Posts Tagged ‘Future’

Floridians Could Decide Future of Poker, Greyhound Racing in the State

 Floridians Could Decide Future of Poker, Greyhound Racing in the State

As debate regarding the industry rages on, a proposed constitutional amendment could put the decision on the future of greyhound racing – and, by extension, live poker – in the hands of the voters of Florida.

Florida’s greyhound racing industry has for decades been a major draw for gamblers – and for the Florida government, a bonanza of tax revenues – but it has fallen on hard times of late. Deaths of racing greyhounds, drugging issues and other grievous injuries to the animals have been a part of the bad news that has affected those in the business. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put different constitutional issues on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections, is considering putting a resolution up that would let the voters have the power of whether to shut the lucrative but under siege industry down or not.

“This is, for me, a matter of conscience,” commission member and state Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who is sponsoring the proposal, stated to the Florida Times-Union’s Jim Saunders. “Our society has changed. We are evolving as a people. We are becoming more sensitive to those who occupy this world with us, regardless of their species, and to those who are going to follow us for generations to come. And that’s a good thing.”

The General Provisions Committee decided on Thursday to put the potential resolution in front of the entire Executive Committee. Called Proposal 67, the resolution would ban greyhound racing effective December 31, 2019. According to Saunders, the original plan was for the ban to be slowly phased in with an effective date of July 21, but the General Provisions Committee moved up the date. “We should do this as quickly as we feasibly can,” commission member Brecht Heuchan said to Saunders.

There is a lengthy history of greyhound racing in Florida, dating back to the 1930s. With the advent of horse racing and, to some extent, casino gaming, the greyhound racing industry has had difficulties. That was changed when, in the mid-2000s, the greyhound and horse racing tracks could start offering live poker at severely restricted limits.

Within time, poker became a major part of the greyhound tracks. In 2010, the restrictions on poker were lifted and the industry exploded, bringing many of the major poker tours to the state. Cash games, once limited to just limit games, became plentiful and lucrative at the greyhound tracks. But there has always been one problem with the linking of poker to the greyhound tracks.

By state law, the only way that a greyhound track can offer a poker room is if they offer a significant racing schedule and pari-mutuel betting. There have been discussions for several years about separating the greyhound tracks and the poker rooms, but they have been unable to separate the two industries. If Proposal 67 were first to get on the ballot in 2018 and then be voted through by 60% of the citizenry of Florida, there would be significant issues because of the linkage.

If the Florida Legislature had to decouple the racetracks from the poker rooms, they would have to revise their gaming laws. That has been extremely problematic for legislators in the state, who also must contend with the powerful Seminole Indian tribe and their sovereign rights to casino gaming in the Sunshine State. It is unknown what path would have to be taken to get the poker rooms to be able to stand alone from the racetracks, especially if the Seminoles objected to gaming being offered in a free-standing situation (something that breaks the gaming compact the tribe has with the state).

The proposed constitutional amendment isn’t necessarily looking at gambling or poker being offered at the tracks. Many of the members of the constitutional committee are more concerned with the perceived issues that have plagued the racing industries for years. As Lee stated to Saunders, “As we’ve evolved, we’ve banned all sorts of activities that have been considered cruel to animals: bullfighting and cockfighting and all kinds of things. To me, this is just the next step on that plane of becoming more sensitive to this kind of inhumanity.”

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Is Flurry of States’ Activity with Online Gaming Related to Future Federal Moves?

 Is Flurry of States’ Activity with Online Gaming Related to Future Federal Moves?

After the decision by the U. S. Department of Justice in 2011 that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting, it was expected that the individual states would flock to online gaming. It was thought that most of these would be online lottery sales, but the doors were also opened for online casino gaming and poker. That expected “flood” turned out to be a trickle as only three states – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – passed regulations on the industry and opened the doors for action in 2013.

In the three-plus years since then, there have been plenty of states that have flirted with the idea of passing legislation, but there has been no sincere action towards passage of those regulations. With the 2016 General Election, however, and a GOP administration in control in Washington D. C., the potential fates of online gaming are in more question than ever. It bears asking if the current flurry of some states regarding the online gaming question is a result of the potential for federal movement (and not in a good way) on the subject?

