Author Archives: Steve Larson

Scott Blumstein Wins 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event

July 23rd, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

2017 WSOP Main Event winner Scott Blumstein said “a normally inconsequential duece just changed my life”, after winning a heads-up showdown with Dan Ott. Blumstein collected a miracle river card on the 242nd hand of the final table to eliminate Ott from the world’s biggest annual poker event. On the final hand, Scott Blumstein limped in on the button, then Dan Ott raised to 8,000,000. Blumstein moved all-in, placing Dan Ott’s 55.5 million remaining chips at risk. Dan Ott went into the tank for a minute, then made the all-in call. 2017 WSOP Main Event Final Hand When the players revealed their hands, Dan Ott held ace-8 suited (diamonds), while Scott Blumstein held ace-2 offsuit. Thus, Dan Ott appeared to hold a commanding leads, as both held an ace, but Ott’s kicker was bigger. The flop came jack-of-spades, six-of-spades, and 5-of-hearts, so Ott remained ahead. The turn was the 7-of-hearts, giving Dan Ott a straight draw, as well. None of it mattered, because the river was a miracle card: the 2-of-hearts to pair Scott Blumstein’s 2. Scott Blumstein collected the entire 360.575 million chips in the tournament, while Dan Ott busted. The rail erupted as Scott Blumstein suddenly was the 2017 World Series of Poker winner. Scott Blumstein Dominated the 2017 WSOP Final Table The eventual 2017 WSOP Main Event champion was aggressive throughout the final table. He held a huge chip stack lead and none of his opponents ever seriously challenged his chip lead late in the event. At most points during the 246 hands, Blumstein held around 50% of the chips or more. After an amazing first and second day of the final table, Blumstein held two-thirds of the chips (or more) most of the time. When the event turned into heads-up showdown, Scott Blumstein maintained command of the action. Though Blumstein was way behind in the championship hand and received a  nice bit of luck to win the hand, Scott Blumstein remained a decided favorite throughout most of the final table action in the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino’s television poker room. While others might have had brief moments of hope, the general sense was one of inevitability. Calls Himself a “New Jersey Grinder” After the tournament, Blumstein — a 25-year old resident of Morristown, New Jersey — joked about the improbable hand which eliminated his final opponent. He told the poker media, “Is there a better way to win the Main Event than hitting a three-outer on the river? A normally inconsequential duece just changed my life. I was mentally preparing for a 40-big blind poker,

US Supreme Court to Hear New Jersey Sports Betting Case

June 27th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments in the New Jersey sports betting case. At heart of the case is New Jersey’s challenge of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. Arguments in the case begin in October, when the Supreme Court’s next court term commences. New Jersey’s lawyers will challenge the PASPA law, while lawyers for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA defend the current federal sports gambling law. The two sides have battled in federal courts for the past 5 years. Each time, the US sports associations have won the decision. New Jersey only needs one win to strike down the PASPA law, though. US Supreme Court Reviews the PASPA When the justices announced their decision, they gave no reason for why they agreed to hear the case. In June 2014, the same court rejected New Jersey’s appeal in a similar sports betting case. In December 2017, the court delayed a ruling on the case, because they wanted to hear President-Elect Donald Trump’s opinions on the case. The Acting U.S. Solicitor General, Jeffrey B. Wall, called on justices to reject the appeal in a May 2017 opinion. Jeffrey Wall argued that New Jersey’s latest plan to allow sports betting in the state “is no different than a positive enactment authorizing such gambling.” After a previous attempt to legalize and regulate sportsbooks failed in the courts, Chris Christie’s administration sought to repeal the regulations and look the other way while Monmouth Park and William Hill partnered on a sportsbook. New Jersey Sports Betting Case As Monmouth Park was days away from opening a sportsbook in October 2014, the NFL and its allies sued New Jersey and Monmouth Park. That led to three court battles, beginning in Judge Michael Shipp’s district court in Trenton. New Jersey lost the first decision, as Shipp viewed the case in much the same way Jeffrey Wall did. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal voted 2-1 against New Jersey, upholding Judge Shipp’s decision. New Jersey appealed to the full list of appellate judges in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, setting up an August 2016 case. The en-banc panel of judges voted 10-2 against New Jersey, leaving the Supreme Court as the last option. Daniel Wallach on Legalized Sportsbooks Daniel Wallach, a notable gaming lawyer out of Florida, said this could be the much-anticipated moment when legal sports gambling becomes a reality. Wallach told NJ.com, “This is a sea change in the whole movement surrounding sports betting in the U.S.” Mr. Wallach added that access to the U.S.

