A Guide to Betting on the NFL Conference Championships

A Guide to Betting on the NFL Conference Championships

Last weekend’s Divisional Round lived up to expectations, and that’s putting it lightly.

Aside from the New England Patriots’ expectedly efficient blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, NFL fans and bettors were treated to three close contests that went down to the wire.

For an encore, the league’s four remaining contenders will clash this Sunday to crown respective conference champions in the AFC and NFC. To get your weekly preparations started before the big games, check out the game capsules below featuring the latest point spreads and totals posted by online sportsbook Bovada.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) @ #1 New England Patriots (14-3) – 3:05 p.m. EST on CBS

In winning a 10-3 rock fight over the Bills on Wild Card Weekend, the Jaguars flashed the kind of defensive prowess that has defined the AFC upstarts all year. But afterward, sack-master Calais Campbell told reporters that Jacksonville would relish any playoff victories, even in a 45-42 shootout.

Of course, Campbell’s prophecy proved to be eerily prescient. His Jags dominated the Steelers in the early going last weekend, staking themselves to a 28-7 lead before fending the Killer B’s comeback bid in a back-and-forth 45-42 battle.

Jacksonville will need another bold prediction to bear fruit this Sunday if they hope to notch another upset. According to outspoken cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars are “going to the Super Bowl” – and only the defending champion Patriots stand in their way.

The Jags are headed to the unfriendly confines of Foxboro, where the Pats have won eight straight playoff games. Based on their pedigree, combined with that pristine performance of late on home turf, New England has been named as a major (-9) favorite.

Both teams boast elite units on either side of the ball.

The aforementioned Jacksonville defense – led by Ramsey, Campbell, and cornerback A.J. Bouye – trailed only Minnesota in terms of total yardage allowed (4,578), yards per game (286.1), and points per game (16.8) during the regular season.

Backed by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots offense led the league in total yardage gained (6,307) and yards per game (394.2), while scoring a second-best 28.6 points per. But following an early season lapse, the Patriots have tightened up on defense as well, ending the year at fifth in the NFL with just 18.5 points allowed on average.

That surprisingly stingy red zone defense may explain the 9-point spread in favor of New England, along with the relatively low total of 46.5 points.

#2 Minnesota Vikings (14-3) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) – 6:40 p.m. EST on FOX

Football fans worldwide were stunned last Sunday when Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs took a last-ditch sideline pass straight to the house and stole an NFC Championship spot from the Saints.

But one day earlier, the betting community suffered a similar shock when the heavily favored Falcons fell to the Eagles. Less than 25 percent of wagers backed Philly on that day, what with backup quarterback Nick Foles forced into duty after a late-season injury to second-year star Carson Wentz.

For the first time in NFL history, a top-seeded team playing with home field advantage was declared the underdog – a role the Philly fans and players alike relished. They’ll have another chance to break out the dog masks that went viral last weekend, as the Eagles are 3.5-point home dogs in this one.

Philadelphia posted an impressive 7-1 regular season record at “The Linc,” but Minnesota fared similarly well with a 6-2 road record.

This should be a defensive slugfest, featuring the league-leading Vikings against an Eagles team that allowed 4,904 total yards, 306.5 yards per game, and 18.4 points per (all 4th overall)

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U.K. Regulator Investigating 17 iGaming Operators Over Money Laundering & Problem Gambling

U.K. Regulator Investigating 17 iGaming Operators Over Money Laundering & Problem Gambling

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has warned each of the 195 iGaming operators within its jurisdiction, directing them to review policies on money laundering and problem gambling prevention.

In a form letter dated January 4, operators were updated on the findings of a recent UKGC compliance assessment.

The regulator focused on each company’s adherence to crucial regulations – including the Proceeds of Crime Act of 2002 (POCA) and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Transfer of Funds Regulations of 2017 – designed to prevent criminal elements from laundering funds through online gambling.

