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Found 7 results

  1. In what is seen as a big win for interstate online poker, the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in their case against the U.S. Department of Justice and its revised opinion of the Wire Act. As originally reported by OnlinePokerReport.com, the ruling upholds the decision of a lower court that the reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice in 2018 is incorrect. In that revised opinion, the DOJ sought to expand the coverage of the Wire Act beyond sports betting to include all forms of gambling which included lotteries and online poker. The Wire Act of 1961 was originally enacted to prohibit the use of "wire communication" to assist in the interstate placing bets or wagers (or the collection of earnings) in any "sporting event or contest." In 2011, the DOJ released an opinion that events and activities that fall outside of the "sporting event" wording are outside of the Wire Act's purview. Then, in 2018, the DOJ reversed itself and attempted to extend the law's coverage. The appellate court’s decision is a potential boom for online poker in the United States. Even though online poker was not at the forefront of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s case, the industry should benefit providing the decision stands. It clears up the legality of whether states that legalize online poker, as Pennsylvania and Michigan have recently done, can join or create their own interstate network as Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have already done with WSOP.com being the first and only network to date to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition to opening the gates for new states to join an interstate network, it also reinforces that what has already been established can continue to grow. Prior to the 2019 World Series of Poker, organizers were unclear if players in New Jersey would be allowed to participate in online bracelet events as they had in year's past due to the language in the DOJ’s 2018 interpretation. After an initial loss in federal court about the Wire Act, the DOJ let it be known that they would not start enforcing on other forms of gambling until 2020 at the earliest. Now, the decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals leaves the DOJ, should it choose to proceed, the final option of appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States. Given the current political landscape, the DOJ may choose not to do this in which case the lawsuit would be complete and the interpretation nullified. The Supreme Court may also opt not to hear the case which would be an end to matters as well. The new presidential administration will likely be a factor as well. According to Bloomberg News Network, President Biden is on record as not supporting the DOJ’s Wire Act expansion. Additionally, as reported by CDC Gaming Reports, back in December 2019 the Biden campaign issued a statement saying that Biden “doesn’t support adding unnecessary restrictions to the gaming industry like the Trump Administration has done.” With this being the likely end of the line for the case, players in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware are likely to see some new screen names at the tables as online poker in the U.S. prepares to expand in 2021.
  2. On Wednesday, longtime reporter John Ralston wrote on his blog, "Here's what's floating around DC. I smell a Nevada company." What followed was text of a draft bill that expands the scope of the Wire Act by adding the following language: "The term 'any sporting event or contest' includes games in material part or predominantly subject to chance which are played for a prize, including games in which players compete against each other, and not against any person, entity, or fellow player hosting the game, the outcome of which, over any significant interval, is predominantly determined by the skill of the players." Despite expanding the reach of the Wire Act, the draft bill includes a critical carve-out for poker, both intrastate and interstate. Therefore, according to Online Poker Report, many non-poker casino games would be disallowed under the draft bill's language. The bill is also questionable as to how it treats fantasy sports, which received a carve-out from the UIGEA. The bill does not appear to reference the section in the UIGEA that applies to fantasy sports (section "ix") and instead references sections "i" to "viii". Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas told PocketFives in an exclusive statement, "It is important to keep in mind that this is a draft bill, likely written by someone in the industry, and it is not an introduced piece of legislation." Even though some could view the poker carve-out as being positive for the industry, Pappas (pictured) confirmed, "At this time, the PPA is not pursuing a compromise carve-out billthat simply gives poker players the status quo. We are focused on defeating the Graham/Chaffetz bills and pushing state or Federal regulation of internet poker. If Congress does anything, they should either set standards for interstate licensing of online poker or get out of the way of the states who wish to pursue it on their own." Online Poker Report was not optimistic about the chances of any Federal legislation passing in 2014, an election year in the United States in which one-third of the Senate and the entire House will be up for grabs: "While a compromise bill certainly has a better chance in absolute terms than an outright ban or widespread legalization, any Federal action on online gambling remains highly unlikely. The bulk of the upside for politicians in the issue continues to reside in the writing of op-eds and the sponsorship of bills that will inevitably die in committee." In the US House and Senate, respectively, Congressman Jason Chaffetz and Senator Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, have introduced legislation to restore the Wire Act and eradicate internet gambling, including licensed online poker sites in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. Pappas told us at the time, "The PPA's position is that these bills should be defeated." There has been no movement on either bill. Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest poker legislation news. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  3. In January, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hijacked a critical Attorney General confirmation hearingto spread the gospel of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson. The latter, whose properties include the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, has pledged to spend "whatever it takes" to rid the US of online gambling and online poker. Now, the Attorney General nominee has responded after Graham repeatedly cut her off during the hearing and showed little interest in what she had to say. As part of a 200-page documenton page 125, Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch (pictured) shared her thoughts on the Wire Act. The drama stems from a December 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act from the Department of Justice saying that the law, which was passed 50 years prior, only applies to sports betting. "If confirmed as Attorney General, I will review the Office of Legal Counsel opinion, which considered whether interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a sporting event or contest fall within the scope of the Wire Act," Lynch said to Graham and company in the document. She added, "It is my understanding, however, that OLC opinions are rarely reconsidered. If confirmed, I will read the opinion and if it articulates a reasonable interpretation of the law, I would welcome the opportunity to work with you and other members of Congress to address concerns about online gambling through legislation." There you have it, Sheldon (pictured). It doesn't look like Lynch, if confirmed, will overturn the 2011 decision. Whether we'll see legislation passed to ban internet gambling in the US, however, remains to be seen. Earlier this month, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), reportedly at the behest of Adelson, reintroduced Restoring America's Wire Act, which would outlaw i-gaming in the US, including in the three states where it's already regulated. Chaffetz's office has failed to respond to repeated interview requests by PocketFives and the lawmaker has also failed to expound his interest in the industry. We'll keep you posted on the latest poker legislation news. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  4. The "conservative educational foundation" Judicial Watch, which is heavily supported by Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson (pictured), is doing its part by suing the US federal government for access to documents pertaining to the Department of Justice's 2011 reinterpretation of the Wire Act. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which made it illegal for some online gaming businesses to accept bets from customers in the US. While some online poker sites decided to pull the plug on their operations in America, others remained open for business. Five years later, the Department of Justice unsealed indictments against executives from Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker/UB. Authorities had infiltrated and shut down rogue payment processors, crippling all but PokerStars by cutting off the sites' money pipeline. In a surprise move later that year, the DOJ announced that the Wire Act should only apply to online sports betting. The ruling essentially gave the green light for US states to legalize online poker and casino betting if they chose to do so. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware are the only states to have regulated the industry so far. Adelson is seeking to dial back the 2011 decision and make it explicitly illegal to operate an iGaming site. To accomplish this, he has drafted legislation called the Restoration of America's Wire Act, a bill being championed by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Judicial Watch is suing the federal government and claims that it has not received a response for its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents surrounding the 2011 ruling. In October 2014, the group asked for "any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the December 23, 2011 ruling to legalize non-sports betting over the internet, including but not limited to any records on the legal basis for the ruling under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006." According to Judicial Watch, the DOJ had until February 18 of this year to make its decision on whether to release the information, but has not yet responded. For a group which "promotes transparency, accountability, and integrity in government," its involvement in Sheldon Adelson's one-man war against the online gambling industry is ironic. And it's not hard to connect the dots between Judicial Watch and Adelson. The group's founder, Larry Klayman, also founded a similar organization called Freedom Watch (now defunct), which was almost completely funded by the casino magnate. While Adelson puts his crack team of political operatives to work banning internet gambling, his own casinos are being fined for allowing minors to gamble, and even drink alcohol. Journalist Tim James recently exposed the hypocrisy of Adelson's anti-iGaming campaignby clandestinely filming two underage companions as they played poker and table games, drank alcohol, and cashed out without anyone ever asking for their ID. Adelson's casinos: the Venetian (pictured) and Palazzo in Las Vegas, among others. To put the icing on the cake, James himself went to a bar inside the Venetian and was able to pick up a prostitute within minutes. After agreeing to be filmed, she revealed that she and her companions often work out of the casino with no problems whatsoever. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.
