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  1. In December 2013, the Pennsylvania Legislature authorized a study of the condition of the state's gambling industry as well as what may be in store for the future. Econsult Solutions was tasked with this challenge and has now released its report. Of particular interest to the visitors of this website is Section 5 of the report, entitled "New Source of Revenue" and focusing first on internet gaming. After detailing some of the history of internet gambling in the US and discussing what has been happening in New Jersey, the report moved into estimating the potential Pennsylvania market. Two approaches were used: econometric and rule-of-thumb. The econometric approach is much more quantitative and used demographics and regression analysis to draw relationships between revenues in countries where online gambling is regulated and places where it is not. For the rule-of-thumb method, it used countries with "well-developed" internet gambling markets that are seen as the most comparable to the US. The rule-of-thumb method produced higher revenue estimates for US online gambling than the econometric model. Econsult took the average of the two to produce its final numbers. The report predicted $3.577 billion in poker revenue annually if the entire US market opened up, as well as $4.922 billion from casino games. The total: $8.498 billion. The report then narrowed things down to just Pennsylvania. Again, two methods were used to estimate revenues: the first just used Pennsylvania's share of the country's GDP, while the other used the percentage of online poker that was played in Pennsylvania in 2010, according to a University of Hamburg database. Both numbers were very similar and, again, the Econsult took the average, settling on 3.61%. Thus, the report put the potential market for online poker in Pennsylvania at $129 million and, for casino gaming, at $178 million for a total of $307 million. In estimating the first year's revenues in a potential Pennsylvania online gaming market, the study went with 60% of the forecasted level, or $77 million for poker and $107 for casino games. However, in its weekly online poker Scouting Report, PokerScoutbegged to differ with those numbers, as it has always erred on the more conservative side. PokerScout saw the potential poker market for Pennsylvania topping out at $60 million annually and just $45 million in the first year (chart pictured). Also of note in the Econsult report are the firm's thoughts on possible i-gaming cannibalization of land-based casinos' revenues. The company doubted there would be any problems. It saw the online and land-based gaming markets as very different: online players can play for much smaller stakes, can play multiple games at once, and can enjoy the benefits of statistical tracking, whereas brick-and-mortar players enjoy the social aspect of playing live as well as the casino amenities. The report also stated that most internet play takes place in the afternoon or evening, indicating that it is simply replacing other forms of home entertainment rather than a trip to the casino. The report went a step further, arguing that internet gambling would actually help brick-and-mortar casinos by introducing a new market of people to gambling. These people could get comfortable with the games and then try their hand at the casino. As such, Econsult estimated the potential for increased revenues from the "complement effect" seriously outweigh the potential lost revenues for land-based casinos from the "replacement effect" of i-gaming, concluding that internet gambling, on net, would help existing casinos. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players. PokerScout's Scouting Report is a daily newsletter for the online poker industry, with in-depth data and analysis of the market. More information can be found by clicking here or contacting support@pokerscout.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. With an eye toward online gambling legalization, Pennsylvania's Parx Casino (pictured) has inked a deal with Irish software maker GameAccount to provide a "gaming-as-entertainment" online experience for its customers. --- PocketFives' news coverage is brought to you by Betsafe, one of the leading suppliers of online gaming products worldwide and a major sponsor of Gumball 3000. Sign up now for great bonuses, €3,000,000 guaranteed monthly, and plenty of live events! --- GameAccount launched the service, known as Simulated Gaming, early this year in order to tap into the burgeoning regulated US internet market. In anticipation of legislation, land-based casinos can deploy the software to set up a social gaming site and offer patrons a full complement of play money casino games. Parx Casino, owned by Greenwood Racing, is the market leader in Eastern Pennsylvania's five-property market, commanding a 30% share. In the event that the industry becomes legalized, the service can be easily upgraded to provide real money online gaming. "By deploying their system on-property, Parx Casino will have the opportunity to launch Simulated Gaming nationwide before year's end and be well prepared in the event that regulation of real money internet gaming emerges in the State of Pennsylvania," said John Dixon, Greenwood Entertainment CTO. According to a press release, Simulated Gaming provides a host of benefits to brick-and-mortar casinos, including increasing visitation to the property, while driving new traffic. The service has "been proven to monetize internet traffic to existing websites operated by land-based US casinos, with more than 10% of players spending an average of three times more than players of Social Casino applications operated on Facebook," the company stated. GameAccount has already made headway into the US market via a partnership with Betfairin New Jersey. "GameAccount has demonstrated its Regulated Gaming capability in New Jersey and the merits of Simulated Gaming when integrated with a casino management system," said Dixon. That relationship, however, could be in doubt now that Trump Plaza, Betfair's online gaming license partner, has announced that it will be closing its doors in September. Pennsylvania is widely believed to be one of the next states to legalize online gambling. In May, the Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee released a study estimating that the online gambling industry could generate up to $184 million in state revenue in the first year and grow to $307 million in later years. Read the findings. Online poker would make up $77 million of that amount in the first year, reaching $129 million in subsequent years. The study was enough to turn State Senator Kim Ward (pictured), Chair of the committee, into a proponent of the industry. "Internet gaming, pensions, and liquor are the big issues on our plate," Ward told PokerNews in an interview. "iGaming hasn't been there in the past, but now that this looks like it could be a source of income, it will probably become a prominent part of the discussion." In June, State Senators Edwin Erickson and Bob Mensch introduced SB 1386, a bill that focuses on the regulation of online poker, but uses language that leaves consideration for "any game." If passed, casinos would pay a $5 million fee along with 14% of their gross gaming revenue in tax. Unlike in Nevada and New Jersey, casinos would be required to operate under their own brand, not under the name of a software partner. Parx houses over 3,000 slot machines and 150 table games that generated $478 million in revenue in the 12 months up to June. The casino hopes to launch GameAccount's GameSTACK Internet Gaming System by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  3. One of the highlights of this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas was the $1,500 buy-in Monster Stackevent, which drew a crowd of 7,862 entrants. Finishing second, and amazingly edging out nearly the entire field, was Joseph McKeehen (pictured), who is known as dude904 on PocketFives and calls North Wales, Pennsylvania home. McKeehen earned $820,000. Right before we talked to McKeehen, he won a $1,650 Heads-Up event at Borgata in Atlantic City for $37,000. He said of finishing second in the Monster Stack a few months ago, "It was too much money for me to be sad. I was ecstatic. Of course I wanted to win, but oh well. I played really well and think my opponent did too. The money is life-changing." McKeehen was already playing poker for a living before his Monster Stack cash, but as a result, he has been able to stop selling as much action. He added, "I'm still playing the smaller buy-in events I was before the win, but I'm looking to play more Main Event-type tourneys like WPTs and $5Ks like the one at Seminole Hard Rock." Players in the Monster Stack started with 15,000 in chips and the blinds originated at 25-25, going up every hour. McKeehen said that he bought in at the last possible moment and had a starting stack of 50 big blinds. Although the late start was due to his flight beginning an hour before midnight, he told us, "I wouldn't ever register that one on time. 600 big blinds are too many. There are a lot of fish, but I think if I am playing so absurdly deep-stacked like that, I'm more likely to spew off to them instead of win a lot of chips." As you might expect, McKeehen is an advocate of Monster Stack-type events, although he doesn't want to see them rolled out regularly. He explained, "Even though I haven't had any success in the WSOP's regular structures, I know they are very good structures and don't really need to be changed. Having a gimmick-type event like this once or twice is a great idea though. 7,800 people in one tourney is a big accomplishment." If you take a look at McKeehen's Hendon Mob results, you'll notice quite a few of the recent ones come from Parx Casino outside of Philadelphia (pictured). If regulated online poker were to come to his home state, Parx would likely be one of the industry leaders. "I hope online poker comes to Pennsylvania," he commented. "It might end up being bigger than New Jersey. We don't have the live venues like in Atlantic City, but it's still a big state. The dream would be for a few states to legalize play and then connect where we could all play against each other." He's eighth on the all-time money list for Pennsylvania, according to the Hendon Mob, with $1.1 million in live winnings. He has another $1.1 million in winnings in his PocketFives profile from online tournaments, including a win in the Full Tilt $150,000 Guarantee in 2010 for $52,000. McKeehen got his start in poker by watching the WPT on television. "I thought I was pretty good, so when I was growing up, I played a lot online. When Black Friday happened, my options were limited, but I was in school, so I decided to play live poker on the side while I stayed in school and got my degree. I found a few 18-and-older places to play like Turning Stone, Florida, and the PCA. Luckily, I had a lot of success live, so I got to build a strong bankroll. I was pretty sure I was going pro as soon as I finished. I didn't have an interest in a real life job." Check out PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee (CERD) heard testimony from several of the state's regulators on Wednesday to assess the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's (PGCB) ability to police the online gambling industry. That would, of course, only happen if iGaming were legalized in the Commonwealth. Some information for this article was taken from a hearing summary on USPoker. PGCB Executive Director Kevin O'Toole was the first to offer testimony in the hearing. He expressed confidence that internet gambling could be safely regulated, citing the clean track record of legalized iGaming sites in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. He described PGCB officials as "experienced and capable" and assured their ability to regulate the internet gambling environment in an "efficient and controlled manner." Next up was PGCB's Douglas Sherman, who spoke on the legality of the industry in the US, focusing on the Wire Act of 1961 and the UIGEA. He explained that the Department of Justice changed its opinion on the Wire Act in 2011, concluding that it only applied to sports betting, not online poker or other forms of gambling. He also touched on the Sheldon Adelson-backed Restoration of America's Wire Act(RAWA), anti-online gambling legislation introduced by Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, pictured) in the US House. Sherman highlighted the threat imposed by RAWA, stating that if the bill passes, Pennsylvania would lose its chance to offer iGaming. With that legislation looming, many state lawmakers believe an online gambling bill should be passed sooner rather than later in order to ensure that the industry would be grandfathered in if a bill like RAWA were successful. During questioning, O'Toole stated that it would take between 9 and 12 months from a law passing for internet gaming to go live. He described geolocation technology as impressive and said that age verification systems could weed out underage players handily. There seemed to be a common misconception among lawmakers and regulators that no research has been done regarding the effect online gambling sites would have on brick-and-mortar casinos. State Senator Robert Tomlinson suggested that a Pennsylvania casino lost 20% of its players to New Jersey online gambling, yet presented no information as to how that figure was calculated. In reality, studies have already been done on the New Jersey iGaming market. These have shown there is little to no cannibalization by iGaming sites and that the market for online players is completely different from the market that favors land-based casinos. Michael Cruz, PGCB Chief Technology Officer, later fielded questions on the effectiveness of geolocation systems ensuring that players are physically inside the state. He described how New Jersey players close to the state border can be "pinged" more frequently to verify their location. He also asserted that regulators could set up an online environment that would be safe from hackers. With the hearing winding down, PGCB's Ken Martz spoke about the issue of problem gambling, saying it was "better to prevent" the problem than treat it. Commonwealth casinos, including Parx(pictured), currently contribute $150,000 a year to address compulsive gamblers. He also stated his concern that the ease of access to gambling would increase the number of gambling addicts. Again, this research has already been conducted and concludes that the rate of problem gamblers would not be likely to increase significantly. The hearing is the committee's second to focus on iGaming in the past two weeks. Earlier this month, CERD heard testimony from 11 of Pennsylvania's casino stakeholders, who gave their thoughts on Ward's iGaming legislation, SB 900. State lawmakers have introduced several online gambling bills so far this session. