Remembering Minnesota Fats; SEC Warns About Bitcoins; Anti-Internet Gaming Hot Topic; Money Laundering and Sports



minnesota fats
Minnesota Fats was a real showman at the Bicycle Casino

by Robert Turner
Minnesota Fats changed my life. I first fell in love with pool at 15 when a friend invited me to a pool tournament in Tennessee. It looked like something out of a movie.

The pool room had two sides, one where we were watching the tournament and a practice side. We were in the middle of nowhere watching these pool sharks in a tournament betting and gambling when all of a sudden the room exploded with excitement.

Everyone started yelling, “Minnesota Fats is here!” and rushed over to the practice area. Fats was standing there doing what seemed like a stand-up routine talking about gambling, and what came out of his mouth just amazed me. He said things like, “I can’t believe I’m in this dump in Tennessee.” Though he was insulting people, they loved it. He continued his tirade, “I’ve busted kings and queens and sultans all over the world, and now I’m in this dump where no one has change for a $20. Does anybody in this joint have ANY money at all, or did I just waste my time?”

He was unrelenting: “I’d like to play for $500 if you brokes can come up with the money. I know you’re scared because I’m Minnesota Fats, the world’s greatest pool player. But that’s ok because when I leave this joint I’m going to bust every single one of you. So call your friends, gather all your money and give it to the Fat Man.”

When a waitress walked by, he’d leer and say, “Wow, what a tomato!” He went from bragging about his pool game to his other game: “Women follow me all over the world with a mattress strapped to their backs.” He was a character I had never seen before or since.

Fast forward nearly 30 years later to 1993 when I was the marketing director for the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. I was starting to promote pool at the time. I often wondered what happened to Fats. I asked Mike Massey, one of the world’s greatest trick shot artists, about Fats. He told me he was living in Nashville and that he had his number. I asked if he thought he would come out to our pool tournament in Los Angeles. He said he’s pretty old but give him a call.

I did just that and spoke to a woman named T-Bell who said she was his wife. I asked her if I sent two airline tickets, would they come out and do an exhibition. She said ok. I will never forget the first thing he said to me when he walked into the Bicycle Casino, “Robert, nice place you have here. What kind of groceries do they have?” I had to think for a minute, then I realized what he wanted and said, “Are you hungry?”

Over lunch I realized I had a problem. Looking at his hands, I noticed he had a severe tremor. I had invited television stations to come that night and wondered if he could perform, but it was too late to turn back now. We went back to meet the news crew, and boy, was I in for a surprise.

Even though he was in the later stage of life, he was still the showman I remember from my youth. With the cameras rolling, he prepared to do a trick shot where he was going to bank the ball from one end of the table to another.

He missed the first three shots. He looked up to the sportscaster and said, “You better not show this on TV because they won’t believe that I missed a shot.” Everyone burst out laughing.

He continued, “Nothing in life is free. Someone put some money on the table, and I won’t miss.” Sure enough, someone pulled out a twenty, and Fats shot the ball right in. He made the next two shots, the crowd applauded and it was on the news for the next two nights.

He told me the Bicycle Casino put on one of the nicest pool tournaments he had ever been to. He said, “Money breeds money, and you are doing the right thing here. You have all these people gambling, and the groceries are good. What’s not to like about this place?”

I took him to a few pool rooms around Los Angeles during that stay, and everywhere we went he was like a magnet. As soon as people heard he was in the room, people would come running, and if it was an empty room, it would be full in 15 minutes. He regaled them with stories and mesmerized the crowd.

After this trip, I invited him back to the Bicycle Casino for the next tournament, and this visit would change my life forever.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at

SEC Issues Bitcoin Warning
By Dan Katz

The United States Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an investor alert last week, cautioning people about Bitcoin as well as other, lesser known forms of virtual currency.

