New Jersey Steps Back; California Steps Up; Obama Likes Online Poker

New Jersey Internet Poker Legislation In Limbo

By Earl Burton
Earl writes for the excellent publication www.pokernewsdaily.com

According to a report in a prominent Pennsylvania newspaper, the legislation that would open up the state of New Jersey for internet gaming and poker is now in limbo, apparently due to the politics of the 2012 Presidential election.

In an extensive article, Philadelphia Inquirer writer Suzette Parmley reports that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appears to be backing off his previous statements that he would sign legislation that would open up the Garden State for online poker, other casino gaming and perhaps even sports betting. Quoting the sponsor of the bill in the New Jersey legislature, Parmley states that “with his political stock rising,” Gov. Christie is apparently unwilling to take a political step that may derail his ambitions.

New Jersey Senator Ray Lesniak, who is the sponsor of the proposed internet gaming legislation, is quoted by Parmley after a meeting with Gov. Christie’s staff as saying, “Christie is putting the future of Atlantic City in jeopardy because of his overriding concern for support” from several areas of not only the “brick and mortar” casino industry but also the National Football League.

According to Lesniak, a meeting on April 27 that was thought to be simply to discuss minor changes to the bill became a roadblock. “We were told,” Parmley quotes Lesniak as saying, “that the Atlantic City casinos have not made the case that internet gaming is good for them. Senator (James) Whelan (a fellow New Jersey senator behind the gaming bill) and I were stunned.” Whelan backs up Lesniak’s recounting of the short meeting, saying to Parmley, “I got mixed signals (from the Governor’s office).”

Lesniak cited three persons or organizations in particular in Parmley’s article that could be causing the slowdown: Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chief Executive Officer who was the major financier of the now-defunct presidential campaign of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; Caesars Entertainment, which owns casino properties in Atlantic City; and Woody Johnson, the owner of the NFL’s New York Jets. Parmley also states that it is the potential future for Gov. Christie in the political realm that could be causing the internet gaming question to fall into limbo.

Gov. Christie has been one of the names that have been floated by politicos as a potential vice presidential nominee, on the ticket with presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. As such, it is alleged that Gov. Christie doesn’t want to take a controversial stand by passing internet gaming legislation that could potentially offend such key supporters in a presidential run. If Gov. Christie wasn’t the nominee for vice president, it is also possible that he could take a key position in a presumed Romney cabinet.

Mr. Adelson has consistently held an anti-online gambling stance, even though the Las Vegas Sands Corp. continues to put up casino properties around the world. Parmley points out recent comments by Adelson to the Las Vegas Sun, where Adelson said that “you don’t want a casino in every home” and added that the land-based casino industry would see a 10-20% decrease in action if internet gaming was introduced.
The Caesars Entertainment opposition is a bit more difficult to figure out. A proponent of the intrastate system in Nevada (which looks to be on track for a late-2012 start), the signals are murky as to why Caesars wouldn’t support such activity in New Jersey. Mr. Johnson’s anti-gaming stance is easy to determine, as the NFL has a long-standing policy against internet gaming, especially online sports betting.

Last summer, Gov. Christie vetoed an internet gaming and poker bill, saying at the time that he didn’t believe that the industry’s servers could be concentrated in Atlantic City, which he deemed important. After the U. S. Department of Justice issued their December 2011 decision that the Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting, Gov. Christie seemed to change his stance, saying in January, “I think New Jersey should be in that business (of online gaming).” Since that time, as Christie’s political stock has risen, the legislative action has ground to a halt.

The Lesniak bill passed through the Senate last month and it was though that a quick vote – and signature into law by Gov. Christie – would be an afterthought. Instead, the Senate has yet to take a floor vote on the issue and the Assembly has yet to even put comparable legislation into committee, basically derailing the issue at this time.

The allegations by Lesniak are dismissed by the Governor’s office. Asked by Parmley for a comment on the online gaming question, Gov. Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak stated, “Democrats criticize us for everything (Lesniak and Whelan are Democratic senators), so what else is new? I don’t feel the need to weigh in (on the subject) at this moment.”

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US Regulation

California offered piece of the action from Internet poker

By Patrick McGreevy – latimes.com
As state leaders sweat over another possible round of cuts from schools and social services, casino operators are offering officials a cut of the action if they will legalize Internet poker in California.
After two years of hearings and study, the proponents — who are also generous political contributors — say the stars may finally be aligning for them. The California Senate leader this year is co-sponsoring legislation that he hopes will put hundreds of millions of dollars into the state treasury.

Further improving the operators’ odds, the Obama administration said in December that federal law does not prevent states from allowing some forms of Internet gambling.

“It gives California lawmakers a green light,” said Whittier Law School professor I. Nelson Rose, an expert on the gambling industry.

The opinion by the U.S. Department of Justice has given impetus to states scrambling for a share of online poker wagers. Experts estimate that such bets add up to more than $40 billion annually in the U.S. — all on sites run by overseas companies not regulated or taxed by the states.

Bills to legalize online poker have been introduced in Iowa, New Jersey, Hawaii, Mississippi and Florida. Nevada passed legislation to allow Internet poker as soon as it can get specific federal permission.
“We’re seeing a momentum building,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, a national gamblers group.

