Posts Tagged ‘House’

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.

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There’s a Strange Online Gambling Bill in the New Hampshire House

 There’s a Strange Online Gambling Bill in the New Hampshire House

Sometimes news goes overlooked* for one reason or another or none at all. Perhaps in the case of New Hampshire, the news isn’t really all that big of a deal because it is unlikely nothing will come of it, but hey, it’s still interesting. In early January, Republican Representative Eric Schleien introduced HB562 into the state’s House of Representatives, a bill which would decriminalize online gambling in New Hampshire. It was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and was given a public hearing at the end of last month.

Here’s what the bill does not do: regulate online gambling.

But it decriminalizes it, right? Right! But that is literally all the bill does. New Hampshire’s gambling laws define “illegal” gambling and then list a few exceptions, specific forms of gambling that, while technically qualifying under the definition of illegal gambling, are separated out and given exemptions. HB562 would add online gambling as one of these exempted forms of gambling.

The bills “methodology” reads as follows:

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.

So, unlike other states that have made or are looking to make online gambling – including poker – legal, this bill proposes no regulations whatsoever. It literally just makes it legal to both offer online gambling and partake in the gambling on the interweb. New Hampshire wouldn’t even take any taxes from it if the bill were to somehow become law.

It won’t become law because how in the world would the New Hampshire legislature say, “Yeah, you know what? We think people should be allowed to play poker online, but New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada, are chumps what with all their rules and tax benefits and what-not. We’re just going to keep it simple and not worry about any of that.”

But let’s just go ahead and pretend that HB562 does become law. It would seem that all of a sudden, people in New Hampshire would be permitted to join the international online poker community on global sites like PokerStars.com or partypoker.com. That wouldn’t do much for those sites as New Hampshire has a small population, but quite literally would open up a whole new world to poker players in the Granite State.

*Like all the terrorist attacks that Donald Trump thinks the media has ignored. Sad!

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Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Passes House

 Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Passes House

Last week, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to HB 2150 that would expand gambling in the state, including the legalization and regulation of online poker. That was fantastic, but it was still just a vote on an amendment. The bill was then sent to the Appropriations Committee for financial approval and then finally, on June 28th, the House gave a positive vote to HB 2150 as a whole, 114 to 85. HB 2150 has now been sent to the Senate’s Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.

There is nothing particularly unusual about the online gaming portion of the bill; both online poker and casino gambling would be permitted should the bill become law. As is the case with bills and laws elsewhere, this would be for intrastate online gambling, meaning that only people within Pennsylvania’s borders would be able to play on the Pennsylvania sites. And those people would have to be at least 21-years old.

The state’s dozen casinos would be allowed to apply for internet gaming licenses, licenses that will cost $ 8 million. Software providers and established online gaming operators that are not one of the twelve casinos may team up with the casinos to provide online gambling for the state’s residents. Those operators will also have to apply for a license, but their licenses will come at a reduced rate.

Pennsylvania will take 14 percent of the online gaming revenues in taxes, while localities will take another two percent, which will be used for grants.

What finally got HB 2150 over the hump in Pennsylvania was that the approved gambling expansion amendment was purged of language that would have allowed for a significant spread of video gaming terminals (VGTs) throughout the Commonwealth. In one version of the amendment, a handful of VGTs would have been permitted in thousands of small venues, such as taverns, across the state. The state’s casinos were dead-set against this, claiming VGTs would cut into their sales. The casinos had sizeable sway in the matter, so if VGTs would have been left in, HB 2150 would have gone nowhere. In fact, another, similar gambling expansion amendment that included VGTs was voted upon and it lost in a mirror-image vote to the amendment that passed.

There will still be some expansion of video gambling outside of casinos, but very slight. Airports will be allowed to have slot machines as well as gaming tablets in certain areas like traveler lounges. This makes sense in terms of casinos being fine with it, as the people that would partake in this form of gambling will overwhelmingly be people waiting for a flight out of town. They aren’t using the electronic gaming devices instead of visiting a casino.

As mentioned, the bill now moves to the Senate. Prior reports have said that it needs to get passed by the end of the month, as that is when the state budget is due, but it would be pretty surprising if it could get turned around that quickly. We will just have to wait and see.

Poker News Daily

Pennsylvania Online Poker Amendment Passes House

 Pennsylvania Online Poker Amendment Passes House

Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne, one of the champions of online poker in the state legislature and sponsor of HB 649, a bill which would legalize and regulate online poker, said recently that he believed a re-vote on the issue would be coming soon. In late May, the House rejected a pair of amendments to the bill mainly because of a clerical error that caused confusion about what the vote was actually for. A future re-vote was requested and granted. It turns out that Payne was right, but not specifically about his bill.

Last week, A8734, an amendment to HB 2150, was passed by the House by a sizable 115 to 80 vote. The amendment approves significant expansion of gambling in the Commonwealth, including the legalization of online poker. Payne, as one would expect, gave it a “yea” vote. The bill still needs to be approved by the Appropriations Committee, but assuming there aren’t any unexpected financial issues, one would think it will. At that point, the overarching bill goes back to the House for a floor vote.

