New York Senate Set to Pass Online Poker Bill for Third Straight Year

New York Senate Set to Pass Online Poker Bill for Third Straight Year

It’s déjà vu all over again in New York, where the state’s Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering voted 10-1 in favor of a bill legalizing and regulating online poker.

Senate Bill 3898 was forwarded on January 23 to the Senate Finance Committee for further review, where it’s expected to receive similar levels of support.

Last year, an identical bill was passed unanimously by Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, before a 28-9 vote moved it to the full Senate. The 2017 version of SB-3898 passed through the Senate by a 53-9 margin, marking the second consecutive year that online poker was authorized by one half of New York’s legislature.

But despite widespread support from the Republican-controlled Senate, the bill stalled out in the Democrat-dominated Assembly without ever receiving a vote.

State senator John Bonacic (R-42), the chief sponsor of SB-3898, spoke to his colleagues ahead of the committee vote to reiterate his justifications for legalizing online poker:

“There are many media reports that the [commercial] casinos aren’t meeting their revenue expectations.

This would be another tool in their toolbox to enhance revenues, if we allowed them to do it. This will be the third time that the Senate has passed this bill, and I know Assemblyman [Gary] Pretlow, who chairs the Racing and Wagering [Committee] in the Assembly, is supportive of the bill.

I know he will continue to use his best efforts to move it in the Assembly.”

For his part, assemblyman Pretlow (D-89) has promised to use his powerful position as chair of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee to champion SB-3898.

Even so, Pretlow has previously expressed personal reservations on the integrity of online gambling, going so far as to visit neighboring New Jersey to “study” the Garden State’s thriving iGaming industry in 2016. His hesitance to embrace the issue was widely cited as a factor in the first bill’s demise, but Pretlow reversed course last year after his fact-finding mission confirmed iGaming to be safe and secure.

In a recent interview with Online Poker Report, Pretlow laid the blame for last year’s inaction on women in the Assembly who he believes oppose gambling expansion in any form:

“It seems women are opposed to gambling or gaming, and it got a little heated.

There’s opposition to the legislation by a lot of female members of the Assembly, and the Speaker decided we should wait to get it straightened out. But now I know which ones to deal with and that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to redouble my efforts, as the expression goes.”

Assuming the Senate passes SB-3898 for the third time in as many years, Pretlow and his colleagues in the Assembly would reexamine A-5250, a version which essentially mimics Bonacic’s bill.

As he told Online Poker Report, Pretlow foresees several months of inaction while legislators address more pressing matters, including the state budget:

“It will probably end up being a June push again, unless there’s reasons for otherwise.

Right now we’re going into budget mode, and all February we’re lost in the budget. Then the middle of March we’ll be fighting over things, and on April 1 the budget is passed.

Then April, May and June is when all the work gets done.”

Pretlow also pointed out that New York has become increasingly isolated from a regional iGaming industry. Along with New Jersey, which recorded $ 245 million in iGaming revenue last year alone, Delaware also operates regulated online gambling. And following the passage of comprehensive gambling expansion last year, Pennsylvania is preparing to become the fourth state to establish an iGaming industry later this year.

As Pretlow frames the debate, New York can’t afford to fall further behind its regional neighbors:

“We’re surrounded by online gaming. I guess eventually we will come around.

It’s just like with marijuana. Many states are legalizing marijuana, and two years ago the governor was totally opposed.

But since we’re surrounded by Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey heading toward legalization and probably Pennsylvania, he’s going to rethink that. Times and situations do change.”

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Six Poker Players at Detroit Casino Share Largest Bad Beat Jackpot in U.S. History

Six Poker Players at Detroit Casino Share Largest Bad Beat Jackpot in U.S. History

An old saying holds that success is written in the stars, so when Kenny Tallent watched the skies above Michigan set ablaze with an unfamiliar flash, he hoped the rare sight offered good fortune to come.

It was January 16 and the Battle Creek native found himself driving to nearby MotorCity Casino in Detroit to play poker. Suddenly, the night sky lit up with starlight as a meteor fell to Earth and burned up in spectacular fashion.

As he later told his hometown Battle Creek Enquirer, Tallent had a feeling that the meteor sighting was a good omen ahead of a night competing at the Texas Hold’em tables:

“I remember thinking, what are the odds of that. Maybe it would be good luck.”