The gambling industry sees California as the big prize in web-based wagering. An estimated 2 million state residents play Internet poker, according to the California Online Poker Assn., a coalition of 46 casino operators that is leading the charge for legalization.

“Today, the state of California is the leading Internet gaming market in the world,” said Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), coauthor of the legalization bill, during a USC conference on gambling in March. “The only thing is, we make no money and we have no [consumer] protections for our citizens who play.”

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said their joint proposal aims to raise at least $200 million for the budget year that begins in July. Legalization “is worthwhile only if it’s a means to generate significant revenue for the state,” Steinberg said.

In the last year, casino operators have poured $1.36 million into the Democratic State Central Committee of California, which Steinberg will rely on for his campaign to increase his party’s control of the Legislature in this year’s elections.

In the two years since Wright first proposed legalization, the six largest operators in the online poker association have spent $7.7 million on political contributions, gifts to officials and lobbying in Sacramento. The group includes Hollywood Park Casino, in Wright’s district. Fifteen Indian tribes that own casinos, including the Morongo and San Manuel bands of Mission Indians, are also members.
Ryan Hightower, a spokesman for the online poker group, declined to comment on its contributions.

Wright, chairman of the Senate committee that oversees gambling, has received 85 contributions totaling $170,000 from gambling interests since he ran for election in 2008. Those included money from a fundraiser hosted by Leo Chu, owner of Hollywood Park Casino.

In addition, four casinos that founded the online poker association have anted up $11,500 for a legal defense fund for Wright in his ongoing battle against criminal charges of voter fraud and perjury. Los Angeles County prosecutors allege that Wright registered and voted using the address of an Inglewood property he owned but actually lived outside the district that elected him.

Wright and other members of his committee received $5,000 in gifts from gambling interests last year, including lodging at the Barona Luxury Casino Hotel in San Diego, tickets to a Tower of Power concert at the Chukchansi Casino near Yosemite, rounds of golf at the Rolling Hills Casino in Tehama County and VIP entry to the Del Mar horse-racing track.

Casino interests have also contributed to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not taken a position on the Steinberg-Wright bill.

Nevada casino operator Caesars Entertainment Operating Company Inc., Kentucky Derby host Churchill Downs and the U.S. subsidiary of the British firm Betfair all have lobbyists working the Capitol in the legalization effort.

The measure, SB 1463, would allow nearly 150 card clubs, Indian casinos and horse-racing tracks that operate in California to apply for 10-year licenses to run gambling websites open only to state residents. The businesses would each have to put up a $30-million advance for any poker website they were awarded. After two years, the state could legalize other games, such as pai gow and 21, for Internet wagering.
Wright and Steinberg are now considering changes that the poker association has demanded as a condition for supporting the bill, including stronger barriers to out-of-state gambling interests. The group’s Indian casinos, as well as the 33-tribe California Nations Indian Gaming Assn., are insisting that the bill be limited to poker.

A separate small group of tribes is lobbying to kill the legislation, saying it would violate their exclusive right to operate certain electronic games and take customers away from their brick-and-mortar casinos. Wright is not proposing that Internet slot machines be legalized.

“This is … a harsh slap in the face to California Indian tribes,” said Leslie Lohse, chairwoman of the California Tribal Business Alliance, which consists of three tribes with casinos.

Lohse’s group has donated $278,000 to Brown’s effort to qualify a tax hike for the November ballot. A tax increase that closes the budget gap could reduce the need for Internet gambling proceeds.
This is a reprint from latimes.com
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Greenstein: Obama Privately Supports Online Poker
Hall of Famer Makes Connection Between Gay Marriage and Poker

by Brian Pempus  
Article courtesy of www.cardplayer.com
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he supports same-sex marriage in the United States. While the event was historic for the gay community, it has stirred up some conversation about other issues.
Early Thursday, poker professional and Hall of Famer Barry Greenstein took to Twitter to connect President Obama’s announcement to the plight of ostracized poker players.
He said that the nation’s top politician supports efforts to legalize web card playing, but just won’t admit it.

In April 2011, the Department of Justice indicted the three major offshore poker sites (Greenstein represents PokerStars) in a sweeping raid that closed out the game to many Americans.

The three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner also compared the two issues:

However, the “equivalency” of Greenstein’s initial position was questioned by gaming attorney Stuart Hoegner.

“My problem is with the implication that the two rights are somehow equivalent,” Hoegner said. “I support both rights, but they aren’t the same, nor are they equivalent. One is a fundamental issue of civil rights and human dignity.”

“Online poker is an economic right and a personal freedom that, while important, does not and should not be accorded the same level of urgency as a state law discriminating on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation. I like to play Internet poker and I think I should be allowed to play online, but I would never say that my right to attend an online cardroom is as imperative as someone’s right to state recognition of and respect for one of their closest and most intimate relationships. They clearly aren’t rights worthy of the same deference and protection.”

“Barry is an exceedingly smart guy, an incredible poker player, and a passionate advocate for the game. I’m certain that his comment was very much an off-the-cuff remark that he hadn’t fully thought through and that he didn’t mean as it came across.”

Efforts to legalize online gaming nationwide have, so far, failed to gain any real traction in Congress. Some states are pursuing the activity, thanks in part to the Department of Justice adjusting its stance on intrastate web gaming late last year.

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