Casino News Blog

Malta Authorities Arrest Everleaf Online Gaming Director

October 29th, 2014 by

The Maltese government revoked Everleaf’s gambling license in July due to delays with withdrawals to international customers and other issues. The 16 month investigation uncovered evidence that Everleaf Director Michael Zwi Oros misappropriated funds and withheld essential information from the Lotteries & Gaming Authority (LGA). The LGA recently confirmed that Zwi Oros has been arrested on those charges.

Oros reportedly pled not guilty to misappropriating funds. However, he pled guilty to various other charges, including failing to pay taxes and fees to the Maltese government and failing to notify the gaming regulator after relocating the company’s servers. He was released on €10,000 bail and is prohibited from leaving Malta.

The LGA said that the investigation commenced after international players reported lengthy delays for withdrawing their funds. Many critics chastised the regulator for failing to take action sooner, while the LGA said that it remains committed to protecting players.

Many players argue that the LGA has been reluctant to uphold its responsibilities. One former Everleaf player claims to be owed thousands of dollars in lost funds. This player tried to use the Two Plus Two online poker forum to organize a protest beside an LGA booth at a London gaming event. Numerous other players also filed complaints directly with the Maltese government. The LGA was eventually forced to take action against the insolvent gaming provider.

The indictment of Zwi Oros will provide little relief to players that are still owed money from Everleaf. The LGA has said that it will do everything in its power to ensure players receive restitution. However, players have become highly pessimistic that their money will ever be refunded.

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Ladbrokes Leaves Canada Online Gambling Market Over UK Regulations

October 28th, 2014 by

Ladbrokes recently announced that it will discontinue services in Canada on October 1. The company stated that it is leaving the market due to regulatory issues in Canada, but experts from Pokerfuse argue the decision was more likely made in response to new regulations in the United Kingdom.

Tighter regulations in both jurisdictions probably played a role. A number of gaming providers have pulled from the Canadian market over the last few months. Betfred left the market three months ago and cited a number of regulatory issues as the basis for its decision. Last November, EuroPartners left the market to avoid dealing with new regulations.

Canadian regulations have clearly driven many companies out of the market. However, Jocelyn Wood of Pokerfuse said that the new UK gambling law may play a role as well. Online gambling providers in the United Kingdom are required to pay taxes to the HM Revenue and Customs, regardless of the country they are based out of. Many companies are expected to relocate to the United Kingdom to avoid paying taxes in two jurisdictions.

The new UK law also allows the UK Gambling Commission to bar online gambling licenses to companies that operate in grey markets. Since Ladbrokes doesn’t have a provincial license to operate in Canada, it needs to leave the market to qualify for a license in its home country. The market is much larger in the UK than Canada, so leaving Canada seemed to be prudent.

Some experts believe that the market in Canada is going to continue to grow in the years to come. However, that prediction may not come to fruition unless the country liberalizes its online gambling laws. It is facing increased pressure to reform its regulations, but lawmakers appear reluctant to make the requested changes.

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Norway Expected to Legalize Online Poker after Impact Study

October 24th, 2014 by

The Norwegian government is moving towards licensing offshore online gaming providers. They want to better understand the impact before deliberating the legislation. The parliamentary Culture Committee has been charged with conducting a new study to understand the impact.

Norway is under considerable pressure from gaming advocates and governments in other EU countries to liberalize its online gaming laws. Many countries argue that the country’s online gambling laws violate EU free trade treaties. Lawmakers agree that the laws should be modified, but want to proceed carefully and create a sensible legislative framework.

Svein Harberg, the Chairman of the Culture Committee, said that Parliament should understand all implications before moving forward. He said that the best approach is to evaluate existing regulations in other jurisdictions. Harberg and his staff are researching legislation in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

There are currently two online gaming providers in Norway. The newly elected government felt that the existing system is flawed and inefficient. They feel that additional competition would address some of the problems they created. They are trying to encourage additional domestic gaming providers to seek licenses, but believe foreign competition would also be beneficial.

Existing research suggests that expanding online poker won’t bring many social problems to the country. A recent study from the Norwegian Lotteries and Gaming Authority states that poker is a low risk activity. The Culture Committee’s follow-up research is expected to show opening the market to offshore gaming providers would be unlikely to lead to any problems. However, Harberg and the rest of the Committee want to complete an objective study before making any statements to that effect.

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Singapore Lawmakers Introduce New Bill to Outlaw Online Gambling

October 16th, 2014 by

On Monday, the Singapore Parliament introduced a new bill to ban online gambling. The legislation would impact both domestic and foreign gaming operators serving Singapore citizens.

The bill was written by The Ministry of Home Affairs. The ministry carefully reviewed laws from other jurisdictions with strict online gambling laws, including Norway, France and Hong Kong. They also received feedback from Singapore citizens before drafting the bill. The authors are confident the new law would provide necessary protections for Singapore citizens.

