California iGaming Week in Review: Topsy Turvy iGaming Rides

California iGaming Week in Review: Topsy Turvy iGaming Rides

Can someone please put me out of misery already? California has sent me on one of the most gut wrenching, topsy turvy iGaming rides of any state and we’re only heading into July. I’m not saying California’s path to online poker isn’t an interesting one, but California’s 2014 online poker dreams seem to now be hanging on by the thinnest of strings (so next week it will probably look likely again), and instead of sorting out and solving its problems it feels like every week more and more problems are continually being introduced. With PokerStars ownership in limbo for the foreseeable future (September 30th appears to be the target date for the closing of the sale to Amaya Gaming) California’s plans for online poker seem to be on hold, and the state’s lawmakers have started to employ the “usual suspects” of stalling language as I’ll explain below. September is also the end of the line for this session of the California legislature, so it would seem that with the Amaya / PokerStars deal set for late September we can start looking ahead to 2015 already. As the saying goes: So close, yet so far away. Who even owns PokerStars? So why do we have to wait for the PokerStars sale to be finalized? Like waiting for the sale of a house to go through, Amaya is fairly certain that PokerStars is going to be theirs, but they can’t just move in yet – or in the case of California, advance their cause. They’re in the house measuring the wall space to see if their furniture will fit and picking out colors for the walls, but technically the house belongs to someone else until the sale is final. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to calling Amaya the new owners of PokerStars, but when it comes to issues like licensing, PokerStars still owns PokerStars until everything is officially signed, sealed, and delivered. The “Poison Pill” was perhaps potentially put in place on purpose First off, is that enough P’s in the header title for you? The latest rumors coming out of California (they’re not really new but they are picking up steam) is that several of the tribes that have lined up against PokerStars and their allies and are pushing for a “Bad Actor / Tainted Assets” clause are not too keen on online poker in the first place and see this issue as something that can be used to kill the bill. If these rumors are true it would seem that the whole affair this year has been little more than a dog and pony show orchestrated by some (not all but some) gaming interests in an effort to not appear as the “bad guys” in this, as nobody wants to be blamed for costing California tens-of-millions in tax revenue and licensing fees. Lawmakers sense iPoker slipping away Earlier this year there were several online poker champions emerging in the California state legislature, but recently these champions seem to getting cold feet, as their rhetoric has changed from one of eternal optimism and “Ra-Ra” speeches to the cautious, looking at everything, approach. According to StandUpCA.org, the authors of the original bills are not simply going to rubber-stamp the bill proposed by the coalition of 13 tribes, “Correa and Jones-Sawyer last week told tribal leaders they will not automatically sign off on draft amendments to the bills agreed to by the politically powerful tribal coalition,” the website states. “Senator Correa intends to be very deliberate in reviewing the tribal coalition’s i-poker proposal,” said Arthur Terzakis, director of the Senate Government Organization Committee, “… he has asked for input from the state’s attorneys and regulators.” A source close to Reginald Jones-Sawyer (the author of the Assembly bill) stated, “He wants to make sure this is done right.” Even PokerStars partners are measuring their words While overtly they are saying all the right things [paraphrasing], “this only improves our partnership” and “PokerStars is proving once again why they are the best in the world” if you read between the lines you’ll start to see that there is a lot of uncertainty even among PokerStars partners (The Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Bicycle Club, the Commerce Casino, and the Hawaiian Gardens Casino) evidenced by the remarks of Haig Kelegian, Managing Director, Bicycle Club to gigse.com: California iGaming Barometer It’s looking liked we’ve got some storm clouds on the horizon for the remainder of 2014. So unless something drastic occurs, or some miracle 11th hour deal is agreed to, California can be crossed off potential 2014 online gaming expansion nominees, joining Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. But hey, there is always 2015! Previous Post Next Post amaya|bike|commerce|hawaiian gardens|morongo|pokerstars About Steve Ruddock Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to Senate: “We Can Regulate Online Gambling”