New York Online Poker Bill Fails in 2017

June 27th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

The 2017 New York online poker bill failed to gain approval in 2017, though its sponsors in the state legislature vowed to submit the bill again in 2018. With the New York legislative schedule finished on June 21, no other opportunities exist for new proposals this year. Because it is not an election year, the legislative schedule ended in June. For the same reason, when the 2018 legislative session begins, lawmakers do not have to restart the process. When New York’s politicians meet again, the bill might receive a quick vote on the General Assembly floor. SB 3898 Failed in the General Assembly Senate Bill 3898 passed in the New York Senate earlier this month by a 54-8 vote. State Senator John Bonacic, who introduced a similar bill in 2016, introduced SB 3898 in the Senate. In the New York General Assembly, Gary Pretlow sponsored a similar proposal. Assemblyman Pretlow ushered the bill through the Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee by a 10-1 vote. Like the 2016 legislation, the 2017 New York online poker bill died in the General Assembly. This time around, Gary Pretlow was blameless. In December 2016, Pretlow withdrew support for Bonacic’s poker legislation when he suggested poker might be a game of chance. Poker players contend their game is a game of skill, because professionals make a living as card players. Poker players gain an advantage by reading an opponent, disguising the strength of their poker hands, and calculating pot odds. Pretlow Sees Online Poker as a Game of Skill In the six months since, Gary Pretlow spoke with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to receive a firmer understanding of poker. He is comfortable with the game, but said he could not get enough assemblymen to agree on the bill’s parameters. The question of skill or chance was not the issue. In the run-up to the current legislative effort, Gary Pretlow predicted widespread support. He told Andrew Whitman of FIOS1 News, “When I do sign off on something. my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.” Bad Actor Clauses Kill the Online Poker Bill Instead, Gary Pretlow said the same “bad actor” clauses sidetracked the 2017 New York online poker bill. Those are the same arguments which sidetracked California’s online poker legislation these past few years. Gary Pretlow said those assemblymen he approached split on whether

East Windsor Casino Called a Glorified Slots Parlor by Mayor

June 23rd, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

A Manhattan judge recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by MGM Resorts against the State of Connecticut. The lawsuit involved the licensing of a tribal casino in the Hartford suburb of East Windsor. The Manhattan court’s ruling prompted the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts to criticize the process which led to the lawsuit. Domenic Sarno, the Springfield mayor, called the Hartford area casino that Connecticut’s legislature approved recently a “glorified slots parlor“. Sarno compared his city’s casino to a potential development 30 miles away, the MMCT casino, across the border in Connecticut. East Windsor Casino: “Glorified Slots Parlor” The so-called glorified slots parlor is a joint venture of the Mohegan Tribe and Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. The two tribes own Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino, respectively.  Together, they’re building a satellite casino in the Hartford suburb of East Windsor to compete with the MGM Springfield. The East Hartford casino is much smaller than the main tribal casinos in Connecticut, but it is in close proximity to the MGM Springfield. MGM Springfield is MGM Resorts’ $950 million integrated casino-resort in the South End of Springfield, Massachusetts. When opened, the casino will be the centerpiece of an urban renewal effort. The development will be the hub for retail shopping, restaurants, and clubs. To secure its license, MGM Resorts International pledged to become a patron of arts festivals and cultural events in Springfield. Thus, it is no surprise that Domenic Sarno praised the Las Vegas casino company. In his comments, Sarno said, “MGM Resorts International is a world-renowned company.” Domenic Serno on MGM Resorts Lawsuit The mayor suggested the Manhattan lawsuit against Connecticut was an unneeded distraction. MGM Resorts filed the lawsuit, claiming Connecticut officials rejected their plans for a Bridgeport casino offhand. The Connecticut legislature favored the state’s tribal gaming interests, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot (Foxwoods) tribes, instead. Serno seemed to welcome the dismissal of the lawsuit. The mayor said, “While I appreciate their continued belief and investment in our Springfield, simply put, their and my focus should and will be on what we can direct and control — continuing to put a first class resort establishment in Springfield.” MGM Resorts and some Hartford-area residents criticized the Connecticut State Legislature for not holding an opening casino licensing process. They believed competition in the casino licensing process would have produced a better deal for the community. Additional license applicants lead to bigger projects, more tax revenues, and more jobs. That criticism overlooks the main purpose for Connecticut’s lawmakers. Officials wanted to build a firewall to keep in-state gamblers in-and-around Hartford from traveling 30 miles down

