Illinois Looks Toward Online Poker Legislation

February 27, 2014

With at least 10 states looking towards online gambling legalization to fill in tax revenue gaps, the race is on for the fourth state to pass regulations and take online wagers from resident gamblers. Following in the footsteps of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, Illinois may soon be added to the list of states that have legalized online gambling in one form or another, whether it be Internet poker or Internet casino regulations.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D) of Chicago says that he is hopeful there may be an online gambling expansion package in the works that could be forged by the end of the spring legislative session. The potential for fresh funds feeding into state coffers is an enticing offer to Cullerton, who has been pushing the matter among fellow statesmen for almost two years.

Back in 2012, Cullerton urged Governor Pat Quinn and other legislative heads to attach online poker to the bartering and negotiating that goes on at the annual end-of-session.

A Senate committee hearing recently heard the testimony from Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas, who told the committee that regulated online poker would in fact establish more income for the state; however, he warned that players who are already participating in online poker will be subject to tighter regulations than they may be currently accustomed to.

In his testimony, Pappas also warned of the effects of illegalizing the activity: “Prohibition will only play into the hands of the criminal element.”

While Cullerton is hopeful, realistically, he knows that online poker regulation will be a hard sale when it comes to strong opposition from horse track and casino operators.

He told reporters, “There’s a lot of complications about how it affects the existing gaming industry. That seems to be where the hang up might be right now.”

Illinois’s temporary income tax will expire mid-next fiscal year, so Cullerton hopes that online poker could be the answer to bridging the $1.5 billion gap that the temporary tax expiration will leave. He hopes the success stories from other states that are already offering online gambling legally and reaping the benefits will influence legislators when it comes time to the finalize and pass the budget. Industry advocates are estimating the Illinois online poker market to bring in around $200 million annually, based on population and trends in other online-poker-legal states.

Despite the fact that many believe the market is too flooded, with individual states passing intrastate legislature, for now most markets will be limited to the population of each state. However, Delaware and Nevada have just this week signed an interstate agreement that will allow them to share players across state borders. Both states are optimistic that more states will join in the multi-state compact, further expanding the market share.

However, claiming that the online poker market is flooded in a state that doesn’t offer regulated online poker is inaccurate. Studies done of New Jersey specifically show that a large percentage of players who were currently playing at offshore, unregulated sites when online poker became legal within the state made the switch over to the New Jersey-regulated sites and more are expected to follow suit.

Tomorrow is the Last Day to Withdraw Funds from Black Belt Poker

February 27, 2014

“It is with heavy heart that I have to announce that the Black Belt Poker skin will cease to [exist] from midnight this Friday, February 28,” wrote Neil Channing on his forums.

The pro poker player from the UK and co-founder of Black Belt Poker came up with the idea for Black Belt Poker six years ago that he hoped could “lead to a shake-up in the UK online poker market.” Since then, he says he has worked tirelessly to develop the site and expand the brand.

On the iPoker Network, Black Belt Poker is centered around the UK online poker community and engages players via forums, blogs, and Neil Channing’s promotional efforts. He became a sponsored pro and pro blogger for the site, representing the site at live events, so his attachment is pretty deep, and it is no doubt one of the hardest things he’s had to do as a poker player.

“Sadly sometimes in life you just have to accept that things are not working and you need to move on. That time has come with Black Belt Poker,” he explained.

Channing also assured players that their money is safe and is being secured by Boyle Poker, the site’s parent skin “in a ring-fenced bank account.”

In order to get any remaining funds from their accounts, players have been advised to log-in by tomorrow, Friday, February 28th, and request a withdrawal. After that, players will have to contact Boyle Poker; however, the process for cashout will take much longer this way.

Player points is another concern with many players. Channing says he is trying to work out a way to transfer existing VIP points to another skin on the network.

“All that remains is for me to thank everyone who invested, who worked hard for us, who were sponsored by us, who participated in poker discussions on our website and particularly those who played on Black Belt Poker,” he said in closing.