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  5. Pennsylvania's House Gaming Oversight Committeeheld a hearing with industry executives on Thursday to discuss the possibility of legalizing online gambling in the Keystone State. Legislators specifically discussed Representative John Payne's House Bill 649, which would authorize any interactive internet games approved by the gaming control body. Unlike the unhinged rhetoric spouted at the recent Congressional hearingfor Congressman Jason Chaffetz's (R-Utah) anti-internet gambling bill, the Restoration of America's Wire Act, clearer heads prevailed. The one exception was Las Vegas Sands spokesman Andy Abboud, who predictably parroted CEO Sheldon Adelson's anti-iGaming stance through misrepresentations and downright falsehoods. "I am not sure who Las Vegas Sands is trying to fool," said Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas in a statement. "Their Pennsylvania casino has been fined numerous times for allowing underage children to wager and they actively promote mobile casino gaming and sports betting at their Nevada properties." Indeed, one claim that has been repeated by Adelson and his minions is that online poker operators "can't know their customers," a flaw which, according to them, could lead to underage gambling. But as one technical expert for iGaming security company GLItestified, fraud controls implemented can tell you exactly who the customer is. Even if someone could successfully circumvent those measures, they would still not be able to cash out any winnings. At a land-based casino, he pointed out, any underage player could simply pass his chips to another patron, who could then cash them out instead. Furthermore, the GLI witness questioned the "controversy" surrounding internet gambling security. He noted that "bulletproof" iGaming fraud controlsalready exist and are widely used in gambling games like progressive slots, which add a portion of each bet to a communal jackpot and can be triggered by players in other casinos or states. The measures used by regulated internet gambling sites, in fact, are already in place today ensuring the security of our online banking transactions. "Imagine taking the internet out of any industry and see what happens," he said. Next up was GeoComply official Lindsay Slater, who presented a real-time demonstration of geo-locations taking place in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. At one point she zoomed in on a Garden State Starbucks and showed the pinpoint accuracy of the company's software by noting that they could detect two online gamblers who were playing on the opposite sides of the coffee shop. RAWA sponsor Chaffetz (pictured), on the other hand, has continually ignored explanations of how the technology is implemented. He instead has made statements in the past that "any 15-year-old kid could find a way to get around this." Slater's testimony highlighted the complexity of the company security software, revealing that 350 checks are made when a customer attempts to be geo-located. This technology is already in use by companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook. Pennsylvania is considered to be one of the next states to legalize online gambling. The Commonwealth has taken a slow and steady approach to regulating the industry, with many hoping that iGaming will create a new revenue stream that could ease the tax burden placed on Keystone State residents. Check out PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community. Earlier this week, the House Gaming Oversight Committee passed a resolution by a vote of 18-8 that urges Congress to oppose the Restoration of America's Wire Act. "The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the US Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of Washington politics," said Pappas. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  6. Pennsylvaniais widely seen as one of the US states likely to legalize online gambling in the next few years. While the Commonwealth has taken a slow and steady approach to regulation, Keystone State lawmakers recently introduced two bills that could bring Pennsylvania closer to that goal. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players. The first bill, numbered HB 649, was introduced by Representative John Payne (R-106) late last month and seeks to legalize not just internet poker, but also casino table games. In a statement on his website, Payne voiced the need to protect the state's citizens from unregulated and legally murky offshore i-gaming sites. "Right now, millions of Americans, including Pennsylvanians, participate in illegal online gaming where no regulation currently exists," he said. "By enacting effective state policy, we can help curb the illegal market while ensuring strong safeguards are in place to protect consumers." Only current licensed gaming entities would be eligible to receive a license under HB 649. Online gambling operators would pay a $5 million licensing fee and fork over 14% of "daily gross interactive gaming revenue" per week. According to Payne, this new revenue stream would go a long way toward relieving some of the state's financial burdens. "We are currently facing a projected $2 billion budget shortfall," he continued. "I think it's important we consider all responsible options to boost revenue before we consider asking our taxpayers for more money to fill that deficit." The bill does not contain "bad actor" language that would preclude PokerStars, or any other site that continued to operate in the US after the UIGEA was passed, from becoming licensed. HB 649 would also allow Pennsylvania to enter into interstate compacts. Just a week Payne's bill was filed, Representative Nick Miccarelli reintroduced his own i-gaming legislation, HB 645, which would regulate online poker only. Miccarelli floated a similar bill last year and made a statement in February announcing the return of the legislation under a new name. Like Payne, the representative cited the potential for i-poker to generate substantial tax dollars for the state. "A recent study from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found that internet gaming is a large new source of revenue that the Commonwealth could explore," he said. Unlike Payne's bill, HB 645 includes bad actor language that would seemingly take PokerStars out of the game. "Persons who provided goods or services related to internet gaming involving citizens of this Commonwealth that ceased operations as a result of the enactment of [the UIGEA] should be regarded differently from those that continue to flout federal and state law," the bill reads. "Granting licenses or allowing the use of assets of persons who ignored federal and state law would reward unlawful gaming activity… and create unfair competition with licensees that respected federal and state law," it continued. Similar to HB 649, Miccarelli's legislation would allow current gaming operators to receive a license for a fee of $5 million and would call for a tax rate of 14% per week. Miccarelli's original bill did not include the option for Pennsylvania to create interstate compacts, but now includes language allowing for such agreements. Research submitted by Morgan Stanley in September of last year stated that the Keystone State had made "significant progress" toward legalizing online gambling. "It does seem apparent that state lawmakers are still in the early stages of understanding the ins and outs of a regulated online gambling market," it cautioned, however. The financial firm concluded that online poker could be offered in the Commonwealth by 2017, with casino table games arriving later. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  7. [caption width="485"] John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance[/caption] December capped off a relatively quiet year on the poker legislation front in the US. However, the month itself was fairly eventful. Let's take a look back at what legislative events happened in December, in case you missed it. RAWA Hearing Failures The most significant development at the Federal level in December was a House Oversight Committee hearing entitled "A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications." Organized by Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the hearing could have been a disaster for online poker. Instead, we may have witnessed the end of an anti-iGaming movement on Capitol Hill. During the hearing, Chaffetz's Republican and Democratic colleagues lashed out at the state's rights implications of Restoring America's Wire Act, or RAWA. The bill, which Chaffetz introduced, decrees that the Wire Act of 1961 applies to all forms of online gambling, including poker, even in the three states that have already legalized it. If passed, it would mean an end to iPoker in the US. Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson is the main driver behind the bill. Rather than a hearing full of fear-mongering like we saw last March, December's hearing was largely a victory for proponents of online poker. As Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas told PocketFives, "I can't imagine there is tremendous momentum for RAWA coming out of the hearing, but we know Adelson and the money he has will continue to push the issue. I don't think we can let our guard down. We have done an outstanding job, not just the PPA, but the industry, of educating lawmakers about the failures of RAWA and I think that was exposed during the hearing." [caption width="512"] Online gambling opponent Jason Chaffetz[/caption] At one point during December's tilt, Chaffetz was seen in a heated sidebar with another lawmaker. Did the entire affair catch him off-guard? Pappas explained, "He just assumed everyone was on his side. I think he was a little stunned to hear the opposition, even from his own party, saying it doesn't make sense on Tenth Amendment grounds and logical grounds. There wasn't a lot of enthusiasm for it." Close, But No Cigar in Pennsylvania While we may have witnessed the death of RAWA at the Federal level in December, especially given that 2016 is a Presidential election year, there were some developments on the state level last month. Despite much optimism, efforts to regulate internet poker in Pennsylvaniafell short in December. There, a bill from Representative John Payne, HB 649, was withdrawn for the remainder of 2015 last month. [caption width="468"] Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne[/caption] Pappas pointed out, "Pennsylvania is still very much a live wire. The budget negotiations are ongoing and the failure of the most recent effort is probably good for iPoker. We are going to be watching that closely. They're going to be starting on the new budget in the first two weeks of the New Year." In Pennsylvania, the PPA Executive Director could see a scenario where the state's budget includes an earmark for revenue from expanded online gambling, but no authorizing legislation like HB 649. Then, it'll be up to lawmakers to decide what types of online gaming are permitted and what companies can service the market. HB 649 would have allowed the state's 12 brick-and-mortar casinos to partner with an online gaming operator to offer online poker and online casino games to those inside Pennsylvania. California Gains Momentum Another state where we could see action in 2016 is California, the holy grail of online poker markets in the US due to its size. California lawmakers have been closely monitoring revenue results from New Jersey, which has regulated internet gambling, and have a keen eye on PokerStars' impending launch in the Garden State, according to an ABC San Diego story and others in recent weeks. "California is still very much a hope," Pappas told us. "It has been a struggle with competing factions, but we got close last year to some agreements. One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been PokerStars and the bad actor provisions. However, PokerStars being licensed in New Jersey means that issue in California could come off the table. That would only leave the issue of how you deal with the racetracks. I think there's a sincere effort to include them via a license or revenue share. If that works out, California could happen relatively quickly." [caption width="334" align="alignright"] First-year California online poker revenue projections[/caption] In October, PokerStars received a transactional waiver allowing it to operate in New Jersey. No launch date has been given, but Pappas called the development "positive," saying that PokerStars not being considered a "bad actor," at least in New Jersey, means Amaya, Caesars, and MGMcould all ultimately work towards the same goal. Pappas noted that the trio has "a powerful amount of resources to put behind a lobbying effort." Caesars and MGM have largely been pro-iPoker, while Las Vegas Sands and Wynn have not. In late December, it was announced that the California Assembly could tackle online poker as early as this week, according to Online Poker Report. Four-Year Wire Act Anniversary Finally, it has been four years since the US Department of Justice issued a memo saying that the Wire Act only applies to online sports betting, ushering in regulated intrastate online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The opinion, which was released two days before Christmas in 2011 in response to inquiries from the New York and Illinois lotteries, has been a hot-button topic for opponents like Chaffetz. "It's not often that a gaming policy is enacted in a single legislative session," Pappas said of the speed at which US regulation at the state level has proceeded since 2011. "It usually takes multiple legislative sessions for gaming policy to become law. We're hopeful that 2016 is better than 2015 and better than the previous year. Getting bills passed is the ultimate goal, but we have to build to that goal first."
