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Wendeen H. Eolis

Obama Said to Give Thumbs Up to Barton’s Online Poker Bill

An Exclusive Interview With Congressman Joe Barton By Wendeen H. Eolis
 
During the past month, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) has been on the move in his quest to bring about federal legislation favorable to online poker with an equally favorable revenue component for government. 
 
At the end of June, the Congressman hit the road for his 3rd annual visit to the World Series of Poker—this time, to preview his latest federal legislative bill before introducing it into the U.S. House of Representatives. The official introduction of his newly minted bill H.R. 2666, the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013, followed on July 12. 
 
Days later, Barton held a telephone press conference to discuss the new bill which “establishes a program for the licensing of Internet poker by States and federally recognized Indian tribes, and for other purposes.”  The teleconference was attended by media outlets across the country, including this reporter. However, it wasn’t until last week, when I met with the Congressman in his congressional office in Washington, D.C., that I got the complete picture of where he stands on poker and poker legislation. At the end of this day, Barton remains as unclear as anyone on the likely time table for passage of federal legislation to legalize online poker, by the Congress, but he exudes confidence that day will come. 
 
Barton Invokes the President's Name 
 
Barton is methodical. He is an engineer by training. He is a seasoned politician. He has held his Congressional seat since 1984. He rates himself as a good amateur poker player. By all accounts from mutual friends, this is an understatement. With a slight twinkle in his eye and a  poker player's understanding of a well-placed semi-bluff, Barton goes further than mere prediction in stating that he expects President Obama to sign his legislative bill to legalize online poker, if it reaches his desk. 
 
Your rating: None Average: 5 (11 votes)

Federal Online Gambling Legislation: New Attacks Coming

by Wendeen H. Eolis

Just as the 2013 World Series of Poker was beginning to wind up its engines for the main event at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX-) rolled into town for his third visit to the annual WSOP; this time to rev up support for his updated poker bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Poker Players Alliance hosted a Town Hall Meeting designed to preview Barton’s online gambling bill HR 2666, the “Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013,” which was subsequently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, July 12.

While the PPA has been beating the drums for Barton’s “poker only” bill it is also applauding the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013  (HR 2282) introduced by Congressman Peter King (R-NY) last month. The King bill proposes “poker plus” other casino game options excluding, sports bets.

Unity is hard to come by in the business of online gambling and this week, from out of the blue,  came a new wrinkle in the debate of online gambling consumer protections. The complexities in bringing online gambling to U.S. players seamlessly across the country grows at every turn, and so does the cast of characters with unique skin in the legislative game—at both the state and federal level.

Barton and King—Different Visions

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WSOP Gives Women More Love; WiPHoF Puts Celebration of Women on Hold

by Wendeen H. Eolis

Last weekend, Kristen Bicknell, a twenty six year old cash games grinder from Canada, turned up at the 2013 World Series of Poker Ladies Championship as an unknown player. She proved not only ample survival skills but also the power of discipline, desire, and determination. A self-taught poker player, Bicknell took down first place prize money of $173,922 and the coveted white gold WSOP Ladies Championship bracelet for her effort.

Ladies Championship Leaves Men by the Wayside

 The field was 954 starters—all women.  Last year an estimated 15 players in the pool were males—mostly pros —apparently enticed to exercise their legal right to rain on the Ladies Day Parade by visions of a higher return on investment (ROI) than in an open event. They may have had their last chance. .

  The  ladies only field reflected an amusing and controversial legal twist on the buy-in rules for the 2013 WSOP Ladies World Championship. WSOP brass outfoxed male would be party poopers. They stopped such potential impostors in their tracks with a gambit that proved 100% effective in maintaining the Ladies Day as a singularly female “do.”  

  In consultation with company lawyers, WSOP organizers increased the full buy-in price for the event to $10,000, but offered ladies a 90% promotional discount—thus preserving the traditional $1000 buy in for ladies and drastically changing the ROI for men.

  WSOP personnel say the Ladies Championship offers novices a more collegial and protected environment in which to ply their poker skills and make their luck. For the most part, the rank amateurs and veterans alike welcome the party-like atmosphere that is fostered for this event. Participants get to live the dream of vying for a bracelet in a gentler environment than most open events.  

 Pros, who got their start in the ladies event generally agree it provides an ideal arena to increase familiarity with the rules of engagement and to help build the confidence needed to transition seamlessly into coed competitions. WSOP officials insist the discounted buy-in ticket for the ladies is a worthy promotion for women and not an arbitrary ban of men.  
  

