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Found 13 results

  1. On Thursday, the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on the impact of internet gambling. The scheduled two-and-a-half hour hearing, which was streamed online, featured a variety of witnesses and panels spanning the gamut of our industry. Among the topics discussed were policy and regulatory issues, social impacts, problem gambling, industry services, and relevant technology. Among those in attendance and serving as a witness on two panels was Poker Players AllianceExecutive Director John Pappas (pictured), who gave his thoughts on HB 1235, which would establish a regulatory framework for internet gaming in Pennsylvania. Pappas said in part during his testimony, "In order for Pennsylvania to remain competitive, and quite frankly relevant in gaming, the state must embrace internet opportunities. Now is the time for Pennsylvania to act." According to the PPA and a study from H2 Gambling Capital, a regulated online poker market in Pennsylvania could bring in $160 million in revenue in Year #1. For the entire internet gambling market, that number is $534 million. Pappas added, "Today, in the US and in regulated markets throughout the world, it is required that internet gaming companies consent to audits, implementation of anti-money laundering compliance programs and multi-step identity verification processes, bot detection, and other regulatory measures. These operators employ 'best of breed' technologies that protect minors and problem gamblers, ensure that the games are fair, and that sites block players in prohibited jurisdictions." Pappas told PocketFives following the hearing, "It was 100% positive. All of the testimony delivered, even those witnesses who were concerned about problem gambling and other societal issues, said a regulated market is better than unregulated conditions. I don't think it could have gone any better." Pennsylvania's neighbor to the East, New Jersey, is one of three states that have regulated internet gambling, along with nearby Delawareand the Mecca of gambling: Nevada. When could Pennsylvania green-light internet gambling? Could we see a regulated market emerge in 2014? And what needs to happen in order for regulated poker to become a reality? To that end, Pappas told us, "The impact of the hearing on the overall process has yet to be seen. It's one of the first times there has been a public discussion in Pennsylvania about these issues. It was important that we didn't get a lot of negative feedback from lawmakers who were there." "Pennsylvania is behind other states in terms of advancing bills," the PPA Executive Director explained to PocketFives. "There isn't a clear legislative vehicle to date. Next week, Pennsylvania officials are supposed to be releasing the results of an internet gambling impact study. From that, we will likely see things accelerate pretty quickly. It's likely there will be a Senate bill introduced shortly thereafter." The existing bill is in the House. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from players in the Keystone State. We'll continue to keep you posted on the latest poker legislation news right here on PocketFives. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. While progress on online poker legislation has seemingly stalled in California, Pennsylvaniahas been making strides toward regulating the industry. On Wednesday, the Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee conducted a hearing in front of the Pennsylvania Senate on several aspects of the Commonwealth's gambling industry, including online and brick-and-mortar policy. Sourced for this report is a hearing summary published by USPoker.com. In attendance were representatives from 11 of the state's land-based casinos, who gave testimony on issues ranging from the expansion of tavern gaming and video game terminals to the legalization of internet gambling. Specifically discussed was online gambling bill SB 900, recently introduced by Senator Kim Ward and sponsored by Senator Elder Vogel, Senator Robert Tomlinson, and Senator Joseph Scarnati. The bill would entitle casinos that hold both table game and slot machine licenses to open up their own online gambling site for a fee of $10 million, valid for five years. The bill does not contain bad actor language, which would preclude sites like PokerStars from being licensed, but includes a few provisions that had already become points of contention at the hearing. While other Pennsylvania iGaming bills would levy a tax as low as 14%, SB 900 calls for a 54% cut on gross gaming revenue. In the hearing, Eric Schippers of Penn National voiced his support of iGaming, saying that the industry would be "a vital tool" for casinos and "would not cannibalize brick-and-mortar gambling." "[The] opposite is true," he added. He also made several mentions of SB 900's lofty tax rate and called for the 14% tariff and $5 million licensing fee sought in Representative John Payne's iGaming legislation. In fact, Schipper testified that such a high tax rate and licensing fee would cause his company to lose $20 million. Read about Payne's legislation. Another hotly debated provision was the legislation's insistence that online gamblers register their accounts in person at the site's land-based casino partner. The language is thought to be driven by Bob Greene of Parx, who expressed his lukewarm support for iGaming at the hearing. The same in-person registration can be seen in California Assemblyman Mike Gatto's online gambling proposal AB 9. The Poker Players Alliance was quick to criticize that provision, stating that the requirement was onerous and would "defeat the purpose" of offering online gambling first place. Melissa Richards of Harrah's and Shawn Sullivan of Meadows Casino were also on hand and both voiced support for iGaming. The industry would "allow the gaming board to open new sources of revenue that will not be cannibalistic," Richards testified. Sugarhouse Casino's Wendy Hamilton argued that after two years of declining revenue, Pennsylvania's brick-and-mortar gambling industry has peaked. She called for regulating iGaming in order to bolster the Commonwealth's casinos and retain gamblers who have increasingly been attracted to casinos in bordering states. Valley Forge is in favor of online gambling and seeks to remove membership fees on Category 3 licensees and add more table games and machines to its casino. Mark Juliano, a representative from the Sheldon Adelson-owned Sands Bethlehem, was on hand and expressed his complete opposition to iGaming. He believes that the introduction of internet gambling would be detrimental to the state's brick-and-mortar casinos, although study after study has shown the opposite to be true. Juliano's statements don't take into account testimony cited by Parx's Greene, which highlighted that 85% of Borgata's online poker players are new or inactive players. That backs up iGaming proponents' belief that legalizing the industry would revitalize brick-and-mortar casinos by bringing in new players, not cannibalizing them. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players.