  8. [caption width="640"] An amendment regulating internet gambling introduced by Rosita Youngblood was tacked onto a bill regulating fantasy sports in Pennsylvania[/caption] Online poker went 2-for-2 on Wednesday. After the California Assembly Appropriations Committee approved a bill regulating online poker out West, attention turned to the other end of the US, where the PennsylvaniaHouse approved an amendment to a bill regulating daily fantasy sports. The significance: that amendment regulates online gaming, including poker. "It's terrific news. We look forward to the full bill passing the House," Poker Players Alliance Vice President Rich Muny said. "We look forward to positive Senate action as well. The bill already has momentum in the House. Next, it'll go to the Senate. Everyone in Pennsylvania should contact their lawmakers so we can get this done." House member Rosita Youngblood introduced the amendment, A08734, after a 45-minute recess around 6:30pm ET on Wednesday night. The rider was approved by a 115-80 vote and is an amendment to House Bill 2150, which would regulate fantasy sports in Pennsylvania. Now, at least in the Keystone State, the fates of online poker and fantasy sports are tied together. "In some states, DFS and poker will be tied," Muny said. "In other states, poker will be tied to other forms of gaming. Every state will be its own thing. We all have to understand the politics of each state." Earlier in the day, an amendment introduced by George Dunbar, A08621, to the same House Bill failed by a 116-79 vote. There was no debate about Youngblood's amendment, which essentially took Dunbar's amendment and eliminated the expansion of video game terminals, or VGTs, a hot-stove issue. In fact, discussion of Dunbar's bill was nearly exclusively about VGTs, namely how they might improve the quality of life in areas where they're located, how many should be allowed, and where they should be placed. There was also talk about how much of a negative impact VGTs would have on a fairly predictable source of revenue in casinos and lottery. It also seemed that a vote on the Dunbar amendment was going to be rather uninformed no matter what the outcome, as House memberSteve Samuelson said the 183-page amendment was not available until 10:00 this morning, leaving House members with little time to review. "Consequently, I have 183 questions," Samuelson said. Samuelson added that there's already internet gambling going on in Pennsylvania. "You have to be concerned about who is going to be doing internet gambling," he said. He also expressed concern over internet gambling safeguards, prohibition on gifts, the age of people working for iGaming sites, and the effects on the lottery and its beneficiaries. There seemed to be a lack of opposition to regulating fantasy sports, which could bode well for the long-term outlook for internet gambling and online poker in Pennsylvania. Take House member William Kortz, who said House Bill 2150 "regulates the fantasy sports industry, which is what we need to do… It's time to make this happen... I don't want to raise broad-base taxes. This would help us raise some much-needed revenue." Specifically, Dunbar explained that the House Bill will raise $1 million to $5 million per year from fantasy sports, while other components of it (not VGTs) would raise $250 million annually. Internet gaming and internet poker would be limited to licensed casinos in Pennsylvania. "I'm pro-gaming," Dunbar said. "For several sessions, I've pushed for legislation for internet gaming and internet poker. I've always viewed the need for this legislation as consumer protection. Internet gaming is going on right now. It's unregulated and un-taxed… We also get the cherry on top in additional revenues." "This is much like prohibition," he added. "If we vote this legislation down, it won't stop illegal gambling. This is just going to go offshore. It already is offshore." He emphasized that it's a bill that's really about consumer protection, echoing other champions of the industry over the years. Now, the online poker community will await a vote on House Bill 2150. No timeline is available.
  9. [caption width="640"] The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed HB 2150, a bill that would regulate online poker, internet gambling, and daily fantasy sports[/caption] It's the final countdown… literally. With just two days to go in the Pennsylvania General Assembly's session, the state's House of Representatives passed HB 2150, a bill that would regulate online poker, internet gambling, and daily fantasy sports. "Poker wins another round in the fight for our game," Poker Players Alliance Vice President Rich Muny said. "We look forward to taking the momentum from this resounding victory into our Senate fight, where we will lead the fight for ultimate victory. The PPA will soon launch an all-new Pennsylvania Action Page, which will make it easy for the online poker community to take action, telling Pennsylvania State Senators to support online poker. I encourage everyone to be sure to take action to help pass this important legislation." "We've cleared an important hurdle and regulated iPoker is becoming very real for Pennsylvania," PPA Executive Director John Pappas said. "We are in the home stretch and every contact we make with the Pennsylvania Senate brings iPoker that much closer to reality." Last week, the Pennsylvania House approved an amendment allowing internet gambling to an existing bill regulating fantasy sports. There was much debate over the inclusion of video game terminals, or VGTs, which were ultimately voted down. An internet gambling-only amendment survived and passed by a 115-80 vote. And just like that, the fates of online poker and fantasy sports were joined at the hip in the Keystone State. On Tuesday, there was no drama and no debate. Instead, seemingly out of the blue, HB 2150 passed by a 114-85 count. Speaking on HB 2150's prospects in the Pennsylvania Senate, Muny said, "We think the Senate is shaping up to be okay, but there are no guarantees. We can all help ourselves, and our odds, by being sure to take action by telling the Senate to pass this bill." HB 2150 now heads to the Pennsylvania Senate, where, according to Online Poker Report, the bill could face some push-back. "In the past, we've seen powers in the Senate offer visions of regulated online gambling that clash in significant ways with HB 2150," OPR said. "And as recently as a year ago, key voices in the Senate held material doubts about regulating online gambling." The budgetary benefits of online gambling and daily fantasy sports should be of interest to State Senators and Governor Tom Wolf alike. Speaking of Wolf, Gambling Compliance's Chris Krafcik Tweeted on Monday that he's open to internet gambling in a budgetary context, but only if revenue from it helps solves the state's budget woes. The Pennsylvania General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on Thursday, although that date appears to be fluid. Pennsylvania would become just the fourth state in the US, joining Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, to regulate online gambling in some form.
  10. [caption width="640"] Pennsylvania and Michigan could still find a way to regulate online gaming in 2016[/caption] The future of online gambling in the United States could very well be decided between now and the end of the year. The country isn't at a make-or-break point, but with no state legalizing online gaming in over three years, any chance at widespread online gambling legalization by 2020 is slowly slipping away. On the other hand, if one or both of the states where online gambling legalization is still very much in play can get a bill passed this year, we could see several other states follow suit in 2017, creating the widespread legalization that seemed like a foregone conclusion back in 2013, when Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey all launched legal online gaming sites. What states are still in play?In Pennsylvania, the legislature is on the precipice of passing a bill legalizing online gambling. The Pennsylvania House of Representative passed the bill back in July, and both chambers have included online gaming revenue from the bill as a funding source for the state budget. But nothing is a slam dunk, and as is often the case with any legislation that is seen as an expansion of gambling, the final nudge across the finish line is the hardest and most frustrating. As Happy Gilmore would say: At the same time, online gambling legislation in Michigan has been flying under the radar and quietly biding its time. This isn't surprising considering the bill's sponsor, State Senator Mike Kowall has said action is unlikely until after the November 8 elections. Here's a closer look at where both states stand. PennsylvaniaThe Pennsylvania question - is this really the year or is it just another case of Charlie Brown falling for Lucy's tomfoolery - should be answered over the course of the next two weeks. However, it's not out of the question that online gambling could drag into November or December if the Pennsylvania legislature hasn't passed a bill to fix the local tax share the state Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional. If this occurs the legislature could add session days in November or December. If the tax share issue is solved, and online gambling isn't addressed at the same time, the legislature will need to start over in 2017, although the foundation for the bill, and the impetus for it (a funding source for the budget) will already be in place. Dragging into 2017 isn't a death knell, but the hope among online gambling supporters is the legislature will use the urgency of the tax share fix (the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave the legislature until the end of January to solve the issue) to deal with online gambling, and that the two issues will be solved together. This is something House members seem to favor, while the Senate is more wishy-washy on the best way to deal with both of these issues. Also of note, the Senate is apparently trying to decouple daily fantasy sports from online gambling. I was told this summer that the separation of online gambling and DFS would be a bad sign for online gambling's 2016 chances. It's unclear if the House has the votes to pass a standalone DFS bill without online gambling legalization. MichiganMichigan burst onto the scene as a potential candidate for online gambling legalization this summer, but all along State Senator Mike Kowall, who is pushing for the legalization of online gambling and sponsored the state's iGaming bill, has been tamping down expectations until after the elections. Despite its inaction, there have been several breadcrumbs dropped in the past couple months that would seem to indicate online gambling is still very much on the table in Michigan. On September 1, Amaya's Jeanne David, who runs the company's responsible gaming department, tweeted out that the company gave a Michigan Senator (almost certainly Mike Kowall) a tour of its New Jersey operation. A couple of weeks later, on September 14, Gambling Compliance's Chris Krafcik tweeted out that "substitute iGaming bill lingo" was in the works; a bill that would fix a couple of structural issues with the original bill. The final breadcrumb was dropped this week when Brian Pempus reported that Senator Kowall's office stated there is "plenty of time" to get the bill passed this year. Per Pempus' reporting: "Lawmakers are meeting this week and will come back in November to try to finalize a plan. There are also session days in December."Upshot2016 isn't the end of the road for online gambling in the United States, but the longer we go in between legislation, the harder it becomes to reach a point where legal online gambling is available in the majority of the country.