  5. [caption width="640"] Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering a ban on online gaming.[/caption] During his confirmation hearing in early January, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’d be open to revisiting the Justice Department’s interpretation of the Wire Act, which allowed states the opportunity to legalize online gaming. Just three months later, it appears Sessions may be following through with that intention. Within the past two weeks, the National Governors Association and the Poker Players Alliance have publicly expressed their opposition to any move from Sessions that could ban online gaming or internet lottery sales. John Pappas, Executive Director of the PPA, said that it was known all along that federal action on online gaming was a possibility, but over the past week, he and others began hearing from sources within government agencies that a decision may be forthcoming. In response, the PPA ratcheted up their advocacy efforts by asking poker players to reach out to Sessions voicing their opposition. “It’s unclear where things stand today, but I certainly believe that our efforts over the last three to five days has probably made an impact,” Pappas said. “Hopefully, at a minimum, we’ve slowed things down and, at best, we’ve stopped it completely.” What Does This All Mean? Even if the Justice Department reverses its previous opinion regarding the Wire Act, in which it stated the act only applied to sports betting, it’s not clear how this would affect the online gaming market in the United States. Despite a change in the opinion, states like Pennsylvania and New York could continue their efforts to introduce online gaming since the Wire Act itself and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which includes an exemption for state regulated activity, remain unchanged. But would the Department of Justice then take legal action against New Jersey, Delaware, or Nevada or states that already offer online lottery sales? No one is really sure what would come next, but for Pappas, the biggest impact would be a “chilling effect” that this move could have on states that are currently pursuing online gaming. By creating a gray area in which there is confusion over whether states are able to pursue online gaming, this action by Sessions could effectively halt much of the progress made in 2017. “We don’t want to give Pennsylvania lawmakers, New York lawmakers, or Michigan lawmakers any excuse not to do the right thing,” Pappas said. National Governors’ Association Also Opposed The PPA isn’t alone in their opposition to a potential reversal on the Justice Department’s opinion regarding the Wire Act. On April 3, the National Governors Association sent a letter to Sessions outlining their opposition to any federal legislative or administrative action that would ban online Internet gaming and Internet lottery sales. Signed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, the letter states: “The regulation of gaming has historically been addressed by the states. While individual governors have different views about offering gaming – in a variety of forms – within their own states, we agree that decisions at the federal level that affect state regulatory authority should not be made unilaterally without state input. A strong, cooperative relationship between the states and federal government is vital to best serve the interests of all citizens.” What Can You Do? The PPA has developed a letter that you can easily send to the Attorney General, voicing your support for states to make the decision on whether to offer online gaming. Simply enter your name, email address, and zip code to send this letter to the Attorney General’s office. With the future of online gaming in question, reaching out to government officials is an incredibly effective way of voicing your opinion on the matter.
  6. [caption width="640"] Jeff Sessions might be bad news for regulated online gaming in the United States.[/caption] In the confirmation hearing this week regarding Sen. Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General, a brief exchange between Sessions and Sen. Lindsey Graham piqued the interest of the online poker world. Early in the eight-hour confirmation hearing, Graham asked Sessions for his thoughts on the Department of Justice’s 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act, which allows states to license and regulate online poker, lotteries, and other casino games on the Internet. In 2011, the Department of Justice reversed its long-held position on the federal Wire Act of 1961, stating that the Act only covered sports betting, thus paving the way for states to offer online gaming. In response to Graham’s question, Sessions said he was “shocked” at the memorandum handed down by the Justice Department and criticized it at the time. “Apparently, there is some justification or argument that can be made to support the Department of Justice’s position,” Sessions said. “But I did oppose it when it happened and it seemed to me to be an unusual…” Before Sessions could finish, Graham interrupted to ask, “Would you revisit it?” “I would revisit it,” Sessions said. “And I would make a decision about it based on careful study … and I haven’t gone that far to give you an opinion today.” The Poker Players Alliance was quick to respond to Sessions’ comments Tuesday, stating their opposition to any efforts to the reverse of the Justice Department’s 2011 decision. “States around the country are doing their jobs by effectively regulating Internet gaming,” PPA Executive Director John Pappas said in a statement. “The next Attorney General should not usurp the rights of states. A de facto federal prohibition of internet gaming will undermine the ability of states to protect consumers and will lead to an unaccountable and completely unregulated black market.” In an interview, Pappas said he was expecting Sessions to be asked for his opinion on the Wire Act during the hearing, but acknowledged that he was surprised it happened so early -- within the first two hours of the hearing. “Of all the issues facing the Federal judiciary, is this really one that rose to be one of the first questions out?” Pappas said. If Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General, and if he elects to move forward with revisiting the 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act, Pappas believes there has been a strong case established against reversing the ruling. The partnerships PPA has established with conservative groups, such as The American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform, as well as others, will be helpful in defending the current interpretation of the Wire Act, according to Pappas. “I think we’re as well positioned with a Republican Congress, a Republican President, and a Republican Attorney General as we could be,” he said.
