Marijuana, Poker and the Law ; Fantasy Sports and the Law ; UFC Backs Gambling Expansion in US

poker marijuana

Differences between Marijuana and Online Poker Laws in Washington Called “Hypocrisy”
By Earl Burton
After having one of the most restrictive online gaming and poker laws in the United States on the books for years, commentary has suddenly exploded as several figures try to make a change in said law.

According to writer Josh Kerns, Seattle radio station KIRO-FM host Dori Monson called out the Washington state government on the issue recently on his radio program. “You can smoke pot legally in Washington now, but you can’t play poker online,” Monson stated. “That is the ultimate hypocrisy.”

“It’s insane,” Monson continued. “You’ve got the state government telling us they have to raise our taxes, they need more of our money. Yet, because we have certain politicians who got bought and paid for by other gambling interest who wanted to protect their monopoly, suddenly I’m a felon if I want to play (for) free, or for five, ten, 25 cents a hand Texas Hold’em (online) in our state.”

Kerns reports that a singular individual is looking to change the laws in the state of Washington. A guest of Monson on his radio program, Curtis Woodard, was on the air to discuss the Washington Internet Poker Initiative, an organization he founded that would assist voters in changing their opinions on the subject. The group would also look to lobby politicians to repeal the draconian law that bans online poker in the state of Washington.

Woodward has proposed that, instead of banning online poker, the state should instead embrace the industry as it looks for revenues. According to Woodard and Kerns, a two-tiered system would be established that would allow for the Washington Indian tribes and licensed card rooms to offer full online casino gaming while larger sites – PokerStars is pointed out by Kerns here – would operate online poker rooms within the state. Those that decide to take part in the plan would pay what Woodard calls “a significant fee” that would cover the costs of regulation.

“This solution should please everyone,” Woodard noted. “It can and should serve as a model for other states to follow (because) it opens the door for easy interstate cooperation and the ability to share player liquidity on common platforms across state lines”

Monson, using his microphone as a bludgeon, was a bit more heated on the subject than even Woodard could have been. In finishing off his program, Monson stated, “For the legislature to make felons out of their citizens in exchange for campaign cash…it’s one of the sleaziest bits of politics that you’ll ever see.”

For some newcomers to the poker community, it may surprise them how long the Washington laws have been in effect. Passed by the Washington Legislature in 2006, the law made playing online poker in the state a Class C felony, roughly the equivalent in the state to being a child molester. The bill was sponsored by then-State Senator Margarita Prentice (after redistricting in the state of Washington, Prentice chose to retire in 2013) who, when questioned in 2010 about why the bill was being implemented and who it would affect, told poker players that they should “go pump gas” instead of playing poker online.

Although it would take a few years before the law was fully implemented (the Washington Supreme Court upheld it in 2010), the effect was almost immediate following its passage in 2006. PartyPoker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker immediately withdrew from the market (this was prior to the enacting of the UIGEA) and even online subscription poker sites haven’t touched the Washington market. The law goes as far as to even prevent legal fantasy sports sites, such as, from offering their products in the state. It must be noted that, although the law has been on the books since 2006, no one has been prosecuted in the state of Washington for violating the law, potentially because the law did not offer financing for law enforcement to be able to enforce it.

Woodward’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed. There is a slowly building movement to repeal the Washington laws as state legislators begin to understand the revenues that could be brought in by the online poker industry. Any fight towards that repeal will take an extreme amount of effort and, unfortunately, quite some time to enact.

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fantasy sports and the law

Updating The Legal Status Of Fantasy Basketball

By: Marc Eldelman –

With the new NBA season tipping off on Tuesday night, several million Americans are expected to their draft fantasy basketball teams this weekend.

The overall environment for fantasy basketball remains friendly, with NBA teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic even now selling advertising space to daily fantasy sports host site FanDuel. Nevertheless, certain formats of “America’s newest national pastime” still carry an elevated legal risk.

Here are four factors that fantasy basketball fans should keep in mind when deciding whether to draft fantasy basketball teams this season.

1. In many cases, playing fantasy basketball for money seems entirely legal under federal law. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 includes an explicit carve-out for fantasy sports games that meet three criteria: (1) the value of the prizes is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of fees paid; (2) all winning outcomes reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants; and (3) the fantasy game’s result is not based on the final scores of any real-world games. Based on this carve-out, many traditional versions of fantasy basketball may comply with these federal regulations.

2. Nevertheless, some states’ regulations are stricter than federal law and thus participants must be more cautious. A limited number of states disallow pay-to-play contests that involve any chance at all. In these states (known as ‘any chance states’), most forms of play-for-cash fantasy basketball would violate the state gambling laws unless they fall under state-specific “social gaming” or “in-house gaming” exceptions. In ‘any chance states,’ it is not advisable to play in online play-for-cash fantasy basketball contests, even if federal law may seem more favorable.

3. It is not always safe to rely on fantasy contests’ lists of prohibited states to determine where play-for-cash fantasy basketball is illegal. Although many fantasy basketball hosts sites prohibit cash-game participants in the highest risk states such as Arizona, Louisiana, and Iowa, there are a number of other states in which play-for-cash fantasy basketball still might be viewed as illegal even though large providers such as CBS CBS +0.6% Sports are willing to take that risk. This season, Kansas is seen as one state where the risk of playing fantasy basketball may be elevated, albeit Kansas has now somewhat backtracked on its claims of illegality. Another state where many fantasy basketball websites operate but the risk seems to be substantially elevated is Tennessee.