A little while later – when Tallent’s pocket Queens connected for top full house on the Q-3-3 flop and improved to four of a kind on the turn – his premonition seemed to be prescient. His hand was unbeatable, so Tallent was guaranteed to win each and every chip his opponent happened to put in the pot.

But when the other player in the hand turned over his own four of a kind with 3-3 in the hole, Tallent took down his share of the largest poker jackpot in U.S. history.

The collision between two “quad” hands triggered the MotorCity Casino poker room’s bad beat jackpot, which requires four of a kind to be beaten by another four of a kind. As a result, Tallent pocketed $ 213,712 – or 20 percent of the massive bad beat jackpot that had been built up to $ 1,068,590.

The loser of the hand, who has been identified only as “Scott,” claimed 40 percent of the jackpot for a $ 427,452 score. And to cap the historic hand off, the other four players seated at the table were each awarded a 10 percent “table share” for $ 106,856.

MotorCity Casino’s senior vice president of operations Phil Trofibio issued a statement celebrating the largest bad beat jackpot ever paid by an American poker room:

“There are winners every day on the floor, but it’s not every day that a jackpot that big hits. Congratulations to all the players at the table.”

Most poker rooms offer a bad beat jackpot promotion, which removes a dollar or two from every pot of a certain size and adds the funds to a running jackpot kitty. These jackpots can be claimed by meeting certain hand requirements that qualify as a “bad beat,” meaning one extremely strong hand happens to lose against an even better holding.

In most cases, the requirement is Aces full of Kings beaten by four of a kind or better, or perhaps quads beaten by anything better. But with the strict “quads over quads” requirement used at MotorCity Casino, the jackpot became much harder to hit, allowing it to swell to over $ 1 million.

An aspiring poker pro, Tallent recognized the long odds against two players winding up with four of a kind during the same hand:

“That kind of bad beat, with the kind of jackpot they have at Motor City, is kind of rare.

I guess I hope it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing because I’d love to have it happen to me again, but it is rare.”

Asked about the moment that a bad beat could be brewing, Tallent clearly relished reliving the experience:

“It never even crossed my mind that he could have four of a kind.

But then I went all-in and when he called my all-in so quickly, I figured out he might also have four-of-a-kind. We then looked at each other and I said, ‘you got it?’ and he said, ‘you got it?’ and we both said yes.

We realized what had happened and we all just started jumping up and down. Everybody in the poker room figured out what had happened and gathered around, there was this buzz everywhere.

I guess the stars just aligned perfectly that night.”

 

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WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic Wraps up This Weekend with $100,000 Guaranteed Main Event

WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic Wraps up This Weekend with $100,000 Guaranteed Main Event

From Saturday, November 18 through Monday, November 20, the WSOP.com New Jersey Poker Classic online tournament series will come to a close.

The series began on November 10, offering 38 tournaments and $ 500,000 in guaranteed prize pools to players in New Jersey’s regulated iGaming market.

But the grand finale takes place Sunday at 5:00 p.m. local time, with a $ 500 buy-in Main Event sporting a $ 100,000 guarantee – ensuring the eventual winner will pocket a sizable five-figure score.

The New Jersey Poker Classic Main Event is a No Limit Hold’em (NLHE) tournament, and players are permitted to reenter for another $ 500 through the reentry period.

For folks working on a tighter bankroll, WSOP.com is also hosting several smaller events on Saturday evening to conclude the series.

Event #28 costs only $ 50 to enter, and players will be competing for their share of an $ 8,000 guaranteed prize pool. The format is NLHE with rebuys and an add-on, along with deeper starting stacks.

Event #29, the “Saturday Best” NLHE reentry tournament, ups the ante to $ 320 while guaranteeing a prize pool of $ 25,000.

And in Event #30, players will pay $ 150 to take part in NLHE six-handed reentry action, with a $ 10,000 guaranteed prize pool up for grabs.

Bill Rini, who serves as head of online poker for the World Series of Poker (WSOP), spoke to Online Poker Report about using a balanced approach when setting the New Jersey Poker Classic schedule:

“Every tournament schedule is part art and part science. We have data to go off of, but the wants and needs of players change over time. So, you have to go into it knowing that a spreadsheet is never going to give you everything.

