I was recently talking with a friend about which card rooms that I frequently visit out west and it led into a discussion about what amenities we would like in a live card room. Thinking further on the matter, my ideal card room would really be a hodgepodge of rooms that I have played in around the country with a couple added amenities. Below are some of the features from my perfect live card room. Games You want to guarantee that I will seldom come to your casino? Spread only Texas Hold’em. I refuse to frequent casinos that only spread Hold’em. As a mixed games player, a casino has to have variety in order for me to be a regular. By variety, that means you must spread at least the following: • Limit AND No-Limit Texas Hold’em
• Seven Card Stud
• Omaha Hi-Lo
• Pot-Limit Omaha My ideal casino would spread the above games as well as Stud 8 or Better, and other varieties of games such as Badugi and 2-7 Lowball. H.O.R.S.E., 8-Game or mixed variants such as Mixed Hold’em or Triple Stud would be great as well. Furthermore, I prefer casinos that regularly offer tournaments in variants other than Hold’em. Tournament Director Johnny Groomes had a great philosophy for events he used to run at the Gold Strike in Tunica, MS. He said that he was going to always spread at least five variants of poker regardless of how well they drew. There is a market for mixed games and casinos that spread more than Texas Hold’em can tap that market. Dealers When it comes to dealers, I’m actually fairly lax on my requirements. In most cases, if a dealer is nice and works hard, I can look over mistakes. With that said, there are a few things that I like to see in dealers. First, I believe that dealers should have a solid command on the English language. I’m not saying they have to understand all our idiosyncrasies or our slang, but we should be able to have a basic conversation with a dealer. There’s nothing more frustrating that having a problem with a game and having to get a floor man to come to the table to handle the problem because the dealer doesn’t understand what you’re saying. Next, dealers should be able to deal all of the games that are spread in the casino competently. It doesn’t matter if it is spread or played regularly. If it is on the board, dealers should be able to deal it. Omaha Hi-Lo players understand the frustration of this, especially in tournaments. You get a dealer that has seldom, if ever, dealt a game and they slow down the game because of their lack of experience. Otherwise, I have few preferences on dealers. Male or female, it doesn’t matter to me. Just be fast and act like you like dealing to my table a bit. Food / Drinks / Service One benefit that every live poker room should offer is food and drink service beyond your typical cocktail server. The Bicycle Casino was one of my favorite places to play because of their table service. In addition to your typical cocktail servers, you regularly had food service that came around with a solid menu that you could order from. Whether you wanted greasy or healthy, they had options. However, my favorite option was actually the porters. The porters are the equivalent of your old school gophers. You want some food that isn’t on the food service menu? Get the porter to go order your meal and bring it. Want some candy or sodas from the gift shop? Porter! My ideal poker room would be similar to the bike with cocktail, food service and porters. To add icing on the cake, let’s have an option like what the Trump Taj’s room has in Atlantic City: go to the back of the poker room and take an elevator straight to the second floor snack shop. This would allow you to get away from the poker room while taking a break away from the restlessness of the casino. Tables / Chairs My ideal poker room would have upgrades over your standard room. First, auto-shufflers on all tables regardless of the limits. Everyone deserves to have the maximum number of hands possible. Next, I would prefer to have some extra large tables to allow for some of us players that belong to the Association of Broad Bottom Architects. You put three or four of us at one end of the table and that’s like stuffing sardines into a snuffbox. Also, how about we look at the poker room layout. Many poker rooms decide to put the table so close together that it can be difficult to get in and out without hitting players at other tables. Poker tables should have enough space between them for an old person to drive a motorized scooter between tables and not touch anyone. That would be proper table spacing. Let’s next look at chairs… Why must many poker rooms use these horrible stacking chairs with cushions that go flat when a cat sits on them? Let’s get some nice padded executive style office chairs with nice padding on them and wheels. Give your players some comfort at the tables. After all, most will walk away with nothing but a memory. At least make them comfortable while doing so. Rake Finally, let’s talk a bit about rake. First, my ideal card room would not take a dead drop in any form. Rake would also only start if a pot gets to the flop (or second round of betting in other games.) Next, if a room chooses a rake structure, I prefer a 5% rake structure. While this is considered a bit low compared to many live card rooms, it is better for players. However, if I have my true preference, I would prefer to pay a time charge to a rake. Essentially, each player posts the equivalent of the big blind as a time charge each half hour. In a $3-$6 game, you pay $3 every half hour. This would be a drop to the casino in lieu of per hand rake. For many games, this will be cheaper than standard rake. Higher limit games could offer a discounted drop to keep players happy or draw new blood. Previous Post Next Post About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

