PA Lawmakers Disappoint by Rejecting Online Poker Legislation

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 107-81 against a bill that would legalise online gaming, amongst permitted certain other gambling related products, and this has come as a major blow to the online gambling industry that was counting on the bill being passed. The issue was compounded by the fact that the online gambling proposal was linked to the proposal of permitting additional video gaming terminals (VGTs) in the state.

There are indications, however, that the PA lawmakers could revisit the internet gambling issue at a later date. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of clarity on the issue and as of now no date has been fixed for this to happen. This is indeed a major issue for the gambling industry in the state since it is seeking to expand by going on the internet. The land based gambling casinos currently pull in an estimated $3 billion every year. If the state can get to increase these revenues then its tax collections will naturally improve. Pennsylvania has a pension deficit amounting to approximately $50 billion, and increased taxes generated by online gambling can go a long way to fixing the problem.

The proposed internet gambling bill received a spirited defence from many PA lawmakers. It was sponsored by Rep. John Payne who emphasised the point that the taxes generated by online gambling would help the state’s economy. Rep. George Dunbar also pointed out that another purpose of legalising the industry was to regulate it better so that customers could get sufficient protection whenever they gambled on the internet. Payne added to this point saying that proper regulation would ensure that vulnerable people such as children and compulsive gamblers would get protection.

At present, many Americans visit online gambling sites run from offshore locations because there aren’t too many legal options available. As a matter of fact, they can easily visit these sites without even leaving the comfort of their homes and play a variety of games such as poker and slots. Games such as Tiki Island slot are a big draw at these casinos because of their sophisticated graphics and the lure of big prizes.

The online gambling black market serving United States customers is worth many billions of dollars. It is a well-established business and many sites even accept deposits via credit cards. The problem with gambling on these sites is that quite a few of them have links to crime gangs. In fact, many sites have fixed their games to give hardly any wins at all. Others exist only to steal customers’ financial and personal data.

Among the PA lawmakers, Payne has been working very hard to push his gambling bill through the houses of legislature. He has conducted 47 different hearings and meetings on this subject over the past eighteen months with the objective of providing lawmakers with enough information to enable them to make informed decisions. He remains unfazed by the reverse he has just experienced and is committed to doing more work to have the online gambling bill turned into law.

New Jersey Breaks Online Gambling Record

PokerStars has virtually taken the online casino market in New Jersey by storm, as the introduction of the casino site in late March has propelled the casino revenue of the state by about 33% breaking online gambling record. New Jersey, which happens to be one of the first states to permit online casinos has been recording impressive revenue collection from online casino games like Tiki Island slot. But in spite of the big interest shown by the local residents in the internet casino games, it looked as though the growth here had hit a plateau. The graph of revenue collection for the last couple of years indicated that the peak has been attained.

The Launch of PokerStars

Around the fag end of March 2016, PokerStars made its entry in New Jersey, courtesy, Resorts Casino. A market which looked like to have already peaked, woke-up with a renewed vigour, as the residents took a big fancy for PokerStars. It was not just the case of playing some entertaining online casino games, but winning that has made the difference. Since the winning percentage in PokerStars was much higher than most other games being offered at New Jersey, players started to make a beeline for the site, resulting in an increase in revenue for the state. This has in turn made the casino growth graph to surge northwards, after a period of lull.

The Tell-tale Figures

Since being launched in late March 2016, PokerStars has sustained a interest among the public of New Jersey, which could be clearly be seen in the figures provided by the gaming regulators of the state. Impressive gain of was recorded in casino revenue of the state in March 2016, the month when Pokerstars was introduced. In absolute terms, the revenue earned was $2,461,064 in March 2016, whereas the figures for the corresponding period in 2015 were $2,227,629, which shows that a 10% increase in revenue has been achieved. Yet another important piece of statistics brought out is that while casino wins in New Jersey from all other casino games like Tiki Island Slot was $15,507,459 in March 2016, it was only $13,165,623 in March 2015.

An Unparalleled Growth

Without any momentum shift, the revenue collection in the state in April too recorded an unprecedented $17 million, which is in fact a surge of 33% over the revenue earned during the same period in 2015. Within the first four months of 2016, a jump in casino wins of about 30% has been recorded thereby winning the confidence of the casino players. With choices now available to play entertaining as well as profitable games like Tiki Island Slot and poker games offered by PokerStars, the internet casino market is perked up to reach newer heights. The casino revenues of some of the leading casinos like Borgata, Golden Nugget, Tropicana, Caesar’s Interactive and Resorts casino have all recorded notable increase in the first quarter of 2016. Resorts casino has been one of the biggest success stories of 2016, thanks to PokerStars.