From the beginning, our positioning has been to be the best place to play poker online. We offer a great experience for players, chances to win WSOP packages, and players know and trust the brand.”

Rini’s last shot at developing an online tournament series in the Garden State occurred last summer, when WSOP.com hosted the New Jersey Online Championships. The schedule for that one featured over twice as many events at 93, but the guaranteed prize pools were halved at $ 250,000.

Last month saw PokerStars.nj – WSOP.com’s chief rival in New Jersey – host the second annual New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP). That series spread 46 events and $ 1.2 million in guarantees over 17 days of action, but while overall attendance increased slightly over last year’s edition, seven tournaments failed to meet their guarantee.

The overlays were relatively minor, and tended to affect larger buy-in events, but as Rini told Online Poker Report, WSOP.com carefully observed PokerStars’ progress on the tournament series front:

“As far as the competition, I don’t want to say that we don’t pay attention but they’re often playing off other strengths and weaknesses, so what works for them might not be right for us.

We just try to be very good at what we set out to do.”

Player volume data tracked by the PokerScout site shows WSOP.com and PokerStars.nj are neck and neck in the race for market share supremacy. Both sites show a rolling seven-day average of 80 active players at any given time, good enough to beat out the PartyPoker.nj platform and its seven-day average of 70 active users.

Anybody who busts out of the Main Event can hop in one of seven side events scheduled for Sunday and Monday. The buy-ins for these NLHE events range from just $ 30 to $ 250, with guarantees between $ 4,000 and $ 25,000.

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888 Poker Qualifier Marti Rocca De Torres Wins WSOP-Europe Main Event

888 Poker Qualifier Marti Rocca De Torres Wins WSOP-Europe Main Event

In a moment reminiscent of Chris Moneymaker’s historic victory 14 years ago, recreational player Marti Rocca de Torres turned an online qualifier into a million-dollar payday at the biannual World Series of Poker Europe (WSOP-E) Main Event.

A former economics teacher who recently left his profession to give poker a serious go, the Spaniard earned his entry into the €10,350 buy-in WSOP-E Main Event through a €220 satellite qualifier on 888Poker.es.

And after six grueling days against world-class competition – including a final table stacked with top-tier talent – Rocca de Torres held every last chip in play to claim his first WSOP gold bracelet, along with €1,115,207 in first-place prize money.

Rocca de Torres travelled from Spain to King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, where he found himself facing a 529-player field filled out by many of the best poker players on the planet. Former WSOP bracelet winners like Kristen Bicknell, Niall Farrell, Mike Leah, and Anthony Zinno all made deep runs in the event, as did Kevin MacPhee – winner of the last WSOP-E Main Event in 2015.

By the end of Day 4, the field had been whittled down to just 12 survivors, with superstar pro Maria Ho leading the chip counts in search of her first bracelet win. Farrell lurked with a second-place chip stack, while Rocca de Torres found himself in third on the leaderboard entering the pivotal fifth day of play. MacPhee sat in 11th chip position, but still harbored dreams of winning Europe’s most prestigious tournament in two consecutive outings.

Day 5 shed six players from the field, setting up a climactic Day 6 with Ho and Rocca de Torres as dual leaders. Ho held 7,830,000 chips to 7,260,000 for Rocca de Torres, and the pair held well over 50 percent of the chips in play.

But despite the similarity in stack size, Ho held a significant edge in terms of experience, with 93 previous cashes to her credit for over $ 2.1 million in career earnings. Conversely, Rocca de Torres had amassed just 10 tournament cashes for $ 30,000 and change entering the final day.

In the early hours of Day 6, Ho attempted to employ the same aggressive style that had earned her the chip lead, but she never did get anything going. After doubling up Farrell in a sizable pot, Ho was left as the final table’s short stack.

That stack was pushed into the middle a short time later, and after Rocca de Torres called, Farrell shoved his stack forward as well. The Spaniard snap-called and tabled his pocket aces, which crushed Farrell’s pocket kings and left Ho’s ace-jack in a terrible spot.

A clean runout sent a mountain of chips over to Rocca de Torres, who held 17.1 million chips with only 26.3 million on the table.