In what seems to be a perennial entry, California has once again proposed a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker only in the state. The bill, AB 1677 from the office of longtime gaming advocate Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, would open the doors for the largest state in the Union to earn tax revenues from a regulated online poker industry. The major roadblock for passage of the bill, as it has been since the first bill appeared more than a decade ago, is that none of the parties involved in the Golden State – the powerful Indian tribes, the card rooms, and the horse racing tracks, along with the politicians – cannot come to a consensus as to how to move forward.

New York has two bills on each side of the General Assembly (important for passage and forwarding to the governor). New York State Senator John Bonacic has S. 3898 (which has already gone through committee), while Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has introduced A. 5250, which is still in the discussion phase. If these two bills can get passed and are reconciled into one actionable bill, then Governor Andrew Cuomo would be the final arbiter.

Pennsylvania has already counted the money from full online casino gaming (including poker), there’s just one problem…they haven’t passed the regulations for it. Facing such a dilemma, a contingent of Keystone State representatives have presented HB 392, which not only would authorize full online casino gaming but also would open daily fantasy sports in the state. Once again, there’s been plenty of discussion but little action.

Even states that previously hadn’t been “in the pool” with online gaming and poker have decided to jump in. Dabbling with the issue in 2016 has pushed Michigan to consider the passage of online gaming regulations once again (hasn’t moved beyond talking) while a new player entered the game. Hawaii, long an anti-gaming state that actually has laws on the books preventing live gaming, has seen a bill, S. B. 677, introduced for the state to open “internet gaming (a very wide definition)” in the Aloha State.

So why are all these states suddenly rushing to pass (or at least looking at passing) online gaming regulations, be it for full casino gaming or just online poker? One only has to look at the situation in D. C. to be able to ascertain that answer.

When former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was cake-walking through his confirmation hearings to be the next U. S. Attorney General, noted anti-gaming Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina directly asked Sessions his thoughts about online gaming and its legality. In particular, Graham mentioned the Christmas 2011 decision from the Department of Justice – which, as Attorney General, Sessions would oversee – and the validity of the findings from the previous AG’s staff. In replying Sessions admitted that he already thought that it “wasn’t legal” for online gaming to be conducted and that he would “be revisiting” the decision if he were to be confirmed.

If Sessions were to overturn that 2011 decision by the DoJ, then the entire legality of the state’s rights to conduct online gaming would be destroyed and the enforcement of the Wire Act would be put back in place. No states would be able to pass their own laws regarding the conduct of online gaming inside their borders and the states that have already passed laws would presumably be shut down. Many are hoping (perhaps Pollyanna-like) that those states with laws passed would be “grandfathered” in and allowed to still operate, which would explain the “gold rush” like atmosphere with the actions from those states that haven’t yet passed regulations.

Currently Sessions has his plate full with other things that have plagued the current administration (when seven figures in the administration have met one Russian spy master, there’s a bit of a problem). But sitting out there is billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who donated tens of millions of dollars to the GOP and is wanting some return on his investment (hence his meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, another noted anti-gaming advocate). The eventual outcome is not known but the individual states should waste little time if they want to get in under the gun.

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Virginia Senate Passes Poker “Game of Skill” Bill, Future Unknown

 Virginia Senate Passes Poker “Game of Skill” Bill, Future Unknown

In a highly contentious vote, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Senate voted to classify poker as a “game of skill.” The future of the Senate bill? That is unknown, but it opens the doors for a plethora of outcomes.

The vote in the Senate was as close as you can get. After the polling was complete, the issue garnered the same number of votes for each side, 19-19, meaning that Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam’s vote was necessary to break the tie. His “aye” vote for passage cleared the way for the bill to now be considered by the Virginia House of Delegates.

The Senate bill, S1400, was originally introduced by Senator Louise Lucas, who was sure that the bill would get out of the Senate chambers. “I had the law on my side,” Lucas commented before the hearing in the Senate committee that would end up passing. This was the third year in a row that Lucas had proposed such legislation, with the bill in previous years dying in the same committee that passed it in 2017.

