Casino News Blog

PokerStars Defends Currency Conversion Fee

November 20th, 2014 by

PokerStars recently modified its policy on currency conversion fees. Recent threads on Two Plus Two, Cards Chat and other gaming forums show players are discouraged with the new policy.

The gambling operator previously charged players the median rates published on the XE currency exchange site. The rates were historically much more favorable than those offered by competitors. The new rates will be more similar to those offered at other gaming sites. Many players are upset that they will have to pay higher exchange fees, but PokerStars has defended its decision.

Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications for PokerStars, said that players are still offered better exchange rates than most competitos. He said that the decision wasn’t made lightly, but PokerStars has faced some financial setbacks over the last few years that forced them to make the change.

Players seem to be more concerned about lack of transparency over the new fees than the cost itself. One analyst concluded that the new margin increased costs by about 2.5%, which is still relatively modest. However, the margin wasn’t published on the PokerStars website. A couple of posters on Two Plus Two stated that the decision was clearly an attempt to make a quick buck, which may damage the poker titan’s long-term profitability. The new decision has prompted concerns about future policy changes by Amaya Gaming.

While the new announcement was a disappointment to most players, it is unlikely to undermine the PokerStars brand. Some players called for a migration to other online gaming platforms, but most seem reluctant to follow through. They feel that PokerStars continues to offer the highest quality gaming experience and are unlikely to abandon the site unless other discouraging news surfaces.

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French Online Poker Providers Offer More Anonymity

November 18th, 2014 by

A number of French online poker providers have started offering anonymous tabling options. Winamax, the country’s most popular poker room, is the latest to introduce a feature allowing users to play incognito. Michael Gentile of Pokerfuse reports that these new tables have spurred debate about the impact on players.

Many advocates argue that allowing players to shield their identities promotes fairness. They claim that players can use these features protect players from tracking software used to understand their strategies. Amateur players also feel less pressured to place large wagers.

Critics have raised concerns about player protections. They are worried that anonymity enables fraud on the part of other players. Winamax and other leading operators argue that they take all necessary precautions to stop fraud. Threads on Cards Chat and other online poker forums have shown that experienced players seem to disapprove of anonymous tables, because they prevent them from being able to study competitor hand histories.

Some players are also concerned that anonymous tabling makes it easier for cheaters to create accounts on other tables where players don’t recognize them. Players have played a key role in identifying many of the most serious scams by analyzing the history of cheaters. Many players warn each other about suspicious players on Two Plus Two and other online gaming communities.

Many larger online gaming providers have been reluctant to offer anonymous tables. Many players use HUDs as part of their strategy, which can’t be used on sites that offer anonymous tables. According to research from Jocelyn Wood at FlushDraw, professional players tend to flock to sites that don’t offer anonymous tabling so they can utilize HUD software.

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Latest Report Shows Lock Poker Owes Players $3 Million

November 14th, 2014 by

The online poker community has raised a number of serious concerns about Lock Poker. Some players have reported waiting over a year to process withdrawals. Analysts originally estimated that the company owed players about $1 million, but recent posts on Two Plus Two show that the company appears to owe them about three times that amount.

Two Plus Two poker “IHasTehNutz” created the Lock Poker Payout Scam report to provide information about the ongoing scandal. He said that the actual money owed to Lock Poker players is $3.2 million after factoring for funds players still have left in their accounts. The original estimate is based off of players that have initiated withdrawals, but IHasTehNutz claims that figure is a significant underestimate. There are indications that Lock Poker doesn’t have sufficient liquidity for players to make future withdrawals either.

Slightly over half of the money is owed to U.S. players. A number of players outside the United States have been waiting for payouts since November 2013.

Many of these players clearly believe that their withdrawals will never be liquidated, so are trying to desperately cut their losses. Players have been reportedly selling their Lock Poker chips for pennies on the dollar for months.

Problems at Lock Poker are expected to persist indefinitely. A recent report from PokerScout found that player traffic declined 15% last month. The site currently receives about 34 players a day. Lock Poker is offering a number of new rakes and other incentives to lure new players to its site, including a 200% deposit bonus for new accounts. However, the company’s reputation for failing to process payouts is making it difficult to reach new players.