  11. [caption width="640"] All observers continue to be focused on the Pennsylvania Senate as the Keystone State crawls towards regulating iGaming[/caption] If you’re among the people waiting for another state to legalize online poker your eyes were squarely focused on Pennsylvania in October. Unfortunately, the month came to a close without a definitive answer as to when online gambling will be legalized by the Pennsylvania legislature. Here's a look back at the rapidly evolving legislative landscape in Pennsylvania, and a look ahead to two other states that are expected to resume online gambling legalization before the end of the year, and how a live tournament series in New Jersey could help push gaming bills across the finish line. PennsylvaniaIn one of the few memorable scenes in The Godfather Part III, an aged Michael Corleone says, "just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!" This is a sentiment that pretty much sums up the legislative situation in Pennsylvania. Over the month of October, online gambling legislation went from being pronounced dead in the Senate, to life support, back to dead, to the House resuscitating it, to … your guess is as good as mine. Needless to say, on the online gambling front, October was a tumultuous month in Pennsylvania, and every time online gambling appeared to be on hold until 2017, the legislature kept pulling us all back in. A flurry of late activity in both chambers had online gambling supporters glued to their computer screens, and in the end, to steal a line from the late Dennis Green, "The Pennsylvania legislature are who we thought they were." Meaning the Pennsylvania Senate seemingly wants nothing to do with online gambling, while the Pennsylvania House of Representatives continues to press the issue. Last week, the Senate tried to kill online gambling by passing a bill that would temporarily fix the state’s most pressing gambling issue, the local tax share to host communities that was ruled unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month. But in a game of political hot potato, the House amended the bill sent over by the Senate, HB 1887, the very next day. The amendments by the House not only made the tax fix permanent, they legalized online gambling and daily fantasy sports, as well as instituting several land-based gaming reforms. The Senate hasn’t acted on the bill, and isn't expected to for a couple weeks. With both chambers now in recess until mid-November, online gambling is once again in a holding pattern, with little clarity when it comes to the Senate’s desire to legalize online gambling. The situation will likely remain very fluid, or, as PocketFives.com's EIC Lance Bradley puts it; here's a live look at online gambling in Pennsylvania: Online gambling in Michigan: overhyped or a sleeper pick?Michigan may have snuck up on us as a potential candidate for online gambling expansion during the summer, but post-election the Michigan legislature is likely going to feel the heat from online poker supporters. The Michigan Senate is back in session on November 9, and has a total of 14 scheduled session days before the end of the year. The House is also back in session on November 9, and has 11 session days scheduled. According to the sponsor of Michigan’s online gambling, State Senator Mike Kowall, the reason this was put off until after the election is because the entire House of Representatives are up for reelection, and like most politicians, they'd rather avoid controversial issues until after their constituents vote. The turnover in the House could play a role in whether or not online gambling moves through the legislature during the lame duck session, but expect online gambling talks to heat up in Michigan in November. Looking ahead to California 2017The 2017/2018 legislative session won't officially begin until the calendar flips to 2017, but an online poker bill might be introduced before the end of 2016. It seems like a lifetime ago, but in December 2014, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced an online poker bill a month before the 2015/2016 legislative session began. Gatto was a new player in the online poker fight, but his bill really got the ball rolling and despite being replaced by Assemblyman Adam Gray's online poker bill, California made a lot of progress during the last legislative session. It will be interesting to see if heading into the 2017/2018 session Gatto steps up again, and tries to lead on this issue; an issue that has stymied the legislature for nearly a decade. 2017 will mark California's ninth crack at passing an online poker bill, but if history is any indicator, don't get your hopes up. Thus far the legalization of online poker has been about as successful as finding the lost city of El Dorado. The good news is a lot of progress was made on key issues in 2016. The bad news is at least one key issue remains: PokerStars. PokerStars hosts first live tournament series in NJWhen of the talking points online gambling supporters have adopted this year is the idea of Poker Tourism. The effect of live poker tournament series hosted in conjunction with an online poker site will be on full display over the next week at Resorts Casino in New Jersey, where PokerStars is hosting its first US-based tournament series in over five years. The success of the PokerStars Festival New Jersey, and the amount of hype and buzz it produces could help sell other legislators around the country who may still harbor concerns that online gambling will cannibalize live casino revenues (this has been proven false but lives on thanks to a misinformation campaign) and won’t generate foot traffic at land-based casinos.
  12. [caption width="640"] Pennsylvania may be the next state to make online poker legal.[/caption] Lawmakers in several states managed to do the impossible; they kept online poker supporters glued to their computers and mobile devices to watch live streams of the tedious and confusing goings on that takes place during legislative sessions, as two legislative bodies voted on and passed an online gaming bill, the New York State Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, while two others have online gaming legalization on their radar, California and Michigan. Also of note, a Massachusetts committee approved a bill that would allow the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to sell tickets, and introduce games online. To put this in perspective, over the course of the previous five years, only four other states managed to pass an online gaming bill through at least one house of their legislature. And of the four, three now have legalized online gambling -the lone exception was Iowa. The Iowa Senate passed an online poker legalization bill in 2012 that died in the Iowa House of Representatives. Without further adieu, here's where online gambling legalization efforts stand in Pennsylvania, New York, California and Michigan. Pennsylvania on the precipice Pennsylvania continues to be the odds on favorite to legalize online gambling in 2016. Online gaming, along with a host of other gaming reforms, is being used by the legislature to help fund the state's 2016/2017 budget. As a key funding component, the bill, HB 2150 was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and seems better than 50/50 to pass this year. The passage of HB 2150 by the House, came after a protracted battle over VGT expansion, as some members of the Pennsylvania House wanted to allow taverns and bars to install up to five Video Gaming Terminals. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted down the bar/tavern VGT amendment and passed an omnibus gaming reform bill by a 114-85 majority, sending it to the State Senate for consideration. Among its provisions, the bill legalizes online gambling and daily fantasy sports. The Senate has yet to consider the bill (it's been languishing in the Senate CERD Committee since it passed the House), and the latest rumors coming out of the halls of Harrisburg indicate the Senate will forego the House bill and introduce their own gaming reform bill. This will almost assuredly slow down the process, and could potentially derail online gambling legalization if the Senate and House can't come to an agreement on the specifics. The Senate bill is expected to be introduced after the holiday weekend. While not online poker related, another interesting development to keep an eye on in the Golden State was the recent decision by the California Bureau of Gambling Control that will require California's licensed card rooms to adjust the way they offer player banked casino games such as blackjack and pai gow poker.
  13. [caption width="640"] While Pennsylvania has decided not to regulate online gaming in 2016, Michigan just might pull it off[/caption] The calendar has now been flipped to December, and barring a Christmas miracle in Michigan, it's starting to look like 2016 will end without a new state joining the legal online gambling ranks. Despite momentum and legislative progress in several states, when 2017 begins, the number of states with legal online gambling industries will still be stuck at three - Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. To add insult to injury, rumors of a lame duck RAWA (Restoration of America's Wire Act) push have begun making the rounds. Pennsylvania runs out of timeBarring a special session, the Pennsylvania Senate has decided to kick the can down the road when it comes to legalizing online gambling in the Keystone State. The 2015/2016 session came to a close on Wednesday without passage of HB 2150, a bill that would fix the local tax share issue caused by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in September, legalize online gambling, and make a few other less significant gaming changes. The local tax share fix will still need to be addressed in early 2017, but handshake agreements between casinos and local municipalities has made the matter less urgent than was first reported, and the matter could be pushed back as far as April. The local tax share will have to be addressed at some point, but the appetite for online gambling is less clear and now that it has spilled over into 2017, fraught with uncertainty. There are a number of questions that we really don't know the answer to: Will the incoming members of the legislature be fully up to speed on the issue and hold similar views? Will the contentious VGT's in bars and taverns rear its head in 2017? Will the House of Representatives continue to try to tie the two issues (local tax share and online gambling) together? Will the legislature come up with an alternative way to raise the $100 million earmarked for the budget from online gambling? Further complicating matters, the biggest proponent of legal online gambling, Representative John Payne, will be leaving office at the end of the year, and while several other people could pick up his mantel (Representative George Dunbar and Representative Rosita Youngblood come to mind), Payne's departure leaves a major void. Bottom line: Pennsylvania has gone from sustained positive momentum in 2016 to uncertainty in 2017. Hope still remains in MichiganWith Pennsylvania in stasis, the focus has now shifted to Michigan. For several months we've been saying that if online gambling in Michigan is in play, it will happen post-election. The Michigan legislature is still in session, and will be for the next few weeks. The Poker Players Alliance and other online gambling supporters are calling on the community to contact their legislators: But other sources say have indicated the cake isn't done baking just yet, with the caveat that there is still time to get it passed this year: But time is running out to get the bill passed in 2016. Lame ducks, RAWA, and OLC opinionsDon't look now, but with another lame duck session on the horizon, rumors of Congress sneakily passing an online gambling ban have returned. Websites from Forbes, to Reason, to Watchdog.org (here, here, and here) have started ringing alarm bells and warning of the possibility, hearkening back to a 2014 attempt to get RAWA inserted into the massive CRomnibus spending bill - an attempt that eventually failed. Further down the road, there is also some consternation within the online poker community that an online gambling prohibition could be enacted under Donald Trump. Namely, that Trump's Attorney General (Trump nominated Jeff Sessions for the post) might revisit the 2011 Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion penned by US Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz. The opinion reversed a nine year policy at the DOJ that the 1961 Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling - Seitz's opinion narrowed the scope of the Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling to sports betting, and opened the door for states to legalize online casino, online poker, and online lottery within their borders.