4. Certain unique formats of fantasy basketball are more risky under both federal and state law. Even though traditional forms of fantasy basketball are very likely legal in most states, any format of fantasy basketball that strays from the traditional skill-to-chance ratio present greater risk. Although daily fantasy sports websites are gaining mainstream popularity, no court decisions have yet evaluated daily fantasy sports on its merits. In addition, milestone predictions websites such as Scorestreak have never been evaluated under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. While both types of contests might very well be found legal, participants should exercise caution when entering contests of this nature, especially in those states that are more hostile to online gaming.

Marc Edelman is an Associate Professor of Law at the City University of New York’s Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business, where he has published more than 25 law review articles on sports law matters, including “A Short Treatise on Fantasy Sports and the Law.” He also provides legal and business consulting to a fantasy sports businesses. Nothing contained in this article should be construed as legal advice.

This is a reprint from


ufc betting

UFC backs betting expansion in U.S.
By David Purdum |
A second executive of a prominent professional sports league is publicly supporting expanded legalized sports betting in the United States.

UFC Executive Vice President and COO Lawrence Epstein told ESPN on Thursday that, with proper regulation, expanded legalized sports betting in the U.S. would benefit all sports.

“I think it will enhance the game as opposed to doing anything to hurt it,” Epstein said. “Sports wagering done in a way, like Nevada, that is properly regulated will give more confidence to fans that games and fights aren’t fixed.”

Epstein’s sentiments echoed those of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said Wednesday in an interview with Bleacher Report that wide-spread sports betting legalization in the U.S. is inevitable and a highly regulated market would aid the league in making sure the competition is “pure.”

The NBA, along with the NCAA, NFL, NHL and MLB, is currently suing New Jersey to prevent the state’s racetracks and casinos from offering legalized sports betting. In a request for a temporary restraining order, the leagues claimed they would suffer irreparable harm if New Jersey thoroughbred track Monmouth Park would be allowed to accept wagers on their games.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp granted the sports leagues a temporary restraining order in a hearing last week. At the end of last week’s hearing, Shipp was asked by New Jersey counsel if the restraining order applied only to games of the leagues involved in the suit. After initial indecision, Shipp later wrote in his ruling: “The scope of the restraints is NOT limited to the games sponsored by the plaintiffs’ leagues.”

Granting protection from any perceived harm to sports leagues not involved in the suit was an eye-opener for several legal experts, who have been following the case closely.

“How can the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball or hockey claim irreparable harm from bets being made being made on soccer? They can’t,” Daniel Wallach, a gaming and sports law attorney with Becker & Poliakoff, said. “The leagues might win on the merits following summary judgment and a trial, but they can’t get a preliminary injunction to ban New Jersey from taking action on boxing, MMA or soccer.”

Dan Etna, a New Jersey resident and partner in the sports law practice at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said he also found Shipp’s inclusion of all sports leagues in the restraining order unusual.

“I found it interesting that he used such a broad brush in applying equitable relief,” Etna said.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) bans state-sponsored sports betting on all sports, except for jai alai and parimutuel horse and dog racing, in all but four states: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. New Jersey has passed sports betting legislation, the 2014 Sports Wagering Act, which it believes does not violate PASPA.

Dennis Drazin, a New Jersey attorney who operates Monmouth Park, said the track would be interested in offering bets on sports like mixed martial arts, soccer, auto racing, tennis and golf, but wanted to clear it with the court first. Drazin said the issue would be readdressed when the case continues Nov. 20 with oral arguments in front of Shipp in Trenton, New Jersey.

The UFC, which is headquartered in Las Vegas, says it would have no problem with legal bets being placed on its fights in New Jersey.

“To the extent that there’s nothing illegal about taking bets on UFC in the state of New Jersey, we’d be absolutely fine with it,” Epstein said.

The ATP, which holds tennis tournaments in 31 countries, deals with varying international gambling laws.

“We respect the right of local governments to determine legislation in this area as they see fit,” the ATP said in a statement to ESPN.

The PGA Tour declined to comment. NASCAR and MLS did not provide responses, when asked if they’d be OK with New Jersey taking bets on their events.

If Monmouth Park were to get the OK from Shipp to accept bets on sports other than football, basketball, baseball and hockey, the sportsbook would be looking at much smaller revenue. In 2013, Nevada sportsbooks won on $13.7 million combined off of soccer, mixed martial arts, golf, tennis, auto racing and other sports lumped into the “other” category in Nevada Gaming Control revenue reports. In comparison, the sportsbooks won $80.8 million on NFL and college football in 2013.

“Not only would they have lighter handle, but some of those sports are tough to beat,” John Avello, executive director of the Wynn race and sportsbook, said. “You have a lot of big favorites in UFC, and there are always specialists on things like tennis that can really ding you if you’re not careful.”

The U.S. branch of English sportsbook William Hill is signed on to provide sports betting at Monmouth Park and is watching closely.

Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US in Nevada, didn’t want to speculate about the feasibility of running a successful sportsbook without taking bets on major professional and college sports, but is paying close attention to how the case plays out and will be attendance for the Nov. 20 hearing.

“Whatever we do is going to be compliant with the law,” Asher said. “Our view is that legalized sports betting in New Jersey is inevitable, and it’s a matter of when, not if. But there’s obviously more court hearings to be had before any bets can be taken at Monmouth Park.”

The temporary restraining order preventing Monmouth Park from opening it sports book expires Nov. 21.

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