  7. 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.
  8. A vote by Pennsylvanialawmakers on iGaming legislation scheduled for Wednesday was postponed due to new developments in the ongoing daily fantasy sports controversy. The House Gaming Oversight Committee (HGOC) was set to meet on Wednesday to discuss Senator Kim Ward's online gambling bill, SB 900. That legislation aims to legalize online poker and casino games while charging a $10 million licensing fee along with a 54% tax on gross revenue. Several iGaming bills have been floated in the Pennsylvania General Assembly this year, none of which has succeeded in gaining much traction. But with the state running a nearly $2 billion budget deficit, online gambling has been proposed as a means to produce new revenue. The state's budget package was supposed to be in place in July, but Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Tom Wolf has not been able to come to a solution with the Republican-controlled Congress on how to raise the cash necessary to shore up the deficit. Wolf has proposed raising taxes on Pennsylvania residents, an idea that GOP leaders have rejected. That's were online gambling comes in. Some believe that by legalizing the industry, the Commonwealth can reduce its deficit while avoiding a tax hike. One study estimates that the Pennsylvania online poker market could be worth as much as $129 million annually, with casino games raking in $178 million annually. In comparison, the state's brick-and-mortar casino industry is worth about $3 billion a year. Representative John Payne is the chairman of the HGOC and has introduced his own online gambling bill, HB 649, which would legalize iGaming while imposing a tax rate of 14% of gross revenue. In an interview with CardPlayer, Payne said that he didn't care "whose name is on the bill" as long as iGaming legislation passes. Payne believes, however, that online poker legislation will not be approved as a standalone bill, but rather as part of more expansive legislation. Also in play is a bill floated by Representative George Dunbar that would regulate daily fantasy sports operators like FanDueland DraftKings in the state. Dunbar introduced his daily fantasy sports bill earlier this year, which would have allowed live DFS contests at state casinos. The new bill contains an amendment that allows DFS operators to partner with one of the state's 12 casinos. The amendment was what led legislators to postpone their vote on Wednesday. Dunbar's bill also calls for casinos to pay a $5 million upfront operator fee, with DFS partners paying an additional $1 million vendor fee. The recent movement on iGaming legislation has prompted the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming to accelerate its campaign against the industry. The organization routinely releases over-the-top videos claiming that iGaming will turn children and the elderly into gambling addicts. In its most recent spot, the group claims that Payne is "working hard to legalize predatory online gambling." It adds that iGaming operators use "Disney-looking cartoons" to seduce kids into playing and confuse senior citizens with the promise of large jackpots. Adelson is making good on his promise to "spend whatever it takes" on his fight against online gambling, forking over $176,000 to air the recent ad on Pennsylvania TV. For his part, Wolf has been lukewarm on legalizing iGaming. But confronted with the budget impasse, he has said that he would be open to the idea of an online gambling bill as a means to generate additional revenue for the state. Visit PocketFives' Pennsylvania poker community for the latest news and discussion from Pennsylvania players.