It appeared for all the world that Rocca de Torres had the bracelet in hand, but in a surreal scene, he wound up losing several all-in confrontations in succession – holding the best hand preflop each time. With the cards seemingly unwilling to cooperate, four-handed play lasted for over six hours, during which time Rocca de Torres surrendered what once appeared to be an insurmountable chip lead.

But rather than let the bad beats fluster him, Rocca de Torres buckled down and played his game to perfection, rebuilding his stack before finally finishing off Gianluca Speranza of Italy in an epic heads-up duel.

As he told assembled media members from PokerNews and WSOP.com after the final card fell, Rocca de Torres rode the roller coaster along with the thousands of fans viewing the live stream from home:

“At this point I thought I’m going to win for sure because I’m in the perfect situation with a massive stack.

For a moment, I thought that it’s done. And for a moment, it looked like it’s impossible.

But finally, step-by-step, I won it.

I don’t know, I am more nervous now than before when I was playing. But for sure I am very happy and it is a dream come true, I don’t know what to say.”

WSOP-Europe Main Event Final Table Results

PLACE          PLAYER (NATION)                        PRIZE

1st                   Marti Roca de Torres (Spain)             €1,115,207

2nd                  Gianluca Speranza (Italy)                   €689,246

3rd                   Mathijs Jonkers (Netherlands)            €476,585

4th                   Robert Bickley (United Kingdom)     €335,089

5th                   Niall Farrell (United Kingdom)          €239,639

6th                   Maria Ho (United States)                  €174,365

7th                   Jack Salter (United Kingdom)            €129,121

8th                   Luis Rodriguez (Spain)                       €97,344

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New Hampshire Congress Instantly Deny Virtual poker Bill

New Hampshire Congress Instantly Deny Virtual poker Bill

Within days of conducting an executive session to study the merits of an online gambling decriminalization bill, members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted it down unanimously.

Following the October 25 executive session, House Bill 562 – also known as “An Act Allowing Online Gambling” – was rejected in a 23-0 vote. In technical terms, the bill was classified as “inexpedient to legislate,” but that status leaves HB-562 with no viable path forward.

As the New Hampshire Almanac explains, the vote classification renders the issue of online gambling legalization dead on arrival until the next legislative session at the earliest:

“A bill is considered killed when the House or Senate votes to adopt the committee report of ‘Inexpedient to legislate.’”

HB-562 was introduced in January of this year by Representatives Eric Schleien (R-37), Nick Zaricki (R-7), and Robert Fisher (R-9).

Designed as a “placeholder” bill, the full text of HB-562 provided a short and direct explanation of its intent:

“This bill exempts gambling done over the Internet from gambling offenses under RSA 647.

The Department of Justice to date has neither investigated nor prosecuted online gaming offenses and therefore does not expect this bill to have any impact on expenditures.

To the extent this bill legalizes a form of gambling, it may have an indeterminable impact on lottery and charitable gaming revenue. Lottery and charitable gaming revenue is credited to the lottery fund, with net revenues after Lottery Commission expenditures being credited to the state education trust fund.”

As the text makes clear, HB-562 would not have followed the model established by Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, the three states which have successfully created a regulatory framework for statewide online gambling industries. Instead, the bill simply removed language from existing laws which rendered online gambling as a criminal activity. If passed, HB-562 would have paved the way toward eventual regulation.

The bill was originally sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, where it sat idle until August when it was retained in subcommittee. At that point, industry experts viewed HB-562 as an extreme longshot to warrant further consideration, but New Hampshire’s decision to legalize online lottery ticket sales in June prompted further exploration of iGaming options.

On October 12, the subcommittee surprisingly sent HB-562 through to an executive session, but it failed to garner a single vote in support.

However, that lack of enthusiasm may have been based on the bill’s sponsors, rather than its intent.

Fisher, a 31-year old Republican, resigned from the House in disgrace back in May, after constituents exposed him as the ringleader of a misogynist internet forum known as “Red Pill.” Following a hearing which saw critics of Fisher read his comments about using “roofies” and “duct tape” to induce sexual encounters, the lawmaker was forced by party leaders to resign immediately.