When Amaya closed its blockbuster $4.9 billion acquisition of PokerStars in early-August, it was widely assumed that the online poker behemoth would gain entry into New Jersey sooner rather than later – sooner meaning sometime before the end of October. Yet here we are, a mere two weeks away from the other Black Friday, and there’s been no word regarding when, or even if, PokerStars will make its triumphant return to the United States. Online poker players previously set on the idea that PokerStars would already be a force in New Jersey are left wondering “what’s the holdup?” as they watch the state’s stagnant online poker industry struggle through another week. So what is the holdup? The answer may lie in a multitude of factors. A little history In the days following Amaya’s announcement that it had entered into an agreement to purchase the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, David Rebuck of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) told Pokerfuse that he was “encouraged by this development and the expanded opportunities it might provide for New Jersey’s Internet gaming industry.” Later that month, it was announced that PokerStars’ application was up for review by the agency, effectively ending a two-year license application suspension forced by the DGE. Having more than satisfied the DGE’s demands that key personnel operating within PokerStars’ infrastructure be removed, PokerStars’ reentry into the U.S. market suddenly appeared imminent. Shortly after, rumors began circulating that PokerStars would launch in New Jersey sometime in October. These speculations reached a fever pitch when New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak indicated that an announcement from the DGE regarding Stars was only “weeks, not months” away. Optimism was at all-time high. But as October turned into November the Senator’s tone began to change, and since, credible news sources such as Pokerfuse have reported that PokerStars will not launch in New Jersey until 2015. Granted, delays in the U.S’s regulated iGaming sphere aren’t exactly uncommon – one needn’t look further than California’s six-year plight to legalize online poker to realize that – but given that New Jersey’s other poker rooms all launched within four months of receiving licenses, combined with the fact that PokerStars’ application had already been at least partially reviewed prior to the Amaya acquisition, it seemed quite reasonable to assume that PokerStars would be a presence in NJ by October. What caused the delay? Politics Based on Senator Lesniak’s recent Twitter exchanges, it can be concluded that politics are at least one of the underlying forces driving the PokerStars delay. On October 28th, Lesniak engaged in a rather frank interaction with another user indicating that it’s New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie causing the hold up:
But doesn’t the DGE have the final word on whether a license is approved? Technically yes, but based on Lesniak’s statement, it appears that the Division will not act without the Governor’s approval. This raises the question as to why Gov. Christie, who in the past has vocalized his commitment to revitalizing Atlantic City, would want to push off PokerStars’ entry. Clues were revealed on Tuesday, as part of a second Twitter exchange between the Senator, NJ poker players and members of the poker media, including OnlinePokerReport.com’s Chris Grove. The Senator went on to state that the aforementioned is his “opinion based on 37 years of political insight.” Based on the myriad of anti-PokerStars rhetoric that has filtered its way into major NJ-based publications over the past few months, it’s quite apparent that online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson is vehemently against PokerStars returning to the United States. Not only will PokerStars’ launch in New Jersey likely inspire a revitalization of Atlantic City’s fledgling gaming economy, it could set off a domino effect where other states on the proverbial iGaming fence let down their guard and cash in on a suddenly prosperous new market. Should that happen, Adelson’s plight to institute a federal iGaming ban will invariably suffer, and as a result he may feel less inclined to support Governor Christie in his 2016 Presidential election bid. Considering that Adelson spent $92 million on losing candidates in 2012, it would behoove Gov. Christie to give the go-ahead to a company that was A) indicted by the DOJ in 2011, and B) has the ability to alter the face of the Garden State’s brick & mortar casino industry – at least not until Adelson has had ample time to systematically deconstruct all the progress iGaming champions have made during the past three years. Software Or maybe the New Jersey version of PokerStars’ software simply isn’t ready for prime time. PokerStars is all too familiar with the problems that plagued New Jersey’s other poker sites at launch, some of which continue to dissuade grinders from playing on regulated sites to this very day. For PokerStars to release a product riddled with bugs and server issues would be nothing short of a disaster. And while PokerStars does have experience operating in segregated markets such as Spain and Italy, New Jersey’s regulatory environment presents hurdles that the company doesn’t often encounter such as the Garden State’s geolocation model and the nonacceptance of features like peer-to-peer transfers. Then there’s the fact that the PokerStars client is in the midst of a transition. PokerStars 7, an extensive upgrade to the company’s already pioneering online poker software, has been available in Beta form in most markets for only the past several months. It’s conceivable that PokerStars originally planned to submit PokerStars 6 for review, but has since opted to launch PokerStars 7 in New Jersey, thereby extending the testing process. It’s for one or a combination of the aforementioned reasons that PokerStars may have opted to push back its launch date. Timing PokerStars has experienced its fair share of controversy in the past month, and in the entire Amaya era for that matter. Unpopular changes to the site’s rake policies have prompted resistance from players, most notably in the form of semi-organized sit-outs and forum rants. PokerStars has withdrawn from dozens of gray markets. Further changes to the site’s VIP program are expected in the newly regulated UK market in 2015. And players are becoming increasingly paranoid that Amaya will bring about Stars’ ruin. Maybe PokerStars is waiting until players regain confidence before embarking on a new journey. Either that, or PokerStars is holding back until traffic in New Jersey completely bottoms out, so that the company comes off as a sort of grand savior when it finally does launch its poker product. Admittedly, that’s a bit far-fetched, but given the company’s history, I wouldn’t entirely put it past them. Closing remarks In the case that PokerStars’ entry into New Jersey is being held up by the DGE’s testing process, or by PokerStars itself, then I’d fully expect to hear an announcement within the next several weeks. But in lieu of the Senator’s recent statements, I have to believe that the path towards reentry is more complicated than originally anticipated. If Gov. Christie views PokerStars as an impediment to his 2016 Presidential bid, it’s conceivable that PokerStars will not launch until the Republican presidential candidate is decided – although in my estimation, that’s a worst case scenario. Whenever politics are involved in a matter such as this, it’s the individuals who have their ability to choose stricken from them that invariability suffer. Delaying PokerStars’ entry because Sheldon Adelson wants to lead an ill-fated campaign against online gambling, and subsequently bring the United States one rung closer to becoming a police state, only hurts the players who have been unable to earn a living playing a skill-based game for the past 3.5 years. It’s shameful. Let’s hope, that at the very latest, we’ll be greeted by an announcement by the New Year. Otherwise, there is cause for concern. Previous Post Next Post amaya|online poker regulation|pokerstars|sheldon adelson About Robert DellaFave Robert DellaFave writes for a variety of online gaming sites and is also working on programming a poker simulation creative enough to beat the best. Follow Robert on Twitter @DivergentGames and on Google+