  9. Pennsylvania took a positive step towards legalizing online gambling on Wednesday after the House Gaming Oversight Committee passed iGaming bill HB 649 by a vote of 18-8. The bill was introduced by Committee Chairman John Payne and is one of several internet gaming initiatives floated this year. HB 649 would allow 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. Payne has hyped his iGaming bill as a potentially new source of revenue to help shore up the state's budget without raising taxes on residents. Indeed, the $5 million upfront licensing fee called for in HB 649 could provide the Commonwealth with a quick cash injection. To be adopted as a standalone measure, the bill would need to pass a vote in both the House and Senate before arriving on the desk of Governor Tom Wolf. But the impasse between the Republican-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor in regards to the state budget package has presented a new opportunity for iGaming legislation to become law. HB 649 is increasingly being seen as a way to appease politicians on both sides of the aisle while bringing in much-needed revenue. The bill could be combined with other initiatives and passed as part of the 2016 budget package. Those changes could include regulating games of skill, legalizing daily fantasy sports, and giving betting parlors the option to add more slot machines for an extra fee. According to Payne's estimates, internet gaming could bring in $120 million in revenue in its first year alone. The representative has stated his concern that by not keeping up with neighboring states, Pennsylvania's land-based gambling operations could suffer the same closures that were seen by several casinos in Atlantic City the past two years. John Pappas (pictured), Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, urged poker players to take advantage of the moment and keep the pressure on Pennsylvania's lawmakers by showing support for iGaming. "Regardless of HB 649's pathway to becoming law in Pennsylvania, we want to see internet poker legislation enacted this year," said Pappas in a press release. "Therefore, we are calling on all Pennsylvania poker players to tell the state's policymakers why passing this bill is so important to Pennsylvanians and urging all poker reporters and activists to help spread the word through media outlets, blogs, and social media forums." Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson (pictured), who heads the parent company of Pennsylvania's Sands Bethlehem Casino, is well aware of the new developments and has recently released new attack ads via his organization, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. In its most recent TV spot, a narrator asks whether Pennsylvania's children are safe and wonders why Representative Payne is working so hard to "legalize predatory online gambling." This is exactly why Pappas recommends that Pennsylvania's poker fans don't drop the ball with victory tantalizingly close at hand. "It is absolutely crucial that Pennsylvania state representatives, senators, and Governor Tom Wolf are hearing from their constituents about the consumer benefits of licensing and regulating internet poker in the state," he said. To make that task a bit easier, the PPA announced the launch of an "advocacy webpage" which instructs citizens how they can contact state representatives through social media, email, and phone. Players can find all the info they need here. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  10. [caption width="640"] Pennsylvania remains a must-watch state for online poker legislation in 2016[/caption] For online poker supporters, June could best be summed up with the first half of a famous Shakespeare line, as the month was full of sound fury in multiple state legislators. Unfortunately, July completed the quote, as thus far, all of the hullabaloo that occurred in June has signified nothing. Even though no less than four states have given serious consideration to legalizing online gambling this year - New York, Michigan, California, and Pennsylvania - to date, not a single online gaming bill has passed in 2016. But, only one of those states, New York, is officially off the table this year, and hope remains in the other three, particularly in Pennsylvania. Another positive development occurred in July too, as a new online gaming candidate emerged in the form of Massachusetts. As they wrapped up their legislative session Massachusetts lawmakers passed a Daily Fantasy Sports bill, and came very close to approving online lottery sales. Hopefully this progress will set the table for 2017 in the Bay State. Here's where online gaming efforts stand across the country as heading into August. Pennsylvania Still on Hold The waiting game is officially on in Pennsylvania, and it could be quite some time before the fate of online gaming is decided in the Keystone State. Nothing is expected to happen on the online gambling front until the fall, and it could easily stretch into the winter months and could stretch into early 2017 if history is any indication. In 2009 the same scenario we are currently seeing with the online gaming bill unfolded with table games. The revenue table games were expected to produce was added to the budget in July 2009, but the table game bill wasn't passed until January of 2010. Basically, there is precedent for what is happening. The online gambling bill may be on pause, but you can be certain the behind the scenes maneuverings are alive and well, evidenced by the recent passage of a bill that increased the tax on table games in Pennsylvania by 2% over the next three years. So How Close is Online Gambling to Passing in Pennsylvania? According to legislative sources, online gambling has a good shot of passing if, and this is an important if, the key components of the bill remain unchanged. The fear is DFS, which apparently has broader support in Pennsylvania, could be decoupled from online gambling. If this happens, online gambling's chances go way down. New York Folds on the River I had the chance to talk Assemblyman Gary Pretlow at the recently concluded National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) conference that