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to Senate: “We Can Regulate Online Gambling”

On Wednesday the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee hosted a hearing that discussed, among other things, the legislature’s current efforts to expand into online gambling. The hearing featured a number of witnesses from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), who hit on topics ranging from regulations and safeguards, to problem gambling and the health of the state’s horse racing industry. Wednesday’s hearing occurred just a week after the state’s casino stakeholders appeared in front of the Pennsylvania Senate CERD Committee to talk online gaming expansion and gaming reforms. Both hearings provided positive momentum for online gaming expansion in the Keystone State, but there are still quite a few wrinkles that will need to be ironed out if iGaming is going to become a component of the state’s budget. That budget that is due in just 14 days, although there seems to be wiggle room for an extension. Regulators unafraid of online gambling The key takeaway from Wednesday’s hearing? The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is ready, willing, and able to tackle online gambling. PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole was the first witness to tout the PGCB’s capabilities and willingness to take on this oversight role. “The Board is confident [Internet gambling] can be regulated,” O’Toole stated. The PGCB has “experienced and capable regulators,” O’Toole told the committee, adding that the board would be ready to regulate Internet gaming in an efficient and controlled manner if and when it’s legalized. According to O’Toole, the PGCB could have regulations drafted, licenses handed out, and the sites online within nine to twelve months of the legislature passing an online gambling bill. O’Toole qualified this aggressive timeline by saying it was dependent on the speed of the license application process. Another witness, Michael Cruz, the Chief Technology Officer of the PGCB, said the state would draw heavily on New Jersey’s experiences. “I’m not interested in reinventing the wheel,” Cruz told the committee. Cruz added that Pennsylvania regulators would look towards the New Jersey model in drafting Pennsylvania’s regulations. What are the remaining issues? Unlike California, the policy differences among Pennsylvania’s potential iGaming stakeholders don’t seem as hard-line. In-person registrations and whether Category 3 casinos should be allowed to apply for an online gambling license appear solvable. The pricklier issues seem to be differences between the state’s casinos and the legislature when it comes to an acceptable tax rate. The casinos and most iGaming advocates would like to see the tax rate set around 14% (the rate in Representative John Payne’s HB 649) while the recently introduced Senate gaming bill sponsored by Senator Kim Ward, SB 900, calls for a 54% tax rate on online gambling. However, these are merely the iGaming issues the state is wrestling with. The senate is trying to pass a comprehensive gaming reform bill, not a standalone online gambling bill. It’s the policies in the other sections of SB 900 that seem far more contentious. Liquor, Category 3 restrictions, and OTB’s are the REAL issues The issues that could sideline the bill (including online gambling) appear to be the following proposed brick-and-mortar gambling reforms:
Loosening restrictions on Category 3 license holders – specifically, the requirement that casino players must be guests or “members” of the casino.
Increasing the number of off-track betting locations (and slot machines at these locations) in Pennsylvania.
Making liquor available 24/7 at casinos. Category 3 Under SB 900, for a one-time $5 million fee, the state’s two Category 3 casinos would be able to do away with their “membership” requirements. Category 3 casinos are in favor of this proposal, while virtually every other casino is opposed to it. The strength of opposition seems contingent on the proximity to the Category 3 casino. This provision would not allow Category 3 license holders to add more slots or table games. Currently Category 1 and 2 casinos are permitted 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games, while Category 3 casinos are permitted 600 slot machines and 50 table games. OTB locations Another provision in SB 900 would allow casinos (this appears only to apply to racinos) to open multiple OTB parlors and place slot machines at them. Each OTB (there could be as many as 32) would cost $5 million with the slot revenue taxed at 54%. Category 1 racinos are all for this expansion effort, while Category 2 casinos (most notably SugarHouse Casino) are opposed to this type of expansion. Liquor around the clock The final sticking point is a provision that would allow casinos to serve liquor around the clock, which once again calls for a $5 million permit fee. Every casino is in favor of increasing the number of hours they are allowed to serve liquor, so this issue will pit legislator against legislator, as many are opposed to increasing the number of hours casinos can serve liquor. Upshot For the bill to move forward, these three non-Internet gaming issues (which seem far more contentious and far more difficult to solve) need to be addressed or scrapped. Alternatively, iGaming could be separated from the other parts of SB 900 and added to the budget. Pennsylvania’s iGaming future may very well hinge on his happening. Photo by Bestbudbrian used under license CC BY-SA 3.0.

