by Haley Hintze
A new lobbying group favoring the regulated oversight of online poker and gambling has debuted. The new Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection (C4COP) is funded by MGM International with support from the American Gaming Association. C4COP was created to counteract the anti-online push of CSIG, with C4COP immediately announcing a $250,000 media buy, primarily around Washington, D.C., to promote a pro-online political agenda. Among the political figures already signed to front the group are former GOP Congressmen Mike Oxley and Mary Bono and former Obama administrative staffer Jim Messina.
by Haley Hintze
Pennsylvania Pols Announce Support for Online-Gambling Ban – Three Pennsylvania state legislators have announced support for a yet-to-be-introduced piece of legislation that would criminalize the playing of online poker and other forms of online gambling. The statements by State Sen. Mario Scavello and two others propose summary fines and misdemeanor penalties for playing poker and other forms of gambling online, and if enacted would make Pennsylvania only the second US state where playing online poker is regarded as criminal. (The state of Washington passed a felony law in 2006.) The LV Sands-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) immediately hailed Scavello’s proposal; Scavello’s PA district, coincidentally, is adjacent to the one where the Sands-owned Sands Bethlehem casino is located.
By Haley Hintze
First Wave of Full Tilt Refunds Slated for Late February – Garden City Group, the government-appointed claims administrator overseeing the refunds of Full Tilt Poker online balances of US players that have been frozen since 2011, has announced a first wave of refunds tentatively scheduled for the end of February, 2014. Some 30,000 former FTP account holders will receive approximately $82 million, according to GCG. All of the refunded players in the first wave accepted the balance information as presented to GCG from old Full Tilt records. An additional 8,400 accounts may receive partial or full refunds at a later date, including players with disputed balances and former affiliates and sponsored pros of the site.
by Shari Geller
As 2013 draws to a close it is time for our annual reflection on the stories that made news, whether for good or bad, in the world of poker over the past twelve months. From a new WSOP locale to the continued scrambling over the future of online poker, the return of some notorious names and the introduction of some new ones, 2013 was another eventful year.
The return of online poker in the US was both the biggest story of 2013 as well as the source of great disappointment to poker players. By year’s end, three states have managed to get regulated online poker sites operating to serve their residents, leaving 47 states where poker players cannot enjoy their favorite game in the privacy of their own homes.
Nevada became the first state to license and regulate online poker and had sites up and running by mid-year. Two sites, UltimatePoker. com and WSOP.com, are servicing local Nevada players, but the number of participants is a mere fraction of what Pre-Black Friday websites handled. Delaware followed Nevada as the second state in the country with statewide real-money online poker. Delaware had a soft launch on Halloween and by November, players physically located within the state were able to log on to one of three state-sanctioned sites; Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway. New Jersey governor Chris Christie made a few friends for his expected future presidential run by finally signing legislation allowing New Jersey to allow online poker, and New Jersey has now outpaced Nevada and Delaware in the number of players who have signed up. But while those states overcame the many hurdles to bringing online poker to their residences, other states do not seem to be in any hurry to join them.
By Wendeen H. Eolis
Last week the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement finally announced that PokerStars' application for a gaming license has been suspended for two years—with one pointed equivocation. If the Company seeks relief from this suspension, based on appropriately “changed conditions” within the Company, the DGE says its license application may be reassessed sooner.
The DGE cites the unresolved indictment of PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg as the "primary" cause for the decision. Insiders close to the regulator say there are various other management concerns in the mix, notably including questions as to Isai Scheinberg’s current involvement in Poker Stars. A settlement agreement between the Company and the U.S. Department of Justice, (arising from the Government’s prosecution, U.S. v Scheinberg et al April 15, 2011) presently prohibits Isai Scheinberg from assuming any leadership role in the Company.