The Announcement of William Hill to Leave Canadian Online Gambling Market

Perhaps, the Canadian online gambling market has reaped unending benefits of the services of offshore betting operators. However, things are changing now, as many international operators are withdrawing their services from Canada. They are planning to leave the Canadian jurisdiction and will not accept players from Canada in the coming days.

Announcement by William Hill

The iconic British Book, William Hill will be the first operator in 2016 to withdraw its gambling services from the country. According to media reports and announcement by William Hill, players in British Columbia will not be able to place any bet from 10TH May 2016. However, they will be allowed to withdraw their balance left in the accounts at any point of time. To express its concern towards the players, the casino recently sent an email to all its customers mentioning that it is leaving the Canadian jurisdiction for a better future.

The casino apologized to all the players for the inconvenience caused but it assures that the decision has been taken on a short notice and due to regulatory reasons. The William Hill casino club expressed that the regulatory reasons are beyond its control and it will have to leave the country.

The Legality of Online Gambling in Canada

While talking about the legal status of online gambling in Canada, the country allows only individual provincial lottery corporations. Nonetheless, some sources reveal that the law also allows activities of the other internationally licensed operators until they have located their servers outside Canada. In the year 2011, Paddy Power became the first global company to terminate its services in Canada. However, it continued to offer B2B services to the provincial lottery corporations. In addition to this, Ladbrokes, a British based online gaming operator withdrew its services from the Canadian market two years back. The operator did not justify its action with a concrete reason.

Moreover, in the year 2015, Betfair, the popular sports betting operator declared that it would restrict the punters from Canada to use its gaming products including fixed odds bets and exchange bets. In fact, Toronto Ontario Stock exchange has recently mentioned the name of NYX Gaming Group, the online gambling technology firm that confirmed the procurement of OpenBet, its rival company. With this, it gets clear that not only William Hill but also other casino operators are also moving out from the Canadian online gambling market.

Conclusion

Even after the major casino operators have withdrawn their services from Canada, Canadian punters can still enjoy their favorite casino games at the available casino sites. Whether you wish to play a table game or the very popular 5- reel game, Tiki Island, you can enjoy it all after signing up at the casinos still operating in Canada. You can just do a little research about the current Canadian casinos and become a member of it. It would be better to sign up at a casino offering welcome bonus, free spins and great jackpot opportunities. No doubt, the passion and interest of the Canadian punters is not going to be any less in any situation.

The Online Gambling Scenario Quite Optimistic in New Jersey 2016 Onwards

2016 Q1 figures of New Jersey based online casinos declared by Division of Gaming Enforcement, New Jersey reveals an increase in earnings for licensed internet based casinos. In fact, the rise in revenue collection has been to the extent of 28% over the corresponding period in 2015. With parameters for growth showing healthy signs, further increase in revenue over the rest of the year is imminent.

The Impact of Online Casinos

While the revenue of New Jersey increased from $35.1 million to $44.9 million dollars during this period, the growth in the revenue from online casinos alone have contributed to about 28%. Roger Gros, an online gambling publisher has concluded that based on this figures, undoubtedly, the future of New Jersey economics is moving in the right direction. Gros has observed that while it took a couple of years for the New Jersey residents to come to terms with the online gaming structure, presently they have taken a big liking to the games and are now fully conversant with the products and services offered by the online casino providers. One important factor for the residents to fully accept these games is that the operators have been proactive in diagnosing and rectifying the irritants like payment windows. All other procedural and technological issues which have surfaced in the online casino games in New Jersey have also been assiduously attended to by the casino operators to instill the confidence of the online casino players.

Unique New Jersey Model

When the New Jersey administration decided to license the online casinos, legislation was drafted to ensure that online games could be provided only by the existing brick and mortar casinos. With door open for online games in New Jersey for the land based casinos, these casinos in turn looked around for the best possible partnerships with the leading software providers. Such a move has had several benefits for the both the stakeholders. For the land based casinos which were steadily sinking in revenue collection this was a great opportunity for revival. The revenue earned through their online operations helped them in sustaining their offline facilities. Thus the introduction of online games through the brick and mortar casinos has prevented retrenchment of employees, which had the potential of escalating the rapid fall of economy.

Model Waiting to be Copied

The success enjoyed by the New Jersey model has evinced keen interest from other states as well, now. It is just not the monetary success of the model, but its hassle free working is what has attracted attention from other states. The close working of the casino operators and their online software providers has ensured that clients signing-in do not face any glitches in any issue, most importantly in banking transactions. The smooth working of the model is certain to bring cheer to the economy of the state in the rest of the year, as existing players continue to sign-in regularly while new players join the online bandwagon, on hearsay.

