Posts Tagged ‘state’

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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Georgia State Senator to Introduce Casino Authorization Bill

 Georgia State Senator to Introduce Casino Authorization Bill

As a Georgian for 18 years now (dear lord, I’ve lived here a long time), I have never been able to play poker in a proper casino without flying across the country or driving several hours to a neighboring state. No, this hasn’t ruined my life or anything – I can do without just fine – but you know, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? With a lot of luck, there is a chance that I may get what I’ve been searching for within the next few years, as State Senator Brandon Beach told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he will soon be introducing a pair of bills that would legalize casino gambling in Georgia.

This has been tried before, as recently as within the last couple years, and while lawmakers gave it more serious thought than one might have expected here in the Bible Belt, the bills ultimately didn’t get very far. According to an AJC poll, though, 56 percent of registered Georgia voters support casino legalization, so maybe there is hope.

There are a number of reasons why Beach and others want casinos in the state. Without even knowing anything about Georgia, you might guess that they want to keep residents from spending their gaming dollars out of state, and you would be correct. Atlanta, specifically, is also a big convention city, so having a resort-style casino here could help draw more events, or at the very least, get visitors to go out and plunk down some cash during their downtime.

The biggest goal for gambling proponents, though, is to help fund the state’s HOPE Scholarship, which was created in 1993. The HOPE Scholarship helps students who earn a 3.0 GPA in high school pay for tuition at in-state colleges and universities (private or public). Over the years, it has become such a popular program that it has become harder and harder to actually fund the scholarships. Dollar awards have decreased and recently, “academic vigor” standards have been put in place to make it more difficult to earn the scholarship.

The HOPE Scholarship, along with public pre-K programs, is funded by the Georgia lottery. The idea with casino gambling is to divert most of the gaming tax revenue to the HOPE Scholarship to fill in the gaps that the lottery isn’t covering anymore.

In Beach’s plan, Georgia would be divided into four zones: from I-20 (which runs through the middle of Atlanta east to west) to the north, Coastal Georgia, Southern Georgia, and Middle Georgia. The bill would authorize the construction of five resort-style casinos and one horse track. The “primary” casino would require a $ 1 billion investment from the operator and would have to be built within 25 miles of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The other four casinos would require $ 250 million investments and would have to be built at least 50 miles away from the primary casino. The horse track would require a $ 125 million investment.

The casinos would be taxed 12 percent of gross gaming revenue.

It will take quite an effort to get this to pass. Two-thirds of both the House and Senate will have to vote for it, just to get to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk and he is against casino gambling. If it gets all the way through, it will then be put on the 2018 ballot for residents of the state to vote upon. And then, even if Georgians give it the ok, the cities and counties that want a casino will have to let their local residents vote on whether or not they want a casino neighbor. Only after all of that can construction start.

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Pennsylvania State Senator to Introduce Online Gambling Bill Soon

 Pennsylvania State Senator to Introduce Online Gambling Bill Soon

Pennsylvania State Senator Jay Costa (D – District 43) issued a “Senate Co-Sponsorship Memorandum” on Monday, announcing his intention to introduce legislation that will legalize and regulate online gambling in the Commonwealth.

It seemed that the Pennsylvania legislature would get online gambling, including poker, legalized in 2016 and, in fact, the House of Representatives did, but the Senate never followed suit. The state has become one of the largest gambling centers in the United States and there is a lot of support for online gaming amongst lawmakers, but there were enough disagreements on some issues that the ball was never carried over the goal line.

The legislature’s attempts to cobble together a balanced budget last year were a mess and online gambling was promised as a solution to fill a $ 100 million gap.

In the Memorandum, Senator Costa summarizes what his bill would entail. All casino games would be permitted on the internet, with the dozen Pennsylvania casinos being eligible to apply for internet gaming licenses. Licensing fees would amount to $ 10 million for the casinos and $ 5 million for vendors who partner with a casino to provide the gaming platform (for example, PokerStars or 888). Those fees would go into the state’s General Fund.

Internet gambling operators would be taxed at 25 percent of gaming revenue; 15 percent going to the Property Tax Relief Fund and 10 percent deposited into an account with the Commonwealth Financing Authority, to go to towards economic development projects in the Commonwealth. Half of the funds in said account will be for projects in a casino’s surrounding counties.

No internet gambling will be allowed on casino property (to prevent tax avoidance by the casinos), but players may sign up for accounts online or at a casino.

One of the aspects of internet gaming that was debated was the expansion into Pennsylvania airports. Senator Costa’s bill would authorize tablet gaming at the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh airports on a five-year trial basis. There would be a $ 2.5 million licensing fee and this revenue would also be taxed at 25 percent.

Daily fantasy sports and internet lottery sales would also be legalized.

One of the most pressing gambling legislative challenges that cropped up in the final quarter of the year was how to handle casino “host fees.” The dozen casinos in the Commonwealth are all required to pay out a portion of their revenues to their local municipalities and counties; the nine casinos outside of Philadelphia must pay $ 10 million per year or two percent of slot machine “gross terminal revenue,” whichever is greater. In 2016, the owner of the Mount Airy casino sued the state, saying that this was an unconstitutional tax, as every non-Philly casino ended up paying the $ 10 million and therefore each was essentially paying a different tax rate. The state Supreme Court agreed in late September and gave the legislature 120 days to come up with a solution.

Senator Costa’s solution is to basically take away the “either/or” option and just require the casinos to pay a $ 10 million annual host fee.

Senator Costa did not say when he will introduce the bill, just that it will be introduced in the “near future.”

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