Gambling News for December 2013

Internet GamblingColorado’s Casino Industry Aims to Give Internet Gambling Legalization a Push in 2014

The Colorado Gaming Association (CGA) has announced plans of pushing for the legalization of Internet gambling in the Centennial State in 2014. Casino operators in Colorado are aware that the development of regulated Igaming in the U.S. will occur on a state-by-state basis, to which the State of New Jersey has already taken the lead.

Pinnacle Entertainment EVP Troy Stremming admits that that they are monitoring the progress of real-money remote gaming quite closely. After all, Las Vegas casino giants such as MGM Resorts International, including the Las Vegas Sands casinos owned by online gambling detractor Sheldon Adelson, are into offering mobile gambling apps to their customers. In fact, the number of downloads for MGM’s “myVegas” app exceeded everyone’s expectations, ever since it was released for distribution in Google Play Store and Apple App Stores.

It has been noted that majority of the millions of downloads for MGM’s mobile app originated from Colorado. Pinnacle Entertainment’s “Ameristar Black Hawk”, the largest casino in Colorado, has a joint marketing agreement with MGM. Users of “myVegas” app in the Centennial State can redeem their rewards at the land-based Ameristar casino.

In May 2012, the CGA initiated a proposal for the legalization of Internet poker, by drafting a bill modeled after the legislation approved by NJ Governor Christie. Although there are Colorado lawmakers interested in introducing the legalization bill, lack of time and priority conflicts caused the deferment of its introduction as one of the agendas for the 2013 legislative sessions.

The success of MGM’s mobile gambling app and of NJ’s recently launched Internet wagering industry, have once again stirred the CGA, in putting forward plans to push for the legalization of Internet-based casino gaming.

Australia’s New Coalition Government About to Repeal Gambling Reform Laws

The national pokies machine reform laws introduced in 2012 by Australia’s Green and Labor Party under Julia Gillard’s coalition government, is about to be scrapped by the newly-installed Liberal-National Coalition led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Actually, the proposed gambling reform legislation had previously, been watered-down, in which the pre-commitment technology became an option available to punters and not mandatory as initially proposed. However, since the Abbott Government made a commitment to repeal the controversial law during election campaign, the coalition is now taking steps to make good on this particular pledge.

Although the Greens and members of independent parties expected the move, what came as a surprise for them is the support given by the Labor Party in rescinding the gambling reform legislation. In spite of everything, the latter, is in fact, the original sponsor of the pokies machine reform law.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie along with other anti-gambling campaigners feels betrayed, while Greens Senator Richard Di Natale was infuriated. Another independent senator, Nick Xenophon, whose political ticket in the South Australian Legislative Council is called “No Pokies”, plans to push for the approval of a plebiscite. Senator Xenophon believes that taking the matter directly to the voting public is the only way to circumvent the political influence of the pokies industry in Australia’s parliamentary government.

Aside from the removal of the mandatory integration of the pre-commitment technology in slot machines, the following provisions will, likewise be scrapped:

  • The imposition of $250 per day cap on withdrawal transactions for ATMs located in gambling establishments
  • The flashing of gambling addiction warnings appearing on pokies machine screen
  • The discontinuation of plans to install a national gambling regulator
  • The removal of two gambling levies that will serve as funding for the regulatory body

NJ Assembly Committee Taking Steps to Expand Gambling in Bergen

Last Friday, the Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee of the New Jersey Assembly put forward a bill aimed at creating a committee, which will look into the possibilities of expanding the state’s gambling initiatives up north.

Atlantic City is now halfway through in implementing marketing strategies and in offering incentives to improve its financial performance. Yet so far, the casinos in NJ’s gambling capital have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars to out-of-state gambling destinations, since 2006. In view of this, the 13-member committee proposed by the gaming panel will also evaluate the efficiency of the 5-year reform program currently ongoing in Atlantic City, while looking into the potential of Bergen County as the next location for future gambling expansion.

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, a Democrat from Essex County explained that the legislature does not have to wait until Atlantic City completes the 5-year initiatives, before coming up with other strategic solutions that could help recoup the state’s diminishing gambling revenues. Otherwise, he believes that in simply putting up a brave fight against the continuing losses, “there will be no market to go to.”

The leaders of New Jersey’s horseracing community are giving their full support to the Assembly Committee’s plan of actions, as they are wary of the so-called “racinos” operating in the nearby states. These gambling venues offer not only horseracing events as betting options, but also slot machines and casino table games.

Although the bill still has to garner the approval of the full Assembly, the Casino Association of New Jersey through its president Tony Rodio of Tropicana Casino and Resort, is voicing opposition. Expanding gambling outside of Atlantic City could be catastrophic as this could put off new and existing investments, as well as increase the future costs of borrowing.

NJ Golden Nuggets’ Online Casino Finally Gets Approval for Public Launching

Golden Nugget Atlantic City finally gets the chance to offer its real-money online betting facility to Internet players located in New Jersey. Last Friday, the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement gave the casino the go ahead in offering its Internet-based wagering games and facilities, by 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

This denotes that the people behind its “nj-casino.goldennuggetcasino.com” has ironed out the kinks, which prevented Golden Nugget from joining the six Atlantic City casinos that officially went live Last November 26. Aside from the usual setbacks that made signing up and logging in difficult for NJ-located players, the online casino’s slot games had erratic tendencies and were prone to generating error messages during the 5-day trial run.