The new bill contains a number of provisions to enforce the ban. The government would have the authority to prosecute banks that collaborate with online gambling providers, whether they are based in Singapore or overseas. Banks will be instructed to block transactions between online gambling providers to avoid the ban. Authorities will also require Internet Service Providers to block access to online gambling sites.

The law would also apply to any media promoting online gambling. Google, Facebook and other websites would be required to implement controls to prohibit any advertisements for online gambling.

The law does allow some local businesses to apply for exemptions. However, they would need to meet strict eligibility requirements. Only nonprofits or charities with good track records would be allowed to apply for these exemptions.

Parliament will debate the bill in its next session. Lawmakers have expressed concerns about online gambling and are expected to approve the bill.

Gerald Singham, a member of the National Council on Problem Gambling, has also shown support for the proposed law. Singham said that about a third of citizens that gamble online spend more money and play longer than anticipated. The National Council on Problem Gambling has had reservations about online gambling for several years and is pleased the bill has been introduced.

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Michigan Charities File Lawsuit to Lessen Poker Tournament Restrictions

October 12th, 2014 by

Last month, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) announced that it has issued over 160 licenses for charity poker events. The new licenses were issued after Governor Snyder invoked emergency rules to reduce the risks he believes poker tournaments imposed. The MGCB was originally pleased with the way the new charity run poker tournament system was being rolled out, but faced a legal challenge shortly thereafter.

Numerous Michigan charities have filed a class action lawsuit to ease the restrictions. The plaintiffs claim the rules place several restrictions on charities offering poker tournaments. Operators must comply with limitations on the expenses they can write off. They also are prohibited from offering over 30 poker tournaments in any given calendar year.

The charity rooms originally reached a compromise with the MGCB earlier this year. They would have faced the possibility of a new law by State Rep. Jeff Farrington if a deal wasn’t struck. The MGCB acknowledged that the compromised resolution wasn’t what the charities were looking for. However, MGCB Executive Director Rick Kalm said he was committed to reaching an equitable solution to help the charities.

The lawsuit alleges that the new policies violate the agreement that the Michigan Court of Claims upheld in January. The plaintiffs claim the emergency rules have overturned the regulations the MGCB planned to introduce.

The charities claim that the new rules restrict the amount of revenue they can generate. Numerous charities depend on poker tournaments to fund many of their initiatives. However, the MGCB claims that the new rules are necessary to protect citizens from problem gambling and financial hardship.

The MGCB stated that the Lions Club was one of the organizations that it targeted the most. It said that the tournaments it offered created a threat to public safety.

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Federal Judge Orders Idaho Tribe to Cease Online Poker

October 7th, 2014 by

Several months ago, the Coeur d’Alene tribe in Idaho launched a poker room. The state filed a lawsuit against the tribe, claiming that it violated state and federal gambling laws. A federal judge ruled in favor of the state earlier this week and issued a cease and desist order to the tribe.

Governor Butch Otter praised the decision and stated that it was in line with the will of the people. The online gambling law was passed in 2002 after being placed on the ballot. The majority of Idaho citizens voted to limit gambling to games of skill.

The tribe argued that poker is a game of skill, but Judge Lynn Winmill didn’t entirely agree. Winnmill acknowledged that there are some elements of skill in poker, but stated that chance plays a key role as well. Winnmill ruled that poker violated the state gambling law.

The decision conflicts with a ruling made by Federal Judge Jack Weinstein in New York. Weinstein set aside the conviction of a New York businessman operating a poker room on the grounds that poker was a game of skill. The conviction was later upheld by the appellate court, but the higher court didn’t overturn Weinstein’s argument that poker was a game of skill.

The new precedent could be a setback for the Poker Players Alliance and other activist groups. The tribe may still appeal an appeal against the state. However, the probability that they will win an appeal appears to be low. The state gambling law clearly stated that poker is classified as a Class III game, which is prohibited in any casino in Idaho. The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) allows states to prohibit tribes from offering any form of gambling that isn’t otherwise legal.

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Swiss Lawmakers Aim to Regulate Online Gambling and Remove Offshore Providers

October 1st, 2014 by

The Swiss government is considering regulating online gambling. Lawmakers said online gambling isn’t meaningfully different from traditional casino games, so feels there isn’t any reason to prohibit it. They discussed regulatory options at the recent Conference of the Cantonal Directors in Charge of Gambling and Lotteries (CDCM).

The government began discussing liberalizing the online gambling industry in May. The bill contained a consultation date of August 20. The CDCM held a preliminary assembly on online gambling in June before having a more detailed discussion this week. Lawmakers will likely need additional time to iron out some of the details of the proposed legislation.

It didn’t contain many details, such as the possibility of allowing foreign gaming providers to participate in the market. Lawmakers and regulators wanted to discuss those specifics at the CDCM before moving forward.