  14. As Pennsylvania continues to discuss the specifics of an online gaming framework in the state, a new bill and continued debate over proposed tax rates have taken center stage. On April 4, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passedH 271, which legalizes tablet gaming in airports. Although this bill only authorizes tablet gaming, legislators see this as their path to becoming the fourth state to legalize online gaming since 2013. Pennsylvania Rep. George Dunbar recently told PocketFives that the ball was in the Senate’s court when it comes to finalizing the deal for online gaming and that’s exactly what H 271 represents. By passing H 271 without many details on online gaming, the House is allowing the Senate to essentially fill in the blanks with their preferred options on an online gaming market. Once the Senate can agree on their framework for online gaming and pass a bill, it will then be kicked back over to the House for final approval. As the Senate continues to mull it options, there are a couple of factors that could trip up the process. Could the Tax Rate Cause Trouble? The Senate continues to have a number of gambling options on the table, including aspects from one proposal introduced by Sen. Thomas Killon. This bill is identical to the original gaming bill proposed by Dunbar in the house. Additionally, Sen. Jay Costa has introduced a gaming bill and one of the biggest differences between these two proposals is the tax rate. Costa has proposed a 25 percent tax rate, which is nearly twice as high as Dunbar and Killon’s 14 percent proposal. The higher the tax rate, the more concern that iGaming may not be sustainable in Pennsylvania. To further complicate matters, a new threat, in the form of an even higher tax rate, has emerged. OnlinePokerReport.com has recently reported that Republican Sen. Tommy Tomlinson is trying to rally colleagues to support an online tax rate equivalent to what land-based casinos pay – 54 percent for slots and 16 percent for table games. If Tomlinson’s advocacy gains enough momentum, it may be enough to quelch any prospect of an iGaming market in Pennsylvania. With deliberations ongoing, the Senate is expected to vote on online gaming within the next two weeks. Video Game Terminals Also on the Docket Another potential speed bump for online gaming in Pennsylvania could be a proposal for video game terminals (VGT) in bars, private clubs, and other places around the state. This has been a topic discussed and rejected previously, but reports show that the effort may have more support this time around. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, there is an estimated more than 40,000 illegal VGTs throughout the state and supporters of VGT legislation are looking to regulate and tax this underground market. But for casinos, the fear is how these VGTs would presumable eat away at their bottom line. There’s a lot for Pennsylvania lawmakers to dig into and time is starting to run short. May 26 would appear to be the deadline for lawmakers as that is the date that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave lawmakers to fix the local tax share on slot machines after it ruled the current setup to be unconstitutional.
  15. [caption width="640"] Rep. George Dunbar is one of the key figures in pushing online poker regulation forward in Pennsylvania (photo supplied)[/caption] As the Pennsylvania legislature continues to consider the prospects of online gaming, the sponsor of the House bill to legalize iGaming remains confident. Rep. George Dunbar, who has sponsored online gaming legislation in each of the past two years, described the process as being similar to “pushing a rock up a mountain” at times, but the work to legalize online gaming in the Keystone State is almost complete. “I still believe that by the end of May this will be done,” said Dunbar. “I really believe that all things are in place right now. The ball solely rests in the Senate’s hands.” Last year, online gaming legislation passed in the state House of Representatives and Dunbar said he has “no qualms” about it passing again. Pennsylvania has been viewed as more likely than not to pass online gaming legislation this year and a joint hearing on March 7 between the state’s House and Senate committees which oversee gaming was seen as another step in the right direction. The marathon four-hour hearing included testimony from those for and against online gaming and while Dunbar said some of the speakers early in the meeting just wanted to “blow it up”, he believed that after all parties spoke, the meeting ended up being pretty balanced. Among those who testified opposing online gaming were Bob Green and Anthony Ricci, the chairman and CEO of Parx Casino, Pennsylvania’s most profitable casino. In their testimony, Parx argued that online gaming, and the lower tax rate that would be applied to online games would lead to a decline in casino tax revenue. They cite the statistic that two-thirds of Pennsylvanians live within 25 miles of a casino and believe that online gaming would just keep them home instead of visiting their local casino. But Parx is one of the only casinos in the state opposed gaming expansion as a number of casinos, including representatives of Harrah’s, SugarHouse, and Valley Forge, testified in support of it. “The reality is everyone has a motivation for something and you have to look for what that motivation is. They (Parx) already have the largest market share in the state and they don’t want to change that,” Dunbar said. “My fear is that if you don’t change you’re going to end up like Atlantic City.” The Associated Press recently reported that the availability of online gaming in New Jersey has continued to benefit Atlantic City casinos two months into 2017. As Pennsylvania continues to move forward with deliberations on online gaming, the potential sale of Sands Bethlehem is also seen as positive momentum. Sheldon Adelson, owner of Sands Bethlehem, has been the most vocal critic of online gaming expansion across the country. “Everyone is very much aware of what is going on there,” Dunbar said of his fellow legislators. “Squelching Adelson will certainly help pass it.” While there are no hearings or votes on online gaming currently scheduled, expect there to be more action in the coming weeks. Additionally, just prior to March 7 hearing, four senators introduced a bill to legalize online gaming that is identical to Dunbar’s bill in the House. Projections Positive for Pennsylvania As Pennsylvania continues to debate online gaming, two reports have shed light on the projected windfall for the Keystone State. The Innovation Group, who presented their projections at the joint hearing on online gaming, projects Pennsylvania to bring in $413.8 million in 2019, which if approved would be Pennsylvania’s second year in the market. Meanwhile, a report published by Online Poker Report and Play Pennsylvania takes a more cautious approach. They’ve projected Pennsylvania to generate $259 million in revenue in 2019, about $155 million less than the Innovation estimate.
  16. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Sen. Mario Scavello believes an iGaming bill could pass in Pennsylvania this year.[/caption] Momentum is building in Pennsylvania for the passing of an online gaming expansion bill in 2017. After iGaming legislation passed in the state’s House of Representatives in 2016, the action stalled in the Senate, as they didn’t take up the issue. This year, though, Senate members are already discussing a framework for iGaming legislation. Sen. Mario Scavello, chairman of the critical Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, recently told the Tribune-Review that he expects an iGaming bill to pass the House and Senate in March. “It looks like online gaming has the support to pass,” Scavello said. Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa has already announced his intentions to introduce legislation that would legalize online gaming and daily fantasy sports in the Keystone State. Costa’s early proposal would accomplish three things: Legalize internet gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) in the state Re-enact the slot machine gaming local share provisions declared unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Authorize the State lottery to increase revenues for senior citizen programs paid out of the state lottery fund In the report by the Tribune-Review, Costa told reporters that legalizing online gaming represents the natural progression of gaming in the Keystone State. “To some degree, both (iGaming and DFS) are already present, particularly in fantasy sports. What we’re doing is regulating it,” he said. “I think the people of Pennsylvania believe this is something that’s appropriate right now.” While it appears likely that iGaming will pass, it could come at a cost for DFS operators. If Costa’s proposal moves forward, it includes a $2.5 million licensing fee and 25 percent tax on revenue from DFS operators. For comparison, Florida is also considering a DFS bill that would include an initial license application fee of $500,000 and an annual renewal fee of $100,000. Over on the House side, Rep. Rosita Youngblood has been a strong supporter of iGaming legislation in recent years. Youngblood plans to co-sponsor legislation in this session which builds upon what was passed last year, according to Bill Thomas, Executive Director of the Representative’s office. Thomas added that Youngblood is “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects of online gaming this year after seeing the early movement in the Senate. John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, shares the optimism of Pennsylvania lawmakers saying the PPA believes an online gaming bill will be passed this year. “With Pennsylvania, it’s always been a when, not an if,” he said.
  17. [caption width="640"] Online poker players need to be heard in states considering online poker legislation and we show you how.[/caption] 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the prospects of online poker as three states – Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania – are all taking steps to legalize online poker. Meanwhile, a handful of other states, including California, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, are considering online gaming legislation, although they have not progressed as far as the others. While talks are trending in the right direction in Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, it’s far from settled that any of these three states will soon offer residents the chance to play legal online poker. No state has legalized online poker since 2013 and if legislators in one of these three states approve online poker legislation, they may just serve as an incentive for other states to follow suit. Then, that could potentially lead to more intrastate online poker opportunities. All in all, it’s a critical time for the expansion of online poker. As these states inch toward legalizing online gaming, you could play an important role and make a difference in helping them cross the finish line. And it just may be easier than you would expect. One of the most effective ways to ensure online poker legislation stays on track is to contact your local representative and express your support for online poker. This could be through a tweet, an email, or a phone call. Here at PocketFives, we’ve made it easy for you to do just that. Pennsylvania online poker players can use this link to find and contact your legislator while New Yorkers can find that information for their state right here. By sending a short email or making a phone call to your representative to express your support for online gaming legislation, you can lend your voice to supporting the fight for legalizing online poker in just a couple of minutes. Another avenue to support the fight for online poker is through the Daily Action Plan organized by thePoker Players Alliance. The PPA provides a message template and direct links to contact state and federal legislators regarding online poker legislation. This simple act of reaching out to your representative can have a significant impact, according to Rich Muny, Vice President of Player Relations at the PPA. While some people may believe politicians only listen to lobbyists, it’s much more complex than that. “Lawmakers are bombarded from all sorts of lobbyists on this issue, but they need to know where the people, their constituents, stand,” Muny said. In terms of the most effective way to communicate with your state representative, Muny said the answer could be different for everyone. “I think everyone should try to visit their lawmaker, at least in their local office. It’s kind of easy to do,” he said, adding that if you can’t fit in a personal visit, a phone call is also very important. Finally, the number one thing to include in any messaging to lawmakers is your support for online poker, but without presenting your viewpoint in an insulting way. Another tip from Muny is to address a lawmaker depending upon their political party. For example, a Republican legislator may be more inclined to support online gaming if it's framed as a state’s right issue, whereas a Democrat may be more interested in hearing about the topic from a consumer protection perspective. Whether your representatives are Democrat or Republican, it’s important to reach out to them, as the collective voice of poker players may just be the tipping point in expanding online poker. Please contact your state officials to support the legalization of online poker and be sure to check back to PocketFives to follow all of the developments from around the country in regards to online poker legislation.