  7. Regulated online poker in the US made some leaps in 2019, and if the market can have a similar legislative year in 2020 as it did in 2019, things will be moving along quite nicely. In 2019, Pennsylvania online poker went live, West Virginia entered the regulated arena, and Michigan redeemed itself. Pennsylvania Goes Live As the saying goes, it’s better late than never. Following up on Pennsylvania’s regulation of online poker in late 2017, Kevin O’Toole, executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, announced in April of 2019 that that PA online poker would go live on July 15. The announcement was a very welcomed one, especially by players in the Keystone State. With a population of 12.8 million, Pennsylvania would become the largest state to have regulated online poker, topping New Jersey’s 8.9 million. Just days after O’Toole’s announcement on when Pennsylvania online poker would go live, it was revealed that seven casinos had been approved to operate online poker in the state, including PokerStars and partypoker. After plenty of time had passed between signing of the bill and the PGCB’s announcement on when online poker would go live in Pennsylvania, things were finally moving forward. As the days rolled by, more and more poker players become anxious for what was to come in Pennsylvania, but unfortunately the launch date of July 15 was not going to happen. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months as the wait went on. Finally, the poker community received the news that PokerStars was to begin testing real-money online poker in Pennsylvania on November 4. PokerStars PA’s soft launch proved a success and the site officially went live on November 6, 2019. Less than two weeks after opening its virtual doors, PokerStars PA announced the first-ever Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker. The series called for 50 events and $1 million in combined prize pool guarantees. The inaugural PACOOP got off to a roaring start, so much so that organizers opted to bump up the guarantees for the events not once but twice. As 2019 came to a close, PokerStars was the only operator live in Pennsylvania. The site has shown solid numbers, both in tournaments and cash games, and it will be interesting to see which operator decides to be next in line. With other operators in play, we’ll be able to get our first look at the competitive landscape in the Keystone State, although PokerStars PA has done well to get a head start by launching in November 2019. The best thing to come from PokerStars PA’s launch was the lack of hiccups exhibited elsewhere, like when New Jersey launched, for example. The regulated online poker industry is more mature in the US and a lot has been learned and improved upon in the time since NJ launched regulated online poker. Going forward, we anticipate other states that come on board will have a similarly streamlined launch phase to what we saw in Pennsylvania. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zgone="888poker NJ"][ptable zone="GG Poker"] Michigan Redeems Itself At the end of 2018, it was thought that Michigan was going to be the next state to regulate online poker. Just days before Christmas, Michigan lawmakers passed a bill to legalize online poker. All that was needed was a signature from Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan would be off and running towards launch. Snyder had other plans, though. Days after the bill was sent to Snyder’s desk by lawmakers, Snyder vetoed the bill. Just about one year passed and a bill that included regulated online poker was back on the governor’s desk in Michigan, only this time it was the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Unlike her predecessor, Whitmer signed the bill into law. With a state population of nearly 10 million, it is hoped that Michigan regulated online poker will be similar to what can be seen in Pennsylvania upon launch. Whitmer was involved in the process of drafting the bill, which lended itself to greater confidence that the bill would get signed into law once it reached her desk. The bill does have language in it that does not allow for interstate liquidity, as Whitmer had concerns over online slot revenues potentially leaving the state. Things might eventually change for Michigan to allow interstate player pooling, but we’ll have to wait and see in that regard, just like what’s happening in Pennsylvania. West Virginia Legalizes Online Poker Before Michigan became the sixth state to legalize online poker and before regulated online poker went live in Pennsylvania, West Virginia became the fifth state to welcome legalized online poker. Via passing of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, online poker is now regulated in the Mountain State. The bill was approved overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate in West Virginia before it was sent to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. Justice