PokerStars Gets the Last Laugh

PokerStars Gets the Last Laugh

It was October 2006. President Bush had just signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act into law. Poker sites were leaving the U.S. left and right. Party Poker, iPoker, Paradise Poker, Ongame, Boss Media, Cryptologic, 888 and many more all ran for the exits and banned their U.S. players. PokerStars was one of the few online poker sites that decided to continue accepting Americans. Its competitors scoffed at PokerStars and other sites that stayed in the market. The management of these companies that decided to play conservatively went on record as saying companies that stayed in the U.S. would run into problems, including difficulty in payment processing. The processing environment immediately after the UIGEA was enacted was much different than it is now for offshore sites. Neteller, a popular ewallet for Americans at the time, as well as players throughout the world, stayed in the U.S. market. It ceased U.S. operations after its founders were indicted in January 2007. Other ewallets that processed U.S. payments after UIGEA included PrePaidATM, QuickTender, UseMyWallet, eWalletXpress, ePassporte, PicClub, MyPayLinq, and EcheckUS. These ewallets slowly met their demise one at a time. Some were forced out by U.S. law enforcement. Others simply went out of business. The loss of each payment processor made the environment more difficult for sites like PokerStars to stay in the U.S. market. Many, including Full Tilt Poker, got to the point that processing U.S. payments was nearly impossible. PokerStars still found a way and ran away as the market leader. UIGEA Propelled PokerStars to Number One Spot PokerStars was not always the number one online poker site. Party Poker beat PokerStars it in terms of cash game players up until the UIGEA became law. PokerStars was already the tournament leader at the time. Party Gaming Settled with U.S. Authorities Party Poker’s parent company Party Gaming took the safe route by leaving the U.S. market, but yet it still felt the need to settle with the United States. Anurag Dikshit, one of the company’s founders, pleaded guilty to violating the Wire Act. He agreed to forfeit $300 million. In a court statement, Dikshit said, “I came to believe there was a high probability it was in violation of U.S. laws”. Party Gaming also settled with federal authorities. It paid a $105 million fine and stated at the time, “Certain of the U.S. customer transactions intended for PartyGaming that were processed by third parties, and other gaming and payment-related activity, were contrary to certain U.S. laws.” This makes the grand total Party Gaming and a founder spent settling with the U.S. $405 million. It also put a guilty plea on record, as well as statements that allude to some level of guilt. PokerStars Shines after Black Friday PokerStars found itself in hotter water. It was indicted and blindsided by the actions. It had funds seized and the legal position the company held for more than four years was being called into question. The company did not panic. It found a way to pay players and arguably came out looking better than it ever had. The fine paid was nearly double the combined amount paid by Dikshit and Party Gaming. There were two differences. PokerStars bought Full Tilt Poker for what amounts to the difference in fines. It also got to stay in the U.S. market for 4.5 more years that its competitors that fled where it may have raked as much as $2 million a day. Fast forward to 2014. PokerStars has maintained its dominant number one position, even after booting U.S. players. The rake made off those players helped it to build its software platform, increase its marketing, and attract top online poker talent to its stable of pros and customer service departments. Much of this can be attributed to rake generated by U.S. players. Then, of course, there is the $4.9 billion the founders will be taking home should Amaya Gaming shareholders approve the sale. This is the ultimate jackpot for a company that went against the opinion of its competitors. The previous dominance of PokerStars in the U.S. market has made its brand and player database valuable assets as the online gaming industry hopes to tap the largest economy in the world. Amaya Gaming hopes that purchasing the PokerStars assets and removing the founders will make it licensable in all states. Whether that is the case is debatable at this point, but it is a bet Amaya Gaming is willing to make. Had PokerStars bailed from the U.S. in 2006, it may not be any more valuable than bwin.party, which has a market cap of about $778 million as of June 27, 2014. Staying in the U.S. market proved to be the right decision for PokerStars and Isai and Mark Scheinberg are laughing all the way to the bank. Previous Post Next Post pokerstars About John Mehaffey John has been in the online poker industry since 2001. He has played online poker professionally and has produced content for many gaming niches. He currently plays online poker in Nevada at WSOP and Ultimate Poker.

