Category Archives: Poker

Possible New Miami Gambling Expansion Plan Faces Regulatory Roadblock

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many efforts to expand gambling in Florida. There have been several attempts at passing Vegas-style resort casinos, but those failed. Other gambling expansion attempts include slots, card games and jai alai. Now most recently, gambling expansion efforts are being made in Miami. Magic City Casino is seeking to open a jai alai fronton and poker room in the Edgewater neighborhood. The proposal was seen as controversial by many citing concerns that it would lead to even more gambling expansion. Now in response, city planners are using zoning regulations to halt the immediate expansion so the process can be open to feedback from the community. An online source explains: 

City commissioners voted 4-0 on Thursday to authorize Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and the planning department to begin working on amendments to the Miami 21 zoning code that would define what gambling facilities are and where such facilities can be located in the city. It would also require four out of five commissioners to vote in favor of any future pari-mutuels, casinos, or card rooms.

Commissioner Ken Russell proposed the legislation after learning that the state’s division of pari-mutuel wagering recently awarded a permit to West Flagler Associates, the entity that owns Magic City Casino. West Flagler would lease the property from Crescent Heights and would also include a restaurant and poker room.

Several prominent businessmen and developers, including Jorge Perez, Craig Robins and Norman Braman, have come out against the new gambling facility.

Russell said the city does not have a mechanism in place that requires gambling facilities to go through a public process that would vet any proposed development or give the city the ability to reject the location of a new casino, pari-mutuel or card room. He said adding the regulations ensures residents have a role in deciding whether they want gambling facilities in their neighborhood.



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Florida’s “Player-Banked Card Games” become Major Legal Focus

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the exclusive gambling agreement the Seminole Tribe has with Florida.  The state allows the Seminole Tribe to hold exclusive rights to various table and card games in exchange for guaranteed revenue for the state. A few years back, gambling regulators authorized a type of card game known as “player-banked card games.”  Various card games were made legal if the players played against themselves, not the house.  Now several years removed from the initial regulations, its become a major legal focus for the industry, as pari-mutuels are clearly taking part in the games by acting as the bank instead of the players.  The Panama City News Herald reports:

Gambling regulators and a pari-mutuel operator at odds over the legality of popular card games, first authorized by the state more than four years ago, pitched their cases to an administrative law judge on Tuesday. The issue involves “designated-player card games,” also known as “player-banked card games,” which include a hybrid of three-card poker and resemble casino-style card games but are played among gamblers instead of against the house.

State regulators contend that the card games themselves are legal, but the way they are being operated is too much like “banked” games, which are illegal anywhere in Florida except for the Seminole Tribe’s casinos.

State regulators filed legal action over a year ago that extended to seven pari-mutuels.  This specific legal action is a test case involving just one operator, Bestbet Jacksonville.  The issue seems to clearly boil down to the intent of what legislators authorized versus the process the pari-mutuels have implemented.  The News Herald explains:

According to regulators, the designated players —- who have a “break room” at the Jacksonville facility and never touch the cards —- are actually employees of unlicensed, third-party companies, something not envisioned when the state first approved the games. “They text. They talk. They don’t play the games at all. Sometimes the designated player will get up and leave in the middle of a hand and be replaced by another designated player,” Department of Business and Professional Regulation lawyer William Hall said during opening arguments Tuesday.

Some pari-mutuels require players to put up $50,000 in order to serve as the designated player, indicated by a “button” on the card table. And some require five times that amount in order to pass the “button” to another player, Hall said Tuesday. The designated player companies are “basically running a business in the card room,” Hall told Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk, likening the “button” used to identify the designated player at the Jacksonville facility as “a glorified paperweight” used “to hold the cards down.”

“Our theory is that they have established a bank” in which the designated player is “really not a player,” Hall said. “It’s just someone sitting by chips so that the dealer can pay out of them. If that’s not a bank, I don’t know what is,” he said.

The position taken by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is fairly simple, if the action is illegal and clearly not the intent of state regulators, then it needs fixed even if they have operated this way for the past four years.  News 4 Jax explains:

Even if state regulators signed off on a popular type of card game years ago, that doesn’t make the games legal, a Department of Business and Professional Regulation attorney told an administrative law judge on Wednesday. “If the petitioner (the department) allowed something that should not have been allowed, shame on us,” Department of Business and Professional Regulation lawyer William Hall told Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk during closing arguments Wednesday.

Regulators in February sent cease-and-desist letters to six designated-player companies, ordering them to “cease conducting business activities related to the providing of designated players for the establishment of a bank in licensed cardrooms in this state.” “By providing this service your business is assisting the cardrooms in establishing a bank, and violating the law. Although individuals are free to participate in authorized games within licensed facilities, your business interest and active participation in the establishment of a bank is strictly prohibited,” the letter read.