The bill itself only changes the language in Virginia statutes regarding its definition of poker as a “skill” game and not illegal gambling. The full bill language is as such: Poker; definition of illegal gambling and charitable gaming; poker games authorized; regulation of poker tournaments. Provides that poker is a game of skill and therefore not illegal gambling. The bill also allows a qualified organization to conduct poker games in conjunction with its charitable gaming activities, but does not allow a charitable organization to conduct poker tournaments. The bill requires the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Charitable Gaming Board to regulate poker tournaments, defined in the bill as a competition organized for the purpose of conducting poker games at one or multiple tables where (i) competitors play a series of poker games, (ii) prizes are awarded to winning players on a fixed or proportional payout basis, and (iii) the total prize amount awarded to all winning players at the event is $ 50,000 or more. Finally, the bill requires poker tournament sponsors to obtain a permit before conducting a tournament and tournament managers and operators to be registered with the Department.

Nowhere in that definition change does it state the future of poker in the state. There are several paths that could be taken in the coming months.

The first is that there could be absolutely nothing done. The Virginia House of Delegates is a notoriously anti-gaming bunch, but of late there has been some changes that the body has allowed. The state offers a lottery, pari-mutuel betting and, in 2016, opened the doors for daily fantasy sports (DFS) inside the state. Whether the House is ready to allow for poker’s decriminalization, however, is unknown.

If the House were to vote through S1400 and Governor Terry McAuliffe (a Democrat) signs it, then several options are available. The opening of casino gaming could be in play as Virginia, with Delaware, West Virginia and Maryland located around it all having some form of casino gaming and/or poker, might be interested in keeping some Virginia residents’ money inside the state. There is also the potential for online poker to come to the fore for the Cavalier State.

Online poker would be the first foray into the industry for the state and they may have the population to make a difference. Virginia, with its estimated 8.4 million residents, is the 12th largest state in the country and is almost the equal of another state that has online casino gaming, New Jersey (8.9 million). Numbers from the barely three-year old New Jersey online casino gaming industry, where there has been over $ 476 million in revenues and $ 71 million in taxes paid by the operators, have been strong even though they were originally overestimated by the state’s Governor, Chris Christie.

This is critical as Virginia legislators look for an injection of funds into the state coffers. In 2014, the state estimated that there would be more than a $ 1 billion shortfall in the budget, with significant cuts potentially on the horizon. Online gaming (if the numbers were like New Jersey’s figures) and casino gaming could be something that Virginia legislators might by eying as a potential to offset the state’s financial woes.

This discussion is quite premature, however, as the bill still must get through the House and get the signature of McAuliffe. Currently there is no discussion planned for S1400 in the House, but that can change quickly. The move to make poker a “skill” game in Virginia may be nothing more than a legal clarification but, if passed, it would open the doors for quite a bit more for the state.

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Tampa’s Derby Lane Poker Room: Future Home of Baseball?

 Tampa’s Derby Lane Poker Room: Future Home of Baseball?

One of the most popular destinations for poker in the state of Florida is the Derby Lane Greyhound Track, located in St. Petersburg. The fifth largest live poker rooms in the state (generating over $ 8.8 million in gross revenues for fiscal year 2015-16), the poker has been somewhat overshadowing what was supposed to be the draw of people, the greyhound racing schedule and horse racing simulcasts offered by the track. But could there be a new reason to head to the poker room soon?

The Tampa Bay TimesJohn Romano is thinking outside of the box, at the minimum, in a column he penned earlier this month. Romano looks at the situation that the local Major League Baseball franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays, finds themselves in as to building a new home in West Central Florida. “There is one important factor (for the Rays) that cannot be overlooked (as to a new site),” Romano writes. “The perfect site does not exist.”

Romano points out that the Rays would love to move to a downtown Tampa ballpark (the “downtown ballpark” fad hasn’t yet faded in baseball, where the new construction can have all the amenities of a new stadium but can include enough idiosyncrasies – such as non-symmetrical outfield grounds, smaller foul areas, etc. – to make them unique). The problem with that, as noted by Romano, is that there is nowhere downtown to build such a stadium. St. Petersburg would like to build a new stadium in their downtown area, but Romano cites the horrendous attendance record for the current stadium, Tropicana Field, as the reason that cannot go forward.

Romano puts forth a surprise – Romano calls it a “wild card” – choice in the lands of the Derby Lane Greyhound Track and, by connection, the Derby Lane Poker Room. Romano notes that it is close to Hillsborough County, the major population center for the area, and was looked at as a previous site to build. “So, would Derby Lane’s owners sell?” Romano asks. “In the right situation, yes.”