Nevada Law Creates New Opportunity for Women

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

Twists and Turns Continue for PokerStars and Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel

by Wendeen H. Eolis

Last March poker aficionados attending the annual “ATLARGE” gathering in Atlantic City, were energized like never before. The buzz in the Atlantic Club and Casino and Hotel (ACC) poker room that weekend was all good news. PokerStars, a staunch supporter of the online poker community had announced its intentions to purchase the Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel (ACC), the property at which they were meeting. New Jersey had recently legalized online poker. And the world’s largest and most popular online poker site was poised to obtain an Interim Casino Authorization (ICA). PokerStars had fast plans to take online poker forward in a big way on these American shores.

 The ATLARGE revelers along with ACC personnel and associates of PokerStars celebrated together their expectations of a fast slam dunk deal. Steve Eisenstein, a member of the law firm Lum, Drasco, and Positan, LLC, and an avid poker enthusiast was one of the attendees at the ATLARGE festivities; he could not have imagined at that time what would come of the deal, all too soon. Two months later, the New Jersey law firm at which he practices was hired by PokerStars to sue the ACC in an effort to preserve its investment and protect its plans to purchase the ACC property. It was the Firm’s first engagement with Poker Stars according to Eisenstein, who was otherwise more circumspect than informative as to the possible next steps in this progressively messy situation. He is schooled in the ways of big companies. He offered up the PokerStars’ Director of Communications, Eric Hollreiser as the right man for media inquiries.

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (5 votes)

Atlantic Club Casino & Hotel Upstages PokerStars Until PokerStars Comes Back with a Big Punch

By Wendeen H. Eolis

The surprise move in the gambits of gaming companies seeking to position themselves for future fortunes in the online and commercial gaming market came last week from an unlikely source, the Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel (ACC) in Atlantic City New Jersey. The casino insulted Rational Group  U.S. Holdings (PokerStars), dismissing its friendly bid and preliminary agreement to buy the property, suddenly, as too little too late.

PokerStars did not take the insult or the alleged injury to its plans lying down. On May 5, PokerStars responded with a lawsuit and yesterday  the online poker behemoth followed up, marching into court to obtain a temporary restraining order against the casino company [Read the Court Filing]. It was granted a preliminary injunction that prevents a fast sale to any other suitor while PokerStars makes it case to complete the purchase if it can obtain an Interim Casino Authority from New Jersey regulators.  

For the moment, PokerStars claims in scathing allegations of bad faith on the part of the ACC, its continued intentions to proceed toward completion of the purchase, noting the considerable investment it has already made in the property.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

PokerStars-Atlantic Club (NJ) Purchase Agreement Terminated

by Wendeen H. Eolis

PokerStars' purchase agreement for the Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City has expired. In a public statement, this morning ,Michael Frawley, COO of Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel has confirmed that the purchase agreement is terminated.  Nevertheless, it is too early to jump to conclusions.
 
There is nothing said thus far to suggest that the two companies cannot re-cement an updated agreement. If necessary, PokerStars could update its completed application which has been submitted to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission.
 
When it comes to online poker, machinations, twists, turns, and outcomes unfathomable at one moment have been known to become stark reality the next.

PokerStars May Still be Valued in New Jersey

Governor Chris Christie, a proponent of a full court press to revive Atlantic City, faces massive pressure to find the means to recovery from Hurricane Sandy. PokerStars' promise to bring jobs, civic commitment and 40 million dollars to the project cannot so easily be dismissed.
 

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

Government Pairs Poker Games with Organized Crime?

By Wendeen H. Eolis

While most of the country was glued to the movements of Boston area law enforcement agents immediately after the Boston Marathon bombings, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had it sights set elsewhere on a sting against organized crime that was tied into a few game runners and players in high stakes poker games in New York. April has been a tough month for poker in New York City, more than once.
 

NY Poker Highlighted in Bust of Russian–Based Organized Crime Ring

 At the crack of dawn on April 16, 2013, federal agents were on the march to pick up their prey in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Miami and California, as well as New York. They moved in with plans to break the back of an internationally based gambling enterprise rooted inside the Russian Federation.

 The accusations made by the Government marry illegal gambling activities to organized crime and put some of New York’s best known nosebleed poker games in the hands of old school “Russian Mafia” with locally based operatives intertwined in their operations.  

