Neteller to Return? ; Keep It Simple; Betting on the New Pope

netellerNeteller Eyes Return to U.S. Market

By Dan Katz

Neteller, the e-wallet of choice for Americans during the online poker boom, is looking to make a return to the States. Six years after the payment processor exited the U.S. market after running afoul of the Department of Justice, it sees online gaming legislation at the state level as a way back in.

When online poker was alive and well in the United States in the early-to-mid 2000’s, Neteller was hands-down the most popular way for poker players to move funds in and out of their poker accounts. It was extraordinarily easy. Players signed up for a secure Neteller account and linked it to a bank account. Funds would be added to the Neteller account from said bank account and held there until they were needed for deposit into a poker account. Fund transfers to poker rooms were instant, allowing players to take advantage of promotions like reloads as soon as they launched. Withdrawals from poker rooms sometimes took a few days, but they were often quick. Money sitting in a Neteller account could then be filtered back to the bank account at any time.

Players could also transfer money to each other via Neteller. The whole process was fast and simple and every poker room accepted it.

Unfortunately, while some poker rooms continued to serve U.S. customers after the UIGEA passed in 2006, Neteller was quickly targeted by the U.S. government. In 2007, its two Canadian founders were arrested and player funds were frozen. In July of that year, the company came to an agreement with the government and funds were released to customers, but Neteller officially left the U.S. market.

Now, Neteller’s parent company, Optimal Payments, is eyeing a return. Joel Leonoff, president and CEO of Optimal Payments, told The Financial Times that its previous mess with the DoJ should not be too big of a deal, saying, “There are different levels of compliance required for suppliers versus merchants [operators]. Merchants have a much more onerous regulatory requirement to adhere to.”

Optimal Payments has already partnered with Caesars Interactive Entertainment, so it is position to get into the online poker market in Nevada, as well as Delaware and New Jersey. It is talking with other brick-and-mortar gaming companies, as well.

While most expect some sites to go live in at least Nevada this year, Leonoff is already looking ahead to 2014 as the year when things will really take off. “We think 10 states will offer entry to gaming,” he said, adding that he thinks California is next.

Of course, legalization of online poker on the federal level would be the best possible outcome for poker players; Leonoff sees it as a possibility, calling it “the holy grail for gaming.”

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keep in simpleWhen looking for smart gaming, best bet: Keep it simple

by Marc Meltzer

When looking for smart gaming there’s one phrase or acronym to live by – K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The games we play in the casino are set up to make money for the casino but they’re also set up to keep us interested in playing. There’s a relatively small house advantage set for every game in the casino to keep us interested but there are also side bets or bonus bets that have massive house advantage, which are on the table to titillate and give us visions of grandeur.

Side bets and bonus bets are loaded with a huge house advantage and are rarely worth it, no matter how well they pay. A couple years ago Caesars Entertainment introduced a $5 bonus bet for 3 Card Poker with a $1 million payout. A mil for $5 sounds great, but after doing the math I realized the house edge on that bet was over 15%! The house advantage on 3 Card Poker is already over 5% and this side bet seems like overkill.

Large-house-advantage bonus or side bets aren’t just for games that already have a large house advantage. Some of the games in the casino with the lowest house advantage have bets we should all stay away from.

Part of the fun at the craps table is yelling out your bets. When you play the pass line you don’t necessarily get to do that. Just playing the pass line or come bets with maximum odds won’t get you to yell until you win but you will be playing with a house advantage under 1% (all casinos have different odds that change house advantage but playing 1x odds will keep the house advantage on pass/come bets under 1%).

If you like yelling for a hard 6 or 8 you’ll be playing a bet that has a house advantage over 9%. Yell for a hard 4 or 10 and the casino will have a house advantage over 11% on your bet. Sure, these bets pay out 8 and 10 to 1, respectively, but the casino has a much greater advantage on these bets than when you just play the pass line. For the long term sake of keeping your money it’s probably best to keep your money on the pass line.

Another game with a minuscule house advantage is baccarat. When you play the banker or player the casino only has a house advantage just over 1% (1.06% on banker, 1.24% on player). These are the smart bets most baccarat players will make. They’re simple and may be seen as boring bets since they only pay even money. If you’re looking for a big payout on a single bet at baccarat you can play for a tie and get paid 9-1. Playing the tie may offer a fun payout but the house advantage is a whopping 14.36%.

Large payouts for small bets are fun but there’s always a catch with these bets. Casinos may grind out a small profit from every game but they look to side bets and bonus bets to make their big scores. Avoid side bets with a large house advantage and keep your gaming simple.

Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at

new popePope Vote Created a Great Betting Frenzy
by Hartley Henderson

When white smoke finally rose from the Vatican, many people around me were ecstatic. They really didn’t care who was made the head of the Catholic Church on a philosophical level, they simply wanted to cash a bet. 6 people in the room had over $1,000 in wagers on the pope including Marc Ouellet at 8/1, Pedro Scherer at the same odds, Sean O’Malley at 25/1, Joao Braz de Aviz and Timothy Dolan and 66/1 and one brave soul went for a 250/1 outsider. As the bells rang and the camera panned to close ups of the curtained room, everyone in the room was trying to see if there was any sign of who the pope was, thinking they could still get down that last second bet. No one in the room really seemed to care about the blessings that were being iterated or about the history of the papacy which ABC and CNN were espousing, but the tension itself was exciting nonetheless, particularly since it seemed that the announcement was really being dragged out.

“This is better than a Super Bowl game tied with less than 2 minutes to play,” a colleague said to me, “and it’s definitely more exciting than the Academy Awards.”

Then when the Cardinal Protodeacon finally announced in Italian that Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio was the new pope, the room completely broke out into a series of groans and expletives. Actually it wasn’t at the time of the announcement that the words were uttered, since no one understood a word of what the cardinal was saying, but rather when the new Pope’s name was flashed on the screen. It was as if the home team threw an interception in the dying minutes of the game while driving for a score. “Oh well better luck next time,” one of my colleagues said as he turned off his live stream of CNN and went back to work.

Sportsbooks throughout the world wrote over $2 million in “pope bets,” including Paddy Power which wrote about $750,000 in bets, Betfair which had over $500,000 in bets and William Hill which was over $100,000. Unfortunately for those books it appears that there was some last minute inside information since the odds on Bergoglio fell from 50/1 to 25/1 in a day likely eating into most of their profits.

While many who heard about the betting likely thought that the activity was restricted to a bunch of degenerates, the truth is that the Vatican was aware of the betting as well. As many probably heard this year the Vatican put in descramblers at the conclave to disable cell phones and PDA devices and one of the reasons, according to some websites was as a result of the betting. While the papal candidates themselves may not have placed a bet (although a dime at 50/1 would certainly help a struggling parish), there were concerns that others in the room were prepared to send text messages or make phone calls to friends who could use the information anyway they wanted, including getting a bet down. Apparently it happened in the election of Pope Benedict which was a reason for the choice to descramble signals at the Vatican.

“The popes vowed to secrecy,” a priest told a reporter on the web, “but others in the room wouldn’t have had the same requirements.” And without outright saying it the priest hinted that in the last papal election insiders were relaying the information by various methods to friends who used the online sportsbooks to win a papal wager. Benedict was always the favorite in the last election but his odds drifted to 5/1 before settling at 3/2 odds just before the announcement – a clear indication of insider betting.

This probably shouldn’t be too surprising though. Betting after all is human nature. It’s existed forever and is seen as a noble way of settling disputes. In the Old Testament, lots are cast to decide issues on 70 occasions and they are cast 5 times in the New Testament. And on only one occasion, John 19, where the Roman soldiers cast lots, was gambling seen as negative. And really it’s only the new evangelical churches that are so strongly opposed to gambling. Of course most of the evangelical preachers are also opposed to drinking, smoking, partying, dancing etc. In the Catholic Church, on the other hand, gambling is accepted and many churches exist as a result of bingo nights and raffle tickets. In fact it’s probably a safe assumption that around 250,000 years ago some caveman wagered 2 rocks with another caveman that he could spear the mastodon faster than the other caveman could.

It’s that reason that I and so many others in the gambling industry get upset when politicians spew nonsense about the dangers of gambling and suggest that they are trying to ban gambling expansion for our own good. The truth is that Catholics gamble, Jews gamble, Muslims gamble, Hindus gamble, and Atheists gamble and yes even some Protestants gamble. And there’s nothing anyone can or should do about it. In the Western world we live in a democracy and as part of that freedom we can spend our income as we like including betting on awards shows, the presidency and even the pope. And for those who profited from the insider information and got their bets down on Pope Francis, God Bless them and well done. While they probably enjoyed a huge steak dinner to celebrate their winnings on Friday, my colleagues and I had macaroni and cheese. But that’s what gambling is all about – you win some and you lose some but there’s nothing more enjoyable than at least having a chance.


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