The US Commerce Committee’s Plan to Hear Testimonies on DFS, Online Gambling and More…

The US have steadfastly been opposing the entry and regulation of different forms of gambling activities, in spite of plea from time to time from various stakeholders for legalisation of the same. The state of New Jersey however has bucked this trend and has permitted betting activities. While lobbying for regulation and legalization of the gambling activities in US have been a regular feature for over a decade in US, no breakthrough has been made in this regard. In a fresh bid to open the issue, a hearing has been planned on May 11th in the presence of the members of the subcommittee of the House of Representatives. This public hearing has been called largely on the initiative of Frank Pallone Jr, the New Jersey Rep who is also on the board of Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee for very long period of time.

D-day for Gambling Activities

Great interest has been generated in the camps of both the pro and anti gaming with the call of the public hearing on May 11th to decide about the future of the games in US. Neutral observers are keenly looking forward to the hearing to see which way the tide turns in states of US as regards the regulation of the gaming activities. Amongst the gaming activities whose fortunes could be determined after the May 11th public hearing is that of Daily Fantasy Sports. New Jersey which so far has not plunged headlong in the daily fantasy sports activities is proposing to include and regularise these activities on par with other online gaming activities. This however is frowned by two of the top DFS promoters like FanDuel and DraftKings, as such a move could club their activities along with other gambling sites.

The State of Online Gambling in the US

Different types of online games which face restriction in US include the casino games, poker and sports betting sites. Interestingly, while none of these online activities have been termed illegal under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006, the Act has practically restricted any activity being carried out by these sites by disallowing payments for these activities. While such a status quo was maintained till 2011, Justice Department while clarifying the attorney generals of Illinois and New York query ruled that online sports betting alone could be termed illegal and not the remaining two. This has resulted in online casino betting to gain legal status in states like Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

Questions on Daily Fantasy Sports

The way DFS sites shaped up in an all too friendly and innocuous fashion, made the legislatures to exempt it from the UIGEA 2006. But subsequent developments including bigger stakes and more entrepreneurs turning the DFS sites as lucrative business proposition has made the State to review the status of the sites. As the activities of DFS sites are not much different from those of online sports betting sites, accusations of inconsistencies in laws are being aired, thus forcing the government to take a close look at these sites now.

GVC Likely to Face Lawsuit Over Collapsed Canadian Deal

Online gambling company GVC Holdings, no stranger to controversies, is likely to face a class action lawsuit in the jurisdiction of Canadian on account of its joint venture in that country collapsing. The legal problems faced by the company arise from the failure of its Sportingbet brand, which entered into a joint venture with a Canadian firm helmed by former ice hockey star Doug Honeger.

The charge against the gambling company is being led by a law firm from Ontario known as Findlay McCarthy PC. The law firm has even started a website in order to get more information about the allegedly illegal activities of Sportingbet. The company was in operation in the Canadian market from 2005 and 2015 during which time it is believed to have broken Canadian gambling law on numerous occasions in its pursuit of profits.

The problems faced by Sportingbet are hardly a small issue since it is not easy to deal with a class action lawsuit. In fact, the legal firm is seeking reimbursement for all wagers placed with Sportingbet by Canadian residents for the entire duration of its operation in that country. This is potentially a major problem for the company since the customers number in their thousands. Even worse, the law firm will ask for punitive damages from the gambling operator in the event that the allegations against it are proven true.

The action against GVC Holdings is related to another lawsuit filed against it last year by Doug Honeger of 37 Entertainment Inc (37E). The Montreal-based Honeger said that his company had complete access to the customer details of Sportingbet, including their personal and banking data as well as betting histories during the period that his company had the job of managing Sportingbet’s Canadian operations. The alliance between 37E and Sportingbet took place for two years between 2014 and 2015.

GVC, on the other hand, says that it never entered into a formal agreement with 37E. If the allegations raised by Honeger are proven to be true then it looks like GVC has broken Canadian law by omitting to inform its customers that their personal and financial data would be shared with a third party. The lawyer is also planning to go deep into the issue to find out whether GVC ever took the trouble of conducting a background clearance check on 37E and on Honeger and his business associate Barry Alter. The aim will be to prove that the company was in contravention of the terms of its gaming license from Malta.

Honeger has provided his unique insight into GVC’s problems. He went on to say that his company’s joint venture with GVC was abandoned on account of the other company’s pursuit of its main competitor Bwin.party Digital Entertainment which was valued at approximately £1.1 billion. The issue is headed towards the arbitration court in London this July. As bad as the news sounds, it doesn’t seemed to have fazed the shareholders of GVC since the company’s share price increased 1.5% to touch 532.5p.