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Court Ruling Allows Limited Gambling Expansion in Florida

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing efforts to expand gambling in Florida.  The latest round attempted to take advantage of a type of loophole in proposed legislation to allow expanded gambling around greyhound racing and poker & slot machine permits. Now it appears that a court ruling is allowing something very similar, this time revolving around jai alai.  Jai Alai is a sporting event that pari-mutual gambling is allowed to revolve around in Florida.  There are other forms of gambling allowed to take place at these pari-mutual gambling facilities and as the Miami Herald explainsa new court ruling affirming a loophole in existing law will allow for gambling expansion:

Florida City could be home to Miami Dade’s next poker room and, with time, slot machines, under a loophole in the law affirmed Tuesday by a state appeals court.

The decision by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee overruled state regulators and said that Magic City’s parent company, West Flagler Associates, is eligible to obtain a summer jai alai permit that could also open the door to expanded gambling.

Because of a loophole in state law, West Flagler is required to obtain the jai alai permit then operate a single jai alai game to be eligible for a poker room. After two years, it could become eligible for a slot machine license in Miami Dade County.

Isadore Havenick, West Flagler owner and vice president, said the company has an option to buy a piece of property in Florida City and, if the division grants the summer jai alai permit as expected, the company plans to build a poker room and jai alai fronton near Homestead there.

As for building a new casino, “we honestly haven’t thought that far in advance,’’ Havenick told the Herald/Times. “Now, it’s a poker room and a jai alai fronton and, hopefully, we’ll be allowed to build that if the division allows us.”

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As Communities Consider Online Gambling, the FBI Warns of Money Laundering, Cheating & Fraud

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the various attempts at legalizing online gambling, both on a state by state level and at the federal level. As debates continue in these various arenas, the FBI wants to be sure the criminal implications are understood by those who consider either gambling online themselves or simply allow its existence in their communities.  An online source carried the PRNewsire release of a Joint Statement of Experts who outline the FBI’s statement:

Joint statement by: Michael K. Fagan, career federal prosecutor and post-911 anti-terrorism coordinator active in investigating and prosecuting illegal offshore online commercial gambling enterprises; Earl L. Grinols, distinguished professor of economics at Baylor University, former senior economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers; Jim Thackston, software engineer with a background in the aerospace, manufacturing and energy industries; John Kindt, Professor of Business and Legal Policy,University of Illinois, Senior Editor, U.S. International Gaming Report.

The FBI recently wrote Congress for the second time expressing the Agency’s concern that online gambling – including Internet poker – is vulnerable to money laundering and cheating and is a vehicle to bribe public officials and others. Online players can disguise both their location and identity and thereby fleece unsuspecting innocent participants. In its September, 2013 letter, the FBI stated “Transnational organized crime (TOC) groups might exploit legal online gambling to generate revenue, steal personally identifiable information (PII), and engage in public corruption.” The FBI’s correspondence confirms what we have known for several years that, despite the gambling industry’s claims to the contrary, there exists effective and non-detectable methods which can be used to anonymize a player’s identity and geo-location in order to corrupt a game and these threats will become more prevalent as more states race to embrace online gambling. As the FBI confirmed, “Individuals may use a wide variety of mechanisms to conceal their physical location, or give the appearance of operating in a different jurisdiction ” This statement is easily proven using scientifically verifiable and undetectable methods to demonstrate how a person located in Pakistan can play poker on a system located inside New Jersey. We know because we have done it. Despite what the poker websites and online gaming activists claim, this science is irrefutable and has been peer reviewed by top computer experts and law enforcement.

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Federal Online Poker Bill Introduced

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts to legalize online gambling.  Most recently, Rep Peter King introduced a bill to allow a broad range of online gambling.  Other legislators such as Sen. Harry Reid commented that the bill would not likely move through the process and that it undermined poker only efforts.  Now, it appears that a poker only bill is being introduced.  The Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

A Texas congressman and longtime Internet poker advocate introduced legislation Thursday that would allow states and Indian tribes to legalize the activity without fear of federal intervention.

The bill, titled the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013, marks the second time Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, has tried to push federal Internet poker legislation through Congress. His 2012 attempt stalled.

In interviews after King’s bill surfaced, Barton said his belief was that a poker-only bill had a better chance of passing Congress, rather than full-blown casino wagering.

Barton’s bill would set up a federal system for regulating only online poker. Individual states could opt out of the system, if they wish.