Bitcoin has been gaining more and more attention over the past year, but has been known in internet poker circles for longer than it has been by the general public. While still not particularly widespread, its popularity has increased amongst Americans looking for a way to deposit money on poker sites, as it has become more difficult to make money transfers to and from poker rooms since Black Friday.

Bitcoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer virtual currency, not backed by any government. Bitcoins are generated through “mining,” which is essentially using computing processes at high volume to keep the Bitcoin network functioning. After some time (and it can be a long time), a Bitcoin is produced. These Bitcoins are logged and transferred on a peer-to-peer network; there is no centralized Bitcoin banking system.

The advantage Bitcoin offers for poker players is that because they are exchanged in a peer-to-peer system and no government oversees the currency, they fall outside the restrictions placed on internet gambling in the United States. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) prohibits financial institutions from transferring money to or from gaming sites, but since financial institutions are not involved in Bitcoin, that law can be skirted.

Bitcoin isn’t widespread in the online poker world yet, but a few sites do accept it as a form of currency. only uses Bitcoin as its form of currency, while America’s Cardroom and both accept it as well as traditional currencies.

Of course, there are risks in using Bitcoin, which is why the SEC published its alert. The obvious risks fall under the warning, “Investments involving Bitcoin present unique risks.” Because governments and banks (U.S. or otherwise) have nothing to do with Bitcoin, Bitcoin caches are not insured, as one’s bank account would be. So if someone’s store of Bitcoins is lost, like what happened with Mt. Gox, the world’s most popular Bitcoin exchange, there is really no way to recover vanished virtual funds. Additionally, as Bitcoins are not regulated by the government, there are no real rules for the currency nor reliable legal recourse if things go wrong. And, as we have seen in the past year, the value of a Bitcoin is extremely volatile. To illustrate, according to, one Bitcoin was worth about $118 one year ago. That price soared to $1,147 at the beginning of December and is now down to $438.

A lesser known risk of Bitcoin, the SEC warns, is the greater risk of fraud when it comes to Bitcoin investment schemes. This stems largely from the currency’s newness and volatility. As it is a “new and developing currency,” many people who are interesting in diving into the Bitcoin market aren’t very educated as to how things work. This allows fraudsters to more easily trick people into “investment” schemes where the only goal is to enrich the scammer. Additionally, because Bitcoin value ran up so quickly last year, people may look at it and dream of getting rich quickly. After all, plenty of people who invested in Bitcoin early made thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. People looking for a quick buck may be more vulnerable to an unscrupulous fraudster who is more than willing to take advantage of them.

Just like an investment, the SEC says, people must be sure to educate themselves as to exactly what they are getting into.

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Two Different Op/Eds Point Out Problems in Anti-Internet Gaming and Poker Cause
By Earl Burton

While the poker world has its calm before the storm of the start of the World Series of Poker on May 27, the biggest news has been the ongoing discussion on internet gaming and poker and the potential for state and/or federal regulation of the industry. Two different opinion pieces on popular websites fall in the category of, at the minimum, supporting the states’ rights to decide on the issue or, at the maximum, a federal framework to be established.

On the website (a popular conservative website), author Lawson Bader goes after the men who have recently pushed legislation that would completely ban online gaming and poker in the United States. Bader calls out Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz in his opinion piece, correctly citing that the bills (H. R. 4301, S. 2159 and called “The Restoration of America’s Wire Act“), wouldn’t “restore” the original Wire Act of 1961. “Rather than restore the original interpretation of the Wire Ace,” Bader writes, “the bill would actually amend it by removing language banning sports betting only.”

Bader correctly asserts that the Wire Act would be added to – amended – to include a ban on all forms of online gaming, save for those that have caveats cut for them (horse racing and fantasy sports). “Graham and Chaffetz are on record as supporting “states’ rights” when it comes to Obamacare, Common Core school standards, gun laws, gay marriage and other issues,” Bader states. “Gambling is somehow different?”

