Posts Tagged ‘online’
My fellow online denizens, we are gathered here today for a funeral to celebrate a short but white-hot light that was snuffed out last week. International Online Poker passed away after a long illness otherwise known as “death by 1000 cuts.” While it seems that it was around for much longer than it was, International Online Poker was only 19 years old and had envisioned a much better life for itself.
Coming out of the womb of something called “the internet” and buoyed by the increase of home computers in the late 1990s, International Online Poker came to life in 1998 with its first home, Planet Poker. Soon after that, other homes began to emerge for International Online Poker, with each one improving on the previous domicile. Paradise Poker was next to host International Online Poker, but the true boom wouldn’t come until PartyPoker opened a new palace for International Online Poker to live just before the end of the 20th century.
PartyPoker made it cool to play poker, especially with people from around the world, and it thrived on a solid platform and good customer service. In 2001, however, another new place for International Online Poker to call home was built with even better amenities. Called PokerStars, the new place was unveiled but was quickly overcome by the news of the day, an attack in the United States that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City.
PartyPoker remained the dominant site for the next couple of years as PokerStars fought to get the attention of International Online Poker and draw it over to its new pad, alongside such other upstart homes as Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. In 2003, PokerStars got its edge in sponsoring a young man with the unlikely moniker of Chris Moneymaker after he won a seat to the World Series of Poker’s Championship Event. After Moneymaker won the tournament, more people began to flock to International Online Poker’s new hangout, especially when more World Champions became tied to PokerStars after their victories.
In 2004, another newcomer came along. The people considered “professionals” in the poker playing community decided it was time they got a piece of what International Online Poker was giving and opened their own home. Called Full Tilt Poker, those “professionals” promoted the factor they lived in the home as well, making for a great place for people to come and learn the game while enjoying the new digs. With outstanding properties popping up seemingly every day, International Online Poker was quite happy and celebrating whichever home it went.
The clouds were growing for International Online Poker, however. In 2006, the first chink in the armor emerged when the United States passed laws making it illegal to finance online gaming transactions. PartyPoker, in a highly difficult decision, pulled out of the country to stay in accordance with the new laws, as did 888Poker. PokerStars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker didn’t, however, leading the U. S. contingent – and, thus, International Online Poker – to go to those sites. The actions in the U. S. were limited to begin with but, as the years went on, other countries began to also knock chunks out of International Online Poker.
Germany, Italy, Spain, France…all introduced legislation over the next few years to ban online gaming save for sites that were expressly established and located in the country of the game. These moves also wore on International Online Poker as it pulled those countries’ players out of the overall pool and forced them into playing against their countrymen and didn’t allow anyone else in. It also didn’t help that those countries where “fenced off” play was located were taxed extremely, driving players from the game who could no longer make a living.
Just as International Online Poker was trying to get used to these changes, the U. S. dropped another atomic bomb of sorts. “Black Friday,” where the U. S. Department of Justice indicted the leaders of the three powers of the online poker industry – PokerStars, Full Tilt and CEREUS (the partnership of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker) – effectively knocking the U. S. out of circulation. International Online Poker was dealt a severe blow with “Black Friday” and it only got worse until International’s demise this week.
Alas, my friends, International Online Poker will never come back after the Australian decision. The current trend towards “nationalism” in politics has spread into our taxation and revenues systems. If a nation can tax something from its citizens to death and keep those profits for itself, they are going to do that (we’ve seen this with France, Spain, and Italy). If they can enforce laws that make companies come inside their borders to participate, then they’ll make sure they do that, too. What they won’t do is allow the old status quo to return, when someone in California could be playing the game against someone in Lithuania in a world-uniting endeavor.
Several locales will survive International Online Poker’s demise, each struggling to make it on its own. French Online Poker, Spanish Online Poker, and other nationally-restricted siblings of full-fledged International remain, with “International” now limited to the United Kingdom, Canada, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. That may seem large until it is considered that Asia may be the next to withdraw inside itself rather than see the money go elsewhere.
