Nothin' But 'Net: A recap of online poker news for May 2013

April 25, 2013, Chris  

The former CEO of Full Tilt, Ray Bitar, has settled with U.S. federal prosecutors, pleading to two of nine felony charges. He will forfeit about $40 million in assets and won’t have to serve jail time because of his failing heart.

One of the reasons he was able to receive this deal is he’s in dire need of a heart replacement (transplant/artificial heart) within the next 12 months or he might die. His doctors have diagnosed him with Class 4 heart failure and said he has a 50 percent chance of survival over the next six months to a year if he does not receive a new heart or artificial device.

If he had been sentenced to prison, that would have taken him off of the transplant list and essentially been his death warrant.

So between all of the settlements of the Full Tilt principals, Howard Lederer, Rafe Furst, Chris Furgeson and Bitar, millions were forfeited from bank accounts, assets, homes and trust accounts, restrictions on future employment were levied, but no one went to jail.
Millions of online poker players were affected by the actions of these guys and the money has not all been repaid. So the story is still ongoing and the books will not be closed until everyone affected gets repayment of their funds that were frozen back on Black Friday, but it seems we are getting closer. I will have an update next month.

NEW JERSEY: The American Gaming Association, the largest lobbying group representing casinos in America, recently filed a brief with the N.J. Gaming Commission to block the sale of the Atlantic Club Casino to Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars. The Rational Group filed a brief saying the AGA has its own interest at heart and wanted to block the sale for their own reasons. PokerStars has released plans to invest around $20 million in Year 1 and more than $40 million into the N.J. property over the next five years should the plan be approved.

NEVADA: Treasure Island and 888 Holdings were approved in late March. This was the final hurdle to Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s bid to launch the World Series of Poker brand into the online market in Nevada. Caesars said it should have its WSOP brand of online poker running this year.

NEW MEXICO: In a recent proposal being negotiated between the Navajo Tribes and New Mexico, wording has been introduced that would ban any and all forms of online gaming, including online poker, in the state if it is not run by the Navajo Nation. The Navajo tribes are trying to perform a pre-emptive strike to control all online gaming in the state.

The proposal, as it stands, would ban any non-Navajo controlled online gaming in the state, as well as ban any interstate online commerce with the likes of Nevada, New Jersey or Delaware (or any other state that might allow it in the future.) The debate is ongoing and I’ll be following this one closely.

ILLINOIS: As I reported last month, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he’d consider the approval of Internet gaming, given it has certain provisions for the state’s citizens that included strict ethical standards, wording to make sure no loopholes for organized crime involvement, a ban on campaign contributions from casino operators and a dedicated amount of money to go toward education.

The bill was introduced, but now the governor is saying the state’s pension problems would have to be addressed before any Internet gaming bill could be approved. Quinn also said online poker was too new on the market and it needed to be vetted more before being thrown into a bill late in the approval process. So, the people of Illinois still don’t know whether they will be able to play poker online.

WASHINGTON: A 2006 law made playing Internet poker in the state a felony, but citizens are trying to change things. There have been petitions put online for digital signatures in support of two proposals being reviewed by the state.

They are I-582 and I-583. I-582 would require the state to authorize and regulate online operators and would require them to have a physical presence in the state, allowing people 21 and older to play online poker. I-583 is a proposal to remove the language in the current laws that make it felony to play online. Wagers must be between individual players, and no Internet gambling website operator can benefit directly from the outcome.

I-583 would only be enacted if I-582 fails as the passing of I-582 would make I-583 irrelevant. Work on this is being organized by the group WAiPokerNow. It’s goal is to collect 300,000 signatures from registered Washington voters before the end of December. More information can be found at waipokernow.blogspot.ca/.

If one of these doesn’t get put into law in the 2014 legislative session, then there will be an option of taking the proposals to the voting booths to allow the people of the state to have their say on the November 2014 ballot.

FLORIDA: In an effort to restrict the types of devices used in Internet cafés, the proposed Senate Bill 1030 is not specific in its definition of gaming devices. This has some people in the Legislature worried it could have implications on other commercial businesses as well as online gamers and online poker players.

The intent of the bill was to lock down regulations on certain “gaming devices” because of a supposed recent scandal in the state where an apparent $300 million went into the hands of the owners of Allied Veterans of the World instead of the veterans themselves.
The bill quickly got approved by the Legislature and headed to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for signature.

After hearing of the concerns over the bill, Scott agreed to closely examine the wording before signing, and then he signed it.
“I think the House and Senate did the right thing to crack down on illegal gaming, especially in light of the Allied Veterans multi-state conspiracy,” the governor said.

One of the early casualties of this law was ClubWPT.com, which pulled out of Florida as of press time. I’ll keep an eye on this story as it progresses.

— Pacific Northwest Ambassador Philip Dobrikin contributed to this report. Email Joel Gatlin at editor@anteupmagazine.com.