Reuters Exposes “Transaction Laundering” in Online Gambling

June 22nd, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

Reuters recently conducted an independent investigation into “transaction laundering” websites and released a report on its findings. Transaction laundering is a growing trend in online gambling transactions, in which websites pretend to be online vendors which sell everyday products. In its months-long investigation, Reuters found a network of online dummy sites which allow U.S.-based online bettors to process payments which do not look like gambling payments. Using a third-party site with different “Merchant Category Codes”, online gamblers ostensibly buy a mundane product from the fake vendor, such as “fabric for lightweight drapes”.  Instead of buying drapes, though, he or she makes a payment to an online gambling site. Reuters exposed seven particular dummy sites in its expose. Alasdair Pal, a London-based reporter, produced the Reuters article on transaction laundering. Mr. Pal wrote, “The seven sites, operated out of Europe, purport to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, maps, gift wrap, mechanical tape, pin badges and flags. “In fact, they are fake outlets, part of a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry, which is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states.” Merchant Category Codes Used for Processing Payments Credit card companies and other financial institutions use “Merchant Category Codes” to determine whether a transaction is legal or illegal. If a gambling transaction has the code 7995, then VISA or MasterCard checks to see whether gambling is illegal in the country or state of the transaction’s origin. If a real money bettor makes a payment to a gambling website from the United States flagged “7995”, VISA or MasterCard declines the payment. With transaction laundering, the payment looks like it’s made to a nongaming online merchant. It is the latest ways illegal payment processors trick credit card companies. After a 6-month investigation, Reuters exposed the tactic. The investigation began when Reuters reporters found an anonymously posted online document in late 2016. The e-document named 3 online dummy sites which engage in transaction laundering. A reporter posted an order with one of those sites, the UK-based Sarphone Ltd., for “a yard of burlap fabric”. Sarphone never sent the burlap. In fact, Sarphone never intended to send nongaming products to customers. Agora Online Services Weeks later, the reporter received an email from “My Fabric Factory” and a refund. The Reuters employee called a helpline posted online for customers, which was answered by “Anna Richardson”. Anna claimed to work for Agora Online Services, a payment services provider which verifies and processes coded credit card transactions. Anna Richardson gave surprisingly truthful information on the business practices of My Fabric Factory in

iDEA Group Backs US Online Gaming Legalization Efforts

June 21st, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

The iDevelopment and Economic Association [iDEA] formed this month to back online gambling legalization efforts throughout the United States. IDEA is an industry group of like-minded gaming companies, including some of the biggest names in land-based casinos and online gambling. After three states first legalized online gambling in statewide initiatives in 2012 and 2013, financial institutions and gaming analysts predicted that dozens of U.S. states would have legal US online poker and casinos sites by 2020. Despite those predictions, no U.S. state legalized online gambling in the past four years. Local opposition stopped legalization efforts in California, New York, Pennsylvania, and a number of other states. The forces opposing gaming regulations are better-funded and better-organized than online gambling proponents most of the time. Nearly Two Dozen Gaming Companies To change the trend, over twenty gaming companies formed the iDevelopment and Economic Association. Atlantic City casinos like Tropicana, Golden Nugget, and Resorts Casino joined iDEA. Online payment processors like PaySafe and Vantiv joined the association, too. So did online gaming software suppliers like Amaya, Paddy Power / Betfair, Gamesys, and International Game Technology (IGT). IDEA plans to publish studies and opinion pieces on all gambling topics, because these resources provide useful statistics and talking points for advocates of online gambling. IDEA’s opinion pieces hopefully will mold public opinion on the issues, to help lawmakers pass pro-gambling bills. IDEA Supports All Legal Online Gambling IDEA has no favorites when it comes to online gambling. The association backs online casinos, poker sites, bingo halls, lotto ticket sales, and sportsbooks. Much of the effort is to highlight the benefits of regulated online gaming sites. For instance, the story of New Jersey’s online casino and poker rollout received a lot of bad press. Gov. Chris Christie’s prediction that New Jersey online gambling would generate $1 billion in action each year gave the rollout’s critics a lot of ammunition.  The benefits of NJ online gambling were not a focus of coverage. Stories are more positive in 2017, but iDEA decided coverage still is not optimal. To counter the ongoing narrative that regulated online gambling is bad, iDEA funded a study by industry experts to highlight the success New Jersey’s iGaming industry has been. iDevelopment and Economic Association Dr. Alan Meister of Nathan Associates Inc. and Gene Johnson of Victor-Strategies released “Economic Impact of New Jersey Online Gaming: Lessons Learned”. The executive summary provides analytics for the New Jersey online gambling industry from its launch in November 2013 until March 2017. For instance, New Jersey’s online gambling industry generated $124.4 million in tax revenues for New Jersey. The