  18. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Leon Tsoukernik found himself the center of the attention in the high stakes cash game world for all the wrong reasons.[/caption] As the final days of 2017 slowly tick by, it's time to take a look back at the year in poker. Over the last 10 days of the year, PocketFives is taking readers on a trip back in time to recap the last 12 months in a fun and unique way. We'll get things started by looking back at the five biggest off the felt news stories of 2017. #5 - Australian Government Bans Online Poker American poker players know all too well how it feels to have the government step in and take away online poker. In March, the Interactive Gambling Amendment 2016 passed through the Australia Senate and effectively banned online poker Down Under. Over the course of the next six months, PokerStars, 888poker, and partypoker all exited the Australian market, leaving grinders there to play on black market offshore sites, much like most of their American counterparts. There does appear to be some appetite from politicians to regulate online poker or at least carve the game out, but there's no real timeline for either of those options. #4 - The End of the November Nine & Launch of PokerGO A major shift in how poker fans watch the WSOP was announced just a couple of weeks before the 2017 WSOP started. In partnership with ESPN, Poker Central announced they had acquired the global television and digital media rights for the WSOP and would be launching their own subscription-based streaming service, PokerGO. The WSOP Main Event would be broadcast live on a combination of ESPN, ESPN2, and PokerGO, and the final table played out in July, ending the November Nine concept after a ten-year run. While the decision to take the Main Event back to its roots was met with praise from poker fans, one of the major complaints those same fans had was that not all final tables were live streamed, as had been the case in years past when WSOP.com aired them. PokerGO later added the Poker Masters series and brought back Poker After Dark as part of their original programming and signed on the World Poker Tour as part of their streaming coverage. #3 - UB & AbsolutePoker Money Returned to Players Most players who had money on UB.com or AbsolutePoker.com on Black Friday had long given up any hope of getting that money back. So to say the news that the Garden City Group had begun the remissions process for those players was met with delight back in April would be a massive understatement. With little to no fanfare, GCG announced that players could begin filling out the necessary paperwork to potentially get their money back. The process was nearly identical to the one used by GCG to pay Full Tilt Poker players back following the U.S. Department of Justice settlement with PokerStars. Most believe the UB/AP refunds process was only possible because of funds leftover from that settlement after all Full Tilt refunds were processed. #2 - High Stakes Drama: Leon Tsoukernik vs. Matt Kirk It’s rare that poker fans get any sort of reliable information out of the world of nosebleed cash games. So when Matt Kirk sued Kings Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik after he failed to pay back a $3,000,000 loan Kirk gave him, everybody seemed to salivate over the details contained in the court documents. According to Kirk’s suit, the pair were part of a high stakes game at the Aria Hotel & Casino on May 27 when the other players quit the game. Kirk and Tsoukernik both wanted to keep playing allegedly but Tsoukernik had lost his stake earlier and asked Kirk if he could borrow money to continue playing. Over the next hour or so, Kirk loaned Tsoukernik $3,000,000 and quickly beat him for all of it. According to the court documents, just 15 minutes after the two finished playing, Tsoukernik texted Kirk that he had no intention of paying the debt. In October, the Clark County judge overseeing the case agreed with Tsoukernik that under Nevada law a gaming debt between two individuals is unenforceable and threw out eight of Kirk’s 10 counts. However, Kirk is still suing Tsoukernik for “fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.” #1 - Pennsylvania Legalizes Online Poker In late October online poker players in Pennsylvania were willingly watching the live stream coverage of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as HB 271 came up for vote. The bill, which regulated online poker, casino games and daily fantasy sports in the Keystone State passed by a 109-72 vote. Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law just four days later. While there is still no timeline for when players will be able to play legal online poker in Pennsylvania, some observers believe mid-summer to be a best guess. Those same observers point to 888poker, partypoker and PokerStars as likely candidates to be operating within the state. PokerStars applauded the legislation. "We applaud the Pennsylvania Legislature for taking decisive action to legalize online gaming," said Eric Hollreiser, VP of Corporate Communications for PokerStars. "This is common sense legislation that will protect consumers, help close Pennsylvania’s budget gap, and make the state more competitive within the regional gaming industry. The Stars Group looks forward to working with Pennsylvania and its gaming regulators and competing in the future marketplace."
  19. Hosted by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief Lance Bradley and poker writer Matt Clark, The Fives runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and interview players and industry leaders. DOWNLOAD THIS EPISODE IN ITUNES A full slate in this week's episode as Lance Bradley and Matt Clark talk about Pennsylvania finally regulating online poker, the PokerNews ownership situation and then bring on the legendary Kevin Mathers to talk all things WSOP Europe.
  20. Pennsylvania is preparing for a much-anticipated launch of regulated online poker. Once it does, it will make regulated online poker play available to the population a nearly 13 million people that live in the Keystone State. With its population, Pennsylvania will be the largest state to legally offer online poker in the United States, eclipsing that of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, and adding a welcomed boost to the regulated US online poker market. Whether you're an experienced online poker player or someone that's new to the virtual felt, you likely have questions surrounding what to expect when real-money online poker finally becomes live in Pennsylvania. To help provide you with some answers, PocketFives tapped into the community and spoke to those with experience playing online poker in the new regulated landscape. We spoke with some of the top players from New Jersey, where online poker is legal, regulated, and growing. Here's what Michael 'Gags30' Gagliano, Daniel 'centrfieldr' Lupo, Jon 'itsmejon' Borenstein, and 2012 WSOP Main Event champion Greg Merson had to say. What can Pennsylvania players expect when online poker launches in the state? Michael 'Gags30' Gagliano: "Like others, I'm not positive what we'll see, but I think players can expect a nice mix of cash games and tournaments from the various sites. Players need to remember, though: these sites won't be like you remember them from 2011 - they are going to be much smaller. That means fewer games at off-peak hours and less liquidity when it comes to things like sit-n-gos. But this shouldn't' discourage Pennsylvania players. Just because you can't win $100,000 on a Sunday doesn't mean that there won't be good tournaments. Don't let a ‘small' first-place prize turn you off. A smaller field means you have a much higher chance of winning that tournament. So sure, $10,000 isn't as alluring as $100,000, but having a real shot at winning a tournament instead of buying into what can sometimes feel like a lottery ticket is a positive in my book!" Daniel 'centrfieldr' Lupo: "Based upon experiences with New Jersey's intro and when the Nevada merger came on board, there were some initial hiccups around the launch times. So I would recommend signing up early and preparing yourself for some early bumps in the road, such as potential software or geo-location issues, but not to be deterred by them as they tend to be short-lived. But the initial 'bumpy road period' will have its perks, too. I'm assuming (hoping) there will be a number of welcome bonuses, new-player bonuses, welcome freerolls, as well as some sort of initial online tournament series to celebrate the expansion... so signing up early would definitely be to a player's benefit to take advantage of these timely promotions. "I would also recommend that Pennsylvania players make sure they have viable internet connections, and back-up options like some sort of mobile hotspot option, as well as a strong wifi signal which will help alleviate a lot of the early potential geo-location headaches." Jon 'itsmejon' Borenstein: "Pennsylvania players can expect to have a new poker outlet in addition to the many casinos in the Pennsylvania area, which should only help grow the game and draw new players in that wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to a casino regularly." Greg Merson: "I think when Pennsylvania launches there will be a decent amount of traffic to start, but unfortunately with only approximately 12 million people, I don’t think it will be all that special in the long run." What are the benefits of regulated online poker and why should players in Pennsylvania be excited about it? Gagliano: "The by far biggest benefit of regulated Pennsylvania online poker is safety and peace of mind in playing online poker again. Legal and regulated sites mean that players won't have to worry about having to deposit using cryptocurrencies, or worrying that a site won't pay out their cash-out. It means that players won't have to worry if a site is ‘rigged’ and can come to expect the same level of game security that they get when they play in Pennsylvania brick-and-mortar casinos." Lupo: "Having a regulated site where your money is safe has been a huge peace of mind for me versus playing on unregulated sites, which always give you a sense of worry. Payouts are fast and secure and there are numerous safe deposit options. But overall, the best thing about online poker in my experience has been the convenience of it. With a family, it allows me to be home more, versus spending time in a casino, and work around my family's schedule so I can have dinner with them every night and put the kids to bed. And if you're playing a cash session and just not feeling it, you can comfortably stop playing and do something else, whereas a casino trip has a lot more overhead and commitment time-wise." Borenstein: "It's nice to play online without worrying about shady practice or the sites getting shut down out of nowhere. You know your money is safe. I think that for anyone who is serious about poker or wants to get serious about poker, regulated online sites are a great tool to have as a way to practice and get in exponentially more hands than you would if you were playing live, and being able to do it all from the comfort of your own home." Merson: "The benefits of playing in a regulated industry mean you know your money is safe, the play is secure, and there are no ways for outside countries to VPN the system." With the anticipation of Pennsylvania online poker being very high, what are you most looking forward to when thinking about having Pennsylvania on board for online poker? Gagliano: "The thing I look most forward to with Pennsylvania poker is just another state coming online, thus giving more players in the Northeast a chance to play online poker again. It also brings the U.S. one state closer to allowing everyone the ability to once again play poker from the comfort of their homes." Lupo: "Being primarily a tournament player, it's always nice when the increased player pools can generate larger prize pools. These larger prize pools are like a domino effect and not only encourage players from Pennsylvania to join the action but will also increase the traffic in other states that previously may have been skipping some tournaments due to smaller guarantees than they would like. "I'm also looking forward to a new influx of players. After playing in a small market like New Jersey for the past 4-5 years, some fresh faces would be a welcomed change." Borenstein: "I'm looking forward to increased prize pools, player traffic, and more multi-table tournaments to play each night. I’m also looking forward to what it means to overall growth of online poker in the US. Hopefully, more and more states will follow suit and begin legalizing online poker." Merson: "I actually don’t think Pennsylvania will join the New Jersey pool anytime soon, if at all. This Wire Act issue may cause Nevada to pull out of New Jersey and if that happens I think the hopes of more states joining in are bleak. If they do join, I gladly welcome the liquidity as volume has dropped a good bit in New Jersey over the years."