Now that Golden Nuggets’ cloud-based betting facility is available for unrestricted play 24/7, recreational gamblers physically situated in NJ have the option to use their PC or Mac in accessing the site’s offerings. To resolve the geo-location error messages, which prevent players from entering the online casino’s virtual gaming rooms, the site has a downloadable GEO Location Plugin application that users can manually install in their PC or Mac.

Registering players, who encounter problems when using their credit cards to fund their Golden Nugget online playing account, may consider using other payment methods available, such as ACH bank transfers, personal checks or through land-based cashier cages. In addition, the website is also offering the use of the Golden Nuggets Prepaid Card for its online casino operations. Holders can use the prepaid card even for non-gaming purposes in establishments that accept Discover® payment transactions.

Skrill Withdraws Services in Canada’s Internet Gambling Market

This week, Canada-based online gamblers using Skrill’s payment solutions and digital wallet, received email notifications that the company’s services will no longer be available for gambling payment transactions by January 02, 2013. Affiliated gambling websites with pending payout transactions and account balances due to customers located in Canada and using Skrill’s payment processing services, likewise received advice to settle such transactions before January 31, 2014.

However, the announcement did not offer any explanation as to why Skrill is closing its doors to online gambling activities in Canada. Thus, many are speculating that the successful launch of New Jersey’s strictly regulated Internet wagering industry, is one of the possible reasons. This is in view of recent indications that regulated Internet betting activities will soon be widespread throughout the country; and Skrill is almost on its way to becoming a full-fledged licensed vendor in the Garden State.

In contrast, its present status and the legality of cloud-based betting in Canada are somewhat hazy, as there are no specific laws that govern online gambling. In 1985, the Canadian federal government gave provincial administrations the authority to decide over gambling matters, in exchange for a $100 million federal contribution. Although provinces like Quebec, British of Columbia, Ontario and lately, the Atlantic provinces have taken steps to recognize the legality of online gambling, other regions do not have clear laws pertaining to Internet wagering in their respective jurisdiction.

What makes remote real-money gaming even more uncertain for offshore money processors like Skrill, is Canada’s affiliation with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It prohibits Canadian banks from getting involved in gambling transactions, in order to avoid legal entanglements with other NAFTA members like the U.S.

PokerStars out of NJ’s Internet Gambling Arena for Now and in the near Future

PokerStars fans eagerly waiting for the online poker firm’s entry into New Jersey’s nascent online gambling industry are in for a disappointment. The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) finally came out with a decision to suspend any investigative actions on Rational Services Limited’s application, to offer PokerStars’ virtual poker rooms in NJ.

Still, the NJDGE gave the online poker operator, an option to reactivate its application before the two-year suspension period lapses. Albeit, approval for its re-opening still depend on the changes carried out by PokerStars, in order to resolve issues that currently do not conform to the Garden State’s suitability standards. The conformity criteria apply not only to Rational and its affiliate companies but also to individuals still associated with PokerStars’ online betting operations.

The division cited as critical concern, the pending criminal charges against PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, for alleged violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. Although the U.S. government dropped all civil cases filed against PokerStars and other online poker companies, the criminal cases filed against the individual executives including Scheinberg, remained open. The indictment charges include conjuring fraud schemes and acts of bribery aimed at circumventing the country’s anti-money laundering and gambling laws, as a means of retaining their respective profits.

NJDGE Director David Rebuck has publicly stated before that their suitability assessment entails looking into the circumstances of individuals running the online gaming company, including “the tentacles of leadership”; and if such tentacles tend to taint the organization as a whole. In fact, Bwin cut off ties with its founders James and Ruth De Leon while Amaya Gaming let go of its Online Gaming CEO Paul Legget. Both actions were in accordance with the NJDGE’s regulatory advice.

U.S. Congressional Sub Committee Hears Divergent Testimonies about Online Gambling

This week, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, heard testimonies that could help lawmakers determine the status of Internet-based wagering and the measures in place to counter its iniquities.

American Gaming Association (AGA) CEO, Geoff Freeman shared the AGA’s belief that prohibiting online gambling will not work, since the demand for it continues to escalate. He offered as proof the more than 50,000 accounts created in the recently launched online betting facilities in New Jersey, during the first week of regulated Internet wagering operations.

Both Freeman and John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) asserted there are now advancements in technology that can effectively ensure consumer protection, bar minors and exclude players coming from non-participating jurisdictions, as well as address other national security issues.

Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling presented opposed views, which centered on the failure of government-supported gambling businesses to meet projected financial goals; as it is a type of industry that exploits citizens and therefore not a sustainable source of  government income. As expected, Las Vegas Sands VP of Government Relations, Andrew Abboud, echoed the views of Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, but his testimony received criticism as being “a little hypocritical”. House Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Joe Barton pointed out that Las Vegas Sands is into offering mobile gambling, which is basically, the same as online gambling.

Dr. Rachel Volberg of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Kurt Eggert, a professor of law at Chapman University, both presented a neutral stance. Their testimonies focused on the need to provide consumers with comprehensive information, including knowledge of how online casino operators earn from slot machines. Dr. Volberg also pointed out that the bills presently calling for the legalization of online betting do not include setting aside funds for conducting research on problem gambling.