Rivers Casino Hopes Helicopter Stunt Will Stick The Landing At New Hotel

Rivers Casino Hopes Helicopter Stunt Will Stick The Landing At New Hotel

Contents
1 The Landing Hotel features four-star amenities
2 Steve Wyrick and a chopper part of grand opening festivities
3 The Landing Hotel hoping to cater to Saratoga crowd New York casino Rivers Schenectady is already drawing crowds. Now they have somewhere to stay overnight. The Landing Hotel officially opened on July 19 at Rivers, giving upstate New York casino patrons the ability to get away and stay away a little bit longer. However, the rooms may be difficult to come by. The Landing Hotel is a boutique establishment with only 165 rooms. The Landing Hotel features four-star amenities The new property aims to be upscale. In addition to rooms which begin at $139 a night, the hotel also features a spa, fitness center, business and meeting space, and a beautiful bar and patio area overlooking the Mohawk River. Steve Wyrick and a chopper part of grand opening festivities The Landing Hotel began accepting reservations earlier this month. The official opening date was July 19. The real grand opening festivities take place on July 25 though. As part of the ceremony, illusionist Steve Wyrick will appear as part of a VIP event at the Rivers Casino Events Center. The centerpiece of his performance? Making a full-sized helicopter appear on stage with him. Take that, Miss Saigon. Wyrick promises the show is one New Yorkers will not want to miss. The Landing Hotel hoping to cater to Saratoga crowd While The Landing Hotel is just opening as the official hotel for Rivers Schenectady, there are other accommodations in the area already. Both a Courtyard Marriott and a Homewood Suites are already in the Mohawk Harbor area serving casino customers. However, it is worth noting both hotels currently offer more expensive rates than The Landing. All three properties will be competing for not just casino patrons, but visitors to the Saratoga Race Track now that the racing season is underway. Rivers Casino will hopefully benefit from the Saratoga tourists as well. The casino opened with a bang in February, and is not without its successes. For example, the property ran a highly successful Memorial Day poker tournament. Nonetheless, revenues for both Rivers and del Lago casinos are steadily declining since their respective opening days. The hope is the summer season and other attractions like Saratoga will provide a much-needed boost to the casino coffers.