Channing is 10th on the UK’s all-time money list and has cashed 27 times in WSOP and WSOPE events, though he has yet to win a bracelet. Perhaps now with the closing of Black Belt, he can focus more on his game and bring home the gold this summer.

Real Gaming will Help Support Nevada/Delaware Traffic

February 26, 2014

When the Nevada gaming market added a third site, South Point-owned Real Gaming, to its online poker market last week, many were skeptical about whether the market share could support a third site.

While many believe the biggest surge in Nevada online poker has come and gone, the question remains whether or not there are enough un-targeted players out there to populate yet another US online poker room with just the populous of Nevada. It was thought that any traffic Real Gaming would get would be at the expense of the state’s other two sites, and Ultimate Poker.

But less than a week later, Nevada and Delaware announced an interstate compact deal that will pool players from both states, potentially increasing revenue, pots, prize pools, and player base. So the doom and gloom surrounding the third Nevada site might not be so valid after all.

However, other parties are still yet interested in tapping into the still shallow market that only encompasses a little less than four million people with the combined populations of both states. 888 Holdings says that it’s been in talks with Nevada regulators for a while, hoping to snag a license and open up shop. Rumored skins to appear on the network include Wynn-owned Treasure Island and a Boyd/MGM partnership also seeks representation in Nevada.

Delaware has three sites, all operated by 888 Holdings, each of which is partnered with one of the three racetrack casinos located in the state.

Overall traffic for Nevada online poker have plateaud and are in line with last year’s spring and summer market numbers, which at the time Ultimate Poker supported by itself.

It’s unknown just how much revenue Nevada has brought in each month, but estimates range between $200K and $750K per month. Actual revenue will be broken out in March with the release of February’s revenue reporting, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The Delaware Lottery reports that Delaware brought in around $111K in November, $140K in December, and $145K in January, numbers that are also seeming to level out.

Two Online Poker Introduced in California

February 24, 2014

California online poker may see the light of day this year. Two bills were introduced to the state’s legislature last week: Assembly Bill 2291 and Senate Bill 1366, sponsored by Representative Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Senator Lou Correa, respectively.

The first bill, SB 1366, is similar to a prior bill, but both new bills represent interests from two different tribal parties in California, and each bill was submitted to a different house of the legislature, both leading to legal online poker by the end of this year. The proposals are strictly for online poker, as lawmakers have made it clear that poker is considered a game of skill.

SB 1366 represents the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and will ban any sites that allowed US bets post-UIGEA, but it allows for interstate arrangements. AB 2291 represents eight different tribes within the state and requires license fees to be paid to the tune of $5 million each, allowing for 10 years activation and non-transferable allowances. This bill will not allow interstate agreements and should any federal legislation be passed in the future, this bill forbids any involvement in such legislation.

With a population of 38 million people, intrastate alliances are not a priority.

California houses the most powerful tribal gaming industry at nearly $7 billion, so it only seems right to right these bills in the interests of the tribes. Legislation currently calls for potential license holders to have had prior California gambling experience. They can forge partnerships with outside companies, but at least one party must have previous California-based gambling experience.

Chris Krafcik of GamblingCompliance says, “If the state’s fractious but politically powerful Native American gaming industry can agree to a consensus Internet poker bill, tribal lobbyists expect that it will move quickly.” August 31st is the deadline to pass the bill.

Another issue may lie in the fact that one of the biggest California online poker supporters, Senator White, was recently convicted of fraudulent voting. He was perhaps the cause’s biggest ally with the most knowledge of the California online poker bills.

Krafcik said, “In Sacramento, Senator Wright was considered the most educated lawmaker on Internet poker issues. Some in the Legislature feel that without a politico as knowledgeable as Wright advocating on behalf of the state, whatever Internet poker bill eventually passes could lean too heavily in favor of its Native American gaming industry.”