It’s an argument that makes sense: Increased access to gambling should lead to an increase in the percentage of problem gamblers. However, a new study conducted by the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) with the help of SUNY at Buffalo State painted a different picture. What gives this particular study so much weight is who performed the study, and how it was funded. The University of Buffalo received a $3 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to conduct the study into the rate of problem gambling over the past decade. One of the researchers, Dr. John Welte, PhD, is certainly not a shill for the gambling industry. In a previous study Dr. Welte concluded that people living within 10 miles of a casino are twice as likely to show signs of problem gambling. Therefore, the current study is in direct contradiction with his previous research, which makes the study difficult to simply dismiss by opponents of online gambling on the grounds of bias. What they found The study is over a decade in the making as the researchers, John W. Welte, PhD and Grace M. Barnes, PhD from the University of Buffalo along with William F. Wieczorek, PhD of SUNY conducted a telephone survey from 2011-2013 and compared the results to an identical survey conducted back in 1999-2000. What they discovered was that problem and pathological gambling rates remained consistent despite the rise of Internet gambling in the 2000’s and the proliferation of casinos across the country. Furthermore, the study found participation rates had decreased over that time period. “Our results show it is clear that U.S. residents are gambling less often,” Welte stated in a press release. This creates a juxtaposition with his prior research. If proximity increases the likelihood of problem gambling why haven’t the rates increased with the addition of online gambling? Welte speculated on two potential reasons: Other possible reasons Conjecture Alert! My argument against the theory that access leads to increased problem gambling has always been the same: The people who are likely to be problem gamblers are not deterred by a lack of access to gambling. These are the people that will seek out underground casinos and go to great lengths to gamble online even where it is prohibited. Let’s also not overlook that it’s far easier (both in terms of access and convenience) to burn through a couple hundred dollars playing keno or buying scratch tickets than it is to gamble online. So, as long as these basic gambling options are present in society, problem gamblers will always have an outlet, with or without Internet gambling. Another explanation for why problem gambling rates have not increased with the onset and rise of online gambling likely has to do with the logistics of gambling online. Gamblers cannot simply cash their paycheck and deposit that money to an online casino. It requires setting up an account, using some form of payment processing (be it credit card, eCheck, or online eWallet), and of course withdrawals are from immediate, and can take up to several weeks to process. This might also help explain why problem gambling rates increase when people live in close proximity to a land-based casino, but not when they have access to online gambling. Quite frankly, the logistical constraints of online gambling are not ideal for someone simply looking for the rush of gambling, especially if your winnings are going to be tied up for 7-10 days. Finally, online gambling is just different. Every bit of data we have indicates that the crossover between land-based gamblers and online gamblers is much smaller than anyone anticipated. Gambling at a casino, going to the racetrack or an off-track betting parlor, or even playing keno at a bar, are social activities, while online gambling is for all intents and purposes a solitary pursuit. Part of the allure for problem gamblers could be the ability to drown your sorrows with other people or have somebody to celebrate when you hit big. Previous Post Next Post igaming|online gambling|problem gambling About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

Episode 11: Morning of Seven We aren’t wasting any time getting to Norman’s bets anymore; he promises to remarry his first wife and divorce her again after Mark Newhouse inevitably proves how wrong he has been all season. Even if I didn’t already know the future I would be certain Newhouse would make it based on how pompous Norman has been. Let’s start with assuming that this episode will be about half the remaining July eliminations, which is the $287K payout range: Dan Smith starts with pocket Queens, but Scott Palmer goes all-in for 685K with A-3 of diamonds. Billy Pappas has some huge towers of chips that justify calling with J-J.
98K of clubs flop. The turn is a 6, Smith bets and Pappas drops out. Palmer is rescued with a river Ace and stays afloat for a while longer. Starting out slow Lon takes a look at Brian Roberts with the lowest stack (1.3 million), but focus shifts to Kyle Keranen who is in a bit of danger himself with 4.4M. Keranen tests the waters with K-Q. Felix Stephensen in the big blind and his 7-7 is the only taker. 47QJT completes Stephensen’s set and gives Keranen top pair. Stephensen nurtures the pot enough to drop Keranen to about three million chips. Newhouse will pit 9-8 suited against Shawn Dempsey’s pocket Kings.