Slots Gambler Sues New York City Casino for $43 Million

June 20th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

A woman is suing a Queens, New York casino for nearly $43 million in damages, claiming the casino did not pay a slot machine jackpot. Instead, the woman claimed, they offered her a $2.50 prize and a steak dinner. Katrina Bookman was playing the slots in Resorts World Casino New York in August 2016 when the gaming machine told her she had won the grand prize of $42,949,672.76. Ecstatic at the massive jackpot she seemingly had won on “Sphinx Slot Machine“, Bookman took a selfie of the slot’s screen and found an attendant to help her collect the jackpot. Instead, the casino worker told Bookman that she had not won a jackpot prize at all. Instead, Resorts World Casino NYC told her she had won only $2.25. According to the casino, the game screen had a glitch which was showing the wrong payout. Resorts World Offered a Steak Dinner Management offered to pay the correct payout and threw in a free steak dinner at a casino restaurant to make up the difference. She refused both and instead hired a lawyer, Alan Ripka. Last Wednesday, Mr. Ripka filed a lawsuit on behalf of Katrina Bookman, asking for $42,949,672.76 in damages. The lawsuit is against Genting Group Limited, the Malaysian multinational conglomerate which owns Resorts World Casino New York City. Genting Group makes about $10 billion a year from its casino, hotel, energy, and plantation ventures around the globe. Katrina Bookman’s lawsuit also names International Game Technology (IGT), the manufacturer of Sphinx Slot Machine, in the suit. Alan Ripka on CNN Money Given the vast discrepency in prize money, Katrina Bookman’s phantom slots jackpot has become national news. Alan Ripka has done interviews with CNN Money and the New York Daily News, making his case and warning slots players about such glitches. While it might seem counter-productive to wage a battle in the court of public opinion, Alan Ripka knows the bad publicity might cause Resorts World Casino Queens to settle out of court. In a television interview on Monday, Alan Ripka told CNN Money, “You can’t claim a machine is broken because you want it to be broken. Does that mean it wasn’t inspected? Does it mean it wasn’t maintained?. And if so, does that mean that people that played there before [Bookman] had zero chance of winning?” Ripka says that the casino owes Ms. Bookman the money, because the machine offered $43 million and because of the “mental anguish” the mixup caused her. He described Resorts World Casino’s tech support as “negligent” to allow such a thing to happen. Resorts

FTC Files Lawsuit to Stop the FanDuel-DraftKings Merger

June 20th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with the attorney generals of the State of California and the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit in a federal court to temporarily stop the merger of FanDuel and DraftKings today. Officials at the FTC said the merger would create an illegal monopoly. Tad Lipsky, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, siad in a statement, “This merger would deprive customers of the substantial benefits of direct competition between DraftKings and FanDuel.” FTC Calls for Administrative Trial The FTC’s lawsuit will to stop the deal and to maintain the status quo in the daily fantasy sports industry “pending an administrative trial”. The three agencies also filed a complaint statign that the merger violates Section 5 of the FTC Act (1914) and Section 7 of the Clayton Act (1914). Mr. Lipsky added, “The FTC is committed to the preservation of competitive markets, which offer consumers the best opportunity to obtain innovative products and services at the most favorable prices and terms consistent with the provision of competitive returns to efficient producers.” DraftKings-FanDuel Merger The merger between DraftKings and FanDuel would unite the two largest daily fantasy sports competitors in the United States, which hold between 90% and 95% of the American DFS market. The Boston-based DraftKings is the largest US operator in daily fantasy sports, while the Scotland-founded, New York City-based FanDuel is the second largest. In the industry’s rise to prominence, the two companies cited a carveout for fantasy sports in the UIGEA law, while noting that one-day fantasy sports contests were games of skill — unlike sports betting. DraftKings and FanDuel were adamant that their form of gaming was not gambling, though many of their practices — such as signup bonuses, 10% rake, and TV commercials — seemed to follow the model of casinos and sportsbooks. Competition between DFS Sites It was the market competition which led to the “fall” of the daily fantasy sports industry. From 2013 to 2015, the two DFS competitors waged a spirited battle to see which would become the dominant operator in the country. Both companies gathered investments from some top Wall Street investment groups, telecom companies, and American sports media groups. Both also signed numerous sponsorship deals with franchises and league offices in the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL, and NHL. Armed with cash from their major investors, FanDuel and DraftKings waged an ad battle throughout the first two-thirds of 2015. Their advertisements were so prevalent on television sports broadcasts that late-night TV hosts began to crack jokes and do skits to make fun of the