Fisher offered the following explanation for his comment during a public hearing:

“Several years ago, I made some injudicious statements regarding women and my frustrations with dating.

Some of the views that have been alleged here are certainly not reflective of what I stand for and what I have done in my time here in Concord.”

Schleien, a 29-year old Republican, is facing a similarly sordid scandal after a 16-year old girl accused him of sexual misconduct. He pled not guilty to those charges, and a tentative trial date has been set for next spring.

Given the lack of legislative power now wielded by both Fisher and Schleien, the eventual failure of their online gambling bill was hardly a surprise to local political observers.

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Man Wins $500,000 on Three Card Poker Jackpot at Rivers Casino Schenectady

Man Wins $500,000 on Three Card Poker Jackpot at Rivers Casino Schenectady

Last week a lucky player struck gold at Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, New York, when a $ 20 wager on the Three Card Poker table turned into a $ 497,152 jackpot.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, began the hand by placing a $ 5 minimum Ante bet, along with $ 10 on the Pair Plus side bet. But it was the extra $ 10 he plunked down on the Six Card Bonus side bet that worked wonders.

After the player was dealt Ace of spades, King of spades, and 10 of spades for his three-card hand, he continued by placing $ 5 more on the Play bet. At this point, his spade flush guaranteed a base game payout of $ 10, as he received even money on both the Ante and Play bets for beating the dealer’s hand.

The player also earned a $ 30 payout at 3 to 1 for making a flush, courtesy of the Pair Plus side bet.

And when the dealer revealed the Queen of spades and Jack of spades as part of their own three-card hand, the player landed a five-card royal flush to trigger the massive six-figure progressive jackpot.

Under the terms of the Six Card Bonus bet – a product of Scientific Games, parent company of Shuffle Entertainment and Bally Gaming – players combine their own three-card holding with the dealer’s hand to form the best possible five-card hand.

The odds of landing a five-card royal flush – which is formed by the 10-J-Q-K-A “Broadway” straight with all cards in the same suit – stand at 1 in 30,940, or 0.0009 percent.

For landing a longshot of that magnitude, the player earned the lion’s share of the Table Game Multi-Link Progressive jackpot offered by Rivers Casino & Resort.

The Multi Link Progressive side bet links all Mississippi Stud Poker, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker tables at the venue, with a small fraction of every wager placed contributing to three jackpot tiers: Mega, Major, and Minor.

Triggering the Mega jackpot requires a five-card royal flush, while the Major jackpot is won via straight flush, and the Minor jackpot by making four of a kind.

Mary Cheeks, who serves as general manager of Rivers Casino, issued a statement celebrating the player’s life-changing score:

“Having many ways to play means many ways to win, and at Rivers Casino we love a winner.

We have paid out nearly $ 20 million in jackpots alone since opening, and we look forward to celebrating even more winners.”

The big winner was joined by four other players at the table, each of whom won a $ 5,000 “Envy Bonus” by virtue of placing the same Six Card Bonus bet before the royal flush was made.

Since opening in February of this year, Rivers Casino Schenectady has paid out over $ 20 million in “jackpots,” which the venue describes as any payout of $ 1,200 or more. The casino bills itself as the only table game gambling destination in New York’s capital region, with 67 table game placements in total.

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PartyPoker Wins “Poker Operator of the Year” Award to End PokerStars’ Three-Year Streak

PartyPoker Wins “Poker Operator of the Year” Award to End PokerStars’ Three-Year Streak

Like two ships passing in the night, online poker site PartyPoker dethroned rival PokerStars at the recent 2017 eGaming Review (EGR) Operator Awards.

In a ceremony held in London on October 26, PartyPoker received the coveted EGR “Poker Operator of the Year,” snapping PokerStars’ three-year reign in the process.

Along with PokerStars, PartyPoker beat out 888poker, Pokerdom, and Sky Betting & Gaming to take top honors.

The site’s managing director Tom Waters celebrated in a statement posted to the PartyPoker Blog one day later:

“We are delighted that PartyPoker was voted poker operator of the year at the EGR awards last night.

PartyPoker has been transformed from a declining brand to a poker site that is now delivering a real challenge to the global poker market.

It is testament to the hard work and dedication of the PartyPoker team over the last year and hopefully this is just the beginning.”