Amendments in the South African National Gambling Policy

The wait of the final version of South African National Gambling Policy for 2016 is certainly now over. Yes, the Department of Trade has recently released the latest and the final version to keep the gambling environment fair and safe for all including the bettors and the players both.

About the Final Version

South Africa has a great land-based casino market at present. Considering the same, the knockout punch of the policy paper has clearly mentioned that any type of gambling form will not be allowed in the nation at this hour. Without a doubt, it has crushed the hopes of various operators who were ready to launch new form of gambling. Nonetheless, the liberalization of online gambling market will be continued in the future too.

The Reason Behind the New Law

While talking about the reason of this new statute by the Department of Trade, it is simply because the South African government believes that online gambling is not actually labor intensive inherently. In addition to this, the government argues that even if this online industry is legalized, it will not generate much lucrative job opportunities as compared with land-based casinos.

Not only this, the government has made it clear that it aims at protecting gambling activities that can produce jobs and help in the betterment of the society. Therefore, it shows a clear support of the government to the traditional casinos in the country and land-based market at this time.

The Status of Online Gambling in South Africa

In South Africa, only online sports betting are allowed. In fact, even the poker and other verticals of it are not permitted here. It is true that online sports betting are very popular in the nation and the government has restated the earlier concerns of equipping more forms of gambling.

The government is clear about the fact that the country is presently not capable of regulating online gambling but it aims at preventing any type of illegal operations in this market. The objectives of the government make sense and its actions are also justified.

The Proposed Amendments

The recent changes have suggested adapting the national infrastructure in order to block the entire attempts at online gambling strictly. The further changes aim at making amendments in the National Gambling Act in order to restrict all the service providers from providing any access to the illegal gambling websites.

For sure, this is a very effective move, as many operators today allow illegal access to their gambling sites. In addition to this, banks and all the other financial institutions will also be restricted to provide their banking services on such illegal gambling websites. If at all, it happens, the bank will be charged with a penalty.

Conclusion

At this point, it is not clear that to what extent these policy changes will prove to be effective. However, it is sure that it will bring about more transparency and will improve the entire structure of the gambling market in South Africa. Yes, the policy builders seem sufficed with the changes they have proposed.

A Quick Update About the US Gambling Legislation

Some states in the US have still not legalised gambling. Only in 2015, about seven of the US states were in talks to legalise gambling. But the attempt was largely futile. As of now, gambling in terms of online games like Tiki Island slot can be found in only three states namely: Delaware, Nevada, US Virgin Islands and New Jersey. It should be noted that in the state of Nevada, there was no legislation regarding gambling in online casinos. On the other hand, only poker activities were put into law.

It was last year when states such as Mississippi, Illinois, California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and Pennsylvania have changed some of the laws related to poker and online casinos. Six House bills were issues by the legislators of Pennsylvania, that too separately. In terms of implementation of the laws, chances are that they will be able to act upon them as compared to other states. Only California is the state that has seen about three bills to be introduced to the Assembly and one of them might be introduced to the Senate.

There have always been more than one reason for the legalisation for online gambling in various states. One of the most obvious ones is revenues. Many states where online gambling has been implemented have started generating good revenues that has helped the government in several ways. Hence, this acts as an impetus for them as well to implement the same thing in other states as well. On the other hand, the second reason is the fact that the US Department of Justice has also made it clear that the Wire Act, which was implemented in 1961 applied only to sports betting. With this declaration, states such as New Jersey, Nevada and more tested this law, and most of the results were favourable. When other states saw their success, they also followed suit. There are chances of amendment on the state level though. But the ongoing debate on the federal level to acknowledge the Restore America’s Wire Act. There is apparently a lot of money behind the entire scheme. The only advancement that we can expect is at the state level, and not anywhere else as of now. In a report published in 2009 by the Rep. Jim McDermott stated that there will be revenues of more than $42 billion over a period of 10 years.

Is the market supposed to return to normal someday is the question most frequently asked when it comes to the state of online gambling. Some of the big players in the market such as Microgaming have seen to make a return into the gambling market. One of the most successful companies in the Europe, Microgaming as has made their presence felt in the US market as well. Playtech is also one such big company has produces and makes commendable online casino games. Hence, it is will the infiltration of such companies that will pave the way for better online casino games, and hence more players will get attracted to it.