Truths and Consequences
It is hard to imagine separating the Scheinberg name from PokerStars; it stands for immense technical know-how in the world of online poker security, an uncanny understanding of the poker business, exceptional responsiveness to customers' wants and needs, and impeccable financial integrity with its patrons. These are the hallmarks of Isai Scheinberg’s PokerStars and they continue to be at the heart of the Company’s operating philosophy with its customers, under his son Mark Scheinberg, say their legions of fans. The younger Scheinberg now holds the reins as CEO,
The Company’s detractors, however, debate PokerStars' business principles beyond the glow of customer satisfaction. Reports of uneven relationships and questions of fairness on the part of the Company in their arrangements with various corporate business partners and a large force of independent contractors surface periodically. So do complaints of a corporate strategy that promotes and endorses "uninformed accusations" of character deficiencies of successful competitors and others not in favor with the Scheinbergs. The chief gripe noted by several competitors and former service providers is "bad-mouthing that emanates from the top of the pyramid,”
by Haley Hintze
SEVEN NJ CASINOS GRANTED INTERNET GAMING APPROVAL
A late rush in approvals by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement saw seven of the state’s 12 casinos and a total of 13 online sites approved for the state’s soft launch of real-money online gaming, which began as scheduled on November 21st. The sites approved included www.Borgatacasino.com, www.Borgatapoker.com, www.NJ.Partypoker.com, www.HarrahsCasino.com, www.WSOP.com, us.888.com, us.888poker.com, us.888casino.com, www.CaesarsCasino.com, www.tropicanacasino.com, www.virgincasino.com, www.betfaircasino.com and www.ucasino.com. The late additions included six Caesars affiliated sites, with Caesars owning four of the state’s 12 land-based casinos.
VADIM TRINCHER, TWO SONS PLEAD GUILTY IN NYC GAMBLING CASE
by Wendeen H. Eolis
The New Jersey gaming license application of Poker Stars has been a bruiser after a series of battles instigated and propelled by indignant opponents united under the umbrella of the American Gaming Association (AGA). But the fallout from the warring parties’ activities is far from over—regardless of the outcome on the PokerStars application this week.
The time worn precept that a zealous foe who seeks to bury his target had best to build two graves may apply here. The AGA has succeeded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, in spotlighting PokerStars as a company that poses serious suitability issues in the context of New Jersey’s traditional casino licensing standards.
At the same time, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s disorganized and dragged out proceedings, have provided regulators in other jurisdictions quite the primer on potential pitfalls in licensing deliberations. Perhaps as important, regulators have been motivated to take a harder look at the suitability of potential licensees, even if already licensed elsewhere. This food for thought was not likely anticipated by other gaming companies now being held accountable to more stringent standards than ever before.
by Wendeen H. Eolis
This past week has seen a frenzy of activity over the license application submitted by PokerStars to New Jersey regulators.
This morning previously proven sources with direct knowledge of current affairs reconfirm PokerStars remains shut out of the starting line up for online gaming in the Garden State.
"No approval tomorrow," say law firms with direct knowledge of late breaking developments. Insiders closely associated with PokerStars say founders Isai and Mark Scheinberg are actively preparing for worse news on the near horizon.
More news coming shortly on the pressure brought to bear by competitors outraged by "unfair competition." One lawyer peripherally involved says current "mess" is made by New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement making promises to PokerStars that we're not in concert with New Jersey regulatory tradition of stringent suitability requirements.
by Wendeen H. Eolis
Update Bulletin: PokerStars Faces Red Lights in NJ
After months of investigation by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the regulators have made their determinations and are expected to step up to the plate today with announcements of the companies licensed for Internet gambling in NJ, on the opening date of November 26.
The lead up to the announcement has been accompanied by plenty of turmoil among warring parties. Throughout this period, however, PokerStars and its boosters including various state officials, PS private lobbyists, and high placed friends, have exuded confidence without interruption, only to hear of their failure to secure a license at this time.
Regulators are said to have railed against pressure to turn a blind eye on the outstanding criminal case against PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, arising from his indictment dating back to 2011. Word has also leaked out through sources close to officials in Atlantic City and in the Statehouse of growing concern as to the role of PokerStars founder in the Company's current activities.
While Isai Scheinberg is described by the Company as a "Fellow" and not part of management various opponents to PS licensing are continuing to argue that Scheinberg still operates within the Company as if he is in charge, with respect to matters that interest him. If true, this would violate the Company's settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice in connection with its legal troubles arising from the indictment and companion civil case U.S. v Scheinberg et al.
by Haley Hintze
FULL TILT CLAIMS PROCESS GOES LIVE
Garden City Group, the DOJ-appointed administrator for refunds to former US-based players on Full Tilt, announced detailed remission instructions on September 16th, with e-mails sent out on that date. Beginning on September 18th, GCG began accepting applications from players who have filed a formal petition for a refund (remission) of their online balances, which were frozen as of “Black Friday,” April 15, 2011. Affected players will have until November 16th to file for refunds, and GCG has announced that some categories of players, such as all former player/owners of FTP, known as “Team Full Tilt,” will be ineligible for refunds. All remission applications will be reviewed sometime after the process closes in November, with the actual payment date for refunds as yet undetermined.
IVEY REPORTEDLY CONFIRMS EDGE-SORTING IN CASINO FLAP