Additionally, the UKGC examined how operators have implemented Breach of Social responsibility (SR) code provision 3.4.1.1(e) which states “licensees must put into effect policies and procedures for customer interactions where they have concerns that a customer’s behaviour may indicate problem gambling.”

According to the letter, the UKGC has already opened active investigations into 17 operators concerning their compliance with either, or both, of the regulations. Furthermore, the agency revealed that five operators will have their licenses subject to review under section 116 of the Gambling Act of 2005.

The operators in question were not mentioned by company name or license number.

In an accompanying statement, UKGC chief executive Sarah Harrison explained the letter’s intent:

“It is vital that the gambling industry takes its duty to protect consumers and keep crime out of gambling seriously.

The Gambling Commission’s new strategy sets out our vision for a fairer and safer gambling market.

The action we are taking to examine online casino operators’ compliance with money laundering and customer interaction requirements is just one example of how we will be relentless in turning that vision into reality.”

The letter identified several widespread deficiencies within the industry.

When employees who have been designated as Money Laundering Reporting Officers (MLRO) were tested on their knowledge, the UKGC found that some “were unable to provide suitable explanations as to what constitutes money laundering and had no understanding of the main principles under POCA.”

The agency also determined that Suspicious Activity Reports (SROs) were routinely submitted to the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), operators largely ignored recommendations provided in return.

Operators in the U.K. are also required to screen data pertaining to player activity – including deposits and wagers – to identify users exhibiting symptoms consistent with problem gambling. When players exhibiting addictive tendencies were spotted, operators regularly failed to initiate the required “customer interactions,” such as informing players about their ability to impose betting limits, or making self-exclusion readily available.

In the letter, the UKGC made it clear that these customer interactions were made infrequently, even when operators had evidence that problem gambling may be occurring:

“We reviewed a large number of customer accounts during the assessments and identified potential signs of problem gambling based on consumers’ gambling pattern and spend. In many cases, however, this behaviour did not trigger a customer interaction.

Customer account records did not show any evidence of customer interactions taking place and operators were of the view that these customers did not raise any concerns.”

While the letter was limited to current regulations, Harrison made it clear that the UKGC is continually updating and adjusting its policies to reflect the iGaming industry’s ongoing evolution:

“As the online sector continues to grow, and now accounts for a third of the British gambling market, it is right that we maintain a sharp focus on online gambling.

That is why in addition to our work on compliance among online casino operators, we have also been conducting a wider ranging review of online gambling looking at how the market has evolved and to identify where further action can be taken to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers.”

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Alabama Gambling Planning on Launch On the web Ticket Commissions This Seasonal

Alabama Gambling Planning on Launch On the web Ticket Commissions This Seasonal

The Pennsylvania Lottery could become the first big winner produced by the state’s recently passed gambling expansion package, per a report published by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The article referenced an email exchange with lottery spokesman Gary Miller, who told the newspaper “‘iLottery’ games that can be played online or on a mobile device likely will hit the market this spring.”

Last October, following the passage of House Bill 271, Governor Tom Wolf signed off on an assortment of enhancements designed to stimulate the state’s gambling industry. And while the bill was built on making Pennsylvania the fourth state to legalize and regulate online gambling – including poker, casino games, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) – lawmakers included a provision allowing the lottery to get in on the action.

If plans for a spring launch are approved, the lottery would likely be the first entity to capitalize on iGaming legalization in Pennsylvania. Given the mandatory waiting periods and other regulatory red tape, the state’s 12 brick and mortar casinos are expected to launch their own online platforms in the second half of 2018.

Doug Harbach, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, told the newspaper that any projections of a spring launch are preliminary at best:

“We’re just talking with the (casino) companies that would be involved in online gaming and what’s being offered.

We have to put together regulations that will guide not only the games themselves, but also the licensing.”