  21. A lot of people go to Atlantic City for their 21st birthday. The casinos give the birthday boy or girl the first opportunity to drink and gamble legally in one fun combination of some adult-only vices. Just a few days after hitting that milestone birthday, Pennsylvania online poker player Mike McNick made his way to the Borgata Hotel, but it wasn't necessarily about hitting the clubs or trying out the Wheel of Fortune slots. McNick went to play some poker. Even though he's played poker since he was in high school, McNick hasn't been able to play a live tournament in his home state of Pennsylvania or neighboring New Jersey until now. McNick, who has been playing online since June 2017 and is now one of the top-ranked online players in PA, picked up some cashes early in his online career and that only served as a catalyst for him to take the game more seriously. Every time he runs deep or earns another big score, it gets him excited to put in the work away from the table. "If I cash big in a tournament, that kind of just motivates me to study more," McNick admitted. "Even more recently, I got Raise Your Edge and I met one of the guys online who's 21, his name's Ian Matakis, 'RiverRiot72' on ACR. He's just a crusher and I've learned so much from him in general. Just seeing his success has motivated me too." Having first learned the game playing small-time stakes with buddies in high school, McNick didn't take the game too seriously. It wasn't until he got the bartending job he has now when he was introduced to the idea of playing poker professionally. "My manager, Anthony Mastragostino, used to be a professional and he still plays a lot. He got me into online poker and got me more seriously into it and showed me the ropes," said McNick. Even though he's one of the best players in Pennsylvania, he doesn't consider himself a professional poker player and might never actually go that route. "I call myself a semi-retired bartender and I work two days a week and then just grind poker Sundays and then maybe one or two days a week if I can fit time on my schedule," said McNick. He's currently in college and remains committed to a career in finance, preferably with a hedge fund or in investment banking, with poker serving more as a hobby. "Finance was my first passion. I would like to be in that field because, poker's just such a high variance, high turnover field if I go pro," said McNick." I'll definitely be playing in some capacity. But it's just a matter of, where I'm at there in life. But I would say hopefully having a job and then playing poker on the side." This summer, McNick will be making time in his schedule for his first trip to Las Vegas to play in some World Series of Poker events. The opening few weeks of the schedule come with a few opportunities for him to test his chops against WSOP crowds in lower buy-in, big field events. "I have it booked. I haven't booked the flight yet, but I booked the hotel at the Hard Rock, so I'm going to play the Big 50 and then the Millionaire Maker. Then I'm thinking about just doing a one-way ticket there. If I have some success there and try and just parlay it and stay out there," said McNick. He's also looking forward to being able to play on the regulated sites in Pennsylvania once they launch during the summer. He's also considered making the drive into New Jersey to play there while a number of the better players are living in Las Vegas. "I think I should definitely be open to that going forward. If it doesn't (happen) in PA or whatever, I could play there easily in the summer. It's an hour drive, " said McNick. Even though he's fortunate enough to live in a state that will soon have regulated online poker, McNick longs for the day when every US online poker player is playing on the same network. "I can't wait till it's just fully back in the U.S.," said McNick. "I just don't know if that's ever gonna happen." Whether it does or not, McNick has all of his options open.
  22. Pennsylvania poker players got the good news Wednesday – the launch of legal, set for July 15. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole made the announcement at last week's PGCB board meeting, and the options will be plenty when the Keystone State’s poker rooms go live this summer. Seven casinos have been approved to operate online poker in Pennsylvania. Three of these casinos are partnering with big-name brands (WSOP/888, PokerStars and partypoker) that will expand their presence in the United States with the launch of their PA poker clients. Here’s a look at the seven companies, along with their land-based casino partners, approved to offer online poker in Pennsylvania. An eighth potential operator, Marina District Development Company/Borgata, has a pending petition filed with the PGCB. Approved Pennsylvania Online Poker Operators POKERSTARS (MOUNT AIRY CASINO RESORT) The world’s largest online poker operator returned to the U.S. in 2016 with the launch of PokerStarsNJ. PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, announced a partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort in August 2018, with the intention of operating online poker in Pennsylvania. The launch of a PokerStars PA site would put The Stars Group in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The addition of Pennsylvania’s 12.8-million population would more than double the market for PokerStars’ US operations. For now, as a result of the DOJ reversal of opinion on the Wire Act, these NJ and PA player pools are separate, as gambling-related transactions cannot cross state lines under the new ruling. Mount Airy Casino Resort operates one of the smallest live poker rooms in the state, but this partnership with The Stars Group indicates big plans for the online market. WSOP/888POKER (HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA) Caesars Entertainment is the parent company of both Harrah’s and the World Series of Poker. When Harrah’s Philadelphia launches its online poker room, the WSOP/888 brand will be operating in four states, but the PA player pool will be segregated from the merged WSOP/888 network operating in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. It’s currently unknown if this means both WSOP.com and 888Poker skins for Pennsylvania (like the New Jersey business model), or if this offering from Harrah’s will be a single WSOP-branded site. PARTYPOKER (POTENTIAL PARTNERSHIP WITH VALLEY FORGE CASINO) Valley Forge Casino is one of the seven casinos approved for the operation of online poker in Pennsylvania, but as of this writing doesn’t have an official partnership with an existing online poker operator. We can expect this partner to end up being Partypoker. Valley Forge Casino is owned by Boyd Gaming, which has a strategic partnership with GVC, the parent company of Partypoker. Partypoker returned to the U.S. in 2013 with the launch of Partypoker NJ, and this potential offering from Valley Forge could make Partypoker a big player in the Pennsylvania online poker economy. Like PokerStars and WSOP/888, however, partypoker’s offering will operate as a Pennsylvania-only network. GAN/KAMBI (PARX CASINO) Parx Casino is the leading casino brand in Pennsylvania and also home to the state’s largest live poker room, with 48 tables and regularly occurring special events. How this will translate to the casino’s online poker offering remains to be seen. Technology partners GAN and Kambi will provide the platform for Parx Casino’s online poker room. Both software companies are known for expertise in sports betting and other forms of online gambling, but neither has extensive experience producing online poker. Parx is a huge brand in Pennsylvania, but lacks a prominent online poker partner like PokerStars or Partypoker. IGT (HOLLYWOOD CASINO) Hollywood Casino is teaming up with gambling tech giant IGT for its online poker site, and while IGT is more known as an industry leader in slot machine technology, the company could end up being a major player in the online poker world. IGT introduced a completely revamped online poker platform at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo, and is the currently the operator of choice for all of Canada’s state-run, regulated poker sites. IGT’s poker software includes an impressive mobile platform and new games like Poker Challenge, a tournament where each player’s chip stack returns to the starting stack size after every hand, and chip gains and losses are tallied separately. A final score is tabulated at the end of the tournament to determine the winner. It’s clear that IGT wants to be a force in online poker, and the Hollywood Casino partnership will be its first shot at the U.S. market. RUSH STREET INTERACTIVE/KAMBI (SUGARHOUSE CASINO) Rush Street Gaming, parent company to Sugarhouse Casino, will roll out its poker platform under its in-house Rush Street Interactive company, and in partnership with Kambi, which is also one of Parx Casino’s technology partners. Much like the Parx brand, it remains to be seen what role poker will play in the overall strategy for Rush Street Gaming’s online gambling efforts. The Rush Street Interactive/Kambi partnership already operates an online casino and sports betting platform in New Jersey, but without online poker. Pennsylvania could see more of that same business model, as it’s currently unclear when the Sugarhouse Casino poker platform will actually launch. SANDS BETHLEHEM The Sands Bethlehem will be the last of the seven approved operators to launch an online poker platform. The casino is currently owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the most powerful and fierce opponents of online gambling. The casino is slated to be sold to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians within the next year, however, and part of the conditions of the sale required current Sands Bethlehem ownership to apply for an online poker license. The license is approved, but the sale of the casino isn’t final yet.