did not act on the bill before the 15-day deadline, which allowed the bill to become law. Those in West Virginia are still waiting for the next steps to take place, as regulators are currently working on putting everything in place that will lead up to launch. Although one of the smaller states in the US in terms of population, with a figure of 1.8 million, the more states that are on board with regulated online poker, the better. Wire Act Only Applies To Sports Betting Entering the 2019 WSOP, there was some uncertainty surrounding the WSOP.com online gold bracelet events that were set to take place across the interstate player pools of Nevada and New Jersey. But at the beginning of June, Judge Paul Barbadoro of the US District Court concluded that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting. "I hereby declare that § 1084(a) of the Wire Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1084(a), applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest," Barbadoro wrote in conclusion. "The 2018 OLC Opinion is set aside." The new opinion came following the Department of Justice's claim that the Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling, which is what caused the uncertainty to surround the WSOP.com online gold bracelet events. The new opinion, however, gave the green light for interstate WSOP.com online gold bracelet events to move forward without issue. As regulated online poker continues to try and make strides, the new opinion from Barbadoro was very much viewed as a win. What followed was a record-breaking year for WSOP.com online gold bracelet events. WSOP.com Named Official NFL Sponsor Although WSOP.com, which is currently live in Nevada and New Jersey and has interstate player pooling across the two states, did not launch operations in a new state in 2019, it did have an exciting bit of news announced. In November, it was announced that WSOP.com was named an official sponsor of the NFL. The partnership stemmed from an earlier announcement at the beginning of the year when Caesars Entertainment Corporation, parent company of the WSOP and WSOP.com, was selected as the first-ever Official Casino Sponsor of the NFL. As part of the partnership, WSOP.com launched the ‘Sit ‘N’ Go to the Super Bowl’ promotion to provide players with the opportunity to win a trip for two to Miami for Super Bowl LIV. Looking Ahead To 2020 As we said off the top, if 2020 continues with the same sort of advancements that happened in 2019, regulated online poker in the US will be moving along nicely. What this means is one or two new states coming on board and at least one more operator going live in Pennsylvania. Both Michigan and West Virginia have passed bills to regulated online poker, but timetables have yet to be determined for when sites will go live. It seems that online poker will be live in Michigan before West Virginia, but for now we’re left waiting to see what’s next from these two states. Best hopes are that Michigan, due to its size, has an efficient timetable to and through launch, mirroring the success of Pennsylvania’s launch. In Pennsylvania, look for WSOP.com to go live sometime in 2020. Of course, without interstate liquidity sharing, WSOP.com players in Pennsylvania will be separate from those playing in Nevada and New Jersey. Competition within a market is almost always a good thing and having a powerful brand such as the WSOP alongside PokerStars in the market should help raise the bar for what’s offered to PA online poker players in addition to providing a second option of play. WSOP.com going live in Pennsylvania, if it were to happen ahead of the 2020 World Series of Poker, could positively affect the massive live festival that takes place in Las Vegas every summer, too. An online gold bracelet event likely wouldn’t be in the cards, but satellites offering players opportunities to win their way to compete in WSOP gold bracelet events in Las Vegas would certainly be expected. WSOP.com has already started running satellites for the 2020 WSOP for players in Nevada and New Jersey. With a new governor in office, Kentucky is a state to watch in 2020. Rep. Adam Koenig tried to push through legislation in 2019 but ultimately fell short in an effort to legalize both online poker and sports betting. Koenig has said he will try again in 2020 and his efforts could be supported by one very important person. The state’s former governor, Matt Bevin, was against gambling. The state’s new governor, Andy Beshear, who previously served as Kentucky’s attorney general, appears to be very much for regulated gambling. As attorney general, Beshear urged legislators to allow legalized gambling. Much like a new governor helped get regulated online poker over the finish line in Michigan, Beshear could be pivotal in Kentucky getting legalized online gambling, including online poker.
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