During the runup to HB-271’s passage, Miller spoke with local media outlets to lay out the justification for iLottery sales:

“Our players have been asking for years for the convenience to play games online and, particularly, the multi-state jackpot games.”

The first iLottery games will be interactive instant games similar to the scratch-off games. (We’re) unsure if or when draw games such as Pick 2, 3, 4 or 5 or Cash4Life, will be added to the online game offerings.

We expect these two new product types to be an important step in building the Pennsylvania Lottery of the future.”

With Pennsylvania struggling to balance a $ 2.2 billion budget deficit, lawmakers turned their attention to the lottery. Despite generating more than $ 1 billion in annual revenue for the state in each of the last six years, sales dipped by $ 134 million during the 2016-17 fiscal year. That market contraction shaved $ 70 million from the state’s typical revenue haul, prompting lottery officials and lawmakers to explore online sales as a possible remedy.

In the same Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report cited above, Pennsylvania Department of Revenue spokesperson Jeffrey Johnson based the lottery’s need for online sales on the bottom line:

“Consumer tastes are changing, which is why the Lottery must modernize its 45-year-old business model.

We are facing growing competition from other forms of entertainment and must act to increase our market share, because older Pennsylvanians are relying on our support for vital benefit programs.”

That economic model has already been established throughout Canada – where all provincial lotteries maintain an online presence – along with Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky, North Dakota, and North Carolina.

After becoming the first state to approve an iLottery back in 2012, Illinois generated nearly $ 20 million in online ticket sales last year.

Johnson alluded to a similar rate of growth when describing Pennsylvania’s iLottery plans:

“Over the first five years, we predict these new categories could generate up to $ 250 million in new profits to support benefits for older adults.

Traditional games will remain our bread and butter, but it’s simply time to start giving our players new options.”

 

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Golden Nugget NJ Becomes First iGaming Platform in U.S. to Offer Live Dealer Casino Hold’em

Golden Nugget NJ Becomes First iGaming Platform in U.S. to Offer Live Dealer Casino Hold’em

Online gaming enthusiasts in New Jersey received another gift from GoldenNuggetCasino.com in the days before Christmas, when the site launched the first live dealer Casino Hold’em tables in the country.

Since rolling out live dealer Casino Hold’em on December 23, the primary iGaming platform operated by Golden Nugget Atlantic City has run the game on a daily basis between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m. local time.

Live dealer games connect online casino players directly to a dedicated studio built within the Golden Nugget casino. From there, professional dealers operate genuine cards and other casino equipment while running real table games, including blackjack, baccarat, and roulette. Players at home are able to place bets and sweat the action in real time, without worrying about the integrity of unseen random number generators and other risk factors associated with traditional online gambling.

Casino Hold’em is a variant on classic Texas Hold’em, designed in 2000 by Stephen Au-Yeung to be played as a house-banked table game. Players begin by placing an ante bet in exchange for a two-card starting hand, while the dealer takes their own two-card holding. After three community cards, called the “flop,” have been dealt, the player may opt to fold and forfeit their ante bet, or place an additional bet of equal size to call.

Upon calling, two more community cards are dealt (the “turn” and “river”), at which point the player and the dealer expose their starting cards. Using any combination of those two cards and the community cards, players make their best possible five-card poker hand in hopes of beating the dealer for an even money payout. Additionally, players can win progressively larger prizes using the Ante-Win pay table by forming high hands (four of a kind, straight flush, etc).

Golden Nugget became the first legal and regulated iGaming operator in America to offer Casino Hold’em as a live dealer game.

In a public statement, Golden Nugget’s senior vice president and general manager of online gaming Thomas Winter celebrated the historic product launch:

“Being the first to offer a Live Dealer version of the world’s most popular poker game in America, Casino Hold’em, shows our commitment to delivering on an innovative and world-class product to our patrons.

Our patrons have asked, and we are happy to deliver, on this request using our unique live-dealer digital platform.”