64Q5J, Newhouse hits the flush on the river. Dempsey bets a half million, Newhouse raises him all-in. Dempsey is our first elimination of the night. Tom Sarra, Jr. loses a modicum of chips to Oscar Kemps when Kemps catches river trips, which sounds like a disease you get from swimming in dirty water. Gradual climb Brian Roberts will go all-in with K-J off-suit. Eddy Sabat will call him with A-Q. Bruno Politano teases us with wired Tens but won’t go for it. 7AT7A, Roberts is also knocked out. Sarra has A-T and wants to recoup his small loss against Andoni Larrabe and his 8-8. Larrabe isn’t in the mood to play around and raises 4.4M, which would put Sarra all-in. Sarra goes for it, the odds are nearly even. QTT46, Sarra and Larrabe trade chip positions. Dan Sindelar’s 9-9 becomes a set on a 749 flop, disappointing Leif Force and his pocket Aces. Force bets anyway, and again after the Jack on the turn, and again with the 6 on the river. Sindelar just lets Force hand over money to him card after card, but scares his opponent off when he tries to push Force all-in. I feel I’m missing the opportunity for a Star Wars joke here. Amateur versus Amateur First timer Scott Mahin has K-J, first timer Billy Pappas has A-K. The flop is T8Q, Pappas has the advantage but Mahin can’t afford to back off so goes all-in. Pappas relents, so Mahin survives for now. But Pappas will show more courage with J-J against William Tonking with A-A. After the 28T flop, Pappas puts Tonking all-in. A 6 and a 4 later, Tonking doubles up to over ten million chips. Pappas declines to just under ten million himself. Bryan Devonshire goes all-in with pocket Tens, Max Senft thinks A-J suited is enough to call him. K2AQ6 and Devo heads home. Senft is in 11th place with 7.76M. Keranen departs Politano bets on wired Kings, and Keranen tries to find an opening with K-Q. Keranen will go all-in, the Brazilian calls. It’s a 9 million chip pot. 6T73, Kyle Keranen will be leaving us. With one of their most favored players exiting, ESPN will have to adjust coverage now. Reeling from this fact, they for some reason decide the eliminations of Yorane Kerignard and Iaron Lightbourne are not dramatic enough to show onscreen. Still no Force puns They do show us Leif Force going all-in with K-Q against the A-T of Chris “The Bassmaster” Greaves. It’s 9TT58, Force is gone. We are two eliminations from the next payout increase. Stephensen will bet with A-T of diamonds. Sabat calls with J-J. Unexpectedly, big blind Martin Jacobson also stays in with 7-5 of hearts. We see 239. Stephensen bets, Sabat calls and Jacobson folds. The turn is a 7 and both check. Stephensen gets his Ace and ekes some more chips from Sabat, climbing to 10.8 for Gentleman Jack’s “Right Move” of the episode. Dan Smith bets his A-K suited. Jorryt van Hoof raises with a pair of Fours. Smith re-raises up to 1.8 million. Van Hoof goes all-in for 6.45M. Smith calls. 238Q3, Dan Smith is suddenly out, to van Hoof’s benefit. That’s it for the tonight’s first episode. Episode 12: The Home Stretch begins Sarra is losing to Sindelar with nothing in his hand, but is willing to bluff for five million chips. Sindelar folds a superior hand but remains chip leader. One more elimination and we’ll reshuffle to the final two tables. Andrey Zaichenko feels like betting on A-5 of clubs. Newhouse with K-Q and Jacobson with 8-7 will both call. KQ8, Newhouse makes both pairs. Zaichenko bets exploratorily, Jacobson folds his low pair. Newhouse just patiently calls. Zaichenko bets another million after the 7 turn, Newhouse stays the course. With a 9 on the river Zaichenko finally checks. Newhouse bets big, Zaichenko scurries away. More Norman bluster Norman insists that Newhouse will not reach the final table in the next three thousand years. Lon takes the opportunity to start listing the stupid bets Norman has made so far, but Norman interrupts him to add one more: climbing the Eiffel Tower in a plaid toga while noshing on greasy fries. Norman goes further than his previous statements, now saying it has nothing to do with Newhouse: no one will succeed in back-to-back November Nine runs with more than six thousand players in the Main Event, it’s just too difficult. Scott Palmer shoves with 2-2 and gets called by Greaves with Aces.
93433, one full house loses to a better full house. Palmer is the final player to make 287K, and we’ll redraw the tables just as soon as Luis Velador finishes his hand with Billy Pappas. Pappas: 6-6. Velador: A-K of diamonds. The flop: 5J5. Velador bets. Turn: 3. River: 3. Pappas bets 700K, Velador calls despite having nothing. Pappas reaches 7th place. Redraw: Good for Newhouse Let’s see some new tables. Half of these players are going to make it now. Half will be going home today. Velador betting again, K-Q. This time he faces Newhouse, who bets with 8-6 suited.
84JT3. Newhouse takes a relatively small pot with his pair. Newhouse is in 5th place, Norman refuses to think about paying up. Newhouse will also call with A-Q against Stephensen with K-Q. The flop is 5Q2. Stephensen bets, Newhouse calls. Jack. Stephensen checks, Newhouse gets aggressive. River is a 6. Newhouse bets more, Stephensen calls and loses to a better kicker. Newhouse is now in 4th with 17 million. With two fairly satisfying hands in a row, Newhouse decides to bet with Q-3 of clubs. Velador with K-Q will call from the big blind. J9Q, once again two players have a pair of Queens on the flop but this time it’s Newhouse with the inferior kicker. Another King for Velador. After a river 9 Velador bets modestly, Newhouse senses he’s lost but the final bet is small enough it’s worth seeing. Of course they’re doing the hat Event #7 in the Side Action Championship is the inevitable “throw cards into a hat.” Hellmuth wins, I again fail to feign enthusiasm. Zaichenko goes all-in with A-J unsuited with 2.6 million against Sindelar’s 8-8.
23Q of spades. Zaichenko is one spade short of a flush. Turn King, now there is also a possible straight. The 9 of spades saves Zaichenko, it’s only a minor injury to Daniel Sindelar. Mahin bluffs a small pot away from Larrabe. He’s still the short stack at his table, so next hand he’ll bet on A-K. Newhouse throws his weight around, raising him to a million chips pre-flop. Mahin goes all-in, Newhouse rewards him with a fold. Newhouse bets with A-9 suited. Stephensen re-raises his A-K. Newhouse four-bets 5M, Stephensen goes all-in for seven million. Newhouse calls, no one knows why.
KQJ, very bad news for Newhouse. An 8 on the turn means his only hope is to both tie with broadway straights. But the final card is a 2, and the two players trade positions. A painful loss for Newhouse. A graceful exit Larrabe is in, he likes A-K of diamonds. The only taker is Mahin, and his T-8 is not confident. He shows no reaction to the 6T8 that appears and checks. Larrabe smells a flush draw and bets 550K; Mahin re-raises to 1.5. Larrabe puts Mahin all-in for 5M.