Editorial Balks At Online Gambling As Solution For Pennsylvania

Editorial Balks At Online Gambling As Solution For Pennsylvania

Pottstown media outlet The Mercury has spoken out against the possible legalization of online gambling in Pennsylvania, citing a decline in gaming revenue both in and beyond the state. Fears of market saturation, diminishing returns The editorial comes at a potentially critical point for online gaming in Pennsylvania, which is dealing with a deficit of more than $1 billion. First-term Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, finds himself locked at odds with a Republican-controlled legislature over the state’s fiscal 2016 budget. Gaming on the eastern seaboard “has hit its saturation point,” wrote The Mercury’s editorial board last week. More from the editorial: The cannibalization argument, again The editorial was the latest example of the idea that online gambling simply cannibalizes revenue from brick-and-mortar establishments. That’s a theory that has largely been debunked throughout the industry, despite the fact that it continues to surface from time to time from gaming interests and media outlets. Earlier this month, Tim Shea, the president of the Pennsylvania Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, penned a letter to the editor that made the rounds in several state newspapers. That letter also cited cannibalization as a reason to stay away from iGaming, even though the writer of the research said Shea was misinterpreting his findings. In fact, most in the industry now believe that online gambling is complementary to land-based casinos. Online gaming as a remedy? The editorial argues that regulating online gaming would have little impact on revenue in the state, despite the fact that the state’s casinos have largely dismissed the cannibalization argument and are asking for the ability to offer iGaming. Amid the state’s budgetary woes, many have heralded online gaming legislation as a means to triage the deficit without resorting to tax increases. But neither legislators nor gaming interests in the state have seen eye-to-eye on the specifics of iGaming. One particularly large stumbling block has been the proposed rate at which virtual casinos would be taxed. One bill, SB 900, proposed a gross tax of 54 percent for online gaming revenue. Casino operators, unsurprisingly, have criticized the figure as unreasonable. PA’s casinos have instead voiced support for a rate of 15 percent, as proposed in HB 649. Flurry of PA online gaming bills in 2015 Five bills that include iGaming regulation have already been proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2015. Most of the bills, which were authored by both Democrats and Republicans, have garnered support among the state Senate’s Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee. One such bill was sponsored by committee chair Kim Ward. Another was authored by the bipartisan duo of Representatives John Payne, a Republican, and Nick Kotik, a Democrat. Payne and Kotik also authored an op-ed article in support of online gaming, which appeared on the Harrisburg-based PennLive in May. Most of these bills contain other gaming measures — unrelated to iGaming — which are far more controversial for lawmakers and casinos. It’s not clear that any of these bills will be the vehicle for online gambling regulation, at least in this legislative session. Legislators still deadlocked on state budget Wolf, who has long called for increased education spending, has maintained this position in the face of the looming deficit. Although Wolf ran on a campaign of lowering middle-class tax rates, news of the deficit spurred the governor to propose a round of tax hikes to compensate for the gap. But since Wolf unveiled that plan in March, Republicans have remained stalwart in their opposition, decrying the strategy as lofty and unrealistic. Most recently, Wolf vetoed an eleventh-hour budget proposal authored by Republicans, and the state’s budget currently hangs in purgatory. Meanwhile, rhetoric surrounding the issue has become increasingly mucky. Wolf drew Republican ire last week, when he blamed the party for the continued delays in negotiation. Will online gambling make an appearance in the state budget talks? Proponents are still waiting for that to happen. Photo by used under license CC BY-SA 2.0.