The online poker part of the amendment isn’t revolutionary, containing all the consumer protections we would expect from a solid bill. Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar casinos – there are twelve of them – will be permitted to apply for a license, which will cost $ 8 million. Online poker operators or software providers that are not casinos can still get in the game, but like in neighboring New Jersey, they will have to partner with an established casino. The licensing fee will be lower for those companies.

The state will take 14 percent in gaming revenues in taxes, while another 2 percent will go to localities for use in grant programs.

What likely got A8734 over the hump was the elimination of a piece that would have permitted widespread expansion of video gaming terminals, or VGTs (think video slots and the like). One amendment would have allowed for VGTs in thousands of small venues across the state, like taverns and social clubs, but many lawmakers were averse to putting gaming machines within minutes of most people in the state. Then again, online gambling allows everybody to participate from home, so one would think that VGTs wouldn’t be that big of a deal. What it probably boiled down to was the fear of cannibalizing the brick and mortar casinos. All but one of the casinos was against VGT expansion (the lone supporter actually owns a VGT company) and many lawmakers were likely influenced by their lobbying.

There will still be some VGTs in the state. Airports will be permitted to have slot machines, as well as gambling tablets in lounges. The state’s largest airport, Philadelphia, will have to pay a $ 5 million licensing fee, Pittsburgh will be charged $ 2.5 million, and the other, smaller airports, will have to pay $ 1 million each for the privilege.

If the online gambling is going to get approved, it will have to happen this week, as the state budget is due by June 30th. The bill’s page on the House of Representatives website shows no activity since it was sent to Appropriations. If it passes Appropriations and the House, it will still have to move through the Senate quickly.

Poker News Daily

Pennsylvania House Online Gambling Re-Vote May Come Soon

 Pennsylvania House Online Gambling Re Vote May Come Soon

About a month or so ago, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives shot down two amendments to HB 649, a bill which would legalize and regulate online poker in the Commonwealth, putting the launch of online gaming on hold. A re-vote at a later date was requested and now it looks like the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Payne, believes that such a vote could come soon.

Payne told TribLive.com that he sees a vote coming before the new fiscal year starts on July 1st so that a state budget can get approved. The state Senate has already overwhelmingly passed an online poker bill by a 53 to 5 vote.

Famed poker Twitch streamer Jason Somerville spoke with TribLive.com, explaining that regulation is necessary to protect players. “The biggest scandals in online-poker history (are) operators that have closed and taken players’ money,” he said. “Players’ deposits and winnings should be kept in an escrow account so players have access no matter what happens to the operator.”

Payne’s bill is not just about online poker, though, but rather expanding gambling overall. Competition in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States has ramped up in recent years, with neighboring states New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, and New York all fighting to keep gamblers from crossing state lines to visit out-of-state casinos (or, conversely, trying to attract players from across borders). New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling, while New York came close to passing a bill over the weekend, but fell just short.

Payne wants to make Pennsylvania the gold standard for the gambling industry and feels that with the right regulations, it could be. The part of the bill that is arguably the stickiest is the subject of video gaming terminals (VGTs), which are essentially video slots, video poker, and the like. The two aforementioned amendments that have held up the bill both allow non-casinos to have a limited number of VGT’s, but they differed in how widespread VGT’s could be. A7619, supported by Payne, only allows for VGT’s in airports and some off-track betting venues. A7622, written by Rep. Marc Mustio, permits them in many more places, like taverns. Both amendments failed to pass mainly because a clerical error attributed both to Payne, causing confusion and incorrect voting.

Eleven of the state’s twelve casinos don’t want heavy VGT expansion, particularly in taverns, because they feel it will cannibalize their sales. After all, if anybody can just walk over to the neighborhood bar and play some video poker, why go to a casino? The casinos tend to be fine with internet gambling, but would rather not have internet gambling if they also have to accept VGT expansion.

Rep. William Kortz told PennLive.com that he sees VGTs as a way for small organizations and businesses to get enough of a revenue boost to stay open. “We’re talking about organizations that just want to get by. American Legions, volunteer fire companies, social clubs… Please people. I mean, let’s give them a little slice of the pie,” he said.

Rep. Payne tends to not be for extreme VGT expansion, having said that it, “….would in my mind do great fiscal harm to the existing casinos in Pennsylvania which ultimately then would affect the property tax fund, which would ultimately affect the local county’s local share.”

He is excited, though, for VGT/online gaming combinations at locations such as airports that shouldn’t really hurt casinos’ business.

“These machines, if they’re on a tablet, can be so simple,” Payne told TribLive.com. “You can do all the games right on the tablet. It’s a secure system.”

He added, “We have to get into the new technology if we’re going to be competitive with the surrounding states. As we talk about it, they’re now doing it.”

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