The company will probably develop even worse liquidity problems if player activity continues to decline. The Revolution Gaming Network has barred the skin from its network and initiated legal action, which will probably exacerbate the problems that it is facing. RGN, the Poker Players Alliance and a variety of other groups have urged players to avoid using the site.

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NFL Seeks Injunction to Bar Sports Betting Movement

November 11th, 2014 by

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill to repeal an existing sports betting law and replace it with a new version. State lawmakers argue that the new law meets the criteria established by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. However, at least one sports league has protested the new law and has vowed to have it overturned. The NFL intends to challenge the law and recently filed a brief for an upcoming injunction to bar Monmouth Park from offering NJ sports betting services.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak said that the injunction will take place on Tuesday at 3:30 PM EST. The brief outlines the arguments that lawmakers need to expect. The league claims that the new law violates the state constitution, which bars any form of gambling that hasn’t been expressly legalized and regulated by the State Legislature. This wording would be a Catch-22 for the state if the courts agree, because the federal court ruling states that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act prohibits the regulation of sports betting.

Monmouth Park recently indicated that it intends to offer sports betting early next week. The NFL argues that the entity should be barred from doing so until the court issues a ruling on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit and injunction briefs also claim that the new law continues to violate the PASPA. Governor Christie and other state lawmakers disagree, but a federal judge will need to decide. Christie had reservations over the constitutionality of a previous draft of the law, but is confident that the recently signed law complies with the state constitution. The bill was passed by a margin of 73-4, which clearly shows that state lawmakers strongly support the legalization of sports betting.

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Swedish Tax Authority Condemns Players With Undeclared Poker Winnings

November 6th, 2014 by

Swedish poker players are exempt from paying taxes on earnings from sites based in the European Union (EU), but are forced to pay a tax on sites outside the EU. Skatteverket, the Swedish tax authority has been investigating players that haven’t been reporting their winnings over the last couple of years. The government has identified approximately four dozen players that have avoided paying their taxes.

Skatteverket said that these players have not reported about €28 million. It intends to take action against them in the very near future.

According to Dag Hardyson, the National Project Manager for Skatteverket, many of these citizens appear to be professional gamblers that make lucrative incomes. Many of these players apparently believed that they could go unidentified. However, Hardyson said that Skatteverket has developed new ways to uncover the real names of these players. The tax agency has been working closely with tax havens in other jurisdictions to discover the identities of these players.

Skatteverket has been actively monitoring poker forums where Swedish players congregate. They found that many players were boasting about their abilities to circumvent the tax requirements. They are currently working with the moderators of these forums as well as the managers of various tax havens to pursue the players. Dan Glimme, an ambassador from Unibet Poker, said that Skatteverket will soon force these players to pay their back taxes and fines applicable under law.

Experts argue that Swedish poker players that don’t want to pay taxes should play on sites based in Sweden and other EU countries. However, many Swedish players may choose to continue playing on foreign sites, since the player base in Sweden is so low due to the state-controlled monopoly.

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New Jersey Providers Encouraged to Educate Customers on Regulated Market

November 5th, 2014 by

Regulated online gambling providers in New Jersey are still struggling to draw players to their sites. They have made progress addressing a number of the problems they have faced, such as resolving geolocation identification errors and providing payment processing solutions. However, many players are still reluctant to create accounts because they don’t understand the legality of online gambling. Many experts believe gaming providers need to educate players about the regulated market.

Chris Grove of Online Poker Report recently discussed some of the steps online gaming providers should take. Grove said that they should clearly emphasize that they are regulated to offer online gambling by the Division of Gaming Enforcement. He said that these messages should be prominently displayed above the fold on every page of their websites. He also recommends providing links to state resources on online gambling.

These steps could help gaming providers reach more players. However, educating players about the legality of online gambling may not be sufficient. A February poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that only 31% of New Jersey citizens support legalizing online gambling, which is lower than the proportion that support legalizing marijuana.

The poll showed that fewer New Jersey citizens supported online gambling than before it was legalized. More recent follow-up polls may indicate the opposite, but many New Jersey citizens still appear to have reservations about gambling over the Internet. Gaming providers will need to educate them about both the consequences of online gambling and the fact that it is currently regulated. The market may grow much more rapidly if citizens have a better understanding of the nature of the industry.

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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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