How strange is it that slightly more than a decade ago we now consider the “Golden Age” of the online game? It was a brief but bright light that burned twice as brilliantly. Now, International Online Poker is dead, never to return as we once knew it. And we can only sit back and wonder what could have been…
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?
Australian online poker players, welcome to the hell we have had to deal with in the United States. On Tuesday, the Australian Senate passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, effectively eliminating online poker from the country’s entertainment landscape.
The bill was introduced in November by Australia’s Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge mainly as a way to shore up Australia’s sports betting laws. Sports betting – online and otherwise – has been permitted in the country, but there were severe restrictions on “in-play” sports betting, which is what it sounds like: bets placed on sports contests while those contests are being played. In-play sports betting was allowed, but only via telephone, not online.
With the advent of smartphones, though, offshore operators introduced apps to allow players to place in-game sports bets. They were able to get away with this because they had found a loophole that owed its existence to the law’s vagaries. Smartphones are phones, so in-play bets made with the devices are being placed with phones. Clearly, this is not the intent of the law, but operators still got away with it.
So, that loophole was tightened up, but along with it, other forms of internet gambling were killed. The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 bans all forms of online gambling that are not explicitly legal in Australia. Only sports betting is explicitly legal, so poker is now illegal by default.
It is widely believed that it is now just a matter of time before most online poker operators exit the Australian market, a significant one in the industry. Vera&John – a bingo site – was the first operator to ditch Australia in anticipation of the bill back in December. 888poker followed suit in January.
Back in November, Amaya CFO Daniel Sebag said in an earnings call that PokerStars would probably get out of Dodge, too.
“In Australia, we currently offer poker and are reviewing the applicability of proposed legislation to player versus player games of skill,” he said. “At this time, it would appear likely that if the legislation passes, we would block players from Australia. As we do not offer casino sportsbook in Australia, it currently contributes to about 2.5% of our revenues and we estimate it could reduce our EBITDA margin by up to a 150 basis points.”
It is a difficult issue for operators. In some countries, online poker is not explicitly legal, but it isn’t technically illegal, either, so they feel comfortable (or at least not too uncomfortable) offering poker. In Australia, there will be no way to acquire a license, since there is no poker licensing regime, and those who offer poker without a license could face stiff fines.
Even if an operator was willing to risk the fines, it will still probably leave. Take PokerStars, for example. PokerStars has been toeing the legal and perception lines very carefully in countries where it wants to operate. Part of this effort to make sure it is a responsible player in other markets. If it continues to offer poker in Australia, it may not be looked at as favorably in countries like the United States where it is still trying to make inroads via licensing and regulation.
Blacklists are not generally considered a good thing. I mean, right when you hear the word “blacklist,” you kind of recoil and nearly inaudibly say, “egh,” don’t you. Well, there are a lot of people making “who farted?” faces in Colombia right now, as the South American country’s gambling regulatory agency, Coljuegos has handed a blacklist of 325 online gambling sites to the Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (Ministry of Information and Communications Technology), asking that agency to block Colombians from accessing them.
Yes, blacklists again. We’ve seen this before in other countries, either when they are trying to protect their state-run online gambling site or simply instituting draconian gambling policies (or both!). That list has been published; it contains all sorts of sites, from online poker to casino games to sports betting to bingo.
It’s also kind of weird, as if it had been drawn up by someone who really had no knowledge of the industry and just Googled “online gambling” (or its equivalent in Spanish). There are all sorts of duplicate domains, subdomains with strings of random characters, and even a Hotmail e-mail address. For crying out loud, I use a Hotmail address for account registrations where I know I’m going to end up with spam.
So be sure you don’t go to firstname.lastname@example.org because not only will you not find any online gambling there, but you might get a curt reply.
