burden?

Poker News Daily



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