CHRISTIE SIGNS AMENDED ONLINE POKER LAW
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently signed into law a bill approving online poker for New Jersey residents, two earlier versions of which had been vetoed upon reaching his desk. Christie had demanded minor changes to the previous bill, including larger tax levies and increased funding for problems associated with gambling addiction, changes which were quickly approved by the NJ legislature. The changes were approved by the New Jersey Assembly and Senate on 68-5 and 35-1 votes, respectively, before the bill was signed by Christie. No timetable has been set for the rolling out of NJ-authorized online poker sites, though some local political reports indicate an early 2014 debut is likely.
CALIFORNIA ONLINE POKER BILL BACK FOR ANOTHER TRY
California online poker players are also watching state legislative happenings after a new bill seeking to authorize the creation of an intrastate online network was introduced by State Sen. Lou Correa. Several previous California efforts have failed in the past three years, due to a combination of antigambling resistance and in-fighting among perceived proponents of the plan. Correa’s new measure would give the California Gambling Control Commission the responsibility for overseeing any California-based online poker, with the bill projecting over a billion dollars in much-needed tax revenue. Correa’s proposal joins one by state Rep. Roderick Wright already under consideration.
NEVADA APPROVES INTERSTATE ONLINE POKER
Meanwhile, Nevada has also approved an expansion to its existing online poker bills, now authorizing the state to offer online poker to non-Nevadans in the absence of any legislation at the federal level. The primary changes to the existing Nevada law, under which several Nevada-based casinos are already testing online poker sites for real-money play, will allow Nevada to negotiate compacts with other states and countries, opening the Nevada sites to citizens of those jurisdictions. The new measure was fast-tracked as one of the first bills to be considered in Nevada’s 2013 legislative session, and was passed by both Nevada legislative houses and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval in a single day.
FERGUSON SETTLES “BLACK FRIDAY” CIVIL CASE WITH DOJ
Full Tilt Poker co-founder and board member Chris “Jesus” Ferguson has reached a settlement with the Department of Justice, resolving the DOJ’s claims against him for his role with the Black Friday-targeted site. Ferguson, the prominent winner of the 2000 WSOP Main Event, helped create Full Tilt less than two years later, and was the site’s largest individual shareholder. The DOJ sought more than $42 million from Ferguson, but may have settled for significantly less, including a $2.35 million cash payment, plus the undisclosed contents of a retirement account through which Ferguson received his FTP ownership disbursements. Ferguson, while not admitting guilt, also agreed not to work with any future US-facing online poker sites lacking expressed legal approval to operate.
WASHINGTON STATE BRIEFLY CONSIDERS DECRIMINILIZATION MEASURE
The state of Washington remains the only US jurisdiction where the playing of online poker remains a felony, after a proposal to change existing laws failed to garner widespread support. A proposal by State Rep. Paul Harris to have the penalty reduced to a civil infraction carrying a $50 penalty will now not be considered until at least 2014. A 2006 law backed by the states tribal-casino interests makes the playing of online poker a Class C felony, punishable by prison time, though the state’s law enforcement officials have declined, to date, to prosecute anyone under the existing statute.
888, TREASURE ISLAND SEEK NEVADA APPROVAL
Even as Nevada moves forward with its expansion into interstate online poker, the approval process for applicants continues, with international online giant 888 Holdings and Las Vegas-based Treasure Island Hotel & Casino the latest applicants for licensure. 888 Holdings, parent company of Pacific Poker, one of the earliest online sites, seeks approval as a service provider, and has already entered into an agreement with Caesars Entertainment. Treasure Island’s application adds another of Vegas’s prominent casino brands to a strong lineup already marching through the state’s approval and testing process.
Veteran poker-industry writer/editor Haley Hintze is the author of an upcoming book on the Absolute Poker and UltimateBet online cheating scandals, to be released later this year.