Looking at gaming in the United States, Bader reports that almost every state has some form of the industry, be it casinos, lotteries or bingo parlors. He also looks to another writer, Michelle Minton, who wrote, “Despite this, and the fact that many other countries have legalized and regulated online gambling without descending into bedlam, anti-gambling advocates in the U. S….insist that online gambling is a step too far and allowing states to legalize that activity would lead to society’s ruin.”

In concluding his thoughts, Bader offers some words for Representatives and Senators who are on the fence regarding the issue of Graham and Chaffetz’ bills: “Heed the advice of Kenny Rogers, the old Gambler himself. This time, it’s not just knowing when to walk away, but also when to run.”

At Joe Valandra, the Chief Executive Officer of Great Luck LLC, a top gambling firm that works with Indian tribes, offers up his own thoughts on the proposed legislation from Graham and Chaffetz. He first cites the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 and how it allowed tribes to offer casino gaming. With the future now moving towards the internet, Valandra states that the Graham/Chaffetz efforts “would prohibit online gaming nationally and…severely compromise Tribal jurisdiction over Class II games like bingo and make any expansion of gaming by the tribes to include the internet illegal.”

“Thousands of Americans play games online now, some for a wager and some for entertainment,” Valandra writes. “The fast paced trading of securities with no limits already takes place 24 hours a day, enabled by Internet access. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized the Internet as a vehicle for the play of wagering games. The horse is out of the barn. Closing it now and punishing anyone that plays or offers gambling via the Internet is out of touch with reality.”

Valandra is also against any passage of the Graham/Chaffetz bills, stating, “Congress should be in the business of enforcing laws, not taking away states’ rights and the rights of sovereign Indian Tribes. Yet, this is precisely what S.2159 and H.R. 4301 will do if they become law. As the Internet gambling debate continues to unfold, I hope federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will actively work together with Tribal governments to protect tribal sovereignty and abide by federal regulations and guidelines already encompassed in federal law.”

The new arrivals to the pro-online gaming crowd (at least to letting the states decide the issues) are from areas that normally wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon. As the debate moves forward, there seem to be more lined up for allowing for the states to make the call on the industry and, for the federal government, to either stay out of the issue or pass their own regulatory laws.

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$ laundering

Crime Gangs Laundering $140 Billion a Year Through Sports Betting Sites

(Reuters) – Criminals are using betting on sports events to launder $140 billion each year, a report said on Thursday, exposing a lack of effective regulation that allows match-fixing to spread.

Soccer and cricket were identified as the sports most threatened by criminals seeking to rig the gambling market but tennis, basketball, motor racing and badminton were also affected, according to the report, which is based on a two-year research.

“The rapid evolution of the global sports betting market has seen an increased risk of infiltration by organised crime and money laundering,” said Chris Eaton of the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS).

The report, compiled by the ICSS think-tank and the Sorbonne university in Paris, said that 80 percent of global sports betting was being carried out on illegal markets, placing it beyond the reach of regulators and investigators.

A number of soccer leagues have been hit by match-fixing scandals in recent years and three Pakistani cricketers were jailed for a plot to deliberately bowl no balls during a test match against England at Lord’s in 2010.

According to the report, 53 per cent of the illegal betting comes from Asia, while 49 per cent of the legal market is based in Europe.

Technology and live television have transformed the sports betting market in recent years, allowing viewers to bet on a wider range of events and gamble in real time as a match progresses.

Several territories were identified as “sports betting havens”, with England topping the list with 114 online betting licences granted, ahead of Malta (86).

“It’s too important to be left to the bite of compromise,” said Eaton.

Eaton, a former head of security at FIFA, said the changes have made suspect betting patterns harder to spot.

“The problem is getting worse,” Mohammed Hanzab, president of the ICSS, said in his opening speech at the Sorbonne on Thursday.

“If we do nothing sport will become to be seen as an arena of corruption.”

Among solutions, the report recommended a sports betting tax to finance investigations into match-fixing and closer cooperation between betting companies and sporting bodies.


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