 Arguably, the April 16th bust shone the brightest light over high stakes poker games in the underground world of New York poker—ever.

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

Ray Bitar Gets Credit for "Time Served"

by Wendeen H. Eolis

BITAR BULLETIN

In a video-link proceeding, from a California courtrooom, Ray Bitar, a founder of Full Tilt Poker, was sentenced today by Chief Judge of the US District Court of New York, Loretta Preska, to time served and an estimated forfeiture of $40,000,000.

 In keeping with the unexpectedly compassionate deal reached between Government Prosecutors and Bitar's counsel, Jack Baughman of Paul Weiss et al, Ray Bitar is now positioned to seek the heart transplant required to save his life.

 Bitar was previously represented by Attorney Jeff Ifrah. Ifrah is now the center of a malpractice lawsuit brought by Chad Elie, a payment processor for Full Tilt Poker  who pled guilty in the Black Friday case against him. Elie is now serving a five month prison sentence. 

Your rating: None Average: 4 (5 votes)

PokerStars and the AGA in AC Holding Pattern

PokerStars, Caesars, Borgata, Showboat and Happenings in the State of New Jersey 

By Wendeen H. Eolis

 The application by Poker Stars for an Interim Casino Authority (ICA) license at the Atlantic Club Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City appears to be in limbo for the moment. The Casino Control Commission (CCC) has yet to announce the next steps in the process, but the Communications office of the CCC has confirmed that the licensing deliberations take place in meetings open to the public. 

AGA and PokerStars Are Subject to a Unique Bureaucratic Process

 Here is a quick review on recent events and a primer on the bureaucratic process that pits the American Gaming Association (AGA) against PokerStars in a bid to delay if not deny the online poker company’s entry into the American-based gaming market.   

 The AGA has opposed PokerStars’ application for a license and has asked the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) for permission to participate in its license application hearing.  PokerStars has shot back an indignant response to the DGE objecting to the AGA request. It has also leveled pointed accusations in the direction of the AGA and Caesars Entertainment as pots calling the kettle black.  

 The CCC which has responsibility for casino licensing matters received the AGA papers from the DGE. The DGE is the body that accepts petitions; the CCC has no authority to do so.  The bifurcated duties of these two regulatory bodies are clear to them but murky for most of the rest of us.  

 The DGE may make licensing recommendations but it is the CCC that is charged with issuance, suspensions and termination of casino licenses.  The DGE will be responsible for issuing online licenses to casinos qualified by the CCC.  So now you’ve got the picture of the bureaucratic process.  

 In the matter of the PokerStars application for an ICA, the CCC has elected to take a step back after the warring parties rattled their sabers relentlessly at each other. The regulators are reportedly studying the situation before proceeding further on the application.

Your rating: None Average: 4.9 (7 votes)

American Gaming Association Continues to Poke PokerStars

by Wendeen H. Eolis

The battle for supremacy in the emerging online poker market, stateside, is in full swing with a series of gambits by the American Gaming Association (AGA). The AGA has effectively delayed PokerStars’ anticipated acquisition of the Atlantic Club Casino & Hotel in Atlantic City by its letter and legal brief in opposition.

PokerStars is perceived as a white knight among poker players but as a black sheep by members of the AGA.

The various bones of contention are coming into sharper focus but some relevant matters of fact are becoming more murky. Lawyers supportive of the AGA stance and of AGA members most likely to be affected sooner than later have become increasingly vocal in response to this reporter’s request for help in dissecting the issues—in plain English.

Questions and Answers

More than a dozen lawyers representing both sides of the issues contributed questions and comments last week. This week the AGA supporters (on condition of personal anonymity)  reviewed their position and various documentation in an effort to flesh out the general consensus among them. One of the participants stepped up to provide  a voice on behalf of the prevailing views of AGA supporters interviewed.    PokerStars supporters in the group are expected to provide enhanced responses with references to legal documents, shortly. In the interim some of their initial comments are repeated to remind readers there are two sides —if not more— in this evolving story.

Note: For the avoidance of doubt, readers are advised that both PokerStars and the AGA declined to comment   on the Q & A  for this article  through their respective communications offices and none of the responses reflect authorized comment by either organization.  

 1. Why did Poker Stars conclude affirmatively that their online poker fare was legal in America after enactment of UIGEA?

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Wendeen H. Eolis

World Series of Poker


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