Larrabe is not pleased to see his Ace against two pair. That Ace becomes a pair on the turn, but the odds are still weak. But the 9 of diamonds completes Larrabe’s flush, and Scott Mahin is gone. Some people would remember this as a bad beat, but the third of a million dollars clearly softens the blow. Kara Scott interviews Mahin on the way out, with tears in his eyes he just looks grateful at the opportunities that have opened for his family as a result of making it this far in his first tournament. One last big hand Zaichenko sits pretty happy with wired Aces, but for some reason Jorryt van Hoof calls with T-6. Amazingly he flops a straight, 987. Zaichenko has no reason to suspect, he calls van Hoof’s 550K bet. A 4 of diamonds means Zaichenko has no chance, Jorryt placidly calls to lure Zaichenko into betting a million chips. After a brief leading hesitation van Hoof raises 5.86 million, putting Zaichenko all-in. Zaichenko takes the bait. We see the pointless King, Zaichenko is knocked out in 17th place. Van Hoof is now in second place with almost 21 million chips, only a tiny bit behind chip leader Daniel Sindelar. Amazing hand there, but the DraftKings.com “King of the Night” will be awarded to newcomer Scott Mahin for an amazing first-time run and for going out with class. There are sixteen players left, we’ll get rid of seven more next week when we finally wrap up July and catch up to the present. Previous Post Next Post episodes|espn|wsop About Ryan Ocello

In this new series I’ll be dissecting the different arguments being made in regards to legalizing and regulating online poker, in an attempt to try and get to the underlying truth. I’ll take a look at the arguments both for and against online gambling, and see if we can toss the rhetoric aside and look at the situation on the ground. The first topic up for discussion is the argument that online gaming is impossible to regulate and police due to the anonymity of the Internet. A favorite Argument For iGaming Opponents Since their movement to ban online gambling began late in 2013, Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) have offered up many hypothetical situations detailing how the anonymity of the Internet could be used for nefarious purposes. Truth be told, Adelson and the rest of the opposition to iGaming have been winning this argument all along, playing on the fears of lawmakers and the general public over the anonymity of online gaming, and how it will lead to money laundering and create easy access to gambling for problem gamblers and children. A favored line of Adelson’s is that he can see if a person is drunk or underage in one of his casinos; something that can’t be done online. This line of attack usually causes online gaming advocates to start shining a spotlight on Adelson and brick & mortar casinos failings on this front, which in my opinion is not the best counterargument to make. While it’s fun to do and is a valid criticism, most of our energy has been spent pointing out Las Vegas Sands own issues with money laundering and underage gambling, and thus leads to the inevitable cat calls of hypocrite and fraud directed Sheldon Adelson’s way. However, this is basically reinforcing Adelson’s message by implying it’s not just an online issue but also a brick & mortar issue. Instead of pointing out the safeguards that are in place we tend to point out how other industries are not perfect on this front either. So, while we are launching ad hominem attacks against Adelson and CSIG, we do little to assuage the actual concern he is raising, and it’s the perceived anonymity of online poker among the public that allows Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling to drive their message home. So let’s take a look at just how anonymous people are on the Internet, and how we should be countering this claim. You’re Not As Anonymous As You Think The other argument that could be used to rebut concerns over money laundering and access to problem and underage gamblers (the anonymous Internet), is to point out that while the Internet does provide a certain amount of anonymity between players, you are for all intents and purposes an absolute open book when it comes to what the online poker site and the regulators can see. While every other player at the table may not know anything about “AlwaysBLUFF” other than his general location, the site has verified that person’s name, age, and home address. They have a credit card or payment option on file for AlwaysBLUFF. They can quickly pull up every bet AlwaysBLUFF has ever made on the site, that person’s deposit and withdrawal history, the number of hours they have played, and any other scrap of information they may need. The Internet may provide a single layer of anonymity, but licensed and regulated online poker sites have access beyond that top layer, to layers that leave a paper trail a mile long that can be traced and followed. They can see where you are logging in from, see if your betting habits suddenly change, track the amount of money you deposit and withdraw, and so on. In the same ways a bank can alert you to potential fraud, an online gaming site could alert players to the same. Is it foolproof? Of course not. Anyone who really wants to hack the game system will find a way, just like anyone who wants to mark cards in a casino can still go and do it if they really want to. But, just like marking cards, we can now hold people accountable for their actions online. A minor using a stolen credit card or stolen Social Security Number to create an online account has broken laws and will be punished if they are caught. Someone trying to launder money online faces the same consequences as someone trying to launder money through some other channel. The penalty for breaking these laws is our recourse and the main deterrent, just as they are in a land-based casino and every other walk of life. Not every criminal, tax evader, and law breaker is caught. Verdict Sheldon Adelson is 100% correct. People can create an account and then hand their phone off to a 16 year old kid to play. Someone desperate enough could steal someone else’s SS# and open an online account. A child could figure out their parents online password and use their account. But… An adult could also purchase alcohol and give it a minor. Someone could steal your credit card and buy items at Best Buy or Target. A child could figure out their parents password for eBay or Amazon, or their Debit Card PIN and do just as much if not more financial damage. Nothing is foolproof. The safeguards currently in place remove the layer of anonymity that online poker players had before regulations, and the punishments for people breaking these laws are more than enough to protect the integrity of the industry Previous Post Next Post About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

Progress has been made on a number of fronts in California but it doesn’t appear a compromise on Bad Actor clauses is coming anytime soon. In a lengthy interview with iGaming Business, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians Chairman Mark Macarro stated the purchase of PokerStars by Amaya Gaming changes “nothing,” when it comes to PokerStars potential involvement in California iPoker. Macarro’s full, yet concise response was, “Nothing. That’s my one-word answer. Nothing,” which along with several utterances (four in fact, which you can see below) of, “strictly limited and regulated online poker,” seems to indicate little has changed from the summer. The Pechangas are just one of 13 tribes that coalesced around their opposition to PokerStars and their quartet of partners, the Morongo band of Mission Indians, Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens Casino. While the Bad Actor / Tainted Assets debate is a major hurdle (one of three Macarro cited in the interview), there are also several other issues that will also need to be sorted out, including who will be allowed to participate in the California online poker industry – and who will be left out in the cold. The Bad Actor Debate Could Be Settled 3,000 miles Away Oddly, California’s final decision