The new Casino Hold’em tables are operated in conjunction with Ezugi, a company specializing in furnishing live dealer studios and products. In August of 2016, Ezugi partnered with the Golden Nugget Atlantic City to construct the first live dealer facility serving the regulated American iGaming market.

Kfir Kugler, who serves as chief executive officer for Ezugi New Jersey, offered his own statement on the addition of Casino Hold’em:

“We are again honored to partner with GoldenNuggetCasino.com and Golden Nugget Atlantic City to bring the first ever online live dealer Casino Hold’em to America and New Jersey.

America is in love with poker, and by using the Live Dealer platform, the game retains its strong connection between the player and the dealer in a live environment.”

In July of 2016, the month before becoming the online live dealer provider in New Jersey, GoldenNuggetCasino.com generated just over $ 3.7 million in monthly casino revenue – just ahead of larger and more well-established competitors like Borgata ($ 3.3 million) and Tropicana ($ 3.2 million).

By December of that year, with live dealer games proving especially popular with players, the site jumped to $ 4.7 million in monthly revenue while Borgata and Tropicana both dipped to $ 3 million.

At the time, Winter attributed the site’s dominant market share directly to the introduction of live dealer games.

Today, the Golden Nugget remains the lone provider of live dealer products in the state, both through GoldenNuggetCasino.com and fellow licensee Betfair.

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New York State Amends Law to Allow Charitable Raffle Tickets to Be Sold Online

New York State Amends Law to Allow Charitable Raffle Tickets to Be Sold Online

After a year spent hashing out the details of a plan allowing charitable groups to sell raffle tickets online, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed Senate Bill 4329 into law.

Also known as the Charitable Gaming Act, SB-4329 paves the way for churches, fire departments, schools, and other organizations to sell raffle tickets over the internet. In addition, the law removes restrictions which previously prevented charitable groups to accept debit and credit cards as payment.

In late 2016, Cuomo exercised his veto power to shoot down an earlier version of the bill, ruling that it violated the state’s constitutional ban on private gambling. Despite an overwhelming show of support, with the state Senate voting 59-3 in favor, and the House responding in kind with a 136-8 approval, Cuomo rejected the bill as written.

Cuomo’s objection stemmed from a provision which would’ve allowed New Yorkers residing in jurisdictions where gambling is still illegal to purchase tickets.

Following the Governor’s veto, lawmakers huddled to rework the Charitable Gaming Act, and by February of 2017, Cuomo appeared to have reversed course. In an official statement from the Governor’s office, Cuomo offered his support for the same sort of raffle ticket reforms he previously killed off:

“For too long, red tape and outdated laws on the books have inhibited the efforts of well-intentioned charities to raise crucial funds in support of their good work.

These reforms will modernize our laws, remove burdensome obstacles and allow non-profits to raise more funds from generous New Yorkers to support important causes that improve our communities, protect our environment and help save lives.”

Within days, a bipartisan trio of lawmakers came together to cosponsor a revived Charitable Gaming Act of 2017. The bill sailed through the Senate and the House in similar fashion to its predecessor, prompting Cuomo to sign it into law on December 18.

One of the bill’s cosponsors, state senator Joseph Griffo (R-47), issued a statement praising Cuomo for coming around on the issue:

“Allowing charitable organizations to accept raffle ticket purchases online or using debit and credit cards will allow fundraisers across the state to become even more successful in raising money on behalf of children, the elderly, the disabled and others in need.

This will in turn enhance their capability to support vital programs and services within the communities they serve.

I am pleased that the governor has signed this legislation that I co-sponsored and that he recognizes the importance of making it easier for charitable organizations to raise money by allowing raffle tickets to be purchased by a credit or debit card.”

The decision drew criticism from anti-gambling advocates like Stephen Shafer, chairman of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York. Speaking with The Buffalo News, Shafer offered a succinct outline of his organization’s opposition to online raffle ticket sales:

“It’s another effort to extend the reach of predatory gambling. It’s not an appropriate move.”