With Rivers Open, Saratoga Casino Revenues Are A Horse Of A Different Color

With Rivers Open, Saratoga Casino Revenues Are A Horse Of A Different Color

Contents
1 Rivers Casino tough to miss at the track
2 Saratoga revenue down substantially so far Typically, the Saratoga race season is a blessing for Saratoga Casino revenues. This year ‘s Saratoga Race Track season runs from July 21 – Sept. 4. The crowds are coming to the track, but with new competition in the form of nearby Rivers Casino Schenectady, where they gamble is no longer a foregone conclusion. Saratoga Casino revenues are down year-over-year, while Rivers is aggressively courting Saratoga racing fans. Rivers Casino tough to miss at the track The new Rivers Casino is a presence at the track every day. Per The Daily Gazette, the casino has a booth with phone charging stations on site. The casino is also shuttling guests to and from the track and hotel. The drive between Rivers and Saratoga takes about half an hour. While Saratoga Casino is just across the street from the track, the new resort-style Rivers Casino features several amenities beyond just gambling. Additionally, the property has a newly-opened boutique casino, The Landing Hotel. It also helps that Rivers has novelty on its side. Saratoga offers slots and electronic table games. Rivers, on the other hand, can offer the real deal on table games. Moreover, there is a popular poker room. Saratoga Casino did try to compete though. It expanded its hotel as well as added a Morton’s Steakhouse to the dining options. The company originally considered applying for one of the four upstate New York casino licenses, but opted to renovate and expand instead. In other words, Saratoga patrons have a shiny new toy to play with this year, even if the familiar is spruced up. Saratoga revenue down substantially so far The Daily Gazette looked at the numbers and noted that Saratoga Casino revenues took a nose dive this season. Throughout the first four weeks of racing season, Saratoga Casino revenue is down 21.5 percent overall. So far, the casino has generated $10.6 million in revenue, compared to $13.5 million last year. In previous years, Saratoga Casino generated over $3 million in weekly revenue on average. This year, there has only been one week where the property topped $3 million, which it only just managed to do. Meanwhile, Rivers Casino is popping. The property had not been living up to revenue expectations so far. If Rivers can capitalize on this momentum though, it could certainly close the gap between expectations and reality. Over the course of the first month of Saratoga, Rivers took in $11.9 million. Most importantly, it had an absolutely massive third week of the month, taking in over $3.8 million. That is the most the casino has ever earned in a single week of operation so far. By comparison, in May Rivers revenue dipped below $11 million. The property hit peak revenue when it first launched in March, taking in over $13 million in that first month.

Hellmuth Headlines First-Ever King Of The Hill At Rivers Schenectady

Hellmuth Headlines First-Ever King Of The Hill At Rivers Schenectady

Contents
1 King of the Hill to feature Phil Hellmuth
2 Rivers Casino streaming cash games run August 24 and 25 Poker Night in America is coming to Rivers Casino Schenectady. The maiden voyage aims to be a memorable one too. The New York casino will host the first-ever King of the Hill event, a new heads-up tournament concept from Poker Night in America. The event runs from August 22-25. The King of the Hill concept is one Poker Night in America is taking to several casinos besides Rivers Schenectady. King of the Hill to feature Phil Hellmuth King of the Hill features several elements, but the centerpiece is a four-man heads-up no-limit hold’em competition. The following four players are participating in the contest:
Phil Hellmuth
Doug Polk
Dan Cates
Frank Kassela Each player is posting $50,000 of their own money to take part in a winner-take-all tournament. The opening rounds are on August 22. The finals will run the following day, with the winner taking home $200,000. For posterity’s sake, the winner also earns a wrestling-esque championship belt. Both Polk and Kassela are fresh off bracelet victories at this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP). Kassela took down the $1,500 no-limit deuce-to-seven tournament, his fourth career bracelet. Polk, on the other hand, walked away with one of the most prestigious bracelets in the game. The outspoken pro won the One Drop High Roller, defeating a stacked final table to win almost $3.7 million. Cates is renowned for his heads-up poker skills. Of course there is Hellmuth, who will happily tell you about his 14 career WSOP bracelets. Each of the matches will be both filmed for television and streamed online. Poker Night in America announced who would play each other in the opening rounds on Thursday: Rivers Casino streaming cash games run August 24 and 25 As part of Poker Night in America’s trip upstate, there will also be two days of cash game action. The invite-only action will be seven-handed. There will be two days of play on August 24 and 25. Like the heads-up tournament, the games are going to be filmed for television as well as livestreamed. Rush Street Gaming owns both the Poker Night in America brand and Rivers Casino Schenectady. Nonetheless, Rivers actually flew solo on a recent Memorial Day poker event. The casino ran a highly successful tournament called the Capital Poker Classic. The tournament is just one of many indicators that the Schenectady property wants to be the poker destination in New York State. During its grand opening in February, several poker pros, including Poker Night in America consultant Matt Glantz and New York native Shaun Deeb, attended and spoke highly of the property on social media. While the new upstate casinos are not performing to expectations on the whole, Rivers Casino’s poker room is already quite popular. Earlier this year, management acknowledged they were already brainstorming ways to accommodate more players.