The CDCM attendees discussed the best way to regulate the new industry. They believe online gambling licenses should be restricted to existing casinos. The CDCM stated that allowing providers that specialize in online gambling would lead to a number of social problems. They fear that allowing foreign online gaming providers to participate in the market would jeopardize the Swiss gaming industry. It warned that foreign gaming providers have developed sophisticated platforms and have much more experience with online gambling.

Lawmakers will continue discussing details of the bill before moving to a vote. The bill currently stipulates that online gambling winnings will be tax exempt, but that provision may be revised. The government may want to discourage players from betting on unregulated sites, but may decide to include some tax to avoid running a deficit this year.

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Betcoin Reduce Bitcoin Rake to Lure New Poker Players

September 27th, 2014 by

Betcoin is a popular poker site that only accepts bitcoin payments. The site recently reduced its rake to draw more players.

Betcoin currently offers one of the lowest rakes in the industry. Betcoin players will pay a 2.5% rake at standard tables, which is half the industry average of dot-com poker sites. Players using Heads Up tables are only charged rakes of 1.3%. Betcoin’s rakes are about the same as those offered by SealsWithClubs, the most popular bitcoin only poker site.

Bitcoin poker networks will probably become more popular in the coming year. Players have become disenfranchised with many other online poker sites over the last few years. Recent data from PokerScout shows the global online poker market declined 13% between June 2013 and June 2014. However, demand for bitcoin poker sites has grown substantially. Data from two of the largest bitcoin poker sites showed demand grew nearly 80% in 2013.

Players in France and many other jurisdictions have grown annoyed with the high tax structure these networks cause. They will probably be more likely to turn to Betcoin, SealsWithClubs and other bitcoin sites that offer low rakes. Countries with state controlled online gaming markets are able to offer much lower rakes. However, those networks have problems of their own. They are less likely to develop new products, so players tend to be less satisfied with their platforms and turn to black market gaming sites.

Betcoin has been growing rapidly since the beginning of the year. It launched a bitcoin animated slot machine in January, which allows players to win up to 1,000 times their original wager. The site has also formed a partnership with the Winning Poker Network.

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Chaffetz Cites Underage Gambling to Draw Support for Online Gaming Ban

September 25th, 2014 by

Rep. Jason Chaffetz is the author of a federal bill that would ban online gambling. Chaffetz has been struggling to gain support from his constituents and colleagues in the House of Representatives. He recently issued a new statement that the online gambling industry is exploiting minors. He claims that new regulations are necessary to protect minors. He said that traditional casinos can keep minors from gambling, but online gaming sites can’t verify the identities of their players.

“I am afraid that if we don’t move quickly and get some decent regulations in place, which we really don’t have right now, it will be too late to stop it from reaching all the states,” Chaffetz told Newsweek reporters.

Online gambling activists have countered many of Chaffetz’s arguments. They said that New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have strong regulations to prevent underage citizens from gambling online. They said that the geolocation and player identification technology has been very effective.

People on both sides have raised the state’s rights argument. Online gambling activists feel that individual states should be allowed to offer online gambling to their citizens. Opponents of online gambling feel that banning online gambling is necessary to protect state’s rights. They feel it is impossible to keep people from accessing online gambling if it is available in neighboring states.

Chaffetz is adamant that Utah, his home state, is opposed to all forms of online gambling legislation. Utah has banned all forms of online gambling and doesn’t want to make it easier for his citizens to access it. He doesn’t believe technology is very effective and states that banning online gambling is the only sensible solution.

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California Won’t Legalize Online Poker in 2014

September 22nd, 2014 by

California State Senator Lou Correa decided to pull his ca online poker bill earlier this week. Most experts were optimistic that a bill introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer would still be passed. They were discouraged to hear that Jones-Sawyer pulled his bill the following day.

Lawmakers have been trying to pass an online poker bill for several years. Opposition from the state’s tribes and other gaming interests kept them from making headway in previous years. The majority of the state’s tribes and card rooms finally reached a consensus on an online poker bill this year, which led many pundits to believe that a bill would be passed this year.

The announcement has dampened morale slightly in the online poker community, but most experts are confident a bill will be passed in the foreseeable future. A spokesperson for Jones-Sawyer told Online Poker News the movement to regulate intrastate poker has gained considerable momentum. Jones-Sawyer indicated an intention to reintroduce his bill next year. Correa has exhausted his term limit, so another senator will need to introduce a companion bill if Jones-Sawyer’s fails to be passed.

The online poker movement has been turbulent over the past few months. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has spent millions lobbying to ban online poker. Senator Roderick Wright, a long-term poker advocate, was convicted on federal charges of voter fraud.

Jones-Sawyer acknowledged these challenges, but stated they haven’t had anything to do with the failure to pass a bill to regulate online poker. He said that the legislature simply ran out of time. The state’s largest gaming interests didn’t reach a compromise until early June, which didn’t give lawmakers much time to discuss their proposed legislation. They will have more time to discuss the matter in 2015, so an online poker bill may finally be passed.

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