Among the organizations which stand to benefit from a modernized raffle industry is the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League (NHL). Like many professional sports franchises, the Sabres maintain a foundation which runs 50/50 raffles during each home game, providing patrons with an opportunity to turn a few dollars into a significant windfall.

As the game’s title suggests, 50 percent of the total proceeds are paid out to the raffle winner, while the other 50 percent is contributed to local charitable causes.

Rich Jureller, who serves as president of the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, spoke to The Buffalo News about the new law’s potential impact:

“It’s really going to create a lot of opportunities for us and any charity that wants to use new technology and new rules we have.”

It should certainly help us sell more tickets. And I’d imagine someone with $ 5 in cash would want to spend $ 10 (online).”

 

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Pennsylvania Adds Possibility iGaming Sportsman as Boyd Casual gaming Gains Valley Form Internet casino

Pennsylvania Adds Possibility iGaming Sportsman as Boyd Casual gaming Gains Valley Form Internet casino

As part of a series of acquisitions completed to close out 2017, Boyd Gaming Corporation has added Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Casino Resort to the company’s burgeoning portfolio.

Per a press release issued on December 20, the Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming acquired the casino from Valley Forge Convention Center Partners for a purchase price of $ 280.5 million. As a result, Boyd Gaming makes its first entrance into the lucrative Pennsylvania market – which has been built into the second-largest statewide commercial gambling industry in the United States, trailing only Nevada.

Valley Forge Casino Resort is located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, a small township 20 miles northwest of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Despite its status as one of the state’s smaller casinos, Valley Forge is home to 600 slot machines and 50 table games spread throughout 35,000 square feet of gaming space.

With the addition, Boyd Gaming will operate 29 casino properties throughout 10 states. Of those, the majority are located in Las Vegas (Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam’s Town), with others in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio.

Boyd Gaming announced the terms of its Valley Forge deal just two days after another major acquisition moved forward. On December 18, the company agreed to pay $ 575 million to purchase four casino properties – Ameristar St. Charles (Missouri), Ameristar Kansas City (Missouri), Belterra Casino Resort (Indiana); and Belterra Park (Ohio) – from Penn National Gaming, which had only recently acquired them from Pinnacle Entertainment.

In a statement, Keith Smith – who serves as president and chief executive officer for Boyd Gaming – commented on the company’s casino shopping spree:

“With the successful completion of our acquisitions of Valley Forge and the Pinnacle assets, Boyd Gaming will gain direct access to four of the nation’s largest gaming markets – Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Cincinnati – with a combined population of nearly 10 million adults.

We believe this expansion will help drive additional growth throughout our nationwide portfolio, as we market our destination properties to these new customers in the Midwest and Northeast.”

And while the Valley Forge deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, Boyd Gaming is already being mentioned as a potential player in Pennsylvania’s newly legalized online gambling industry.

In late October of last year, Governor Tom Wolf signed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill into law – regulating online casinos, poker rooms, slot parlors, daily fantasy sports (DFS) platforms, and lottery ticket sales in the process. As a result, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online gambling, joining Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The new law stipulates that any of Pennsylvania’s 12 brick and mortar casinos, Valley Forge included, can apply for an online gaming license.

As the former part-owner of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City – the license-holder behind several successful online casinos and poker rooms in New Jersey – Boyd Gaming has prior experience in the iGaming industry. The company sold off its share of the Borgata in 2016, but as Smith alluded to in his public comments on the Valley Forge deal, Pennsylvania’s recently passed legislation provides another entry point to an online presence:

“The acquisition of Valley Forge Casino Resort is another excellent opportunity to further grow and diversify our nationwide portfolio.

And thanks to Pennsylvania’s recent passage of gaming expansion legislation, there are new opportunities to drive incremental growth at Valley Forge through the expansion of the property’s slot capacity and the introduction of new forms of gaming.”