Bonacic Confident New York Online Poker Bill Passes in 2017

June 16th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

A spokesperson for New York State Senator John Bonacic told UsPoker.com that his state is going to legalize online poker in 2017. Sen. Bonacic discussed his expectations for an online poker bill in the New York General Assembly, while predicting the legislature would approve online poker this year. The online poker bill passed in the New York Senate on Tuesday, clearing the first hurdle to passage of the legislation. Bonacic’s bill needs to pass in the General Assembly, where a similar bill failed in December 2016, before it goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature. Gary Pretlow Close to Success Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow is sponsoring the bill in the New York General Assembly. Pretlow sponsored the 2016 online poker bill in the Assembly, but pulled his support at the last minute due to questions he has over implementation. Despite that reversal, Sen. Bonacic said he is confident that Gary Pretlow will shepherd the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote. Bonacic said, “He said he’s very close to getting this on the floor. I know he’s working hard to get it done.” Poker Taxes Go to Education Fund One major difference between the 2017 New York online poker bill and its ill-fated 2016 counterpart is who handles the tax revenues. In the 2016 bill, all the tax revenues went to the state’s General Fund. In its current iteration, 100% of the tax revenues go to the New York State Education Fund. Sen. Bonacic said that is a key stipulation, because it gives New York Assemblypeople political cover in voting for the bill. Bonacic said, “That’s an important carrot for the Assembly.” New York Faces Multi-Billion Dollar Deficit Legal poker should be lucrative for the New York state government. New Jersey is beginning to show signs of a major uptick in its online gambling revenues 3 and 1/2 years after its rollout. New York State has a popular more than twice the size of New Jersey; the size of the card playing community is an important factor in the success of online poker sites. Bonacic says that the success of the New Jersey online gaming industry should encourage New York state lawmakers. He added, “This is a proven product. We have knowledge of the results of what our sister state is doing right next door. Jersey’s experience has been enhanced revenue to the state and at the casino as a result of online poker. All our racinos and casinos want it.” New York’s state treasury faces massive budget shortfalls over the next three years, causing the legislature to

New Jersey Supreme Court Places Lien on Former Revel Casino

June 15th, 2017 Written by Cliff Spiller

The Former Revel Casino faces a lien due to unpaid Special Improvement District fees, which is overseen by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA). The lien was imposed by a New Jersey Supreme Court justice for unpaid fees from 2015. It is the latest in a series of showdowns Revel’s owner, Glenn Straub, has had with New Jersey regulators and Atlantic City officials. Revel Casino owes money to the CRDA’s Special Improvement District for 2016 and 2017, but the ruling did not cover those unpaid fees. The lien effectively stop the building’s owner from selling the property, before paying back fees, fines, and taxes. What Does the Special Improvement District Do? The CRDA described the Special Improvement Division (SID) as providing funds to “improve the cleanliness and safety for the business community and visitors to Atlantic City.” All the Atlantic City casinos make payments to the SID program, which in turn handles a great deal of the maintenance and security around the Atlantic City casino district. The CRDA says on its website the Special Improvement District oversees “boardwalk and dune cleaning, recycling collection, street/curb line/sidewalk cleaning, landscape maintenance of parks and streets, [and] beautification of vacant lots through the construction of pocket parks or community gardens….” The list continues into a variety of beautification projects, including “installation of banners and winter decorations“, various sorts of tree repair and maintenance, “graffiti removal, installation and maintenance of bus shelters, city park maintenance, [and] directing homeless individuals to social services”, along with helping the Atlantic City Police Department with “disorderly individuals and suspicious activity“, including panhandlers. The SDI fund also pays $1 million a year to help fund local police work in the area, while “providing advice and information to tourists“. Revel Casino Versus New Jersey Regulators In short, the SID is a key contributor to helping maintaining the city’s social services and public image, which in turn helps draw more tourists and gamblers. Casinos are expected to make payments into the fund, because it helps the city and helps their own businesses. The lien over the Special Improvement District fees is just the latest in a series of disputes. The building’s owner, Glenn Straub, has been confrontational with New Jersey regulators, a stance which has not produced results. Throughout his three years as principal owner of the Revel Building, Glenn Straub has shown a high level of litigiousness and an unwillingness to follow the rules other casino operators follow. Glenn Straub Criticizes New Jersey Regulators When asked about paying Revel Casino’s PILOT taxes and Special Improvement District fees earlier this year, Straub

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