While the greyhound track might be in danger, Romano thinks that the poker room would survive the cut. Due to the decline in greyhound racing in the Sunshine State, the Florida Legislature has considered several bills that would “decouple” the racetracks from the poker rooms that operate on their grounds (under current Florida law, a poker room can operate only at a racetrack that offers an active racing schedule or simulcast operations). If the laws were changed, then the land around the Derby Lane Poker Room could be sold and the land used for the baseball facilities.

This isn’t out of the realm of thought. The current football stadium being built in Los Angeles for the recently-returned Los Angeles Rams (and potentially the San Diego Chargers should they be unable to negotiate a new stadium with San Diego politicians) is being built on the grounds of the old Hollywood Park horse racing track in Inglewood, CA, which was closed and destroyed in 2013-14. The Hollywood Park Casino and Poker Room wasn’t a part of the destruction, however, and earlier this year was reopened. It is planned to be an integral part of the new “Los Angeles Entertainment Complex” (which will include the football stadium) when it opens for business in 2019.

Romano figures the likelihood of the Rays moving to the Derby Lane Poker Room anytime soon as highly unlikely but not out of the question. “How enthusiastic are the Rays going to be about recommitting themselves to downtown St. Petersburg when it has become obvious that Hillsborough fans are not driving that far?” Romano asks. “Will Rays owner Stu Sternberg be willing to spend a boatload of his own money if there is little political clout to fund a stadium in downtown Tampa? Derby Lane is still a long shot and it is far from being a perfect site…but which site is?”

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Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re-Vote at Future Date

 Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re Vote at Future Date

It was a weird day in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tuesday as legislators voted on whether or not to legalize online gambling, including online poker, in the Commonwealth. It was generally thought that Tuesday would be a close win for the online poker community, but it strangely wasn’t. The conclusion, though, is yet to come.

Rep. John Payne introduced HB 649, a bill which would legalize and regulate online gambling, in February of last year. One would have thought that it would be this bill that the representatives would vote on, but instead, up for a vote were two amendments to a different online gaming bill, HB 1925.

The two amendments, A7622 and A7619, are quite similar, save for one major difference. A7622 includes language – in addition to online gaming – that would permit non-casinos to have video gaming terminals (VGT’s) on their premises. VGT’s are video slot, poker, and other video gambling games most of us have seen at casinos. In some states, places that are not casinos are permitted to have them. Sometimes they can pay out in cash, though in many circumstances, only payments in store credit are permitted.

A7619, which Rep. Payne says is essentially his bill in duplicate, does not include the authorization of video gaming terminals. Both of these amendments were put to a vote and both were defeated, A7622 by a vote of 66-122 and A7619 by a vote of 81-107.

According to industry expert Steve Ruddock of, it got a little nuts after the votes. Payne was listed as the author of both amendments, but actually voted against A7622, the one that included VGT’s. As it turned out, A7622 was actually created by Representative Mark Mustio – the inclusion of Rep. Payne’s name was some sort of clerical error. But because Payne’s name was on it, many legislators who were in favor of VGT’s voted against A7622 because they just assumed that it was the amendment that did not include VGT language. They knew Payne was not for VGT’s, so naturally they figured that an amendment written by him (again, this one was not) did not include VGT’s (which this one did).

Those representatives then voted against A7619, thinking that if both were struck down, both would be reconsidered and the vote could be redone. Both amendments will, in fact, be reconsidered, we just don’t know when.

Pennsylvania has one of the fastest growing gambling industries of any state in the U.S. and is one of the reasons why Atlantic City has struggled to draw visitors in recent years. Those in Pennsylvania who wanted to gamble – particularly those in the eastern part of the state – used to have to head across the border into New Jersey for the gaming entertainment. But now with resort-style casinos in Pennsylvania as well as neighboring Maryland and Delaware, there are many more options for residents of all these states.

New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling, so it is only natural that Pennsylvania would want to compete in this area, as well. It’s not that people are necessarily going to cross state lines just to play online poker, but by legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania, the state could keep even more gamblers within state borders as well as convert online gamblers into visitors to the state’s casinos.

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