Recent Study Shows New Jersey Poker Players Prefer Legal Sites

February 16, 2014

A recent study conducted by Commercial Intelligence research firm polled 505 New Jersey online poker players regarding their preference of regulated or unregulated online poker sites, and the results were encouraging.

The study, which was discussed by CI at the ICE Totally Gaming Exhibition in London, showed that a whopping 35% of current New Jersey online poker players started playing online poker when it was legalized last November. And furthermore, 65% of online poker playes based out of New Jersey who were already playing at unlicensed sites have made a permanent switch to licensed and legal gambling sites. And that’s just the current player base, which is expected to grow overtime, especially with the extensive marketing campaigns licensed sites have and will be introducing. Not only will these promotions attract new players, they will also convert more players to legal sites.

According to Online Poker Report, these results are indicative of two important points. First of all, a large number of would-be online poker players were reluctant to play online poker illegally. Secondly, the large majority of players who were willing to play at unlicensed sites, have crossed over to legal playing options. Thus,the popular consensus by New Jersey online poker players is that they prefer to play legally if possible. This is good news for pro-online poker activists. However, its not a positive for the opposition.

What can be deduced is that an online poker ban at any level is not really going to deter players from participating in real money poker online in the US. It’s obvious there’s a market for online poker in the US. If the US doesn’t provide a safe environment, they are going to play anyway and illegal online poker sites are going to be the only winners.

The data collected by CI signifies that the regulated and legal online gambling sites will ultimately put the unregulated sites out of business, or they will just pull out when they sense the markets are becoming unprofitable, like Merge Gaming Network recently did in New Jersey and Delaware. As enticingly larger player pools at unregulated sites begin to dwindle, even more players will make the switch.

Bellator Joins Forces with Attack Poker

February 13, 2014

Attack Poker has recently announced that they will sign a multi-year partnership with Bellator to kick off the MMA promotional company’s 10th season on Friday, February 28th on Spike TV, live from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. Attack Poker will be the official online gaming partner for Bellator to be featured on Bellator’s live broadcast, as well as via digital ad campaigns.

“The Attack of the Night” will now be featured in each Bellator broadcast. These will showcase the most exciting techniques and finishes from each event, and Attack Poker will be portrayed in the cage with cross bar and bumper pads logo appearances.

Managing Director of Attack Poker’s parent company EMIL Interactive Games, LLC Ronald Doumani says, “Bellator is The Toughest Tournament in Sports, and this partnership will make Attack Poker the toughest, largest, free-to-play poker tournament in the world.” He adds, “Some of MMA’s top fighters and poker’s top players will converge through this partnership, elevating Attack Poker from online play to an action and entertainment lifestyle.”

Bjorn Rebney, Bellator Chairman and CEO, says, “Our partnership with Attack Poker speaks directly to our focus of aligning with innovative industry leaders. Attack Poker’s distinctive and consumer interactive approach to free-to-play poker is what positions them as a leader in the online gaming industry and it’s what made them our top choice to align our brand with. There will be a seamless integration between Bellator and Attack Poker that will be present from the moment we kick off our monumental Season 10 February 28th live on Spike TV.”

Attack Poker is an innovative online poker brand that features multi-player games that utilize cost effective and cross-platform gaming know-how with real-time 2D and 3D gaming. “Team Attack Poker” brings online poker to life with special interactive events that feature poker pros like Luke Schwartz, Eli Elezra, and Billy Baxter. Attack Poker is trademarked by EMIL Interactive Games, LLC, a software development brand with a specialty in marketing and design of online social gaming, casino games, and mobile platforms.

Full Tilt Reimbursement Update from GCG

February 13, 2014

The saga continues for former Full Tilt Poker players who had their accounts seized on Black Friday almost three years ago. The Garden City Group announced some important updates regarding the Full Tilt Poker repayment process that will affect thousands of online poker players.