In winner’s comments posted to the EGR website, judges praised PartyPoker management for embracing the natural synergy between online operations and the live tournament circuit:

“PartyPoker recorded phenomenal growth rates in absolute terms but it was even more impressive given the perceived structural decline of poker market.

Management clearly focused on revamping product supported by live tours and strong brand push after a period of neglect.”

The live aspect of PartyPoker’s renaissance began in January of this year, when the site launched its new PartyPoker LIVE tour to compete with PokerStars’ Championship series of live events. One month later, the site poached John Duthie – a poker pro who founded the PokerStars-owned European Poker Tour (EPT) and served as its chief executive officer – to serve as president of PartyPoker Live.

At the time, Duthie outlined PartyPoker’s commitment to serving the poker community, while taking a veiled swipe at PokerStars for focusing on casino gaming and other ventures instead:

“I have been impressed with the progress of PartyPoker and in particular the number of trusted, experienced and well-respected individuals and organizations who have chosen to put their support behind the PartyPoker brand.

I believe there is a gap in the market for an operator whose primary focus is poker and who will listen to and work with the poker community, as this was something that was absolutely key to the growth and success of the EPT.”

Following its 2014 acquisition by Amaya Gaming, PokerStars initiated a companywide pivot from its poker operations, launching lottery-style poker games while expanding its casino and sportsbook platforms. This policy shift included a rollback of PokerStars’ popular “rakeback” program, which had previously been used to entice high-volume professional players to the site.

In March, PartyPoker hired former World Poker Tour (WPT) broadcaster and Poker Hall of Fame inductee Mike Sexton to serve as the site’s Chairman. Sexton, who was one of PartyPoker’s founders in 2001 before shifting to the WPT, immediately instituted a series of policies designed to replace PokerStars as the pros’ preferred platform.

Those policies appear to be working in spades, culminating in PartyPoker ending PokerStars’ three-year streak at the EGR Awards.

PartyPoker parent company GVC Holdings – which acquired Bwin.party Digital Entertainment in September of 2015 – was also named as EGR’s “Casino Operator of the Year,” giving the company a clean sweep in the two headlining honors.

In a press release, GVC chief operating officer Shay Segev expressed his pride at the unexpected double-up:

“We are very proud to be recognised with these two prestigious awards.

As we near the completion of our technology migration, this is a real tribute to the dedication and skills of our hard-working teams.

They have been able to create a best-in-class customer offer while at the same time completing a complex technology challenge.”

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Australian Senate Inquiry Releases Online Poker Findings as Lawmakers Resume Fight for Regulation

Australian Senate Inquiry Releases Online Poker Findings as Lawmakers Resume Fight for Regulation

With the release of its long-awaited report – entitled “Participation of Australians in Online Poker” – the Australian Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee (ECRE) completed a months-long inquiry into the recently banned industry.

But as critics of the federal prohibition over online poker have pointed out, that report was released on October 18 – well after the full Senate voted to pass the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB) of 2016 on August 9.

On June 13, the Senate ECRE issued a call for public input on the status of online poker in Australia, which was slated to be banned along with online casino games as part of the IGAB package. In soliciting input, the Senate ECRE asked interested stakeholders – including players, operators, lawmakers, and problem gambling experts – to submit written testimony on the following three topics:

“1) The participation of Australians in online poker;

2) the nature and extent of any personal or social harms and benefits arising from participating in online poker; and

3) whether the current regulatory approach, in particular, the recently amended Interactive Gambling Act 2001, is a reasonable and proportionate response to those harms and benefits.”

The Senate ECRE originally set September 7 as the deadline for publishing its inquiry report, and that deadline was then extended to October 18.

Even so, the full Senate elected to forego any examination of its own ECRE inquiry when it voted to authorize the IGAB package in August.

Now that the report has been made public, longtime critics of the online poker ban like crossbench (minority party) senators David Leyonhjelm and Cory Bernardi are up in arms over the findings. Per the report, instances of problem gambling within the online poker community are quite rare relative to online casino gambling and sports betting. Furthermore, the report concludes that national prohibition over online gambling industries in places like the United States have done little to curb the activity, while allowing unregulated offshore sites to flourish.