Wait, oh dear, I just looked at the list again. There’s actually a Facebook page listed. Ok, I’m going to it now because I have to see this. Looks like it’s the Facebook page of Orlando Diaz, the Manager of the Turn & River Poker Club in Bogota, Colombia. Yes, government, please make ISPs block this INCIDIOUS Facebook page where I can’t participate in any sort of online gambling, but I can get information about the club’s poker tournaments.
Here some actual, legit online gaming sites of some interest from the potential blacklist (listed in the order they appear on the blacklist):
As you can see (and the trend continues on through the list), there is an emphasis on Spanish-language versions of sites. It would be pretty funny if the blacklist was implemented and, say, the Spanish-language version of PokerStars.com was banned (as opposed to Spain’s version), but players could still get on PokerStars.com proper. I’m guessing an ISP would be smart enough as to lump them together, but who knows?
Obviously, it would be tough to actually get down to barring people from all of these sites. There’s also probably not the greatest chance that any government agency would start going after sites that try to get around the blacklist by altering its URL, but some of the major sites, like PokerStars, might choose to stop operating in Colombia so as not to get on the bad side of regulators in other countries.
Again, remember that any speculation only applies if the blacklist actually gets implemented rather than just appearing on a site as an embedded table.
As my colleague Earl Burton wrote a couple days ago, there has been an uptick in online poker regulation activity in a number of states in the last few months. One state mentioned in his piece was Michigan, whose online gaming effort he said “hasn’t moved beyond talking.” But last week, a Michigan legislator did finally take the formal step and introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker.
It was State Senator Michael Kowall, a Republican representing District 15, who introduced Senate Bill 0203 on March 1st, a bill which would create the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act.” The bill would authorize the new division of internet gaming to grant licenses to the state’s casinos. Of course, the casinos would have to apply for said licenses and would have to pay $ 100,000 to do so. The licenses would have a duration of five years and would come with a fee of $ 200,000 for the first year and $ 100,000 per year after that.
Online gaming vendors – for instance, companies that might provide poker software or computer equipment for the poker operators – can also apply for separate licenses. The price tags on those licenses would be significantly less than for the operators themselves: $ 5,000 for the application fee, $ 2,500 per year, and $ 5,000 for the first year.
The state would tax gross gaming revenue at 10 percent.
The beginning of bill explains that legalizing and regulating online poker makes sense for Michigan for reasons most of us have been preaching all along. The internet is woven into our lives just like telephones and televisions and people like to play poker online. These people should have the chance to play behind the consumer protections of regulations:
The legislature finds that the internet has become an integral part of everyday life for a significant number of residents of this state, not only in regard to their professional lives, but also in regard to personal business and communication. Internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill is a core form of entertainment for millions of individuals worldwide. In multiple jurisdictions across the world, internet gaming is legal, regulated, and taxed, generating billions of dollars in revenue for governments.
In order to protect residents of this state who wager on games of chance or skill through the internet and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from internet gaming, it is in the best interest of this state and its citizens to regulate this activity by authorizing and establishing a secure, responsible, fair, and legal system of internet gaming that complies with the United States Department of Justice’s September 2011 opinion concerning 18 USC 1084.
The regulations actually set out in the bill are fairly run-of-the-mill. Players must be 21-years old and located in the state of Michigan, players must be permitted to self-exclude, and online gaming operators must have procedures and technologies in place to be sure that only people permitted to play can actually logon and play, as well as being able to detect and prevent cheating.
While the bill does specifically mention online poker, it also says that it is not strictly limited to online poker and that other games can be offered.
Interstate compacts in which multiple states’ player pools are combined are also permitted.
Even if the bill somehow charges through the Michigan state legislature and becomes law quickly, it still could be a long time before any online poker rooms launch in the state. The division of internet gaming would be given a year to get all the rules set (could be less time, of course) and then nobody would be allowed to offer games for 150 days after the rules are formally laid out.