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Zynga to Expand Real Gambling Options in the UK along side Facebook: Sights set on the US

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing partnership of Facebook and Zynga to introduce real money gambling into the social media arena.   Facebook has already started allowing real money gambling and will soon introduce sports betting.  The Daily Mail reports:

Facebook will offer real money betting on horse racing and football matches in a major expansion of its gambling operations. The social networking site was criticised last year for launching a range of Las Vegas-style casino games with the promise of jackpots worth tens of thousands of pounds.

It already offers virtual slot machines for children as young as 13 – with real money games advertised as soon as users hit their 18th birthday.

Now it will begin offering sports betting under a lucrative deal with online bookmaker Paddy Power, which was announced last night. The game, called Paddy Power In-Play!, will be rolled out in the coming days. It will only be available in the UK, where gaming laws are more relaxed than in the US.

 Zanga is also a part of Facebook’s gambling strategy, but Facebook appears to be far more important to Zynga’s success. As explained by The Week, Zanga has started offering real money gambling games and their operation will soon be available on Facebook:

At a World Gaming Executive Summit in Barcelona, Facebook’s Sean Ryan is showcasing two new Zynga games, ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino, according to VentureBeat‘s Dean Takahashi. Zynga “says that social gaming remains its heart and soul,” Takahashi says, “but the gambling games are a logical extension for fans who want to bet real money and win it in social games.”

The first step is conquering Britain, where online gambling is legal and regulated. In April, Zynga released online and downloadable versions of its two real-money games in the U.K., in partnership with established British poker company Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment. Facebook and mobile versions are coming soon.

The Facebook component is key to Zynga’s strategy. Zynga and its investors believe, with some justification, that “the real-money Facebook games could be a game changer, luring in the general U.K. population that has known Zynga for years as a social gaming pioneer,” says Jennifer Booton at Fox Business

 So how will this affect the American Market?  Right now Britain is viewed as a test market to work out any issues and with the current US legislation landscape shifting to States allowing online gambling, Facebook and Zynga could be worth billions in the future.  The Week continues:

Britain is “the ideal test-case for Zynga, with it’s concentration of seasoned online gamblers contributing to a £2.3 billion ($3.4 billion) industry for the country,” says Lauren Hockenson at GigaOm. But the company’s “sights are no doubt set on the United States, which, despite its currently restrictive gambling laws, could be worth $9.3 billion by 2020.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is pushing for legislation to drop all federal regulation of online gambling, leaving it up to individual states to decide what to allow. Nevada and New Jersey — home to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, respectively — have recently legalized the practice. (Nevadans can already play online real-money poker against other Nevadans, and New Jersey and Delaware are setting up their online gambling systems.)

It won’t be a slam dunk getting a chunk of the Jersey or Nevada markets — Zynga needs to partner with a casino in Atlantic City, and only two of the 10 are still up for grabs, says VentureBeat‘s Jeffrey Grubb. But as signs point toward more online gambling in the U.S., Zynga has put itself in a prime position to profit. It has an established brand plus loads of customer data to work with, and Facebook is a great platform for minting new online gamblers.

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Rep. Peter King Introduces Online Gambling Bill; Sen. Harry Reid Objects

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the many attempts to pass federal online gambling legislation.  Most attempts have centered around online poker and Sen. Harry Reid has led the way.  Casino Watch Focus reported that this year’s attempt would not come from Sen. Harry Reid, but rather Rep. Peter King.  His bill has now been introduced, but goes beyond legalizing online poker.  An online political source explains:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would legalize online gambling.

The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013 would establish a federal regulatory regime for online gaming.

King’s bill comes after a 2011 Justice Department ruling that the Wire Act only banned online betting on sports, a decision that led many states to move forward with legalizing Internet gambling.

State officials and lotteries have resisted legislation that could hinder states’ authority over gambling. A similar “opt-out” measure was included in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) online poker bill last year but did not win over critics from state governments.

Sen. Harry Reid does not support this legislation.  He is working with Sen. Dean Heller on yet another online poker bill and believes King’s bill will not get any traction as it undermines his and other pro online poker advocates.  An online source reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid believes that a bill proposed by New York Congressman Peter King to legalize online gambling at the federal level undermines the efforts of Web poker advocates.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, Reid says that King’s bill would authorize just about everything with little oversight.

“(It) basically authorizes everything – 21, poker, everything,” Reid said.

“I felt for several months now that I don’t see any movement on this,” Reid said. “I don’t see anything happening.”

Other online poker bills are expected to be filed at the federal level this year.  Stay tuned to Casino Watch Focus for updates and for more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION.