Posts Tagged ‘Gambling’

Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

 Hard Rock Atlantic City to Use GiG Platform for Online Gambling Offering

On Monday, Malta-based Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) announced that it has entered into a five-yar agreement with Hard Rock International to be the company’s online gambling provider for its Hard Rock Atlantic City property, set to open this summer. The two companies had signed a Letter of Intent in late October, though at the time, GiG did not make it public that its partner was, in fact, Hard Rock International.

Gaming Innovation Group was founded in 2008 and has offices in six cities: Malta, Marbella, Gibraltar, Oslo, Kristiansand, and Copenhagen. It owns seven business-to-consumer online gambling and sports betting brands, focusing on European markets. That is, until now. The venture with Hard Rock will be GiG’s first foray into the young United States regulated online gambling market.

GiG explained what it will provide in Monday’s press release:

The agreement will see GiG furnish Hard Rock with a state of the art digital consumer portal, as well as the back-end platform to manage their operations. GiG has communicated ambitions to expand its platform services, focusing on larger clients by utilizing platform scalability. The agreement is a breakthrough for GiG’s platform services as it marks the first agreement with a major global brand and land based casino chain. GiG will also supply Hard Rock with its new front-end casino service, GiG Magic.

“We are excited to be part of Hard Rock’s inspiring and innovative plans,” said Robin Reed, CEO of GiG. “This agreement confirms the attractiveness of the GiG platform and the ability to support major operators in the industry. By adding a New Jersey license, we will move into our third regulated market, positioning GiG towards an important and growing iGaming market.”

Added SPV of Online Gaming at Hard Rock, Kresimir Spajic, “Hard Rock has an ambitious plan to become a global leader in the international online gaming space. We are confident that, together with GiG, we can disrupt the market, through product innovation and unique user experience.”

Hard Rock Atlantic City is the former Trump Taj Mahal, which closed in October 2016. Things were a mess leading up to the closure (aren’t they usually?) as Carl Icahn, the largest debtholder of Trump Entertainment Resorts took control of the casino when the company came out of bankruptcy in February 2016. In the months that followed, he refused to invest $ 100 million into the casino that he promised, holding out for tax breaks from Atlantic City and New Jersey. He got concessions from the Unite Here Local 54 union, causing its members to lose pension and health benefits, but when the union later tried to negotiate to get their benefits back, Icahn wouldn’t budge. The workers went on strike and the Taj eventually closed, Icahn blaming the union.

Hard Rock International acquired the Trump Taj Mahal in late March 2017. It has plowed $ 500 million into the property, converting it to its Hard Rock brand and plans to re-open this summer. The online gambling products are expected to also launch this year, though GiG did not specify if this would happen when the casino opens its doors.

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Two Plead Guilty in Kansas Gambling Case, Brandon Steven Cleared

 Two Plead Guilty in Kansas Gambling Case, Brandon Steven Cleared

In a case that has gone on for more than three years, two men in Kansas have pled guilty to charges of operating a gambling operation and different tax violations. While these two have pled guilty in their cases, poker professional Brandon Steven – who had been caught up in the wiretapping that the federal government had on the operators – seemingly has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas reported that Danny Chapman and Daven Flax had pled guilty in separate plea bargains. For Chapman, 67, it was a plea of guilty to one count of operating an illegal gambling business and one count of tax evasion. The other deal was with Flax, 46, who pled guilty to two counts of operating an illegal gambling business and one count of making a false statement on a tax return. There are currently no reports of what either man will receive for a sentence from the federal court, but they could each be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $ 250,000 for the gambling charge and another five years and $ 250,000 on the tax charges.

In Chapman’s case, he admitted to being an “underground bookie” that worked across the Wichita area. Over the period covering 2013-17, Chapman admitted to earning $ 1.5 million from his gambling operation. At one point, five people worked as “runners” (collectors) in the operation. Chapman supposedly laundered the gambling money through the ownership of cars and in cashier’s checks, which he stored in Wichita and Las Vegas.

Flax, for his part, did it the old-fashioned way. Flax ran an underground poker game that operated in the Wichita area, one that became a very high-stakes, invite only affair. It would rotate around the Wichita area to keep authorities at bay and, as Flax admitted in his plea deal, he took a rake from those games and provided all the amenities (dealers, security, etc.). In an odd occurrence, Flax’s operation would have gone unnoticed except for the fact he was one of the “runners” for Chapman’s gambling ring.

So where does Steven figure into this equation? Last year, Steven was informed by the Kansas U. S. Attorney that a phone that had been “subscribed to you” had been intercepted by a federal wiretap in 2015. At the time, Steven commented to the Wichita Eagle that he was “aware of the broad nature of this inquiry.” “As you know, and everybody knows, I play high stakes poker….they are looking into my poker and my involvement (in a casino venture)…I’ve retained counsel and we’re going to fully cooperate with this matter.”

As is evident now, Steven was never a center of the investigation, just a casualty caught up in the wiretapping. From reports by the feds, Steven and his brother Rodney were both caught in the wiretaps and at no time were charges ever filed against them. Along with them, others caught up in the mix included former State Senator Michael O’Donnell, who disavowed any knowledge of Chapman and Flax.

Steven now can head back to what he arguably does best – poker. 2016 was an outstanding year for the high stakes pro, taking down over $ 1.2 million in winning a $ 50,000 Super High Roller event at ARIA in October and driving deep in the World Series of Poker’s $ 111,111 High Roller for One Drop. Potentially because of the specter of the feds hanging over him, Steven only made a bit more than $ 54K in 2017 from his tournament exploits. Still, Steven has over $ 3.1 million in career earnings and will be looking to “get back on the horse” in 2018.

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Online Gambling Bill Makes It Through Michigan House Committee

 Online Gambling Bill Makes It Through Michigan House Committee

A bill to legalize online gambling passed through a Michigan House of Representatives committee Wednesday and though it will be nearly impossible for it to advance any further during this legislative session, there is some hope for the next.

The Bill, House Bill 4926, was introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden three months ago. He told Online Poker Report (OPR) in October that he wanted to see it pass the House by Thanksgiving.

“Throughout the month of October, I’m hoping to gain a lot of headway,” Iden told OPR. “If I had my way, we’ll be able to get everyone to the table and put a bill together and through the House before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll see how achievable it is, but that’s my goal.”

Well, it clearly wasn’t achievable, as it only just now made it through a committee and the legislative session is about to end. The good news, though, is that in Michigan, bills can carry over to the next session, so Iden will not have to start from scratch.

The bill stipulates that prospective online gambling operators would be required to pay a $ 100,000 licensing application fee. If granted a five-year license, the fee for the first year would be $ 200,000 and then $ 100,000 each year thereafter.

In October, Iden told OPR that the biggest challenge was arguably getting all of the state’s tribes and the three commercial casinos to all agree on the legislation. Lawmakers could always go ahead and vote for bills without the blessing of all the stakeholders, but is generally a good idea to get those who may be operating the gaming sites to be onboard.

“They’re constantly looking to expand their operations with new gamers. They realize they have generations of gamers that are going to be looking at new platforms, and if they don’t get on board they will miss bus,” Iden said to OPR.

For this Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee vote, Iden said that the committee did meet with stakeholders the day before in order to discuss the bill. The three commercial casinos – Greektown, MGM Detroit, and Motor City – all now apparently support the legislation when they did not previously (they supported legalized online gambling, just not the bill as written.

As first reported on Twitter by Gambling Compliance’s Chris Krafcik, there were two main amendments to the bill in committee. The first requires gaming servers to be located on the property of a licensed casino. Krafcik says this is important because it may put online gambling in sync with the Michigan constitution, which says that gambling must take place at a casino. Having the servers at a casino theoretically means that online gambling is occurring at the casino, in essence a new gaming offering by existing licensed operators, rather than an expansion of gambling.

The other change is an adjustment to the tax rate. The amended bill says licensees must pay a tax of 10 percent on gross gaming revenue, down from 15 percent previously.

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NJ State Sen. Ray Lesniak Introduces Bill to Expand Online Gambling Internationally

 NJ State Sen. Ray Lesniak Introduces Bill to Expand Online Gambling Internationally

One of online poker’s most fervent supporters in the political world, New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak, has one more trick up his sleeve before he retires. Late last week, Lesniak introduced a bill that would effectively allow New Jersey to enter into agreements with other countries in order to share player liquidity.

The bill, S3536, amends the portion of New Jersey law that legalizes online gambling. Most of the bill is what already exists, detailing the history of gambling in the state, the benefits of gambling (as well as regulation) for the state, and the legalization of internet gaming.