was held in Newton, Massachusetts, and asked him point blank if he was going to push for legalizing online poker in 2017. His answer caught me a bit off guard. According to Pretlow, his primary concern is the fear that multiple players will communicate their hands to one another, what we call in poker circles, collude. Pretlow said, "prove to me you can't cheat." This is a detour from earlier statements the Assemblyman made on this same topic. Previously Pretlow said the reason DFS passed, while online poker got hung up in the Assembly, was because he couldn't consider poker a game of skill because you can change the size of the bet in poker, whereas DFS has a fixed entry fee ... sort of like a poker tournament. Considering how simple it should be to quell Pretlow's new concern, it looks like New York will in fact be in play in 2017, and it would certainly help if poker players started contacting Pretlow and other key lawmakers in order to apply the same grass roots pressure that helped propel DFS across the finish line in New York. Michigan Still Playing Hold Music As was the case last month, we can shift our focus off of Michigan until November, as the legislature is not expected to consider online gambling legalization until after the elections. A New Dawn in Indiana Indiana has been on my radar for several years now, and thanks to presidential politics, it will probably be on everyone's radar in 2017. With budget shortfalls and declining gaming revenue, the Indiana legislature has been exploring all kinds of options to raise more revenue through gaming. but because of their very anti-online gambling Governor, Mike Pence, the legislature hasn't tackled online gambling, since Pence created what is basically an unbreachable firewall. To be fair to Pence, a few gaming bills have been passed on his watch, but online gambling never stood a chance. That's all changed now that Pence has agreed to be Donald Trump's running mate, a decision that prohibits him from running for office in Indiana, so his name has been withdrawn from consideration. California Legislature Preparing for a Busy August The California legislature is back in session, but with less than a month to wrap things up, and the two sides still miles apart on the suitability issue, online poker is likely not going to happen this year. When the legislature left for summer recess a month ago the Assembly was reportedly 12 votes shy of the 2/3 majority needed to pass Adam Gray's online poker bill. It's hard to imagine the situation has changed enough that the bill could pass the Assembly, and it might not even be brought to the floor for debate. DFS Passes, but Massachusetts iLottery Efforts Fall Short In last month's legislative recap I included a throwaway line about a Massachusetts Senate Committee approving a bill (that later became H 4569) that would allow the Massachusetts State Lottery to sell tickets online. Remarkably, the Massachusetts legislature nearly got online lottery sales bill into the state budget. Since being approved by the Senate committee in June, the bill managed to pass the full Massachusetts Senate and a House committee before it was stripped out of the economic development package passed in the House on the last day of the session, the aforementioned H 4569. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean Massachusetts is likely to take the final step on online lottery next year, as the state has an uncanny knack of considering online gaming bills one year, and then discard them in the next.
  11. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Online poker players in Pennsylvania got some great news on Thursday.[/caption] Well Pennsylvania online poker players, all you need now is an autograph from Governor Tom Wolf and you'll be well on your way to playing regulated online poker soon. By a vote of 109-72, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 271, effectively regulating online poker, casino games and daily fantasy sports in the Keystone State. The bill now heads to the Governor's office for a signature to make it law. All expectations are that Wolf will not veto the bill. The news of a fourth US state regulating online gaming was music to the ears of the Poker Players Alliance. “Pennsylvania made the right decision today,” said John Pappas, executive director of PPA. "This is a major victory for consumers who, for years, have asked the state to step up and provide meaningful protections. The iGaming law will also help create new growth opportunities for the Commonwealth’s bricks and mortar casinos while providing needed revenue for the state budget.” There is no timeline for when Pennsylvanians can begin legally check-raising from the comfort of their own home, but many believe mid-2018 to be a reasonable expectation. Thursday's House vote came after the bill was amended and passed by the Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday night. The bill created three separate categories for online gaming licenses; online poker and other player-to-player games, table games, and slot machines. Land-based operators already licensed in Pennsylvania get a 120-day head start on "qualified entities" that may come from out-of-state. Pennsylvania casinos can apply for an interactive gaming license that covers all three categories within the first 90 days at a cost of $10 million. After that time period, the licenses will cost $4 million each. PokerStars, which currently only operates in New Jersey in the United States, was happy to see another state come on board. "We applaud the Pennsylvania Legislature for taking decisive action to legalize online gaming," said Eric Hollreiser, VP of Corporate Communications for PokerStars. "This is commonsense 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." The bill also includes language that should allow Pennsylvania to share player pools with other jurisdictions that offer regulated online gaming. Many industry experts expect Pennsylvania to join the recently-signed agreement between New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. The bill sets the legal age for PA online casino or poker play at 21 while daily fantasy sports participants need only be 18.