Rivers Casino Hosts Lobbying Group Discussing Gambling Expansion

The American casino industry’s leading trade association is of the opinion that the United States could legalise sports betting in a very short time and that the incoming president could even play a role in bringing this about. This, along with other important issues concerning the industry, was the topic of a panel discussion conducted at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh. As a matter of fact, the American Gaming Association’s President and CEO, Geoff Freeman, also said that there was a very strong likelihood of sports betting getting legalized within three to five years.

The American Gaming Association meeting was part of its initiative known as “Gaming Votes” set up to study and publicize the impact that the casino industry has on overall economic development in states where the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries are taking place. This lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. has already conducted similar events in four other states, namely Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio. There will be another event in Michigan.

The gambling industry is a major provider of jobs wherever it exists and the objective of the American Gaming Association is to inform presidential hopefuls about the importance of the industry. While the lobbying body doesn’t intend to directly ask the presidential candidates for any commitments it does wish to provide them with the necessary information about the industry. The gambling industry in the United States has a footprint in 40 states and the overall business it generates on a yearly basis is $250 billion. All put together, the casinos also provide employment to approximately 1.7 million people.

Freeman also talked about a problem that the industry was facing in the state of Pennsylvania. In the state of Pennsylvania alone, the economic activity associated with gambling exceeds $6 billion, from which approximately $2.5 billion is contributed to the exchequer in the form of taxes thanks in part to a 55% tax on regular slots. However, the AGA is opposing the Pennsylvania government’s proposal to impose an 8% tax on free slot games. Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed this tax to bring in an extra $51 million in taxes to help cover a budget deficit. However, this move might prove to be detrimental to the industry and also to the taxes generated from it.

Another issue that the AGA has been following is the Internal Revenue Service’s proposal to use casino comp cards to track individual gamblers’ winnings and to set a $600 reporting bar for wins from keno, bingo, and slot machines from the existing level of $1,200.

The AGA is doing all it can to help the gambling industry grow and continue creating jobs. Craig Clark, the General Manager of the Rivers Casino also agreed with Freeman’s observation that sports betting and online betting were important for the future of the gambling industry. As a matter of fact, Clark also said that even though Rivers was able to attract more than 4.6 million customers every year, it was eager to get involved in both areas. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 has been found to be terribly outdated and the US government should consider changing it to reflect the present situation.

Panama Papers Expose Likely Link to Amaya Insider Trading Investigation

The data files recently unearthed and published in the public domain by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has no doubt rattled governments and individuals all over the world, but it also has repercussions in the world of gambling and Tiki Island slot. This data dump has popularly become known as the Panama Papers and it involves 11.5 million highly confidential documents belonging to a well-known, yet secretive company called Mossack Fonseca, which is a corporate service provider based in Panama.

There are doubts that the deluge of information also contains links to an ongoing insider trading investigation centred round the Canada based online gambling giant Amaya Gaming. As a matter of fact, the ICIJ had previously released documents associated with the company. Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the securities regulator based in Quebec is currently investigating the insider trading allegations levied against the company. Furthermore, Amaya’s dynamic CEO David Baazov has stepped away from the company while the investigation is being carried out.

One of the companies that the ICIJ files contain information about is Zhapa Holdings Inc which is based in the British Virgin Islands and has IMF Network as its major client. The main shareholders of Zhapa are Goulissa Baazov and Josh Baazov, the siblings of David Baazov. Equally of interest to investigators is the fact that Isam Mansour is also a shareholder of Zhapa. Mansour has had a brush with the AMF in 2010 when his trading patterns concerning Amaya aroused suspicion of irregularities and his stock trading privileges were subsequently revoked. At that time 12 other people including Josh Baazov and Craig Levett also lost their trading privileges.

More About Zhapa

There are indications that Zhapa.com is no longer functioning but its website continues to host many gambling sites such as BetonUSA.com. Interestingly, this online sportsbook was owned by Josh Baazov and Craig Levett before it was sold after the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 in order to make online gambling illegal. Zhapa was also associated with another US sportsbook known as Oddsmaker.ag.

Quebec’s regulator has accused David Baazov of masterminding insider trading via his brother and Levett. Information provided by David made its way to Levett via Josh and this helped them generate more than $1.5 million in profits before the insider trades were shut down.

Will The ICIJ Data Make A Difference?

It will be interesting to see whether the AMF will bolster its Amaya investigations with the data made available by the ICIJ. After all, the AMF has been following up on the case for quite some time. However, the revelations that have been made so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Journalists are hard at work sorting through all the data available and they are very likely to release information in the coming months if not weeks. Amaya has a provisional licence to operate in New Jersey and it will run into trouble with the US authorities if it has been found to be in violation of UIGEA.