on PokerStars will likely be heavily influenced by the outcome of PokerStars license application 3,000 miles away in New Jersey. While PokerStars is calling for lawmakers to craft a bill that would leave their potential involvement in the hands of regulators (as it is in New Jersey), PokerStars’ opponents want that decision made at the legislative level and included in the bill (as it is in Nevada). The general consensus seems to be that if PokerStars is approved by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE) it will help quell the opposition in California. Conversely, if for some reason PokerStars is denied a New Jersey iGaming license (which seems unlikely but not out of the realm of possibility), their chances in California would suffer a crushing blow. A lot of this will come down to timing. If PokerStars is approved by the NJ DGE prior to bills being introduced they are less likely to contain sweeping Bad Actor / Tainted Asset language in my opinion. If PokerStars future in New Jersey is still up in the air there may be a more concerted push from their California opponents to have strong Bad Actor language written into the bill. One interesting side note to this story is that while land-based interests in California have come out full throated against PokerStars, the iGaming companies PokerStars would compete against have taken a softer stance. 888 CEO Brian Mattingley feels PokerStars should spend a year or two in the Penalty Box due what Mattingley sees as the unfair advantage of operating in the U.S. from 2006-2011. “They shouldn’t be allowed to walk into new states,” Mattingley told me in an interview back in August. “one year, 18 months, or two years” would be appropriate in Mattingley’s eyes. Another potential California competitor, bwin.party, also appears to be against Bad Actor clauses. Group Director of Poker Jeffrey Haas had a rather interesting answer to the question of bwin.party’s stance on Bad Actor clauses in California when I spoke to him earlier this month, saying only, “this is a matter for the regulators to decide.” What makes this such an interesting take is that Haas’s statement is almost word-for-word what PokerStars and their partners have been saying on the matter, “Let the regulators regulate.” Another Interesting comment by Macarro One of the more interesting statements made by the Pechanga Tribal Chair during the iGaming Business interview was in reference to partnerships. When asked why the tribe hasn’t followed the lead of the Morongos (PokerStars) or the United Auburn Indian Community (partypoker) and declared their iGaming partner, Macarro coyly intimated that the tribe already has a partner in place: Who might this “secret” partner be? There are several potential candidates. 888 has been a driving force in the U.S. online poker market, and since their national partner Caesars doesn’t operate a casino in California they are a logical fit. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that partypoker could partner with Pechanga along with UAIC and perhaps other tribes/cardrooms to create a similar network such as the one PokerStars is planning. And there is always the possibility that the answer is C) None of the above, and the Pechanga partnership will be a curveball. Previous Post Next Post 888 poker|amaya|online poker legalization|pechanga|pokerstars About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

When (yes when) California legalizes online poker, one of three scenarios will likely unfold. In the first, a “bad actor” clause banning any and all pre-UIGEA participants, including PokerStars, is enacted. The Golden State’s poker community is left feeling less than enthusiastic. A second sees PokerStars gain immediate access to California’s 38 million inhabitants. The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), legions of online poker aficionados and myself take to the streets in jubilant celebration. But as we all know, touchy legislative issues rarely have black and white answers. Which brings us to scenario number three, where PokerStars is granted a license, but is prohibited from launching operations until a predetermined grace period passes. As much as I am pro-PokerStars, delaying its entry may be the only way to both appeal to the masses and ensure that any iPoker legislation that comes out of California in 2015 is inked into law. Lingering issues regarding the role of racetracks and small tribes in the prospective regulated marketplace aside, the only real issue dividing lawmakers and the state’s influential tribal factions is PokerStars. Let’s be clear – it’s not that PokerStars’ opponents in California oppose the online poker giant solely because it continued to operate in the United States post-UIGEA. If that were the case, why didn’t they soften their stance when the Rational Group was acquired by “good actor” Amaya Gaming? Instead, they fear that the triumvirate of PokerStars, the Morongo and three of CA’s largest card rooms will spell doom for their bottom line. And who wouldn’t feel threatened competing against a company that in Europe attracts more than nine times the volume of its next nearest competitor? But by pushing off its right to operate by say 12 or 18 months, other operators have a chance to establish their worth. This sort of compromise benefits the greater poker community in two integral ways. We’ve already touched on the idea that by either pushing off PokerStars’ entry or reevaluating its application at a later date, the path towards legislation becomes much clearer, i.e. faster. Perhaps just as importantly, it gives day one operators a hard deadline to win over consumers. I think its safe to say that the looming presence of PokerStars will compel operators to be far less lackadaisical then they have been in New Jersey. In turn the people that matter most, the players, benefit. Powerful figures within the iGaming sphere such as former 888 CEO Brian Mattingley maintain the belief that while the presence of PokerStars is ultimately good for the market, it should face a penalty for all the years it operated at an advantage. And that’s fair. If anything a brief delay ensures that PokerStars will have enough time to fine tune its stellar PokerStars 7 client before launching in California. Perhaps it also learns a thing or two from others’ mistakes. My advice to California legislators: Level the playing field, do whatever it takes to guarantee that an online poker bill is passed in 2015 and the rules of fair play are upheld. If that means PokerStars entry must be delayed, then so be it. But don’t leave the regulated iPoker industry’s best hope out in the cold. Previous Post Next Post online poker|online poker legalization|online poker regulation|pokerstars About Robert DellaFave Robert DellaFave writes for a variety of online gaming sites and is also working on programming a poker simulation creative enough to beat the best. Follow Robert on Twitter @DivergentGames and on Google+

We’re just a few months away from the start of a new legislative session in California, and Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer has already indicated that one of the first things he will do is introduce a new online poker bill when the legislature reconvenes this December. 2015 will mark the seventh consecutive year California has attempted to pass an online poker bill, and while some progress has been made, there are still a number of obstacles standing in California’s way. Most notably: 1. Racetrack involvement
2. Bad Actor clauses
3. Licensing restrictions Racetracks This could very well be the thorniest unresolved issue that is holding up online poker legislation in California. While racetracks and the racing industry are on the decline in California and across the country, the racing industry still holds quite a bit of sway in Sacramento thanks to its close alignment with organized labor. If an online poker bill is going to make it out of the legislature in 2015 it will have to deal with this problem in some way, shape or form. The potential solutions are:
Open up the licensing process to racetracks in a manner that appeases them.
