Posts Tagged ‘state’

NJ State Senator Lesniak Wants to Open State’s Gambling Borders

 NJ State Senator Lesniak Wants to Open State’s Gambling Borders

When Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware launched their online gambling industries (just poker for the former, poker and casino games for the latter two), the gaming sites were restricted to accepting players only from within their respective states’ borders. It was kind of bullshit, but it was the way they could be compliant with federal law, so that’s what had to be done. Now New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, arguably online poker’s biggest supporter in the New Jersey legislature, wants to change that and permit people from outside of the state to play on his state’s gaming sites.

“I’ve changed my mission from making New Jersey the Silicon Valley of Internet gaming to the Mecca of Internet gaming,” Lesniak told the Associated Press. “Online gaming has helped Atlantic City to revive its casino sector with a success that we can expand in ways that will generate more revenue, create jobs and fuel technological innovation in gaming.”

Lesniak plans on introducing a bill to allow for the expansion of online gambling player bases beyond New Jersey’s borders. The Courier-Post says that the director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, David Rebuck, has not seen a proposal yet.

As it stands now, New Jersey gaming law states that any operator wishing to do business there must house their game servers in the state. Not only that, but they must be on the premises of an Atlantic City casino; Atlantic City is the only place in the state that casinos are permitted. Additionally, as was mentioned earlier, all players must be located within New Jersey’s borders. They do not need to live there, just be located within state borders while playing online.

According to reports, Lesniak’s future bill would do a number of things to change the state gaming laws: it would remove the location restriction on players, allowing people from other states to play on New Jersey sites, it will allow international gaming companies to establish New Jersey bases, and it would lift the requirement for servers to be situated in Atlantic City.

Unfortunately, people like me, who live in the state of Georgia or the multitude of other states that do not currently have legalized, regulated gambling, would not suddenly be able to hop on PokerStars NJ or the Party Borgata network. Only people in states where online gambling is permitted would be able to play on New Jersey sites. The good thing, though, is that it would remove the need to enter into interstate gambling compacts.

Players in other countries where online gambling is regulated would also be able to get in on the fun.

One of the tricky things about expanding the geographic scope of the player base is that it would complicate geolocation, meaning the ability for the gaming sites to pinpoint where someone trying to login is sitting at the moment. New Jersey got off to a rocky site with geolocation (mainly erring on the side of being too strict and sometimes thinking a player was outside of the state when he was not), but is now an example of geolocation excellence.

Lead photo credit: @senatorlesniak Twitter

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State of Florida, Seminole Indians Reach Gaming Settlement

 State of Florida, Seminole Indians Reach Gaming Settlement

Ending a debate that has raged in the halls of the state capitol, Tallahassee, since early last year, Governor Rick Scott of Florida, his gaming enforcement board and the Seminole Tribe of Florida reached a settlement that will have a sizeable effect on gaming in the Sunshine State.

The new agreement will influence table games, which have started springing up in some of the poker rooms around Florida. Under the agreement signed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Seminoles, the table games – which included blackjack and other “banked” games (games in which players played against the house rather than each other) – and slot machines will be immediately closed in the poker rooms where they were operating. That closure gives exclusivity for table gaming and slots in the state to the six Seminole properties owned and run by the tribe for the next 13 years of the compact between the two entities.

“The DBPR is glad that the state of Florida has reached an agreement to resolve the ongoing litigation between the state and the Seminole Tribe,” DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem noted in a statement reported by Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald. “The agreement ensures the continuity of the current Seminole compact and does not allow for any expansion of gaming.”

What was the driver of the deal? For the state of Florida, it was the money. Under the new agreement, the Seminole Tribe will continue to contribute a monthly revenue sharing program to the state, in part due to the enforcement of the table game and slot ban on non-Seminole operations. That totaled $ 220 million in revenues that the Tribe put towards the revenue sharing over the past couple of years (and an estimated $ 120 million per year), but had been held in escrow while both had lawsuits pending in federal court.

In 2010, the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida agreed to an exclusivity agreement, giving the Seminoles complete gaming rights in the state. That five-year deal expired in 2015 and, as might be expected, the various dog and horse tracks and poker rooms in the area wanted to find a way to get into that area of gaming. The Seminole Tribe called foul, as the renegotiation of the compact was ongoing with state officials, and the Seminoles brought a federal case against the state of Florida for not enforcing the regulations. The state didn’t roll over, instead filing their own countersuit that stated the agreement had expired and that the Seminole Tribe, in fact, was violating Florida gambling laws by being in operation.

Federal judge Robert Hinkle ruled last year in favor of the Seminole Tribe, affirming that the state didn’t shut down the “banked” games in the non-Seminole operations per the compact between the two, violating the agreement. After Hinkle made his ruling, the Florida legislature considered expanding gaming in the state – and was unable to come to any agreement – while the Seminoles considered the option of withholding their revenue payments outright until the state enforced the law.

The new agreement, while ensuring that the Seminole Tribe continues its revenue payments in exchange for exclusivity on table gaming and slots, also has an effect on another area of debate in the state. The expansion of casino gaming in Florida, which had seen consideration of new casino operations in Miami and even in the family oriented Disney area of Orlando, is now dead. For the next 13 years (the end of the overall compact between the Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida), there will be no further discussion of expanding gaming inside the state, keeping powerful casino gaming operations out of the Florida market and in the hands of the Seminole Tribe.