One of the key points of New Jersey’s online gambling law is that the gaming servers must be located in Atlantic City:

….all hardware, software, and other equipment that is involved with Internet gaming will be located in casino facilities in Atlantic City or in other facilities in Atlantic City owned or leased by a casino licensee and thereby considered to be part of a casino hotel facility that are secure, inaccessible to the public, and specifically designed to house that equipment, and where the equipment will be under the complete control of a casino licensee or its Internet gaming affiliate.

But then comes Senator Lesniak’s amendment. He starts by explaining that online gambling has been of great financial benefit to the state and that the market for internet gaming internationally is growing quickly:

In the coming years, the global online gambling market is expected to see a compound annual growth rate, and the largest share of online gambling revenue comes from Europe totaling nearly $ 15 billion a year and growing at a faster rate than the rest of the world; and

Since its inception under P.L.2013, c.27 (C.5:12-95.17 et al.), Internet gaming has resulted in economic benefits to Atlantic City and to this State, and is estimated to have produced, within the first three years of implementation, approximately $ 998 million in economic output, over 3,000 jobs, $ 219 million in employee wages, and $ 124 million in tax revenues, of which $ 84 million derive from Internet gaming revenue alone. The provisions in this act, P.L. c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), permitting Internet gaming equipment to be located outside of the territorial boundaries of Atlantic City if necessary to facilitate the conduct of international wagering, would increase the economic benefit of Internet gaming to Atlantic City and to this State.

And then, right near the end of the bill, comes the kicker, “The division may permit Internet gaming equipment to be located outside of the territorial boundaries of Atlantic City if the division deems it necessary to facilitate the conduct of international wagering permitted under this section.”

Thus, if this bill passed, poker players located in New Jersey would presumably eventually have the ability to play on sites not based in New Jersey. One would assume the New Jersey regulators would have to approve of individual operators and come to agreements with regulators in other countries. When this happens and the player pools of international sites merge with those of New Jersey, player traffic would jump, hopefully attracting more and more players and, in turn, generate more tax dollars for the state.

The current New Jersey legislative session ends January 9, 2018, so Lesniak has a month if he wants to see the bill passed while he is still a Senator.

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New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill Quickly Shot Down

 New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill Quickly Shot Down

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article titled, “New Hampshire Online Gambling Bill in Play.” Well, it isn’t anymore. Halloween was truly a day to realize our fears, as in an Executive Session, the New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee unanimously struck down HB 562, a bill which have legalized online gambling in the state.

This wasn’t entirely unexpected, as it was probably a longshot that the bill would pass, but seeing it demolished so definitively is a bit eyebrow-raising.

HB 562 was originally introduced on January 5th and quickly referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. It had a public hearing and then an Executive Session (essentially a committee meeting to deliberate the bill) in February, but that was it.

All of a sudden in mid-October, though, a new Executive Session was scheduled for the bill. At the end of the session, the committee members would submit a report to the Clerk of the House denoting “Ought to pass,” “Ought to pass as amended,” “Inexpedient to legislate,” “Refer to interim study,” or “Re-refer to Committee.”

The first two options were the good ones, the third – Inexpedient to legislate – the very bad one. And guess what was submitted to the Clerk by a 23-0 count? Yup. The baddie. Online gambling is now dead in New Hampshire until next year.

Even had the bill passed committee and eventually made headway on the floor of the House or even the Senate, regulations still needed to be hashed out. HB 562 was really just a skeleton bill with the majority of the text in just one 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.

Going back a few paragraphs, I should amend my statement that “Online gambling is now dead in New Hampshire until next year.”

That is not exactly true. Online poker and casino games are, but in July, the state legislature passed a bill to permit online lottery ticket sales. No tickets have been sold over the internet yet, but they will start early next year. An optimist might think that if online lottery sales do well and the lottery commission is successful with its regulation of them that it might make lawmakers more confident that online poker regulations could work.

New Hampshire would certainly have to form an internet gaming compact with other states if online poker even becomes legalized, though. With an estimated 1.3 million residents, it is less than half the size of Nevada, which can barely support one online poker room. New Jersey recently decided to merge player pools with Nevada and Delaware and Pennsylvania, which last week legalized online gambling, is expected to do the same. If online gambling ever becomes a reality in New Hampshire, the state would have to join forces with other states.

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