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Wendeen H. Eolis

Ray Bitar Gets Credit for "Time Served"

by Wendeen H. Eolis


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?

Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

AGA/PokerStars; Morality Play or Economic Warfare

by Wendeen H. Eolis

Over the past two weeks the American Gaming Association and PokerStars have sparred over the future of the online gaming company’s activities in Atlantic City. There is no end in sight for a battle that has AGA pressing the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) on behalf of its members into a long methodical examination of the merits of PokerStars’ entry into the United States casino market.  

While the plot thickens and the legal issues unfold, more than a dozen lawyers are responding to my call for help to dissect in plain English what is happening. Lawyer sources for this article have intimate knowledge of the online and live casino industry. Many have represented one or more of the following: PokerStars, MGM, Caesars, other brick and mortar casinos and online gaming companies and/or the AGA. They weigh in today on a few of the questions they have brought to the table for discussion. 

Author's disclosures: The  writer is a a legal consultant but not a lawyer and therefore does not offer legal advice and  does not express any legal conclusions in the matters presented in this article.This acknowledges without specific reference that the writer and/or EOLIS companies have had business dealings at one time or another with most of the businesses mentioned in this article and necessarily, have retained confidences provided in the context of those relationships.

Please also note: For the avoidance of doubt, readers are advised that no spokesperson for either PokerStars or the AGA was solicited for comment with regard to this article and none of the responses reflect authorized comment by either organization


The questions and the summarized answers provided as a result of consulting with a wide variety of gaming law experts and white collar crime specialists follow:

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

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (12 votes)

American Gaming Association v. Poker Stars Or Caesars v. Poker Stars

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Unlikely collaborations as well as predictable conflicts have marked the relationship between Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (formerly Harrahs) and PokerStars (Rational Group) since the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. For the moment the collaborations seem like bygones.

The American Gaming Association, a trade group that is best known for representing the interests of commercial casinos in Nevada and almost as well known for its close ties to Caesars took the unprecedented step last week of opposing PokerStars' efforts to obtain a gaming license In New Jersey.

The Association has effectively picked up where the United States Department of Justice left off in its settlement last summer with PokerStars.   Last July, the DOJ settled its  civil claims against the Company, arising from the government's ballyhooed prosecution of online gaming. The cases  originated April 15, 2011 in  the indictment  U.S. v Scheinberg et al.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (8 votes)

PokerStars and Caesars: What is the Score? The Spark that Put the WSOP into Play -- For a Minute!

By Wendeen H. Eolis

 A complicated relationship between Rational Group (PokerStars) and Caesars Entertainment has begun to reveal itself in earnest in recent weeks with an eclectic crowd of movers and shakers surrounding the players at the top of their respective pyramids.

 The two companies, with assistance from empowered supporters, have been known to deliver understated slaps back and forth over the years, but lately the protagonists are exchanging more powerful blows.

 Members of the Scheinberg family and top executives in the corporate empire of Caesars Entertainment are in the mix. So are the likes of American Gaming Association president, Frank Fahrenkopf, who will soon take his leave from his longtime position there.

 The cast of characters in recent machinations between the two companies has also included Scott Wilson, a business consultant/professional gambler with powerful connections. He was the spark that ignited a telephone call between Caesars and PokerStars -- the call that was heard around the world last week in a report by Nathan Vardi in Forbes  Magazine.

Mark Scheinberg and Mitch Garber are the key players in the sandbox

 Poker Player Newspaper has learned the identities of the "two high level officials" that were referenced without attribution in the Forbes article. They were Mitch Garber, CEO of Caesars Interactive and Mark Scheinberg, CEO of PokerStars.  

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (6 votes)

Online Poker Forums: Winding through the Maze

By Wendeen H. Eolis

The history of Internet-based poker forums is as instructive as it is colorful, from its raw roots in the late 1980’s at a forum dominated by zealous blackjack counters and systematic craps players to the latest debates by legal experts fueled by Howard Lederer’s storytelling about the rise and fall of his Full Tilt Poker site in interviews and follow-up full of fanfare.

Poker Forums: The world at large!

Today the lives and lifestyle of poker players and poker businesses are chronicled and dissected. They are subjected to all manner of online scrutiny, chatter, and commentary to the delight and chagrin of the industry’s inhabitants, part-time warriors, devoted enthusiasts, dedicated personnel and visionary entrepreneurs--around the world.

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (6 votes)

Can a Court Turn Law Upside Down on Poker Players?

Breaking News in South Carolina
Fighting Intolerable Insult to Poker Players

By Wendeen H. Eolis

Poker players WILL appeal for rehearing in South Carolina's Supreme Court guilty ruling against a low stakes un-raked home game in Mount Pleasant v. Chimento.

So you thought that online poker players had it tough when Full Tilt Poker bellied up! What do you think about risking your liberty if you play in a home game?

Even if poker is predominantly a game of skill.

Even if the law is determined to be unconstitutionally vague by sitting justices in a case.

Even if there is no rake taken.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

Poker Skill Argument Falls on its Face Again: Old and New Reasons Used for Prosecuting Poker

By: Wendeen H. Eolis

After two years of silence in the case of the Town of Mount Pleasant v. Chimento, the South Carolina Supreme Court finally reached a decision. On November 21, 2012, the Court found a group of poker players (who had convened regularly in an un-raked low stakes home-game) as violating South Carolina law.

S.C. Supreme Court Reaches Clever Ruling

The state’s highest court reinstated the trial court’s convictions of the players. The State’s intermediate Appellate Court had reversed the trial court—in one of the most notable cases of its kind for its favorable disposition toward poker as a game exempt from anti-gambling laws because of the predominance of skill applied.

Your rating: None Average: 3.9 (8 votes)

Black Friday, Lederer, Poker Stars, and the PPA: Kicking the Ball Down the Court

By Wendeen H. Eolis

 Early in the morning of July 28th the shot heard ’round the poker world was short, sweet, and accurate —but incomplete.  A three way deal had been inked hours earlier by Poker Stars (Stars), Full Tilt Poker (FTP), and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). It allowed for a settlement of the Government’s civil charges against Stars and FTP. It also allowed for the acquisition of the FTP brand by Stars via the DOJ and a process by which FTP players could be united with monies locked deep inside their FTP player accounts for more than a year.

 Until last week, there was no concrete hint of a very long lag time between the momentous news of a deal and the actual beginning of a process by which the DOJ would consider compensation to FTP”s victims in America.  Following a November 13 meeting between representatives of the Poker Players Alliance and the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, the PPA’s Executive Director, John Pappas, informed the poker world that FTP player refunds in America “are a long way away.”

Your rating: None Average: 4 (6 votes)


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