And back in 2014, while praising the Borgata’s newly launched iGaming properties, Smith set Boyd Gaming apart from fellow brick and mortar casino operators by refuting the “cannibalization” argument routinely used against iGaming expansion:

“Online gaming is growing our database creating a long-term opportunity to market Borgata to an entirely new group of customers.”

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is currently crafting a regulatory framework for iGaming in the state, and the industry is expected to launch in the second half of 2018.

 

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2018 WSOP Schedule Ups the Ante with Four Online Bracelet Events

2018 WSOP Schedule Ups the Ante with Four Online Bracelet Events

Online players will have four opportunities to bag a bracelet at the 2018 World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Per the official schedule for the 49th annual WSOP, which was released earlier this month, the summer series will run from May 29 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Over the span of seven weeks, 78 tournaments will crown champions in various poker disciplines – including four played entirely online via WSOP.com – before the series concludes on July 17.

In a press release announcing the dates and details, WSOP tournament director Jack Effel commented on the schedule’s diversity:

“We feel very good about the multitude of offerings on the 2018 World Series of Poker schedule and look forward to welcoming everyone to the Rio in Las Vegas this summer.”

But while the bulk of the action will take place at the Rio, anybody in the state of Nevada can log on to WSOP.com to take their shot at poker immortality.

The first online bracelet event – a $ 1,000 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) tournament which attracted 905 entries – was held on WSOP.com in 2015. Touring pro Anthony Spinella took it down, earning $ 197,743, his first career bracelet, and a footnote in the WSOP history books.

The $ 1,000 NLHE online event returned to WSOP.com in 2016, drawing 1,247 entries to increase the field size by more than 37 percent.

And last summer, the WSOP tripled up by adding $ 333 and $ 3,333 buy-in NLHE online events. Each proved to be a hit among players, while the original $ 1,000 NLHE event grew once again to 1,312 entries.

In an interview with veteran poker reporter Eric Ramsey of Online Poker Report, WSOP head of online poker Bill Rini addressed the popularity of online bracelet events:

“We attribute a lot of that [growth] to increased awareness.

Obviously the WSOP at the Rio is the main attraction of the summer, but as players increasingly become familiar with the online offering, they are starting to view the online and offline as a more integrated schedule of events.”

For the 2018 edition, online action kicks off on Sunday, June 3 with Event #9: $ 365 NLHE.

The WSOP’s first non-Hold’em tournament to be played online – Event #47: $ 565 Pot-Limit Omaha Six-Handed – begins on Friday, June 22.

The following Friday, Event #61: $ 1,000 NLHE returns for the fourth time.

And one day later, the online component of the schedule is capped off by Event #63: $ 3,200 NLHE High-Roller.

All online bracelet events are scheduled as one-day tournaments, and players are offered unlimited reentries through the opening levels. And following last year’s model, the entire event will be played out online, rather than bringing the final table to the Rio as in 2015 and 2016.

For now, the fields will be limited to players who are physically located within the state of Nevada during tournament hours. But that could change if WSOP organizers can clear regulatory red tape between now and late May.

Back in October, Governor Brian Sandoval signed a long-awaited compact with his counterparts in New Jersey and Delaware. The three states agreed to share online poker player pools, a deal which will eventually permit players on the WSOP.com platform to compete against one another across state lines.

Speaking with Ramsey and Online Poker Report, Rini was reluctant to provide details on player sharing as it pertains to the WSOP:

“We fully anticipate NJ players being able to compete for WSOP bracelets.

It’s always been our desire to allow players to compete for WSOP bracelets on WSOP.com in any jurisdiction where it’s legal to do so. That’s why the interstate liquidity-sharing agreement is such a game changer.

Although it’s still too early to determine one way or another whether or not interstate shared liquidity will be available before the WSOP, we should be able to make an announcement in a couple of months.”

For now, WSOP.com players in the Garden State must settle for satellite events.

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