  23. A 15-year veteran of the online poker scene, 34-year-old Andrew 'Head218' Carnevale is one of many top-ranked online poker players in Pennsylvania looking forward to the impending launch of legalized and regulated online poker in his home state. Carnevale, who currently works full-time in providing investment products to investment professionals, has been playing long enough to remember the heyday of online poker and the pain of Black Friday. The return of online poker to Pennsylvania represents a big step for the evolution of US online poker as well as the next step in Carnevale's own poker journey. “I guess my first experience was obviously kind of playing at the dinner table with my grandma and grandpa…stupid card games, probably like five card draw and whatever game the old times used to play," Carnevale said when reflecting on his start in poker. “I really didn’t get into Hold’em until I was in college. I went to school in Washington, DC and I was of the age when the World Series of Poker was on TV,” Carnevale recalls. “Watched that. It might’ve been even before Moneymaker won and I just fired up an account on PokerStars. Just kinda…got going.” Like many who took a flyer on the fledgling field of online poker, the game provided him an avenue of entertainment and competition. He played small stakes cash and tournaments, just looking to bink a tournament or two. “I would just fire online and probably didn’t even have any idea what I was doing.” But over time, Carnevale leveled up, taking online poker more seriously and he even thought about taking a shot at going pro. “I had some aspirations [of turning pro]. After I graduated college I was a caddy for a private golf club. I had cash on me and we would go down to Atlantic City and play live. That was when I was 21, 22, 23 and I thought about it. But as much as I loved the winning sessions, I couldn’t stand losing. I didn’t have the right mentality to handle the swings that you need to in order to be a professional,” he said. But those swings didn’t stop him from staying in the game. Not by a long shot. Carnevale has been a member of PocketFives since 2007, playing small-mid stakes tournaments whenever his busy schedule would allow. He currently has over $200,000 in lifetime earnings and sits as the #4-ranked player in Pennsylvania. Nowadays, he continues to play tournaments on off-shore sites like America’s Card Room and he’s been splashing around in PLO cash games. Having spent some time in New Jersey, he’s ready to take the plunge into the soon-to-be alive regulated online sites of PA. “I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time now,” Carnevale said. “To be honest, I would much prefer to play on the regulated sites, such as the New Jersey sites, then the non-regulated sites - just based on my experience there. "But, yea, I’m totally excited. I don’t know if it’ll change my schedule as far as how much time I spend with it, but it will certainly add an option that I’m looking forward to.” Having played on the regulated sites in New Jersey, Carnevale is hoping that not only will online poker in the U.S. continue to grow but the online operators that are currently offering poker in New Jersey and are coming to Pennsylvania will continue to grow as well. “I just hope that these companies, if they decide to get into it, really spend time with the software,” he said, expressing frustration at some of the current options that are currently rolled out in New Jersey. “I also hope it becomes a competitive landscape that does right by the online community that wants to play and offers the best services that they can in order for everybody to have the best capability to log on and enjoy it.” Carnevale has long since put those pro aspirations behind him, but he continues to 'log on and enjoy' online poker. Although he not sure how often he’ll be playing, he still does have ideas of what may be next for him. “I’m really enjoying PLO cash games in general. One thing though, especially in live poker, I’d love to have a big score again…kind of get your name out there. I’d love to take a trip to the World Series of Poker and have the opportunity to play the Main Event."
  24. Legal online poker in Pennsylvania finally goes live on July 15. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole made the announcement at a PGCB meeting Wednesday, and players in the Keystone State can look forward to enjoying regulated online gambling and poker this summer. Seven Pennsylvania casinos have been approved to offer online poker, which became the fourth U.S. state to legalize online gambling in October 2017. Online poker giants like PokerStars, partypoker, and 888Poker have partnered with some of these casinos and will finally debut their PA-based poker clients. The Pennsylvania casinos slated to offer online poker, along with their technology partners, are as follows: Mount Airy Casino Resort (PokerStars) HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA (WSOP/888poker) VALLEY FORGE CASINO (partypoker) Parx Casino (Gan/Kambi) Hollywood Casino (IGT) Sugarhouse Casino (Rush Street Interactive/Kambi) Sands Bethlehem (TBD) An eighth potential operator, Marina District Development Company/Borgata, has filed a petition to offer online gambling in the state as well. DOJ Opinion Delays Launch Originally expected in early 2019, the launch of legal online gambling in Pennsylvania has been delayed, partly due to the US Department of Justice issuing a reversal of opinion on the Wire Act in January. The unexpected reversal mandated that all infrastructure related to Pennsylvania’s online gambling launch must be entirely contained within state borders, and put an end (for now) to hopes of merged player pools across state lines to other states offering legal online poker. “The recent federal Department of Justice opinion regarding the Wire Act has caused all to take a step back and make sure any online gambling (including other casino-type games and sports wagering) will adhere to that federal law,” PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach told PocketFives in February. “We have requested from the operators individual plans on how it would adhere to the tenets of this opinion." The original 1961 Wire Act stated that any kind of transfer of money across state lines for a gambling-related transaction was illegal, but in 2011 the DOJ issued an opinion that this language only applied to sports betting. With this clarification of the Wire Act in place, WSOP/888 went forward with a merger of its U.S. player pools in May 2018, giving the US its first multi-state online poker network. WSOP/888 was expected to add the Pennsylvania player pool to its already existing U.S. network and create a merged player base, allowing Pennsylvania players to compete against players from other states (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware) in the network. Partypoker and PokerStars, both of which operate legal online poker in New Jersey, were expected to do the same. On January 14, 2019, however, the DOJ issued a reversal of the 2011 opinion, stating that the language in the Wire Act applies to all forms of gambling, and would therefore make any kind of interstate poker network, including the already existing WSOP/888 network, illegal. The ruling forced Pennsylvania’s prospective poker operators to rethink their strategies, with the aim of adhering to the new DOJ opinion. Waiting for the Launch of Legal Online Poker Since the October 2017 legalization of online gambling, the state’s 13 land-based casinos have engaged with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in the process of applying for permits to offer “interactive gaming”, an umbrella term which includes online poker, slots, and table games. The casinos that wanted to start offering online gambling were required to apply for separate permits in each of the three interactive gaming categories. All seven of the casinos approved to operate online poker also applied for permits to operate slots and table games as well. Sports betting, which was also legalized in Pennsylvania in October 2017 when Governor Tom Wolf signed off on legislation to expand casino gambling in the state, hasn’t experienced the delays seen with online gambling. Land-based sports betting was up and running at several Pennsylvania casinos as of December 2018. O’Toole originally announced the reasons for the delay of the state’s online gambling launch at a House Appropriations hearing in February. The PGCB issued a letter to the state’s prospective online gambling operators shortly after the DOJ Wire Act ruling, advising to adhere to the new opinion. “What we wanted to accomplish in that letter was to make sure that the casinos thoroughly read that reinterpretation and looked very closely at their plan for implementing interactive gaming in Pennsylvania,” O’Toole said at the hearing. “There had been an expectation that those iGaming operators who were partnering with our casinos in Pennsylvania, if they already had infrastructure in another jurisdiction, that they could leverage that to reduce the cost of implementing iGaming. But with that reinterpretation, it became quite obvious that everything had to be on an interstate basis.” The DOJ ruling certainly contributed to the delay, but it appears that PA’s online poker operators have met the challenge, and players in the Keystone State will soon have access to legal, regulated online poker.
  25. In late 2013, Ryan Smart’s passion for poker was flickering like a lightbulb in its final moments of usefulness. Smart had been grinding since 2007 and was starting to feel the impact of the travel necessitated by the fallout of Black Friday and he’d also discovered that the games weren’t the berry patches they once were. “The games had gotten a little tougher at that point and I probably was a bit lazy, but I think I was actually still studying pretty hard. It’s just, the results weren't coming and in the live cash I was still doing okay at but at that point, I hadn't been playing live nearly as much as I used to in the past, and I had pretty much shifted to mostly online MTTs,” Smart said. In the throes of a downswing that he didn’t see ending, Smart figured it was time to go and do something else with his life that provided him with a steady income and didn’t involve dealing with the headaches and stress of grinding. “I’d had the worst year that I'd had up to that point and at the point, I was playing professionally,” said Smart. “I've always kind of split time between online and live cash and it was a rough year. I pretty much just decided to get back to doing something else that I could make consistent money at because at that point I think I had been on a downswing for 8-12 months.” That was six years ago. Now 31, Smart works in restaurant management and has been dabbling in online poker. He’s not on a full time grind like he once was, but he’s one of the top-ranked online poker players in Pennsylvania and routinely holds down the #1 ranking in his hometown of Pittsburgh. “(Poker) is something I've always enjoyed doing and I, had a bad couple of years there where my mental state wasn't good for how I was playing and everything,” said Smart. “So, you know, trying to take it slow, getting back into it and I've been lucky to have some results lately.” The drive from Pittsburgh to New Jersey is a little over five hours. Given that the Garden State already has regulated online poker, Smart has thought about making the drive a few times to get an old school Sunday grind in while he waits for Pennsylvania regulators to officially launch legal online poker. “I have thought about it, especially because I have a couple of friends who live in New Jersey and for the most part, play online poker,” Smart said. “So, I'm sure I can have somewhere I can crash for a weekend or whatever to do it. Since I'm just getting kind of back into it, it's not something I've thought about a lot about as of yet, and I was hoping this PA thing would come along a little faster.” As for now, Smart plays exclusively on unregulated offshore sites. Having had his life turned a little bit by Black Friday, he’s always cautious about how much money he leaves on the site. “Unfortunately, as of now, that's about the only option. I used to play on Merge and after Black Friday I kind of moved around a bit to play but that didn't really work out so well, so pretty much just been ACR lately,” said Smart, who had his biggest online score just weeks before Black Friday. “I was sitting at my computer. I had just finished a session of playing sit and gos and I had closed it out and then I couldn't pull anything back up,” Smart remembered. “At the time I had won, I think it was the Big $55. It was my biggest score. It was not long before that, maybe a few months, and I had taken some of the money off but I still had quite a few thousand sitting on Poker Stars, which was, I don't know, half of my life roll at the time, and I was like ‘oh no’. So, I definitely learned from that feeling of that day that I do not keep much money on ACR.” In October 2017, Pennsylvania regulators passed House Bill 27, which put the wheels in motion for players in that state to have regulated online poker. Smart noticed and that helped rekindle his interest in the game. “That was actually one of the big motivators to start playing at least a decent amount again was once I heard that PA had passed legislation because I was hoping that eventually, I could get back into it,” Smart said. Smart is getting married later this year and hopes to start a family in the coming years. He doesn’t foresee a full-time return to poker as his sole source of income, but he does like having the opportunity to have a decent side hustle. Like many players in his state, he’s anxious and excited for what is coming, even if it is taking longer than some had hoped. “I thought this would be a lot quicker of a process, especially because a lot of the licenses have gone to people who partnered with partypoker and PokerStars,” said Smart. “I'm not sure what the guarantees and everything are gonna be out of the gate for Pennsylvania. I'm assuming it's not going to be very high, and especially, trying to play low-mid stakes.“
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