Continue on without the support of the racing industry and hope a bill gets passed anyway.
Offer the racing industry some type of stipend out of the tax money generated from online poker. The issue with opening up the licensing process is it also allows smaller card rooms and smaller tribes to apply as well, and could create a situation where there are simply too many cooks in the kitchen, with too many choices for consumers, and too many bad cooks disparaging the industry. Option #2 isn’t much better. Without the support of racing and labor the chances that a bill passes through the legislature are greatly diminished. The two groups control a significant bloc of voters and still have a lot of clout with plenty of politicians. The logical answer would seem to be to allow for some type of monetary allotment for race tracks, but I still think some tribes and card rooms will try to cut the racing industry out before putting them on the dole. Bad Actors This is the issue everyone likes to point as the largest hurdle to clear, but with PokerStars (the reason for the Bad Actor clause and the only company vehemently fighting against it) seemingly about to be licensed in New Jersey this is becoming less and less of an issue. Depending on what happens to New Jersey’s online poker industry when PokerStars enters the market could determine how hard the opposition fights to keep them out. If Stars comes in like gangbusters I’d expect a brutal fight in California. If they come in strong, but not dominating the opposition might bend a little. The problem is, it doesn’t seem like a bill can be passed without allowing PokerStars to apply for a license, as their coalition is not only resolute, but is one of the most politically powerful, with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, The Bicycle Casino, the Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens Casino. While certain tribes would love to see PokerStars sitting on the sideline for a couple of years, it just doesn’t seem like a feasible solution if they want to offer online poker themselves. Fortunately, because of the sale to Amaya Gaming there is an out. PokerStars could still be allowed to apply for a license and Bad Actor language could still be included in the bill. What would need to go are the overarching parts of the Bad Actor clause, most notably the Tainted Asset aspect. One potential solution I could envision would be to include a provision that disallows PokerStars’ player database from being used. This might be enough to mollify the opposition, and is a concession I could see PokerStars agreeing to*. *I have since been informed that disallowing PokerStars database could be viewed as an unconstitutional taking and is not something on the table. Licensing After the 13 tribe coalition lined up against PokerStars and their California partners, and introduced their vision for an online poker bill in a letter to the state legislature, everyone was talking about their doubling down on Bad Actor language. However, lost in the shuffle were other important parts of that bill; parts important enough that they led to a second letter being penned by yet another coalition (that’s three if you’re counting) and delivered to the state house in Sacramento. This second letter, written by a coalition of 25 “smaller” card rooms in the state, called on the legislature to make the licensing process as inclusive as possible, and in doing see turn the potential online poker market into one where only the “haves” can play. As noted above, the major players in California are trying to keep competition from getting out of control, and have done so by making the licensing fee hefty (somewhere between $5 million and $10 million up front) and by setting strict parameters that would need to be met by any potential applicant. These preclusions are designed to keep the smaller card rooms and smaller tribes out of the online poker industry. The smaller tribes will almost certainly be appeased by some type of revenue sharing deal, such as the one that is currently in place between the large gaming tribes and non-gaming and small gaming tribes for land-based casino revenue. Card rooms are a different matter. Even by combining their political capital, the 25 smaller card rooms that signed off on the July letter simply don’t have the political muscle possessed by the tribes and/or racetracks. If anyone is going to get left out of the bill it’s likely to be the smaller card rooms in the state, although some have suggested allowing these smaller card rooms to launch online poker sites under one of the larger operator’s license – similar to a “skin” of an online poker network in the global market. The license holder could then take a cut of the skin’s revenue and perhaps everyone would be happy – wishful thinking for sure. Author’s note: This article was updated on 9/28 to reflect new information regarding PokerStars database. Previous Post Next Post California|pokerstars About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

2014 may not have produced any movement on the legislative front, but it was a year of iGaming conference and hearing proliferation. From a forum in Massachusetts, to hearings in Pennsylvania, to hearings and conferences in California, iGaming was finally being discussed out in the open. Building on the success of 2014, the first major iGaming conference of 2015 has already been announced, the iGaming Legislative Symposium (IGLS), and it will take place in what is widely considered to be the linchpin state when it comes to online gaming expansion in the U.S., California. This is the second annual IGLS conference. IGLS 2014: Recap As California’s online poker train hurtled toward what looked to be passage in the state legislature this year (before the inevitable derailment), a number of hearings and conferences were held to discuss all things California and online poker. One of those conferences, the iGaming Legislative Symposium was a huge success, and attracted the biggest names in online gaming in California and across the globe. IGLS 2014 saw lawmakers, analysts, tribal leaders, and pundits come together and discuss the major issues in California. Even though many issues weren’t hashed out, and California eventually shelved online poker in 2014, IGLS 2014 was a productive conference, and hopefully IGLS 2015 will push the envelope even farther. For a look back at the highlights from the inaugural IGLS you can take a look at John Brennan’s excellent column for NorthJersey.com which is essentially a sample of OnlinePokerReport.com’s Chris Grove‘s live tweets (Chris being the best live tweeter in the business). Or you can watch this short YouTube highlights clip: While these conferences might not reach the eyes and ears of the general public, but they do allow industry experts the opportunity to debate one another and more importantly, to present valuable information to lawmakers, who for the most part only possess a cursory understanding of the industry. IGLS 2015: What to expect IGLS 2014 was successful enough that the organizers, Pechanga.net and Spectrum Gaming Group, have decided to bring it back in 2015, at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento, California will once again play host to the iGaming world on February 26, 2015. IGLS 2015 will be a one-day conference featuring two keynote addresses and six separate panel discussions:
Opening Keynote Address
Panel 1: 2014: The Year in Review
Panel 2: The Future of iGaming in California
Panel 3: Critical Issues for a Successful iGaming Rollout
Panel 4: Is iGaming More Addictive Than Land-based Gaming?
