A South Carolina Senate committee voted 15-6 in favor of legalizing home card and dice games, so long as the operator does not take a share of the winnings. (Query whether the operator may charge admission, in effect, legalizing cardrooms. I’m trying to find the current wording of the proposed legislation to see if this loophole was closed.) The full Senate must approve the bill before it can become law. When the Senate will hear the matter has yet to be determined.
Archive for January, 2011
Washington has one of the strictest online poker statutes in the nation. It’s a class C FELONY to play online poker in Washington. A felony! So, a while back, FTP and PS made the prudent business decisions to suspend their sites in that state. Recently, two more poker sites — VIP Sports and Matchbook.com — made the same decision. Frankly, the only shocking part of this story is that sites still operated in Washington after the state’s high Court upheld the law. If you are one of the “unlucky” people that still had money deposited in either of those sites and reside in Washington, you have no one to blame but yourself. Though part of me does feel your pain.
South Carolina and Virginia are two of the too many states that still criminalize the home poker game. (Though, really, how worried are you that a Statie is going to break down a Charleston door and arrest grandpa?) Legislation was on the tables that would have pushed the needles in each state toward legalization. (Virginia’s would have gone as far as to declare poker a game of skill.) Sadly, both states quashed the attempts indefinitely. Back to square one.
In a blow to home game/underground club poker hopefuls in Switzerland, the nation’s Supreme Court ruled that poker is a game predominantly governed by chance, not skill. As such, it deemed poker for profit (including tournaments illegal). The Court did permit the small social game among family and friends. Underlying the Court’s ruling, which the Court acknowledged, is a concern for the effects of problem gamblers. Interestingly, also underlying the Court’s decision, though this was not acknowledged, is that the country reaps significant revenue from legal casinos that likely oppose legalization of club-type poker games. Got to love conflicts of interest. While the ruling has no binding effect on U.S. law, any ruling that poker is a game of luck is bad. And certainly will be cited by poker opponents as indications of what others think on the issue.
The New Jersey state assembly has passed a bill that would make online poker (and other casino gambling, though not sports gambling) legal if played by NJ residents on licensed sites. The measure already passed in the state Senate. The final hurdle before it becomes law is the receipt of Governor Christie’s signature. Observers predict — though this is a bit like reading tea leaves — that he will sign the bill given that to date he has not voiced his opposition to it (Gov. Christie is not one to mince words after all) and that NJ is severely strapped for cash. However, and this is pure speculation on my part, given Gov. Christie’s rumored interest in running for national office (read: the Presidency) on the historically conservative Republican ticket, he may not want to align himself with gamblers. My hunch is it passes. We should know more within 45 days. That’s the deadline by which he must veto the bill or it becomes law.
There are few interesting points about the legislation and its potential implementation. The law specifies that “all equipment used by a licensee to conduct Internet wagering…shall be located…within the territorial limits of Atlantic City.” It further specifies that “[a]ll Internet wagers shall be deemed to be placed when received in Atlantic City by the licensee.” In other words, AC now is the hub for the NJ Internet gambling scene. Could mean hundreds if not thousands of jobs and an influx of money into the depressed area. Running Internet sites is costly and demands many people — servers, tech support, customer support (stop laughing), and so forth. Exactly what Gov. Christie probably wants to revitalize AC now that the state has taken control of AC’s restoration — so yet another reason why he may sign the bill.
How this affects the current mega-sites (FTP, PS, etc.) is unclear, however. Allow me to offer few possibilities. The legislation could result in the sites pulling out of New Jersey like they did in Washington, fearful of legal repercussions. Then again they could keep operating in New Jersey and take their chances that NJ (which, unlike Washington, does not expressly criminalize online poker) will not enforce its turf and sue/arrest them claiming that the intrastate law means interstate poker sites are de facto illegal. Or, and all poker-playing NJ residents hope, the two sides create a mutually beneficial situation (the orange juice and orange peel example from college negotiations classes). For example, NJ could hire FTP or PS (or, more likely, a separate newly formed company) to be the intrastate operator and use the mega-site’s already developed software (with some tweaks of course). The state wins by quickly getting a world class site with robust software (read: immediate revenue) and the sites win by operating in a jurisdiction that otherwise may be closed to them. Bottom line is it’s too early to tell how this will play out, but it need not play out poorly for poker players.
Wyoming finally is primed to join the long list of states that have taken the morally controversial position of permitting friendly social poker games. (Yes, that was dripping with sarcasm.) In all seriousness, I applaud whenever any state does not make it a crime for senior citizens to play penny ante poker. So here’s to hoping the Wyoming legislation passes.
Given Washington’s strict anti-online poker law and recent Supreme Court ruling upholding it, it was only a matter of time before the hammer started to fall. Well, it’s fallen. Forbes reports that approximately $8 million has been seized by the federal government in an effort to curb poker-related payment processors. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict this is not the end of enforcement measures in Washington.