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New York’s Seneca Nation to Stop Gambling Revenue Payments to State

 New York’s Seneca Nation to Stop Gambling Revenue Payments to State

The Buffalo News reported last week that the New York’s Seneca Nation of Indians is discontinuing its payments of casino revenue to the state. The plan is to halt the casino share this week; if it happens, the New York state government stands to lose as much as $ 110 million in revenue per year.

It does not look like the Seneca Nation has given any specific reason for its decision to stop the payments, but it appears that it very well may be that it is not happy with New York’s casino gambling expansion. New York was once home to just racinos and tribal casinos, but in the last few years, commercial casino construction was approved. Since late 2015, four commercial casino licenses have been issued: Rivers Casino & Resort and Del Lago are already open, Tioga Downs was transformed from a racino to a full-fledged casino, and Montreign should open next year.

It is Del Lago that may be the casino that really sticks in the craw of the tribe. The Seneca Nation’s three casinos are all in western New York. Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino is in Allegany near the Pennsylvania border, Seneca Niagara is in Niagara Falls, and Seneca Buffalo Creek is in Buffalo. Del Lago is approximately 100 miles due east of Buffalo and, based on the possibility that its existence rubs the Seneca Nation the wrong way, it may be drawing a decent amount of traffic away from the three casinos.

The Seneca Nation’s 2002 compact with the state gives it exclusive rights to gaming west of State Route 14 for 21 years. Del Lago is just a few miles east of Route 14, so it does fall outside of the Seneca Nation’s promised gaming territory.

For those exclusive rights, the Seneca Nation has forked over a portion of its gaming revenues to the state for about a decade and a half. According to The Buffalo News, the compact stipulated that the payment rate was 18 percent in the first year, eventually rounding out to 25 percent in “Years 8-14.”

After that, there is no mention, apparently, of any more required payments. Therefore, the tribe has decided that, now that is in the fifteenth year, it does not need to contribute to the state’s coffers any more.

“We’re now in the 15th year of that compact,’’ a Seneca representative told The Buffalo News. “This is the Nation following the language of the compact.’’

The Seneca Nation has also been paying host municipalities where its casinos are located and has said that it plans to work something out with them so that they don’t lose all that money.

“Although the revenue share has ended, we remain committed to being good neighbors in the communities where we have gaming facilities and we look forward to working directly with them to continue the economic progress of Western New York,’’ Seneca President Todd Gates said in a statement.

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Michigan State Senator Introduces Online Poker Bill

 Michigan State Senator Introduces Online Poker Bill

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.

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Pennsylvania State Reps Announce Plan to Introduce Online Poker Bill

 Pennsylvania State Reps Announce Plan to Introduce Online Poker Bill

Two Pennsylvania House members filed a House Co-Sponsorship Memorandum on Wednesday, announcing upcoming legislation that they plan to introduce that would, among other gaming efforts, legalize and regulate online gambling in the state. State Senator Jay Costa did the same thing about a month ago; though his was worded differently, we would expect the House and Senate gaming bills to be quite similar. Like Costa, Representative George Dunbar and Representative Rosita C. Youngblood did not give an exact date as to when to expect the bill to be introduced, only saying that it would be “in the near future.”

The House of Representatives did pass an gambling bill last year, described by Dunbar and Youngblood as “legislation that will ensure the integrity and sustainability of our regulated gaming industry and increase needed revenues, while focusing on consumer protections to rein in black market, off-shore gaming operators that prey on problem and compulsive gamblers, and could care less about protecting against underage gambling.”

The Senate never even voted on the bill.

The memorandum lists nearly a dozen key features:

•    Fix the local share assessment issue by requiring all casinos, except Category 3 casinos, to pay a $ 10 million fee to host municipalities;
•    Regulate and tax iGaming;
•    Impose consumer protections on and tax online fantasy sports operators;
•    Allow gaming tablets in international airports;
•    Remove the Category 3 casino amenity requirement;
•    Streamline non-gaming vendor registration requirements;
•    Permit gaming manufactures to utilize private laboratories to test gaming devices;
•    Authorize the PGCB to create new regulations to allow for new types of slot machines;
•    Increase license, permit and registration renewal periods;
•    Allow multi-state linkage of slot machines to increase jackpots; and,
•    Require uniform advertisement of the problem gaming assistance number.

As you can see, the second bullet point shows that the omnibus gambling bill would regulate and tax online gambling; poker is included in that. Last year’s bill allowed for the state’s dozen casinos to apply for licenses, which would cost $ 8 million each. Gaming operators and software providers that want to partner with the casinos would also have been permitted to apply for licenses.

The state taxes would have been 14 percent on internet gaming revenues, while localities would have gotten another two percent.

The installation of gaming tablets in airports was part of a larger dispute surrounding last year’s bill. One version of the bill would have permitted a significant expansion of video gaming terminals (VGTs) throughout Pennsylvania, into places like taverns. The casinos were dead-set against this, as they feared they would lose business because of it. The final bill removed that language but still permitted for VGT expansion into airports.

While this House memo only provided high-level points and did not give further details as to any regulations, Senator Costa did provide some insight in his memorandum. The online gambling licensing fee for the state’s casinos would be $ 10 million in his bill, while the fee for technology partners would be $ 5 million. Operators would be taxed 25 percent of their internet gaming revenue, much higher than was indicated in last year’s House bill. That money would be earmarked for property tax relief and economic development projects.

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