  12. 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.
  13. In the eight years since the World Series of Poker Main Event went to a three-starting flight schedule, only once has the Day 1A field reach 1,000 or more players and that was 2012 when they snuck into four-digit territory with 1,066 players. There was no sneaking in on Wednesday. 1,336 players showed up to play Day 1A, giving WSOP officials hope that this year's event might be a record-breaker. Williams wasn't the only notable to suffer an early end to his Main Event. Shane Warne, Frank Kassela, Bryn Kenney, Mohsin Charania, Brandon Shack-Harris, and Kristen Bicknell all ended with a zero as their Day 1A chip count. Former Main Event Champs Advance Just two former Main Event winners managed to work their way through the five levels of play on Day 1A. Chris Moneymaker, fresh off of his ninth-place finish in the partypoker MILLIONS Las Vegas, ended the day 95,000 while 2016 Main Event winner Qui Nguyen had a much better day, finishing with 180,500. Foxen, Strelitz, Bonomo Highlight Notables Moving on to Day 2A There were 960 players who made it through Day 1A. While a number of top players like to wait until Day 1C to play, there were a plethora of poker superstars who played on Wednesday and finished with chips in a bag. Daniel Strelitz, still basking in the flow of winning his first bracelet, finished with 185,300. Poker vlogger Johnnie Moreno (aka Johnnie Vibes) tripled his starting stack and finished with 184,000. Alex Foxen nearly did the same, ending with 173,200. Justin Bonomo accumulated 96,000 through the day to move on to Day 2. Other notables advancing from Day 1A include Patrick Serda (216,700), Jeff Lisandro (180,100), Jack Sinclair (153,800), Isaac Baron (146,600), Kelly Minkin (137,100), Billy Baxter (131,500), Brian Hastings (124,200), Matt Glantz (120,800), Arlie Shaban (113,600), Brian Rast (109,100), Kevin MacPhee (82,500), Garrett Greer (69,300), Ben Yu (63,600), Mike Gorodinsky (57,800), Erik Seidel (57,400), Stephen Chidwick (45,000), Marvin Rettenmaier (30,800), and Poker Hall of Fame finalist Chris Bjorin (18,000). Rapper Hoodie Allen Goes to Work, Bags Big Rapper Hoodie Allen, real name Steven Markowitz, was a Happy Camper at the end of Day 1A. The 31-year-old University of Pennsylvania grad lived up to The Hype and finished with 151,500, good enough for a top 100 stack. Markowitz will hope People Keep Talking when he returns for Day 2AB on Sunday. He has one previous WSOP cash, a 35th place finish in a 2016 $1,000 No Limit Hold'em event. Michael Miller Leads Pennsylvania Contingent into Day 2A With the launch of Pennsylvania Online Poker looming, 17 players from the Keystone State managed to turn Day 1A into a trip to Day 2A. Leading the way is Michael Miller. The Haverford, PA native just missed out on having a top 10 stack after finishing with 235,800. The next biggest Pennsylvania stack belongs to Gregory Fishberg with 168,800. They're joined by Jesse Smith (136,600), Alan Schein (135,000), Brian Hastings (124,200), Matt Glantz (120,800), Alexander Krisak (117,000), John Andress (104,900), Joseph Palma (100,100), Sean Magee (88,500), Dennis Cronin (85,700), David Knudsen (76,600), James Hundt (72,900), Jennifer Shahade (72,400), Ronald Lankin (49,500), Gary Bowker (25,800), and Seth Berger (DNR). The Day 1A Numbers Could Be Hinting at Something Big Historicially, Day 1A is always the least popular Main Event starting flight. It requires being in Las Vegas the longest amount of time, there's a two-day gap between Day 1A and Day 2A, and it means being in Sin City on July 4th. Over the last five years, Day 1A has accounted for an average of 11.44% of the overall field size, staying steady with a high of 11.75% last summer and a low of 11.01% in 2017. If that trend were to hold true this year, WSOP officials are looking at a record-setting year that will eclipse the 8,773 runners that turned out in 2006. Top 10 Chip Counts Bryan Campanello - 417,500 Timothy Su - 297,300 Quentin Roussey - 266,400 Takehiro Kato - 259,200 Charidimos Demetriou - 252,000 Craig Chait - 249,600 Stephen Graner - 247,100 Mark Zullo - 245,600 David Lolis - 245,100 Thomas Roupe - 238,800
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