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East Coast Casino Licenses: Inside Pandora's Box

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.

 Meanwhile, gaming lawyers in Europe as well as New Jersey say issues raised during PokerStars’application in NJ may result in further enquiries and investigations. Similarly, land-based casinos maneuvering to acquire new licenses on the east coast (with and without igaming an poker offerings) are suddenly dropping plans and major shareholders and exeuties  left and right, confronted by regulators pointing accusing fingers in their direction. 

Threats of denied licenses may be the tip of  the iceberg if Sands Casino owner Sheldon Adelson is effective in drumming up serious support for his ongoing campaign against igaming. 

 Have regulators lost sight of their mission? Are the egos of these government officials out of control? Will poker players and other gamers benefit with safer and more secure conditions when they risk their money? Are te prospects for commercial casinos suddenly imperiled by conflicts and backstabbing within the industry?  These questions  loom large, not only in New Jersey, which will serve as the most watched state in its rollout of igaming, but also up and down the east coast, and beyond. 

 Last week I was working on this story when I received word of an opportunity to assist in developing plans to arrange a pro bono legal services program as part of the disaster recovery operations in the Philippines.

 The story for this print edition of Poker Player Newspaper has been delayed during my engagement as the chief operations officer of Hope’s Champion Task Force overseas. It will be seen on following my return to New York, later this week.

 Hope’s Champion Task Force is proud to contribute in one small way, to assist in one of the most disastrous events in human recorded history, and they encourage all in our poker world to “get involved” in making a difference with time or money contributions to a charity you trust.

Editor’s Note: Wendeen H. Eolis was the first woman to cash in the main event of the World Series of Poker and counts 10 records for a woman in major poker tournaments. She was a speaker at last night’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, introduced as the Grand Dame of Poker and the ultimate insider by WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla. For further information see her Wikipedia listing and the website.

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