Speaking in front of the Senate ECRE on October 18, Senator Leyonhjelm accused his colleagues of overreaching with IGAB – which was originally written to prohibit online casino gambling while closing online sportsbook loopholes in the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001:

“The online poker inquiry was instigated by me, because the government had passed amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act without, I suspect, realising what it was doing in relation to online poker.

While I disagree with its prohibition approach to online gambling in general, the ban on online poker is particularly egregious.”

Rather than reflexively banning activities … they can be legalised, regulated, monitored and of course taxed.

Australian online poker players deserve to have a safe, regulated environment in which to enjoy their pastime and not be forced into using offshore sites.”

Leyonhjelm has previously allied himself with the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving online poker rights.

In a statement, AOPA founder Joseph Del Duca confirmed that the majority of his constituents continue to play online poker despite the IGAB ban, by using the same black market offshore sites mentioned in the report:

“We can confirm that this is already the case. Even though the ban was introduced months ago the majority of Australian players have not stopped playing but have just moved their play to operators who have deliberately chosen to defy Australian law.

If these operators don’t care for our laws how likely is it that they will care for our citizens? It is only a matter of time before something goes wrong and Australians are significantly hurt by this government ban.

The Australian Online Poker Alliance calls on the Australian Government to act quickly to legalise online poker and remove Aussie players from harm’s way.

Only a safe, regulated online poker market can provide the consumer protections and freedom of choice that Australian poker players deserve.”

Senators Leyonhjelm and Bernardi have vowed to keep pressure on their colleagues, while using their status as crossbench members to “trade” votes on other issues for online poker support.

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New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware Agree to Share Online Poker Player Pools

New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware Agree to Share Online Poker Player Pools

Following four years of negotiation, the governors of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have finally agreed to share online poker player pools.

The interstate iGaming compact links the three jurisdictions – which are currently the only three American states offering legal online gambling – by allowing poker players to compete against one another across state lines.

Nevada and Delaware forged a similar agreement in 2015, with operator 888 Holdings combining online poker player pools across its WSOP.com (Nevada) and 888Poker (Delaware) platforms.

But iGaming industry experts have long contended that the New Jersey market – which is much larger and more active – was the lynchpin to improving lagging player liquidity levels.

Within an isolated iGaming market, also known as “ring-fenced” markets, online poker players can only compete against opponents located in the same jurisdiction. This limitation serves as an artificial cap on liquidity, forcing major platforms like WSOP.com operating in more than one market to divide their customer base by location.

Conversely, under the liquidity sharing programs prevalent in the European and international markets, operators can combine player pools from multiple countries – thus expanding game selection and activity across the board.

In a statement, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey praised the long-awaited agreement as a vital step in the state’s continuing iGaming evolution:

“New Jersey has been a pioneer in the development of authorized, regulated online gaming, which has been a budding success since its launch in late 2013.

Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance annual revenue growth, attract new consumers, and create opportunities for players and Internet gaming operators.

This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor.”

David Rebuck, who serves as director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), added a statement outlining his agency’s regulatory approach to player sharing:

“New Jersey stands prepared to approve a game offering for all three states as soon as an operator submits such a product for testing.”

Rebuck’s counterpart in Nevada – chairman A.G. Burnett of the Nevada Gaming Control Board – spoke with Online Poker Report to provide perspective from the Silver State:

“The technology teams in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are going to meet to discuss next steps.

The timeline is to move toward integration ASAP.”

As Burnett mentioned, Christie’s announcement included no details on when implementation will begin.

The company which stands to benefit most from eventual player sharing is Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which owns and operates WSOP.com – the only online poker platform in Nevada. Using software provided by 888 Holdings, Caesars also operates WSOP.com in New Jersey – making it the only site with an active presence in both states.

The three iGaming platforms operated by the Delaware Lottery have an exclusive software provision agreement with 888 Holdings.

Caesars issued a statement praising regulators in all three states for coming to an agreement after years of deliberation:

“We applaud the government leadership and the regulators in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware for reaching this meaningful agreement.

We will immediately begin efforts to take our existing Delaware-Nevada compact and add New Jersey to the mix by following the requirements established by the regulators so WSOP.com can share liquidity with all three states.”