Luncheon Keynote Address
Panel 5: iGaming Regulation in California
Panel 6: Legislative Initiatives All of the panels will be highly informative, but perhaps the most interesting panel will be the discussion on addiction, as this will mark the first time (to my knowledge) this topic will be explored at such a conference. Addressing this key issue (which we now have ample research to fall back on) will be an important part of assuaging any lingering fears from legislators, and help preemptively debunk the likely attacks from Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. This panel will likely also address the many ways online gaming can identify problem gamblers and assist in treatment. Another must-see discussion will be Panel 6: Legislative Initiatives. This panel could provide the most fireworks depending on who the speakers are, as it will almost certainly delve into the highly contentious issues of racetracks, Bad Actor clauses, and the criteria for licensing in the state, which will affect smaller tribes and smaller card rooms. California still has a number of issues to work out, and hopefully some of them can be resolved (or at least addressed) at IGLS 2015. Keynote speakers and speakers for the individual panels have yet to be announced. Previous Post Next Post California|online poker legalization|online poker regulation About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

Many of the so-called online poker “legal experts” are beginning to claim that 2015 is “the year” that California will legalize the game. Haven’t we heard this before? Wasn’t that the claim in 2014? While I’m not going to claim that online poker is a lock for California in 2015, the prospects look better than they did at the start of 2014. The stumbling block holding things up continues to be PokerStars. This time around, we have a new wrinkle. Amaya Gaming Group Inc has purchased the company and wants to operate the site. While progress is being made, nothing is concrete and this could still drag on months or even years. With that said, today we present some scenarios that could lead to the bill finally being passed and PokerStars being allowed into California. Revise the Law to a Five-Year Penalty Across the Board The bad actor clause as it stands in California will prohibit PokerStars from ever entering the legalized marketplace. Regardless of what you think about the company or their role in Black Friday, a lifetime ban is excessive. Instead, it may be time to revise the bad actor law to provide a straight five-year penalty to any company that violated the UIGEA. This could also apply to companies like Amaya that purchased assets of companies that violated the UIGEA. A five-year penalty keeps out UIGEA violators out until at least 2020, assuming that a law is passed in 2015. This is more than enough time for tribes and state card rooms to establish themselves. Eliminate Bad Actor and Give Poker a Two-Year Flat Penalty New Jersey does not have a bad actor clause in their online gambling laws, but they do consider each applicant on merit. This is what led to PokerStar’s problems in the Garden State. Rather than an arbitrary bad actor clause, axe the clause and let regulators evaluate each site based on their past. California could take the approach of New Jersey and prevent the company from entering the state for the first two years of legalized online poker. Technically, New Jersey put PokerStar’s licensing application “on-hold,” but it still accomplished the same purpose. In the case of California, this would be an outright penalty for past discretions and a way to nullify the sites perceived “competitive advantage.” Much like revising the bad actor clause, this would give tribes and card rooms time to get a foothold without the dominant prescience of PokerStars. Revenue Sharing System With Tribes Another option that all parties could consider is a revenue sharing system akin to that of Major League Baseball. There are two primary components to the MLB system. First, 31 percent of local revenues are put into a fund and those funds are evenly distributed among teams at the end of the season. Next, teams with excessively high payrolls are hit with a luxury tax. When a team surpasses a pre-set limit, they pay into this fund. The lower payroll teams are then paid this tax. I’m not saying that every site should pay 31% of their revenue into a sharing fund, but a smaller percentage could be considered. For example, each online site could put 10% of their internet win into a revenue sharing fund. To see how this works, let’s assume that the first year there are nine tribal sites operational along with PokerStars. First year’s revenues come in at a modest $100 million of which PokerStars collects $80 million. The nine tribes contribute $2 million to the fund or roughly $222,222 per site. PokerStars contributes $8 million to the fund. At the end of the year, each site gets $1 million. While PokerStars technically loses $7 million this way, they still finished up $73 million on the year while Tribes gain $777,778 each. An alternative option would be to impose a luxury tax on PokerStars. If PokerStars market share exceeds a certain percentage, say 70%, they pay a percentage of their win as a luxury tax. That money would be distributed to the tribes. Using my prior example, PokerStars would have an 80% market share in California. Imposing a 10% luxury tax on the site would send $888,888 to the other sites in the state. A 20% luxury tax would send $1.7 million to each operating tribal site. Using a revenue sharing system could be a way of making PokerStars pay for the privilege of operating in the state post-UIGEA. They would still be dominant operator, but the sting would be a bit less for tribes. What About OnGame? With all of the focus put on the PokerStars brand, it seems that most have forgotten that Amaya owns another poker network that could be modified for the U.S. market. The company purchased the Ongame Network from bwin.Party in 2012, a move that most thought was a precursor to a reentry into the U.S. market. If PokerStars continues to be a hindrance, why not make a compromise where Amaya enters California with OnGame? They already own the rights to the site that would be a perfect choice to resurrect for the California marketplace, PokerRoom.com. Some of you may remember that PokerRoom reopened in 2012 and closed its doors for the second time in 2013. The site was a trailblazer for online poker in the early days of the game and could be revived for a new chapter in the American market. Let Amaya enter with the OnGame brand and evaluate them for two years. After that time, allow PokerStars to come into the market. Previous Post Next Post California|online poker|pokerstars About James Guill Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.