Players were asked to claim their accounts by visiting by confirming their balances and whether or not they were regular players, affiliates, or pros. Then on January 25th, GCG announced that the Department of Justice had in fact approved around $82 million in Full Tilt Poker payouts that would be make to more than 30,000 players. Now after this first phase has commenced, new information has become available. However, it has been long known that some repayments would be reduced somewhat, specifically those debts collectible via the Treasury Offset Program.

The new details state that players who there has been no change in the list of players who fall into the category of receiving repayments since they were notified on January 29th. Furthermore, players who would like to receive their payment must fill out the form that was attached to the email they received within 30 days. Disputes will be handled by the Treasury Offset Program, not GCG. Only players that have confirmed their unpaid balance received the email. Players with disputes would not have received the email.

The GCG also notified about 8,400 Full Tilt Poker affiliates on January 31st, addressing the controversy surrounding how GCG separated player funds from affiliate funds within the same account. This email advised affiliates with this issue to create a petition and what to do from there with a deadline of March 2nd, for these petitions to be filed. Affiliates who did not receive this notification should contact GCG.

All that being said, Full Tilt Poker pros still do not have a clear answer on whether or not they will be reimbursed. According to the update posted by GCG, they are still under review and will be notified at a later date as to who is and who is not considered eligible to file a petition for remission. They will then have 30 days to file.

New Jersey Online Poker Thriving on Innovation

February 13, 2014

New Jersey has seen an excellent start to its online poker industry, and now more than two months in, analysts are starting to make better long-term predictions on the future of the market, but only time will tell if there will be any decrease in the steady traffic the market has seen over the past month. Now that the initial launch is over, traffic leveled out and remained solid since around the beginning of the year. And the market share has been relatively unwavering, as well. About 41% of the traffic flocks to Party/Borgata, while about 34% heads to, and the All American Poker Network by 888 accommodates the remaining 23% of the market, according to PokerScout data.

At first launch, traffic levels were shockingly high, so there was no real prediction of where the market was going to top out at, but now there’s a better picture of what the market can support.

However, while traffic is secure, there are opportunities for changes in the long-term future. Some aggressive promotion tactics are going into play that may redistribute some of the traffic. As WSOP begins offering satellites and packages to this summer’s WSOP in Las Vegas, more players may be enticed to bet their chips there, while 888 has been offering 80% rackeback since the launch period, but this promo will end at the end of April, and perhaps take a lot of 888’s traffic with it. Furthermore, Ultimate Poker will introduce Two Street Hold ‘em, which is a two-betting-street hand of Texas, and the NO-verlay promotion, which will run through March 9th and refund all buy-ins on tournaments that do not go over their guaranteed prize pool (refunds made in U-Dollars). Essentially, this is quite ingenious because the NO-verlay promotion pretty much guarantees an overlay.

This type of innovative thinking is what is going to drive online poker in New Jersey and globally. The pioneering Rush Poker set forth by Full Tilt, which now there’s an app for, and many online poker brands have added this fast-paced poker game to their repertoire due to the high demand by players. PartyPoker also started thinking outside the box in the New Jersey market, teaming up with the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils sports teams, which seemed to sit well with sports-crazed Jersey poker players.

Poker sites are constantly coming up with new and inventive promotions and ways to play online poker and have been since the days of the digital scavenger hunt that Cake Poker initiated, making a list of poker achievements to check off the list, to PartyPoker’s World Domination in which players have to conquer worldly cities as they played. While innovative promotions don’t always work, once in a while, one comes along that redefines Internet poker, which is essential for the future of the industry.

According to PokerScout, Nevada leveled off after about four weeks, while New Jersey took nine. Furthermore, after Nevada leveled off, the online poker market saw a slow decline of around 20%. Whether or not this will be the case for New Jersey is yet to be known. The operators must now turn their attention towards retaining existing players instead of acquiring new players, where the innovative promotions will come into play.