Caesars also holds the license for 888Poker in New Jersey, making it the only entity which could immediately share online poker player liquidity across all three states.

New Jersey’s other major online poker network – which includes BorgataPoker, PartyPoker, and PlayMGMPoker – is maintained by MGM Resorts International, owner of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City.

MGM’s status as a major player in Nevada land-based gaming makes the company a likely candidate to launch similar networks there, which would then be linked to their counterparts in New Jersey.

As for PokerStars, which went live in New Jersey just last year, language within Nevada’s iGaming regulations specifically prohibits the company from operating there. As such, PokerStars wouldn’t be able to benefit from interstate player sharing for the foreseeable future.

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Australian Senate Makes Online Poker Ban Official; PokerStars Set to Depart in September

Australian Senate Makes Online Poker Ban Official; PokerStars Set to Depart in September

Despite an ongoing inquiry into the matter, on August 9 the Australian Senate used a simple voice vote to complete a federal ban of online poker.

The Senate voted to authorize a legislative package known as the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill (IGAB) of 2016, which also prohibits online casino gaming and “in-play” wagers placed during live sporting events.

The IGAB was introduced last November by Mitch Fifield, who serves as Minister of Communications, after governmental inquiry titled Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering. The report concluded that offshore iGaming sites in Australia were flouting restrictions against certain advertising practices, while offering in-play wagering which is already banned under federal law.

In response, Fifield’s IGAB sought to amend that law – known as the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001 – by clarifying statutory language regarding iGaming regulations and associated enforcement.

Lawmakers also took aim at internet casinos, arguing that the original IGA specified sports betting as the only legal form of online gambling. However, in doing so, they crafted the new amendments to cover all non-sports related wagers, effectively including online poker in the IGAB’s ban.

When it became clear that the new law would outlaw online poker, Senator David Leyonhjelm – the sole member of the libertarian-inspired Liberal Democratic Party to hold a Senate seat – called on his colleagues to reexamine the law’s purview. Leyonhjelm argued that online poker was a game of skill, rather than gambling as referred to by the IGA, and pointed out that the Senate never intended to ban online poker when writing the bill.

Working alongside a grassroots lobby group formed by players called the Australian Online Poker Alliance (AOPA), Leyonhjelm compelled the Senate to hold an inquiry into the issue, with the public invited to submit written testimony as to their views of online poker.

On August 1 the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee commenced a hearing to investigate the online poker ban, but eight days later, the debate was ended via voice vote – before that hearing had even produced its findings.

AOPA spokesman Joseph Del Duca issued a statement in response to the Senate’s sudden change of course:

“The Australian poker community should be very proud of how they have held themselves through the campaign.

We have rallied together as a strong community. The inquiry has received so many submissions from people who want to save our game that they haven’t been able to keep up with the work load.”

Del Luca also urged his fellow online poker players to continue the fight to preserve their iGaming rights in the future:

“Whilst it was unfortunate that the government did not wait for the Senate Inquiry findings to come through, we urge Australian poker players to not give up hope. Our game is not dead and we will continue to campaign for safe, legal online poker when the Senate Inquiry is handed down.

Our call for a safe, regulated online poker market in Australia is still the only option that provides freedom for players, revenue for the government and protection for those in need.”

Even as major operators like 888 Poker have already fled the Australian market, industry leader PokerStars has held firm, waiting to see if the AOPA’s last-ditch effort produced results.

On the latest news, PokerStars sent an email to its Australian player base to confirm that the site would indeed be withdrawing its real-money services:

“We’re proud to have seen the Australian poker community grow so strong over the last decade.

We do respect the Australian Government’s decision in taking steps to protect consumers and hope that in time we’ll be able to serve real money poker to you again.

We’d also like to thank the Australian Online Poker Alliance for their campaigning on behalf of the game and suggest that you consider lending them your voice if you’d like to see a regulated return of online poker to Australia.”

The mid-September date is based on the 30-day enforcement window called during the Senate’s passage, which would see online poker made illegal on September 9. However, the IGAB must still receive royal assent to become the law of the land, so that timeframe remains flexible.

PokerStars will continue to offer play-money versions of its games to players in Australia, and all player account funds will remain available for withdrawal.

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